20 QUESTIONS... RUPERT READ

To mark 20 years of Hay Festival Winter Weekend, we are asking speakers and performers to answer 20 questions. Here's how Extinction Rebellion's Rupert Read responded...


1. If you could put one question to anyone on the planet, who would you choose and what would it be?

To David Attenborough: Will you come and be arrested with me, as part of Extinction Rebellion? For if you did, it would be a transformative act in the history of this country.

2. What was the last book you read and loved?

ESSENTIALISM: THE DISCIPLINED PURSUIT OF LESS, by Greg McKeown.

3. What are you most proud of?

Having been instrumental in getting the BBC to truly accept the science and to therefore stop the absurd practice that it had had of putting up climate-emergency-deniers as ‘balance’, last summer.

4. What was the best question you were ever asked in an event and how did you answer it?

Comparisons are odorous. Over the last year, I’ve been asked dozens of superb questions in talks across the country; there’s nothing I love more than a Q and A with a smart crowd.

5. What one piece of advice do you wish you could give your 16-year-old self?

Spend less time playing 20 Questions, and more time doing Non-Violent Direct Action...

6. What's the most famous book you've never read?

I’m proud to say that I’ve read Time Regained. But none of the previous volumes of À la recherche du temps perdu...

7. What author or book do you think is most underrated? And why?

Karl Polanyi’s THE GREAT TRANSFORMATION is a truly epochal book. And yet it is undeservedly far less famous than Marx’s main works.

8. Which writers today will still be read 100 years from now?

Unfortunately, this question makes the assumption that there will be a human civilisation 100 years hence in which people will be able to read books. That will probably not be the case, unless we transform our civilisation now in the kind of way that Extinction Rebellion are demanding.

9. Favourite word?

Love

10. Least favourite word?

Management

11. What is the first thing you wrote?

I wrote a Dr. Who story when I was ten. It was a whole book. (OK; not a very long book, but all the same I guess it got me started...)

12. What one thing should each writer know before they begin?

Be prepared to get up early, if you really want to write.

13. Where's your favourite place to write?

Sometimes I spend chunks of time at my sacred beach on the north Norfolk coast (I cant tell you where it is, or I’d have to kill you); I’ve had some great inspirations there.

14. Pen and paper, or laptop?

Pen and paper to jot notes; DESKtop to write the thing up properly.

15. Favourite book of 2019?

Greta’s NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE. In my not entirely humble opinion, and having spent a little time with her, I honestly believe that she is a world-historical figure to rival Gandhi and MLK. She is of course Extinction Rebellion’s most influential supporter - so far.

16. Favourite book to read at Christmas?

Lord of the Rings.

17. What is the best book you've ever been gifted, and who gave it to you?

I refer you to my answer to question 2. I was given this book by a friend while I was burnt out earlier this year, and it has honestly changed my life.

18. What books are you most excited about reading in 2020?

Like nearly everyone else, I suppose, I am much looking forward to THE MIRROR AND THE LIGHT, the final chapter in Hilary Mantel’s extraordinary trilogy of Thomas Cromwell’s political life.

19. Best Hay Festival memory?

Winning a debate against my colleague UEA Prof. Mike Hulme at Hay back in 2012: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/hay-festival/9308587/Hay-Festival-2012-day-three-as-it-happened.html ;-)

20. What are you working on right now?

I’m writing a book about how, if we really care for our children as we say we do, then we will move mountains to save the entire future: because really caring for our children is really caring for their children, and so on ad infinitum.


Rupert Read is a UEA philosopher and Extinction Rebellion spokesman. He talks about the extent of the climate emergency, the principles and risks of direct action and disruptive protest, and the current state of the worldwide campaign for action at Hay Festival Winter Weekend. Book tickets here.