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Art of the Protest

The Art of the Protest

My career as a student activist was a decidely inglorious one. I was a lazy student when it came to protests and demonstrations. I think I may have gone on maybe three or four demos in all my time as a student. Some of them were protests about against introduction of student fees and a later one was against the building of the Cardiff Barrage.  I caught a bad chill after getting soaked at one demo in London and was ill in bed for a week.  Sadly, I never had the courage/organisational ability to make my own poster or banner. That takes thought and effort. So I’d end up holding a boring printed poster made by some radical left-wing organisation that didn’t quite sum up my sentiments. So I am always very interested in what people put on their home made posters. I wrote a some blog posts about Art and Protest in Art of the Protest (also in Germany & China) quite a while ago, but this is about a homemade protest.

On Friday there was the global Climate Strike to protest about the climate crisis. I had no thought of going along until I heard the day before that adults were asked to attend too.  There were hundreds of people of all ages in the centre of Swansea. The fact that it was a hot sunny day in late September, just seemed to illustrate what is going wrong with the climate.  Extinction Rebellion had a big presence, many of its supporters were carrying homemade drums (made from plastic washing up bowls and dustbins). They have a clever logo which is a clever play on the “X” in Exctintion and an hour glass, implying that we are running out of time.

There is an Extinction Rebellion sticker is at the bottom of the poster
There is an Extinction Rebellion sticker is at the bottom of the poster

I know a Swansea artist,  who has given up painting to direct all her energies into working for this environmental group that believes in non-violent protest. They divide opinion, even amongst  environmentalists, who say that their activities may be cause the government to increase anti-protest legislation rather than focusing on tackling climate crisis. Yet, they were only one of many organisations that came to their protest. There were people from political parties, trade unions, the Quakers, the Wildlife Trust, as well just ordinary people. One of the student organisers, who was one of the stewarts,  worked with Swansea Trades Council. He said they’d been planning this protest for months and he was delighted at the numbers who had turned up.

Here are a selection of the wonderful homemade posters. I particularly liked the ones made by children. They had clearly spent a lot of time designing and making them.


Made on a pillowcase

Beautifully made banners

Teenagers’s posters tended to be simpler with clear and heart-felt statements

Small but beautiful!
Just in case you wanted to criticse her for missing school…

The rally then morphed into a march that wound its way through the busy shopping streets of Swansea.


Stopped some traffic…and ended up outside the guildhall where anyone in the crowd was invited to step to say a few words. So they did. Young and old.

Although it wasn’t planned the march ended up inside the Guildhall inside the Council chambers. I think the protesters just asked to be let in and the security guards let them. This was later reported in the local newspapers as the protest “occupying” the council chambers and the police removing them.  It was hardly, that. It was a bunch of well-behaved kids, and a few adults. Some of the adults and kids said a few words including part of a speech by climate activitst Greta Thunberg. Although we probably had all had heard her say those words before, they were still moving. We all then filed out, chanting and druming all the way. There were some police near by, chatting to each other, in their van. It was very benign. You can watch a clip of it on the BBC website here. It was much more fun than my student day protests!

So it seems that protests and posters are like a good party. They need a fair bit of preparation. You hope people will turn up. Finally, you probably enjoy other people’s far more than your own!

In Swansea council chambers.

10 thoughts on “Art of the Protest

  1. I love the creativity and power of the signs

  2. I think If everyone gave up their cars and we some how could reduce the population to one billion,the Earth might just survive……we might not but the Earth would. But that ain’t going to happen. People want someone else to stop climate change while they drive to the protest in their gas guzzling car.
    I gave up my car 15 years ago and have no children. This is as much as one person can be asked to do.
    With the population at 8 billion just imagine what the state of affairs is going to be when it hits 10 or 15 billion. Our sheer number is the biggest problem we have and there isn’t a thing anybody can do about it.
    Sorry for the pessimistic rant Emma but this is a sore spot with me.

    1. That’s OK, Wayne. You make good points. I also think that the world will do just fine once all the humans have become extinct. All will rebalance itself in time. I made a point of walking to the protest but i do have a small car but no children and I am a vegetarian, but I agree most people don’t want to know. The biggest changes have to happen at government level. Remember acid rain in the 1990s and the hole in the Ozone layer? Yes, I know this is much bigger and without the active help of USA & China, we dont stand much of a chance. I used to think these things would happen in my nephew and niece’s lifetimes, now I think they will happen in mine!

      1. well one things for sure,we’re all in the same bath tub!

      2. well,…buckle up……smile & enjoy the ride!

  3. I really enjoyed this post…thank you. I was just telling someone this weekend that I was arrested in Trafalgar Square back in the 60s for Banning the Bomb….probably the start of my demonstrating career. Another memorable march was in Washing DC. I had my two year old son on my back with a sigh on his back saying ‘NOT MY SON’ protesting the Vietnam War.
    And so it goes….we must stand up and be counted….Enjoy your day and week ahead. Janet ……

  4. I have to admit I’m not much of a protester. The trouble is that while government may know what needs to be done, vested interests always seem to win. It’s heartening that the current situation is bringing together people who care.

  5. During our Obama era I was beginning to feel hopeful because of all the efforts he was making to promote the sustainable energy industry, and his regulations to control use of carbon. Then my country saw fit to elect the moron and I despair. I no longer think we can expect our governments to do the right thing. It is up to each of us to make choices, to lead by example, and your wonderful post and the people who have commented here are doing just that. Kudos to all of you!

    1. Oh Melissa, I have been listening to a series of podcasts (by RPX Radio if that means anything to you) that details how the current administration has been systematically reversing all the progress of Obama’s days in office. Many good experienced scientists are being sacked from gov posts, scientific reports surpressed, and environmental regulations reversed all in the name of “business”. It is deeply, deeply depressing. The UK isn’t much better, we are all distracted by Brexit, which if it happens will be all about reducing “regulation” (ie reversing environmental protections, amongst many other things) whilst increasing red tape for businesses who need to export. Many people don’t realise what’s going on and just want easy answers. Big oil companies have known about this for decades and funded “think tanks” to spread climate change denial. Only Greta Thunberg and Extinction rebellion are talking sense. We have to make governmrents take action, because the emergency is on such a massive scale that big cahnge needs to happen fast – that has to happen on a government level.

      1. Yes, you are right, of course. It really is depressing how big business has such free rein, influencing governments. And you are absolutely right, people don’t really want to know or take responsibility, they just want easy answers.

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