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'Do something more than standing in a road blocking traffic,' young climate protesters urged

PUBLISHED: 12:58 31 July 2019 | UPDATED: 12:51 01 August 2019

Life-sized inflatable whales, dolphins and turtles are expected to fill Jubilee Hall in Aldeburgh as part of the Siren Festival Picture: Ian Rowlands

Life-sized inflatable whales, dolphins and turtles are expected to fill Jubilee Hall in Aldeburgh as part of the Siren Festival Picture: Ian Rowlands

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Young climate campaigners need a more sophisticated approach if they are to truly influence MPs and councillors, according to the organiser of an environmental festival being held on the Suffolk coast.

Ian Rowlands  Picture: Gina GowIan Rowlands Picture: Gina Gow

The ability to hold political conversations with elected officials and to produce manifestos are vital skills young people need to learn, says Ian Rowlands, who is part of the organising committee of the Siren Festival, a three-day event being held at Aldeburgh's Jubilee Hall in the second week in August.

The event will combine music, poetry and performance with education and discussion around topics such as climate change, sea plastics and sea level rises.

A key element of the festival's proposition is to involve young people and over a three-year period give them the skills to run the event themselves, as well as enable them to better vocalise their feelings about the climate and environmental crisis facing their generation.

In recent months, young people across the region have gone on strike from school and taken part in street demonstrations. Mr Rowlands said these activities have raised the profile of environmental issues, but now young people need to take their campaigning onto the next level.

Extinction Rebellion protest outside Endeavour House

Picture: RACHEL EDGEExtinction Rebellion protest outside Endeavour House Picture: RACHEL EDGE

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He added: "I want to applaud the kids who have taken the initiative to draw attention to these important environmental issues, but I'm much more interested in how to give young people skills so they can organise themselves in other ways.

The Siren festival will feature marine specimens Picture:  Ian RowlandsThe Siren festival will feature marine specimens Picture: Ian Rowlands

"Young people don't always have the skills to present their arguments and in rural Suffolk they don't always have the opportunity to get together to share ideas."

"I see the Siren Festival as a flag in the sand exercise - and we want to follow it up with workshops to help young people organise themselves better, so they are able to engage with politicians and journalists."

No time to wait

Mr Rowlands said he wanted to give young people the ability to produce a manifesto, and "to invite elected officials to sophisticated meetings where they can show their strength of feeling".

He added: "We don't have the time to wait, we have to give them the skills right now. If, for example they work in fashion - how can they turn their talents to influence their industry and do something more than standing in a road blocking traffic?"

Ultimately, he would like to see the Siren Festival organised by young people.

Mr Rowlands continued; "Yes, there's mentoring to be done by some of us oldies, leveraging our power and influence, and using our skills to steer the kids but what we are really looking at is how we can help the kids run it for themselves.

"We've met with young people in the local climate movement and they seem excited about what is being offered. We have kids as young as 12 and 13 years-old who want to get up and say a bit about this issue - we are tapping into something here."

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He added: " There is no reason why young people from Suffolk could not be leading on this as they are directly affected by the issues - we are on a piece of coast which could go underwater due to sea level rises and we see plastic waste washing up on the beach every day."

The Siren Festival is due to be held at Jubilee Hall in Aldeburgh from August 7-9. Visit sirencalling.org for more information.

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