Music, the Arts and the Climate Protests

Extinction Rebellion protesters in London.

Music, the Arts and the Climate Protests

Extinction Rebellion protests have featured a range of bands and musicians as well as new organisation Culture Declares Emergency.

Music and the arts are playing an increasingly prominent part in the climate change protests.

Over the past 10 days, the protests organised by socio-political movement Extinction Rebellion in London have featured a range of musicians and artists as well as performances by the new organisation Culture Declares Emergency.

The Extinction Rebellion protests, which are set to conclude today (25 April) with an occupation of the financial district, have included a stage for musicians and artists since they began on 15 April. Draped with a sign that says ‘This is an Emergency’, the stage in Oxford Street has featured Massive Attack, Alabama 3 and Aurora Dawn, Caligula, Inner Terrestrials, The Undercover Hippy, Mazaika and more.

There has also been impromptu folk music sessions, classical music performances and a ‘Play Piano for the Planet’ event.

Culture Declares Emergency
Last Friday 19 April, as part of the protests, a new collective called Culture Declares Emergency – which has over 190 declared UK arts organisation including the Royal Court Theatre and Lyric Hammersmith Theatre – hosted a performance. A range of actors, including Emma Thompson, read from a specially curated ‘Letters to the Earth’ text. It included contributions from Yoko Ono, Kate Tempest and poet Nick Drake.

Responding to a crisis
Since the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) warning last October, musicians and composers have been responding to the climate crisis in a range of ways, including online remixes of speeches by Greta Thunberg and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, newly composed songs and music, and versions of older protest songs.

For the global school strike for climate on 15 March, this band from a school in New Zealand performed its own song with a large crowd of students:

Also in March, British pianist and composer Sarah Nicolls premiered her new work, 12 Years, in London and Galway.

Extinction Rebellion have also featured newly composed songs on its Soundcloud page, including ‘Emergency’ by singer-songwriter Blythe Pepino.

As well as in London, the Extinction Rebellion protests took place in more than 80 cities in 33 countries. For more on Extinction Rebellion, visit

Update: 30 April – A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square
On 29 April, folk singer Sam Lee led an Extinction Rebellion climate protest in Berkeley Square, London, with a crowd performance of the song ‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square’, celebrating the beauty of the natural world and the importance of rewilding. The nightingale is now near extinct in the UK.


See below for a Journal of Music playlist of climate change related music.

Published on 25 April 2019


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