I have been invited to write a little about the power of protest through music, my experiences as a musician and activist and what can be done right now to encourage our industry to evolve into a more benevolent creature that honours the needs of a world facing environmental and societal collapse.
Since the dawn of humanity music has been one of our most raw and provocative means of expression, be it a war cry or a lullaby, a love song or lament.
What defines humanity? The qualities that make us human, love, compassion and creativity. When the first bone was healed and the choice was made to stay behind, we evolved into something more than survival of the fittest.
You could say I come from a very musical background. From an early age I would sing along to my favourite musical heroes, trying to emulate the tone and delivery, I was enchanted with the feeling and sound of the human voice and its limitless power to evoke emotion.
As I got older and my consciousness blossomed, the lyrical content of the songs started to resonate with me on another level that was equally powerful.
Billie Holliday was an early favourite of mine and I will always remember how the song “Strange Fruit” left me utterly brokenhearted when I realised it’s tragic reality. Audaciously macabre and confronting, she wrote it in 1939 as an explicit protest against the lynching of Black Americans. I was awestruck by her bravery, her irreverence and ability to capture the feeling of an entire generation in a few words and chords that are now encapsulated in time forever. This was the beginning of my love for storytelling and protest through music.
I am privileged to be part of the earth protector community here in the UK and be able to draw my inspiration as an artist from my first hand experiences on the front line. I see it as an honourable duty to document the time we are living in and indeed the true history that may likely be left out of future school curriculum's.
But there is now a dawning reality that we must all do more, we must change, and fast.
The UK music market is responsible for approximately 540,000 CO2e per annum. While this is not as carbon intensive as many other industries it is clear that like all others we should be making every effort to meet the national and international targets of reducing CO2e emissions by 80% by 2050 to avoid a 1.5 degree increase in temperature. But since the IPCC report was released, we are already seeing shocking predictions from feed back loops like the ice melt indicating that we are in fact heading straight towards the worst case scenario, a 6 degree increase in global temperature. This will be worse than mere societal collapse, science is telling us we are facing mass extinction.
If we are to attempt to sustain our great Mother Earth and all of her most wild and beautiful inhabitants including human civilisation, it is essential to build a zero-emissions industrial system as quickly as possible.
This requires the global mobilisation of resources on an emergency basis, akin to a wartime level of response.
Now we can be empowered in the knowledge that there is more that we can be doing other than just solidarity in song. Within our daily operations both as individual artists and as a musical industry as whole are countless opportunities to make a sizeable change to our impact on the environment right now. Luckily there are some great options available for support in doing this as quickly as possible!
“NO MUSIC ON A DEAD PLANET” is a fact! This is the slogan becoming widely recognised for “MUSIC DECLARES EMERGENCY”.
I have recently joined a group of over 3,734 Artists, Music industry professionals and Organisations in signing the decleration to call for an immediate governmental response to protect all life on earth.
The creative community is uniquely placed to transform the conversation around climate change and translate that into action. Music has the power to promote the cultural change so badly needed to create a better future.
The list of declarers includes the likes of… Annie Lennox OBE, Massive Attack, Brian Eno, Beth Orton, Orbital and Radiohead to name but a few along with giant industry names like…Abbey Road Studios, Universal Music, Boomtown, Shambala and Greenman festivals, the list goes on but hopefully it’s apparent already that we, as a collective consciousness, are ready for change and are actively choosing to speak with the same voice.
“MUSIC DECLARES EMERGENCY” works alongside Julie’s Bicycle, a London based charity that supports the creative community to act on climate change and environmental sustainability. They run a rich programme of events and free resources which contribute to national and international climate change policy development. Both support the Paris agreement’s goal to limit global warming by focusing on energy, the major source of emissions for the cultural sector.
So if you are a musician or a lover and consumer of music, I encourage you wholeheartedly to explore the wonderful events and resources available through the website…www.musicdeclares.net
I would also highly recommend watching the TedTalk video with Leah Song, writer, vocalist and activist for the band Rising Appalachia. Here she discusses a deeper understanding of how this can translate to touring and reflects my feelings precisely as to how art and culture should be encouraged to blend anyway, nevermind the crisis!
So here’s to making as much music as possible, preserving the moment, spreading the word and being the change we wish to see.
We need to think and feel our way into a new way of living, seeing, sharing, spending. We need to celebrate the power we hold in our hands and most importantly of all we must recognise that NOW is the time to use it! To rewrite the rules, to step outside of the paradigm. Throughout history this is how some of the greatest changes in society have come to pass.
It feels appropriate at this point to send my love, solidarity and gratitude to the incredible earth protectors in the tunnels right now in Euston who are well into their second week resisting HS2. Our upcoming single “Dirty Tactics” is dedicated to the StopHS2 community and will be out soon.
“Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world, it is the only thing that ever has….”
Grace Gillan AKA Penny Wigglesworth is a Dorset based mother, musician and climate/human rights activist that has spent the last 7 years supporting refugees and protesting through non-violent-direct-action for the UK government to respond to the climate crisis.
She is the lead vocalist for the band Psychadelephant that are soon to release an EP featuring songs inspired by her experiences while protesting for climate justice with Extinction rebellion and at the StopHS2 camps.
She founded Extinction Rebellion Choir, a template for flash mob style protest to raise awareness about the climate crisis in the lead up to XR’s April rebellion in London 2019 and took part in the actions, spending 3 days superglued to the lorry blocking Waterloo Bridge. She was arrested last year defending one of the StopHS2 camps in Uxbridge and continues to be an active part of the movement resisting the development.
Around home schooling, she is currently working on “This Mother’s Wish”. A portrait protest exhibition, bringing a million mothers together to demand international Ecocide law.