Artists marching at London’s Global Climate Strike: “It’s quite an easy distraction to be thinking about Brexit, isn’t it?”

We spoke to Fickle Friends, Will Joseph Cook and Black Honey at this weekend's march...

“No Music On A Dead Planet” warned Foals at the Hyundai Mercury Music Prize on Thursday evening. At the same time, halfway around the world, The 1975 were taking to the streets of Melbourne with 100,000 others for the first Climate Strike of many.

For the following 24 hours, millions of people left school, work or whatever else they were doing on a Friday lunchtime to gather together and demand change and climate justice in the biggest protest the world has ever seen. 

NME went down to London’s Parliament Square alongside the best and brightest of the UK indie scene to get involved.

“We need to stop climate change from occurring before it gets too fucking late,” starts Fickle Friends’ Natty Shiner. “This is the only way people are going to do something about it. We’re here in our thousands and thousands to help change happen.”

“Protesting is the most valuable thing you can do alongside personal lifestyle changes,” continues Will Joseph Cook. “The main thing we all need to be focused on is a big systemic change which has to come from governments and companies. It can’t come from individuals but if we’re all here together, then it becomes something that’s a lot harder to ignore. If they see how popular change is then politicians or companies will be less afraid to make changes. It’s a little bit pessimistic but we need it to be as sexy as possible for corporations and governments to get involved and I think this is the best way to do it.”

Ahead of a UN emergency climate summit, the Global Climate Strike is a youth led movement designed to show business and politicians that this generation isn’t going to let things continue the way it has been. They’ve had enough. And today on the ground, it’s young people leading the charge. Organising sit-ins outside Downing Street, leading chants and giving the whole event an unwavering energy, it’s an awe-inspiring display of the power they wield. 

“It’s taken kids to make us wake up to this situation,” explains Black Honey’s Izzy B Phillips. “I listened to Greta Thunberg’s book No One Is Too Small To Make A Difference when I was on a plane and I just cried. This generation’s had enough. They have no control. They can’t vote and we can. We have those rights, but we fucked it up for them. I just feel like this incredible sense of sinking, saddling guilt. I want to do everything I can in the short time we’ve got to try and change stuff.”

“I think they’ve had enough because I think it’s gotten to the point where you can’t ignore it anymore. It’s been so hot,” adds Natty. “It’s so erratic. It’s like the fucking world is unwell. It’s got a permanent temperature. It’s really too obvious and too apparent to ignore anymore. I think people are just a lot more progressive in their thinking nowadays, especially the younger people.” 

The majority of the protesters today should be in college or school and the whole thing is peaceful and respectful. There’s no violence, no want to destroy. For a while it’s been easy to dismiss making any sort of change or taking any sort of action because it feels like as an individual, what difference can you really make. Today is proof that you’re not just one person though. You’re part of a community that’s growing in strength and number. 

“It’s been a really positive experience. I always felt so irrelevant in the grand scheme of things and doing stuff like this makes you feel like there’s hope,” starts Izzy. “I think it’s only when you come here that you can really see for yourself just how many people fucking give a shit as well. It makes me very hopeful being out here,” continues Natty. “Even if you think lifestyle change is pointless, protesting isn’t,” adds Will. “We’re seeing it have an effect already.” 

The strikes have been called the “greatest threat” to the oil industry by OPEC, an organization that represents 14 countries and 80% of the world’s oil reserves.

Billie Eilish has urged fans to “speak up” and the Music Declares Emergency, “a group of artists, music industry professionals and organisations that stand together to declare a climate and ecological emergency and call for an immediate governmental response to protect all life on Earth,” has been backed by the likes of Radiohead, The 1975 and Bon Iver. It was their banner Foals held up at the Mercurys. 

“If you want speak up then now is the time. If you have any urge within you, I implore other musicians to do some research and get involved,” declares Will. “The reason why I’m getting more involved now is that there is this opportunity now you’re no longer outspoken. The quiet of the individual is going down as more people get involved. It’s difficult to know where to take it when you’re just on your own, but just get involved with as many big movements as possible. If people who affect culture, like artists, musicians, speak up and if it can just become this pop culture identity, that can make politicians and businesses listen: ’Oh, this is popular so we’re going to get involved as well’. Anything you can do really is a good thing at this point.”

Izzy also feels a responsibility to speak up, “but only because Greta said ‘the bigger your influence, the more important it is for you to talk about this’. I can’t believe I spent so long debating other world subjects. When you think about it, this is the biggest, most important and only conversation we should be having. It’s quite an easy distraction to be thinking about Brexit, isn’t it?”

Of course, it’s easy for a bunch of musicians with no proper day jobs to preach about striking to save the planet. Being able to take the day off work to strike is a privilege, as are a lot of day to day climate friendly changes like veganism. “It’s one of the ugliest things about it,” offers Will. “That makes people angry. There are a lot of people, Katie Hopkins and people like that, who like to stoke those flames and be like, ‘Oh, look at all these privileged people taking the day off work’ but at least people here are using their privilege to do something positive. If you can’t make those lifestyle changes, showing up to protests or voicing support on social media has more impact than you think.

“A lot of people look down on it, ‘you drive a car and you do this and that’ and yeah, we are all guilty but we didn’t necessarily have a choice in that guilt. And doing something is infinitely better than doing nothing. We just need to focus on how to change, rather than faffing about or infighting. There’s no point arguing about whether you believe in climate change or not. It’s a fact. We just need to work out what the hell to do about it.” 

“I hope there’s some proper massive changes enforced on the world,” says Natty. “We all know there’s another way of doing things, it’s just a little bit more expensive or it’s the long way round. People in power, they just want to take the shortcut and I’m fucking sick of it. I guess we’ll see what happens in the UN meeting in three days. Hopefully the word will spread more and more and more. I mean they can’t ignore this, right?”

And for the first time in a long time, it feels like the conversation around climate change is undeniable. 

“I hope that things can stay happy for as long as possible because I think that there’s quite a lot of scary things coming if things don’t change. We need to stay very tolerant and very open to change because there’s a lot coming,” promises Will. But today feels hopeful. The Global Climate Strike feels positive. “And it should be. It should be optimistic. It has to be, otherwise why are we all here? It’s not a funeral for the planet, it’s a big joyous strive to change.”

“And the most amazing thing is, it’s the younger generation who are basically leading it. It makes me very hopeful for our generation and for our kids to come,” smiles Natty. ”All hope is not lost just yet.”