Joanna Stevens, activist, artist, and member of Bristol XR, gives her perspective on the recent Rebel Uprising in Borth, North Wales.
As a person brought up in the rugged landscape of rural west Cornwall, I felt a sense of affinity when visiting another area that shares similar qualities of myth and legend. So it was that I attended my first Rebel festival in Borth, North Wales – Rebel Uprising – as an excited participant of a weekend of inspiration, empowerment and connectivity with fellow rebels keen to make our government listen to the truth about the climate emergency.
For me, this trip was different from my previous experiences with the Extinction Rebellion group, as it was made accessible for Deaf people through the use of two British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters. They had offered their time to ensure full accessibility for the small group of enthusiastic Deaf people (myself included) who wanted to feel part of the cause and try to understand the immediate problems of the climate crisis.
For those of us in this group who needed this extra communication access, it made the festival so much more enjoyable. It was a very positive learning experience for the organisers of this particular event, since it gave them an insight into how to ensure the festival was inclusive to all groups and addressing the need for more diverse participants. This encouraged me to return with a vengeance to the Bristol based Rebellion group.
I do not identify as being from the Deaf community, but have hearing loss of a moderate to severe nature, low vision, and moderate mobility issues from a condition called ataxia, all of which affect my ability to engage with life on a profound level. Seeing complicated talks translated into BSL helps me to gain a greater understanding of verbal information, especially when the speaker is continuously talking for a prolonged period of time in a dark tent, which can be extremely tiring especially if lipreading the majority of the time.
Having BSL in place helped to take the emphasis off of lipreading, but more needs to be done in terms of better lighting for Deaf people. Hopefully this was a wake up call for Extinction Rebellion to address these issues. The other Deaf participants also gained hugely from having BSL interpreters present to facilitate communication at the festival. A big well done to all involved for getting this set up.
Prior to arriving in Borth, I had met up with a fellow Rebel Uprising participant in Shrewsbury, where she had got onto my train and we continued on our journey to Wales together with a shared sense of camaraderie. We both spotted signs for the festival as the train drew into the vicinity. A cluster of brightly coloured, stripey tents added a bold splash of colour to the rural Welsh landscape and revved up our excitement to a higher pitch.
The festival was small and cosy which meant it was easily manageable. As a veteran of many festivals, including the infamous Glastonbury, I have experienced the positive and negative extremes of different events and can definitely say that I enjoyed the Rebel Uprising festival (the Deaf access played a big part in this plus factor).
The program was full of interesting talks, workshops and activities – definitely something for everyone, young and old. Some of my highlights included a refreshing early morning yoga session, a relaxing back massage, t-shirt printing with my own chosen slogan: ‘There is no planet B’ in large bold font with an additional bee image underneath to further emphasize the message. I also enjoyed dancing until nearly midnight and sampling the joys of vegan ice cream.
I didn’t forget to attend serious business as well: two talks, one about the dramatically reduced insect population and how 5G seems to be a main cause of this, and another about ‘7 steps to solving world problems’. Both were interesting and controversial, and both were BSL interpreted! These talks were attended by my fellow Deaf participants and it gave them serious cause for thought, inspiring them to want to take further action, which is exactly the same effect it had on me. Sobering and thought provoking indeed. People at the festival were very keen to be helpful and I struck up conversations with many individuals. I hope to encounter some of them again at the International Rebellion on 7th October.