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Massive Attack, Disclosure and Orbital are among the acts lending their musical talents to the ongoing Extinction Rebellion protests in London
By Jon Chapple on 11 Oct 2019
Artists and DJs including Massive Attack, Declan McKenna, Orbital and Rob da Bank are bringing the noise this month’s climate protests, where a team of music programmers are risking arrest to provide a musical accompaniment to the demonstrations.
The two-week ‘International Rebellion’, organised by pressure group Extinction Rebellion (XR), began on Monday, and sees activists call on governments around the world take urgent action to tackle global warming.
In London – home to one of the largest of the protests, which are also taking place in 59 other cities worldwide – demonstrators have at various times shut down down Whitehall, the Mall, Westminster Bridge, Downing Street, London City Airport and, most recently, the BBC’s New Broadcasting House headquarters.
The London ‘rebellion’ is “decentralised” and divided into 12 zones, an XR spokesperson tells IQ, with entertainment duties on each site overseen by one or more programmer.
“We’ve had a hell of a lot of people that want to perform at all the sites,” says Sam Weatherald, music programmer at Global Justice Rebellion, which is looking for a new home after being evicted from St James’s Park yesterday. “There’s a big [XR] database for everyone who’s interested, because we’ve had so many people saying they want to play.”
” Music is really great to get the message across”
Acts booked by Weatherald, also co-founder of Antenna Collective, for St James’s Park include rapper Dizraeli, reggae band the Majestic and sitarist-cellist Pete Yelding.
Anthony McGinley, aka DJ Absolute, is based in Trafalgar Square, where XR activists secretly set up a large stage for speeches and live performance. Artists who have played or will play in the square include Disclosure, Orbital, Johnny Flynn and Rob da Bank, DJ and founder of Bestival, as well as members of Pumarosa and Mystery Jets.
“Everyone I’ve asked to play has said ‘yes’,” comments McGinley. “It’s a cause I think a lot of musicians are passionate about. And it feels really good for me, personally, to be able to use my skillset and passions to do something to highlight [XR’s activism].”
Elsewhere, Massive Attack played all 12 sites earlier this week, according to the XR spokesperson, by moving around with a sound system in a backpack, while Declan McKenna played a free show on the Mall – the singer-songwriter’s first in a year.
Weatherald says it’s important to make use of music and arts to address social issues, noting that his and other International Rebellion sites are “chocka with heavy political and social issues, talks and workshops, so it’s really important to have the music there. Music is really great to get the message across.”
“It’s beautiful to see everyone coming together”
But it’s not without its challenges, adds McGinley. “The goalposts have obviously been moving a lot with this – there are all these external forces impacting on what we’re trying to do, so there’s been a lot of solving problems that have come up on the night,” he says.
“Seeing all the raids happening is a bit scary, and it can be disheartening when you’ve planned something only to see it get shut down. [At press time, in excess of 1,000 protesters had been arrested.] So there are a lot of mixed emotions, But also some really amazing highlights – it’s beautiful to see everyone coming together.”
The International Rebellion protests follow a busy summer of festival appearances for Extinction Rebellion activists. Melvin Benn, managing director of Festival Republic, told IQ last month there were 60% fewer tents left behind at its events this summer as a result of XR’s involvement. “I’ve been asking people for ten years not to leave their tents,” he said. “But the first year I get Extinction Rebellion involved, everyone takes them home!”
Other International Rebellion events are taking place in cities including Paris, Madrid, New York, Hong Kong, Toronto, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City and Melbourne.
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