In 2022, a writer friend and I began talking about how we wanted to draw local poets and writers together, to build community around those who were addressing (or wanted to address) the climate and ecological emergency in their writing. We put some feelers out and on a warm evening in June, twelve of us gathered in a room above a pub. We talked of our hopes and fears around the climate emergency, the history and journey of Writers Rebel and offered a prompt to create a short piece of writing. And so Norwich Writers Rebel was born. It really was as simple as that.
Since then, we have held writing workshops, had a few picnics, held an open mic ahead of The Big One and run a campaign called #WordsInTheWild whereby people were encouraged to express their rage and love for the earth and leave these words around the city in creative ways.
If you are considering setting up a local Writers Rebel, first and foremost I would say don’t overthink it. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the resources you feel you need. All it takes to begin is a willingness and a few people. In the wake of thousands coming together on the streets of London for The Big One and the collective energy and resolve around this, the time has never been riper for us to come together as writers to recognise our responsibilities and set our sights upon the defining issue of our time.
With Norwich Writers Rebel almost a year old now, I have a few suggestions to help you on your journey:
- You can use the Writers Rebel logo and it may be fun to add something from your city, town or region to it. For example, the canary below is a local Norwich symbol, something that the 16th Century ‘Strangers’ (refugees from the Low Countries) used to keep and now adopted by Norwich City Football Club.
- Collect an email list for anyone that’s interested and keep adding to it. Even if people aren’t coming along to activities, they are probably reading and considering the emails and may well join along the line. Also consider setting up a Signal group for members, free and easy to download.
- If you can, find a few people to take on different roles eg social media / events organising / funds record keeping if you have the capacity for that, so that the workload can be spread.
- Holding an open mic, as I mentioned above, is a wonderful way for writers to share their work as well as drawing in new potential members. It isn’t too hard to find an inexpensive hall or venue to rent. For our first open mic, I also found a few musicians who are inspired by nature and / or the climate emergency and this worked really well to break the words up. I gave each performer a ten-minute slot so they could take their time, also talking about the inspiration behind their offering. Make sure you collect email addresses at the end of the event.
- If you are looking for ideas for writing workshops, a couple of good books I have taken inspiration from are From What Is to What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create the Future We Want by Rob Hopkins and Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in with Unexpected Resilience and Creative Power by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone.
- Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get the numbers you were hoping for at a meeting, workshop or event. Anyone turning up is a win and you never know what seeds are being sown.
Finally, don’t forget that Writers Rebel is here to support you and you can be in touch with them at firstname.lastname@example.org. They can also send you a PowerPoint with the history, aims and overview of Writers Rebel that you can share with your group at your introduction meeting as well as stickers to hand out. Because who doesn’t love stickers?
As writer Tom Bullough so poignantly and powerfully expressed at Tufton Street at the The Big One recently in his ten-point Things we must remember, ‘If the emergency is not at the heart of your work then you’re not writing honestly, and if you’re not writing honestly then you are not a writer.’
This is the work we must do. But we should not and must not do it alone. Gather your words, your people and your energy and, as poet Jane Kenyon urges, ‘Be a good steward of your gifts.’