OPINION: How campaigners are getting their point across about climate change with street theatre

The surreal sight of a woman dressed in an inflatable planet earth and a man in a judge’s costume met customers of Barclay’s Bank in Sheffield city centre.

By Julia Armstrong
Thursday, 2nd September 2021, 10:06 am

Janice Brown and Richard Teasdale are part of a street theatre group called Act Now, and they were putting the banking giant on trial for its huge investments in fossil fuels in the face of climate change.

"We are trying to get attention through entertaining and in different ways,” Janice said. “Barclay’s is giving so many billions and billions in fossil fuels and have been continuing to do so since the Paris Agreement (on tackling climate change) in 2015, and it’s fossil fuels that are fuelling the climate crisis and we have to stop now – no more fossil fuels – and Barclay’s continue to do it.”

Richard added: “They are Europe’s biggest funder of fossil fuels – many of the banks are involved in this but they are the worst.

Janice Jones and Richard Teasdale at a climate change street theatre protest outside Barclay's Bank in Sheffield city centre

“Since Paris they have invested £100 billion in fossil fuels and they talk about they’re going to stop but, as Janice said, they’re not going to stop now. We can’t wait 10 years, 20 years, we need them to stop investing now in fossil fuels. It’s really as simple as that.”

An environmental campaign called Market Forces worked with shareholders to attempt to get Barclay’s to set robust short, medium and long-term targets for phasing out its fossil fuels investments but Barclay’s successfully urged investors to vote the motion down at their annual meeting.

Spokesman Adam McGibbon said: “Today’s result is a major concern. Barclays financed another US$27 billion (£19.4bn) to fossil fuels in 2020, increased funding for fracking, tar sands and arctic oil by 32 per cent in the same time period, and remains the biggest UK funder of the global coal industry.”

Given what Act Now are protesting against, how effective can a piece of street theatre be? But then who would have believed a 15-year-old Swedish girl sitting alone with a placard outside her country’s parliament building would inspire millions of young people to walk out of school and protest for action on climate change?