‘The best example of people power’ - Meet some of the faces behind Extinction Rebellion Norwich
PUBLISHED: 13:41 09 July 2019 | UPDATED: 13:41 09 July 2019
The compulsion to rebel and stand up for beliefs is something that has been ever-present in Norwich for many, many years.
Ever since the days of Robert Kett, who 470 years ago this week led an army of peasants in a revolt against wealthy landowners, the city has had the kind of staunch resolve that refuses to lay down in the face of adversity.
It is therefore no surprise that climate change campaign group Extinction Rebellion - which brought London to a stand still earlier this year - has one of its strongest presences in Norwich.
With more than 100 devotees, the group has made itself known on several occasions, in the council chambers, streets and communities across the county.
Whether it be showing up in numbers to council meetings or through inventive demonstrations such as 'critical mass' bicycle rides, the group has developed a unique way of putting their messages across.
But who are the people behind the movement, which in February brought Norfolk County Council to a halt for more than four hours?
Local democracy reporter David Hannant has spoken to some of the faces behind the campaign.
One of the group's newest members, 35-year-old Amy Wilson was inspired to join following the mass protests in London.
Miss Wilson, of Silver Road, said she was inspired by climate lawyer Farhana Yamin, who glued herself to the pavement in the capital in April.
She said: "To see a person of her stature resorting to that type of action really opened my eyes to how serious the situation we are in must be.
"I then started researching the issue and was utterly terrified by what I was reading. I looked up the group straight away and started going along.
"I'm a lifelong athiest, but on a personal level I have never felt such belonging as I do in the group - we are all equally terrified by what the future could hold if nothing is done and are therefore all equally motivated.
"The great thing I have found about Extinction Rebellion is it has taken me from a place of fear to a place where we have hope.
"People may not always agree with or understand our message or the methods we use to put them across, but I'd much rather be somebody who tries to do something than nothing."
As former leader of the Green Party locally, Andrew Boswell has been a mainstay in environmental campaigning in Norfolk.
He said getting involved in Extinction Rebellion was a "natural progression" for him.
Dr Boswell, 63 and of Havelock Road, Norwich, first became aware of the group at an early stage, having also been made aware of it through his work as an environmental consultant.
He said: "I am a long term environmental campaigner so it was a natural step for me to get involved in the group when I heard about it.
"I have been talking about the climate emergency we have been in for a long time, but I just don't feel that councils in the area really get the seriousness of the situation.
"In the past I have been used to lobbying councils and councillors, but I have now found I'm really enjoying the colourful, passionate side of what XR does."
Now a city councillor for the Green Party, Jamie Osborn has been involved in the movement since November 2018.
Mr Osborn, 25, a charity worker alongside his council work, was inspired after hearing of a protest against the NDR western link.
You may also want to watch:
He said: "I was dismayed that the consultation into western link options did not have an option for no western link - so went along to the protest against it.
"I went along to the protest at the Forum and was really inspired by the many people who had gone along.
"I've always been concerned about the climate - I often struggle to sleep because I am so worried - and here I had found a vibrant, dedicated group of people with the same fears as mine.
"What appeals to me is that Extinction Rebellion is an apolitical group which wants to put party politics and point scoring aside to promote a better cause - which makes it easy for me to separate from my work as a councillor."
In February, Mr Osborn was one of four XR Norwich members to be arrested during County Hall protests, but was not charged.
A well-known crusader for a number of causes locally, Jenn Parkhouse was attracted to the group through common grounds on another of her passions.
As a founding member of the Wensum Valley Alliance and chairman of Norwich Friends of the Earth, she found the group was fighting many of the same causes as her.
She said: "I was part of the group that shut down Parliament Street in London and it was a brilliant experience. It was wonderful as the atmosphere was relaxed, but at the same time purposeful.
"I live and breathe opposing the western link and objected to the NDR itself from the very beginning - so I found I had a great deal of common ground with Extinction Rebellion.
"I can't speak for others in the group but I just feel everybody is incredibly passionate along the same lines."
She was one of the four people arrested during the February protest at County Hall, after resisting when police attempted to remove her from the chamber.
She said: "I just went limp, which was seen as resisting arrest. However, I'm incredibly proud to have been part of the group that day. There was no violence and it was all peaceful protesting, which is reflected in everything we do."
A philosophy lecturer at the University of East Anglia, Rupert Read is one of the earliest members of the movement nationally.
Mr Read, 53 and of Merton Road in Norwich, has been involved in Norwich Extinction Rebellion from its beginning and serves as a spokesman for the group.
He said: "I have been writing and teaching about the subject of climate change for years and have been involved with the Green Party.
"However, while sometimes we have some of the overall picture, just not enough was being said about just how critical the situation has become.
"I heard last September about the idea of Extinction Rebellion and became very excited by it - this is what we needed - something to change the whole conversation.
"Extinction Rebellion Norwich is now very strong and very large group and I think it is now clear there are a lot of people in Norwich that are fully aware of the situation and willing to take action to share the message."
Rosie Bradley became involved in the movement after returning to the United Kingdom having lived in Australia.
Miss Bradley, 30, who lives near Anglia Square, was encouraged to get involved by her father, Nick Bradley, who was one of four members arrested at County Hall in Feburary.
She said: "For me, I've always felt very strongly about issues such as the environment, social injustice and inequality and XR pulls all of these issues together in a way I'd never seen before.
"Being at County Hall in February was one of the most empowered I've ever felt - it was the best example I've ever seen of people power truly in action.
"The people in the group are all incredibly passionate, motivated people who really care about the environment and want to make a difference."
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Eastern Daily Press. Click the link in the orange box below for details.