As an environmentally conscious individual, it often doesn’t feel enough just to try and live a low carbon lifestyle when you hear about all the atrocities of large corporations and the complicity of Governments. The question I often have, and many of my friends is “cliktavism, marches ; protests -what can we do to make the biggest impact?”
But do politicians really listen to the angry protesters voices, and can they publicly be seen to react? After listening to books like Bill McKiben’s ‘Oil and Honey’, I was reminded that often political leaders can’t be seen to give in to the voice of protesters as they would be perceived as weak by their political counterparts.
So what to do? McKiben talks about positive, peaceful protests, reinforcing Obama’s pre- lection rhetoric rather than negatively criticising him as the stance they adopted when tackling the Keystone XL pipeline in 2011. And as someone who believes that negativity breeds negativity it makes sense to approach environmental campaigns in another way. Although, I certainly have enjoyed attending marches against austerity and fracking.; the aspects I enjoy the most are the song singing and the sense of community and solidarity I come back with.
Throughout 2016, I have been following the BP or not BP campaign with admiration, as a great way to highlight and engage people in the issues of climate change using creative direct action. So I was really pleased that finally I had a free weekend to attend the Splash Mob that was due to take over the British Museum on September 29th.
The instructional email I received, which was littered with hilarious fish and sea alliteration, set the tone for a fun, positive and respectful afternoon of theatrical activism.
On Sunday 25th, the fun began as my friend and I worked out how we could cycle and then get our mermaid costumes in the museum without them being confiscated by security. Safely in, the sense of unity and excitement began to bubble as we bumped into friends and strangers who were unveiling their glittering attire and putting on their fishy facepaint and makeup.
The performance began to the summoning of a conch sound and merfolk and fishes congregated from each corner of the museum, and museum goers looked on in bemusement( the amp had been confiscated so some of the performances prose got lost in the echoey chamber of the great court. However every time a song broke out (that we joined in with), the audience swelled like the tide with intrigue. The performance took a stomping, singing procession around the museum until we came face-to face with the Cracken, a 10 metre black sea monster puppet who consumed a fictional museum manager (we weren’t sure if he was real initially). We also wondered how this got in past security!
The real museum staff and security were patient and accommodating allowing the piece to take place with photographers recording the whole affair. Obviously that is what we should expect, and with organisers making it clear that their was to be no damage or disrespect paid to staff, and the atmosphere was positive, with the activists brushing up the paper oil rain that was on the floor.
With the British Museum already signing a another 5 year contract with BP, one could feel like the action was futile. As we sat on the step recollecting on the experience, we wondered about the museum visitors. – will they think twice about filling their cars up with fuel from BP or will they read into the issues of BP’s deep drilling plans or the issues of climate change???? Perhaps that is something that can’t be quantified by today. What I can be sure of is that it was an injection of campaigning ‘fuel’ for myself and my friend who is prohibited from protesting by his work contract. We felt reignited on ways to get involved and to approach environmental campaigning- song, theatrically, good nature and positivism.
So in the spirit of the Splash Mob all that is left to say, or sing (to the tune of the Drunken sailor song) “What should we do with the corporate sponsor, what should we do with the corporate sponsor, what should we do with the corporate sponsor, kick them out of culture”!