Alarm Bells at the Old Fire Station

In Oxford, the Extinction Rebellion Art Group have taken over the Old Fire Station with a gallery of stirring artwork used in previous rebellions and actions. The exhibition opened on the September 24th and will conclude in a week, on the 15th October.

Art has played a pivotal role in movements around the world and XR has been no exception. The hand-printed colourful satin flags, banners and props give XR its distinct look. In Oxford too, Nellie the White Elephant has been a consistent protest companion, drawing large crowds as it brings attention to the misdeeds of the biggest polluters and CO2 emitters. The exhibition showcases many such exemplary pieces of protest art as well as powerful testimonials of rebels around Oxford. It also presents inspiring video montages of Oxford rebels in action – including XR Arts members and the iconic Red Rebels.

The exhibition’s opening ceremony on the 23rd of September saw a line-up of diverse speakers share their deliberations on the climate movement and the role of art therein.

Julia Mignè, the director of the charity Conservation Optimism, emphasized the necessity of creating and maintaining the conditions to sustain a thriving, diverse ecosystem. As she lamented the species already lost to climate disaster, symbolized in the exhibition’s Tombstones of species piece, she also shared some success stories of efforts which have positively impacted the status of several endangered species. She invited everyone – experts and laypersons alike – to join conservation efforts underway in Oxford.

Wednesday, an internal coordinator of XR Youth, shared the group’s analysis on the role of extreme capitalism in not only fueling the climate crisis, but also creating barriers in the way of building a mass climate action movement. They invited everyone to join a march through Oxford held on the 1st of October, in solidarity with countrywide protests against the cost of living and the climate crisis.

Protesters march through the streets of Oxford (top) and London (bottom), drumming up attention to the climate and cost of living crises.

Meanwhile at the exhibit, Abha Jeurkar, a new rebel from Oxford, shared her insights on how the climate crisis is already impacting marginalized communities in South Asia and highlighted the need to act now.

Alistair Morris, Parish Councillor from Old Marston, shared strategies that communities must adopt to resist as well as adapt to the changing climate. He underscored the need for “getting political” and the necessity of continuous mass mobilization efforts like XR. He also emphasised the importance of building resilient local communities, through efforts such as community gardens.

Rupert Read, one of the founding members and former spokespersons of XR and an author of books such as ‘Why Climate Breakdown Matters‘, shared the scientific community’s sobering prediction that limiting global heating to 1.5 degree Celsius has become an impossible goal. Yet, he also injected a renewed sense of resolve into the audience by underlining the urgency of pushing for drastic climate action.

The Old Fire Station will remain adorned with the rousing visual protests of the Art Group until Saturday 15th October. Stop by for some artistic inspiration, to meet like-minded people, or to learn about practical ways in which you can get involved with Extinction Rebellion.

Story by Abha Jeurkar, editing by Tyson Jones

Photos by Feng Ho and Suzanne Williams