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Meet the rebels: Extinction Rebellion Islington activists on diversity, getting arrested and finding fellowship

PUBLISHED: 10:49 24 October 2019 | UPDATED: 12:57 24 October 2019

Meet the XR Islington climate rebels. From left: Vania Flaccomio, Callum Martin-Moore, Pincus Corcoran, Matt Newton-Walters, Will Lord, Jenny Lam's child, Maria Papoui, Tom Hardy. Picture: Supplied

Meet the XR Islington climate rebels. From left: Vania Flaccomio, Callum Martin-Moore, Pincus Corcoran, Matt Newton-Walters, Will Lord, Jenny Lam's child, Maria Papoui, Tom Hardy. Picture: Supplied

Archant

Vania, 26, is a freelance videographer who also does visual effects on feature films, lives in Archway and has been involved with XR Islington for two months.

She said: "For me, I totally supported it from the beginning but I wasn't sure it was my place to be. After another cycle of grief, going through the realisation of the ecological devastation, I thought: there's no better or faster way to achieve change."

She added: "I have been absolutely blown away by the movement. I actually found a community that really listens to me and really supports each other."

Vania interviewed a variety of members for a project called Humans of XR, at this month's Autumn uprising in Trafalgar Square. She says it's important to show a diverse spectrum of XR activists because the group has been "continuously criticised" for being a white, middle-class organisation.

She added: "I think it's unfair to criticise people taking on board responsibilty of their privilege to actually help. This organisation's international. It's important to show that diversity because it's for everyone, not just the global north."

Callum Martin-Moore

Callum, 24, has been a full-time climate rebel living off his savings for the past 18 months.

"I just think it's the most important thing I can do with my time," he said.

"I've been living off lots of beans on toast and when I go to the pub I'm drinking tap water, watching people drink beer."

Callum got involved with XR in April, when he attended a protest in Oxford Circus and found himself "in Parliament Square at 8am the next day holding it down".

Pincus Corcoran

Pincus, an Islington artist who is registered disabled, has been involved with Islington XR since October last year.

She told the Gazette: "I believe there is no choice except to take non-violent direct action and fully adhere to XR's 10 principles. I especially relate to [the principle that states] 'every part of everyone is welcome'.

"I have been present throughout the rebellion and am in awe of the humanity, compassion and resilience."

Pincus was arrested during the "no food no future" protest outside Millbank on Tuesday last week. Her 18-year-old son Clay was also active in last week's "tell the truth" rebellion, where activists challenged the BBC over its alleged failure to properly report on climate change.

She said they've had rebels camping out in their garden and sleeping on their sofas and front room floor during recent protests.

Pincus added: "It has been an honour to offer this to fellow rebels. Clay and I have been humbled by this coming together of healing autonomy and love."

Matt Newton-Waters

Matt is an Islington XR member, filmmaker and professional wrestler.

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Will Lord

Will, 21, is studying politics and international relations, focusing his dissertation on future fuel solutions and energy inequality.

He said: "I have been a point coordinator for one of the sites during the rebellion and have thoroughly enjoyed assisting others in this role as widening the accessibility circle is always a plus especially in a movement as inclusive as XR.

"Participating in the crowd movements, too, has been elating and a sheer joyous anti-capitalist and environmentally conscious movement is a brilliant thing to be surrounded by."

Jenny Lam

Jenny, 37, a freelance digital producer, joined XR in July and worked in the "nonviolence and de-escalation" team during last month's rebellion.

She told the Gazette: "It breaks my heart to think our son will probably not even be 15 years old when climate and social collapse hits our part of the world.

"I fear that he, we and many others will enter a 'survival of the fittest' world to fight over basics like clean water, food and fresh air. He's totally innocent and does not deserve a dark future.

"At the rate things are going we are all facing a slow death and, as we've learned from history, humans are capable of doing very ugly things when our interests are threatened or when extreme ideology dominates. I joined XR so I don't give up hope for the future completely. Most people don't know anything about the regenerative culture which is deeply rooted within XR. To me this is more important than direct actions - when all fails to halt the climate and ecological collapse, I think a non-violent regenerative culture will be the last beacon of hope for all life on earth."

Maria Papoui

Maria is a 56-year-old Greek Cypriot Londoner who's lived in Holloway for 26 years.

She's a practitioner of social therapeutic horticulture.

"The seed was sown five years ago when my son became an environmental activist at university," she said. "It's quite hard to ignore your own children."

Last spring, spurred on by the momentum of Greta Thunberg's Friday school strikes, David Attenborough documentaries and an Extinction Rebellion protest in London, Maria concluded it wasn't enough to recycle, sign petitions or give up her car. "So I joined Islington XR," she said. "Otherwise in 10 years' time I couldn't live with myself if I buried my head in the sand."

Tom Hardy (not that one)

Tom is a semi-retired art and design teacher. He said: "I found myself at the launch of Extinction Rebellion in October by accident. I woke up one carefree morning, turned on the radio and heard the IPCC report saying we had 12 years left to do something - and, of course, that hit me between the ears. I suddenly realised that to be carefree was no longer going to happen."

He went to Parliament Square the day Extinction Rebellion was launched. "I found fellowship with people from all walks of life, from seasoned activists to the Archbishop of Canterbury - you couldn't have a broader church than that."

His recent XR actions have involved lobbying the BBC, which stands accused of downplaying the existential threat mentioned in the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) report.

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