"Good evening, rebels!" is how Ed Gillespie, environmentalist, greeted the audience in a session on the achievements of Extinction Rebellion, with a recruitment drive to sign up more members at Hay. The year-old, non-violent direct action group has had enormous impact, staging, for example, successful occupations of London bridges and other events that have gained national and global media coverage.
International environmental lawyer Farhana Yamin, who has been involved in climate change negotiations since 1991, said that the oil industry's own scientists told them 40 years ago about the damaging effects of CO2 but they were ignored. Similarly, politicians thinking only as far as the next Election do not have the courage to legislate. Yamin was famously arrested outside the Shell building for attempting to damage public property. "I had planned to throw Farrow & Ball 'Downpipe' at it, but the tin exploded in my bag," she said. "It's more tricky than you'd think to get arrested," she added. "The British police are very nice."
Also speaking was artist Gavin Turk, who found it similarly difficult to be arrested, but he managed it, and sat in a cell for five hours at Savile Row Police Station. No changes have yet been brought against the 1,200 arrested on that day, in one of the largest acts of civil disobedience in recent times.
"A dramatic shift needs to take place," he said. "It's important to act."
"Art is the bridge from which we see the future," said Yamin, who revealed her own commitment to buy no new clothes, but to repurpose and re-use,. "The fashion industry has a footprint the size of Russia."
On a show of hands, Extinction Rebellion had already attracted a considerable of the Hay audience, and on leaving the event, the numbers increased.
Left to right: Ed Gillespie, Gavin Turk, Andy Fryers, Farhana Yamin
Picture by Paul Musso