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Climate Action Plan opinion piece: Creativity, the activist’s secret superpower

Three people hold a black coffin that says 'our future' on it. On the back on one of their jackets it says 'no fashion on a dead planet'. A person in the crowd holds a sign saying 'fashion shouldn't cost the earth'.
  • Written byClare Farrell and Alice Wilby
Three people hold a black coffin that says 'our future' on it. On the back on one of their jackets it says 'no fashion on a dead planet'. A person in the crowd holds a sign saying 'fashion shouldn't cost the earth'.
RIP London Fashion Week Funeral March, Extinction Rebellion, 2019 | Photograph: Gareth Morris

Activism! It’s such a loaded word. The media shorthand for the activist, is too often written large in lazy tropes of the angry and earnest, clutching a placard and taking to the streets to prevent you from getting home for your dinner. But just as real life is more nuanced than the tabloids would have us believe, being active in our community or place of work is a completely normal thing to do.

Under the darkening cloud of climate emergency, instability in global politics and crisis in culture, we need transformative action more than ever. We now know everything must change. Recognising this is incredibly exciting for creatives because it offers us a very open brief.

Creativity is vital to activism. It’s like the activist’s secret superpower. To quote Maya Angelou “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

At this time of huge loss, the expansive power and potential that comes from harnessing our creativity, brings not only hope and joy but also vital solutions and most importantly, the possibility of abundance.

The urgency of our times can lead us to panic and we rush into action, when what we need to is listen to the wisdom of Bayo Akomolafe and find a slower urgency, to listen to ourselves and each other, and then from a place of calm resolve we can unleash our creativity and explore possibilities.

For both of us, storytelling and design is always the starting point of activism.

When we come together to play with ideas and plan our actions, what emerges from collective work is impossible without a healthy dose of creativity. When designing XR Fashion Action’s protest outside London Fashion Week, the team chose the symbolism of a funeral march to call for the death (and rebirth) of fashion as we know it.

To achieve this, we called upon XR’s collective talent to create coffins, banners and costumes. Without the creative skills of performers, costume designers, sign makers, graphic designers, photographers, and filmmakers, we would have just been a bunch of people marching up the street.

Each creative medium has something different to offer. The presence of the New Orleans jazz band at our funeral evoked powerful feelings of mourning. Sometimes in activist spaces we need to speak the unspeakable, to speak to each other’s hearts, because unless we feel moved emotionally, we don’t act. So, choosing the right creative medium for the message is a key part of designing an action.

In its purest form, activism is storytelling, it’s about changing a damaging narrative. Working for the betterment of humanity in this way can only come from. a place of love. The story that we are the problem, that humans are simply competitive and greedy, seeking to excel in a win-lose game is the real problem.

This polarity and binary thinking is a thorn in the side of changemakers, not least because respect and collaboration are part of

Holding this sense of purpose at the forefront of your work need not be labelled as ‘different’ or ‘alternative’, in our depleting world all our work needs to serve life on earth.

As creatives, we should think of centering love and care. Because if we do not love each other and ourselves, where will we find the will to pull together?  We urge you to be courageous with your creativity. Step into activism, stand for justice and make work with love.

“Justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love” Martin Luther King Jr.

Clare Farrell and Alice Wilby are both activists and educators. Clare is a co-founder of Extinction Rebellion and Alice co-founded Fashion Act Now.

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