SKIPTON musician Alex Johnston-Seymour was one of the team behind the 'biggest climate protest the UK has ever seen'. Extinction Rebellion's 'The Big One' took place in Parliament Square between April 21 and April 24. Here, Alex, a member of the band, The Tenmours, explains why he, and others from Skipton, took part in the protest.


SINCE I started writing songs, at the age of nine, I have loved nature and wanted to use my music to spread respect and activism to save the natural world.

I started performing with The Tenmours at Extinction Rebellion protests in 2019, getting involved with programming more artists, speakers, politicians, and as many voices as possible.

I programmed the 2019 Global strike in Leeds with an estimated 13,000 people attending - making it one of the biggest climate protests ever in Leeds.

We released a song in 2021 called 'Norway Song' about deforestation, overfishing, pollution, rising temperatures and the negative effects on Norway.

This song was featured on Cop26tv in 2022 during my music Masters at Leeds Conservatoire, for which I had composed lots of environmental songs and a significant portion of my research featured the relationship between the music industry and the natural world.

After completing the MA, I performed at an Extinction Rebellion protest in Sheffield in front of many hundreds if not more than 1,000 people. Following this was where my involvement shot into the stratosphere. In November 2022, I was elected into the external coordinator role for XR UK's programming team.

Half the team were missing, some had been arrested. Everyone used code names rather than their own name, so I came up with my own; I'm a fan of J.R.R Tolkien, so my name was one of his characters, which I will keep secret.

I attended meetings with all the EC's of XR UK in an actions team where we started planning 'The Big One' - a four day protest in Parliament Square, London, making crucial decisions such as whether to liaise with the police, how to get big numbers, and whether to include Just Stop Oil.

Most of the job tested my diplomacy skills, especially as there is no power dynamic in XR, they use the Self Organising System or SOS so I was constantly giving heaps of rationale that often needed to appease opposite points of view.

Most of the team were women, who I might add were absolutely inspiring, powerful, epic and talented! To be honest I felt like I should be working for them.

As the youngest in the team, it was an immense challenge. The organisation for the event was gargantuan, everyone working on it was so passionate, well educated, organised and inspiring.

My partner and I suffered a traumatic bereavement, in the month before the event, for which I took time off. But I was anxious to keep it on track so I returned to doing little bits after two weeks.

By then, tensions in the organisation were at their highest. I returned for the final stretch, working from 7:30am to sometimes 11pm. There were many new members of the team by this point, all doing a great job.

The programme was pretty much completed and published by this point and on it I had placed my band The Tenmours, of course! Unfortunately, after a heated argument in the team, I decided to quit.

I used my extra time to celebrate my 26th birthday, see my grandpa, go to Craven Clinic for counselling, spend time with my partner walking in the dales, and prepare to perform at the event with The Tenmours.

The XR website says - 'a four day action where people from all groups and movements, not just XR, will gather throughout Westminster and at the Houses of Parliament.', More than 200 organisations are supporting including Greenpeace, Friends of The Earth and PCS Union to name but a few'.

The reason for being there / The Big One demand: A citizen-led democracy to end the fossil fuel era. A fair society that includes reparation. Existing demands: for an immediate end to all fossil fuel licenses. XR's three core demands remain the same: Tell the Truth, Act Now, and Decide Together.

The event, though very organised, felt chaotic to me as a country person, London is not my natural habitat.

Friday April 21st saw roughly 30,000 people attend, Saturday saw roughly 50,000 people attend, Sunday saw roughly 20,000 people attend, Monday saw roughly 15,000 people attend.

This was a very different protest to those seen before; there was no gluing, no getting on top of airplanes, no disruption to the marathon, no bike-locking etc.

This protest was totally peaceful and took on board as much public constructive criticism as possible, aiming to be inclusive, not to alienate, and to create a welcoming vibe for all.

Looking at TV coverage, I believe in this sense, it was successful; however, Monday's deadline for the demands and response from the government was not met, nor did the government react at all. The Tenmours were booked for Sunday 23rd, arriving at Westminster tube and exiting to find the marathon and many thousands of people.

It was wet and rainy, we found the Biome Stage, up to 20 different tents / pickets with educational talks, training, information etc. We performed a warm up set on the Biome stage, then our main set on the main stage, then on stage 2.

With us was Adam Hopkins, ex-Ermysted's School, member of The Tenmours; Matthew Annable, Skipton Music teacher, ex- South Craven School; Lewis Hemingway, Leads Roadblock; Sarah Smout, Skipton Cellist, ex-Skipton Girls High School; Maya Jagger, videographer, photographer; Jekabs Jursins ex-Ermysted's School, works in Geophysics, and David Bullock, Tenmours bassist.