We spoke to the students behind the Extinction Rebellion festival
‘The kind of joy we had, of this community coming together, was really wonderful’
Three UEA students single-handedly organised a festival, which took place last weekend in aid of Extinction Rebellion.
Magda Bird, Sophie Farrington and Mireia Molina Costa organised the festival to raise funds and create awareness for the movement; an international cause which uses non-violent civil disobedience to bring about change in the face of our current climate crisis.
The three-tiered festival began at 10am, simmered, and then erupted into the early hours of the next morning. There were workshops, musical performances, lectures. There was poetry, comedy, art, dancing, discussion, and a feeling of warmth (that wasn't just because we couldn't figure out how to crack the windows open).
I left the event totally in awe of the three bad ass women who put it together. Unable to meet with them in person, we had, what I like to call a 'digital sit down':
I am interested to know what your aims were, going into creating this festival?
MM: "The main aim was to raise awareness… and money, but mostly awareness of the cause of Extinction Rebellion and its importance. But also bringing the community together through that shared aim."
SF: "So bringing Norwich community and university together."
MB: "What started this was XR UEA and NUA raising the issue of a detachment between UEA and NUA involvement. We thought an arts festival would bring the two together. And then bringing in the public was an even better part."
Do you think the festival was a success?
SF: "It was a success!"
MM: "We’re really happy, because lots of people told us that they really enjoyed it. I think the space we had felt very shared: it being a big room, with everything happening in the same place throughout the event; we had workshops during the day, and then the art that we’d make would be hung on the walls in the evening and everyone would be there in a circle and sitting on the floor."
MB: "I mean I loved it because we had 200 people and we raised over £600, so I’m on the numbers here, and I think that was fantastic."
SF: "It was an inclusive event, so you could just pay what you wanted to, which meant that some people paid 20p and some paid £5, but they gave what they could, so yeah, wooh!"
Are there any more events in the pipeline?
MM: "We’ve had loads of people telling us that they would like us to run another one, but we’re also quite a small team and we’re all leaving Norwich."
MB: "I think if we did, it wouldn’t be for a while, maybe in October. It’s a massive maybe. It’s been a big stress, but it’s also been really wonderful. We are only a team of three. It’s been intense. But I guess, as this is going in an online publication, if anyone’s interested in being part of our team, please send us a message at [email protected], maybe we’ll source some people."
Was there anything surprising about the festival, or organising it?
MM: "Well, we just want to express the unbelievable amount and quality of the submissions that we got. So many people wanted to help us out. Even people that we didn’t ask, that have a big name in Norwich, just got in touch and wanted to be part of it because they believed in the cause and in joining this kind of group."
MB: "Yeah, so many people believe in helping the environment. The venue was given to us for free by Space Studios. It was so incredible to see how kind people are. It’s kind of restored my faith in humanity."
SF: "And the way we got volunteers as well; people opting to volunteer on the night, just because they wanted to."
Is there anything you learnt through running this event?
SF: "Fundraising and art is a way you can get involved in XR without getting arrested, because that’s a big part of what XR is …"
MM: "…and has been criticised for."
SF: "Yeah because the view is that if enough people get arrested then we’ll make an impact…"
MB: "…but not everyone can do that because wanting to get arrested is not BAME inclusive. I think that was a big part of what we learnt in the process of building this festival; that this was a place where more of the BAME community could come and get involved with XR, which was really wonderful. But we’ve still got a massive way to go, so maybe for the next festival there will be steps further in the right direction."
What did you, as organisers, feel you gained from running XRT Fest?
MM: "We are very proud."
MB: "This event’s been a massive success and we’re so happy. I think it’s also helped with furthering all of our careers."
MM: "I would encourage anyone that wants to go into Charity Work or Arts Events Management, to do something like this, because it surprised us just how well it went and how we did it, as three students."
MB: "Yeah, three students managed to organise a THREE tiered festival, two of us having had no experience prior to this. And we pulled it off. The kind of joy we had, of this community coming together, was really wonderful."
Why do you think it's crucial to attend events like these?
SF: "It brings communities together. And we found out that so many people care."
MM: "It’s a great way of supporting artists. And, like we were saying earlier, art is a way of bringing people together."
MB: "It felt like it was positive reinforcement, rather than just sad facts about the world dying. Instead, it was this group of people that all want to do stuff, and all want to work together for a cause."
MM: "And they had a space to do that!"
MB: "Yeah, we made a space for that."
Whether people showed up as supporters of their performing friends or as ardent activists, the shared sentiment seemed to be that this event found its success in our solidarity, responding to this ecological emergency with love rather than panic.
Quote from an attendee, The Tab’s very own News Editor, Mary O’Driscoll:
"Such an incredible atmosphere. Honestly overwhelmed by the organisers. They did an amazing job. The performers were so talented and seeing so many people joined together over this cause filled me with hope and optimism, just what we need right now. Extinction rebellion is a hopeful movement."