On Sunday 24th October, we held our first in-person meeting after an 18-month hiatus. Tomorrow we'll be following it up with an online meeting. Here is to making the most of the virtual and face-to-face meetings.
The past 18 months or so have been challenging for XR (or any social movements) in general, but for local groups it was particularly so. The rebels who held on gave their time and energy to more central actions and events, while many others went into “hibernation”.Until recently, XR Lambeth focused efforts on keeping our head above water. We organised our first bigger action in June when we called out Shell’s sponsorship of the Science Museum. We then focused our efforts on the national Free the Press and Impossible Rebellion. We also held a People’s Assembly in July to discuss how to reorganise to reflect the changes around us and the smaller number of rebels.
It has been heartwarming to see that while numbers have decreased, dedication from those still active is unwavering and we are getting many new joiners who are very keen to be involved. So we felt it was a good time to build on these strengths and get a fresh start.
Sunday’s GM was all about welcoming new people and (re)connecting. We met at Cressingham Gardens Rotunda -like in good pre-covid times- and had hot drinks and cake. Oh and of course we discussed what to do with ourselves and started planning an action to be held in London during COP.
Something that we had been reflecting on for a long time is how to break the existing hierarchy in the group and truly embody XR’s principles of decentralisation. We decided to move away from the idea of working groups and coordinators, and centre around skills instead. There are so many great individuals within the movement and everyone has something to bring, be it a very specific area of expertise or their contagious enthusiasm. So we dressed up a list of skills/tasks that are part of the daily running of our local group and put a call out in our newsletter for people to help us with them.
During the meeting, “older” rebels introduced themselves to newer ones, explaining how they were involved in XR Lambeth, why they joined, and shared something they recently did in the movement. The aim was to provide a good overview of all the things you can do when you become part of the family.
Many think that we are all about getting arrested, but that’s what we are being portrayed to present us as outside of the accepted social norms. Yes, we do get arrested, and in numbers, but we do not glorify it, and nor do we ask everyone to. We emphasised on the many other ways you can support without having to glue/lock yourself to something, and how no action would be possible without the numerous people working to help organise and support it. Think arts, music, ation planning, wellbeing, deescalation, training, admin, police station support and so much more!
Newer rebels then mixed up with older ones in small groups and shared about themselves. We really want to support and integrate new joiners. In the past, we have had feedback that new people come to GMs and leave not knowing how to get involved.We addressed this by suggesting buddying up with more experienced rebels
Once finished and some tea and biscuits were had, we stayed in our groups and started discussing ideas for an XR Lambeth action in London during COP. We used XR’s booklets on how to plan for NVDA and then shared our ideas with the rest of the groups. We hope that it gave people an idea of how we organise actions together and what makes it an XR action. We really wanted everyone to have their say and be part of the decision-making process.
At the end of the meeting we invited people to register interest on our sign up sheet and to let us know whether they wanted to buddy up with more experienced rebels. The idea is that through informal interactions new joiners get to know each other and more experienced rebels, ask questions to understand how things work and hopefully find their place in the group and how they want to get involved. For older rebels, we get to be inspired by new people and get new ideas from them and hopefully make new friends in the process, too!
Time flies when you’re having fun.We then had to vacate the premises but continued catching up outside on what fortunately was a glorious day. We assembled behind a Refurbish, Don’t Demolish banner in support of local campaigns against demolition and gentrification of housing estates by Homes for Lambeth and took some nice group pics.
We are aiming to have more regular GMs in the coming months and will be offering both online and in-person options and review the situation in light of Covid. Check out our Events page for infor about future mettings and actions events and actions. Do join our Telegram chat to stay up-to-date or sign up to our newsletter