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‘GONE’: arrived, and left, the Pier

On Saturday 11 July, Extinction Rebellion Hastings and St Leonards (XRHSL) temporarily installed 1,200 pairs of children’s shoes on Hastings Pier, in a performance installation entitled GONE. Erica Smith went to witness the fleeting installation.

© Donna Ford

Echoing a recent Extinction Rebellion action in Trafalgar Square (London), the empty shoes, the rising tide, and the haunting sense of absent children drew attention to the fact that young people are most vulnerable to the climate and ecological emergency.

For this action, XRHSL was represented by 56 local people, whose ages ranged from three to 92 years old. Despite the hot day, everyone dressed in black to express a sense of mourning for the loss of our children’s future. All participants followed social distancing guidelines. Many were visibly moved as the visual impact of hundreds of pairs of empty shoes gradually built up.

© Donna Ford

HOT journalist Lauris Morgan-Griffiths was one of the XR participants. She said: “We were all asked to pick up a pair of shoes, walk silently and respectfully in line to position the shoes next to the previous pair. It was interesting to see how people placed the shoes. Some people took great care to make sure they were perfectly positioned.

“I felt it was quite poignant and affecting. Shoes are. I know several parents who have kept their child’s first pair of shoes.  As I laid my first pair of shoes down, I felt slightly tearful, thinking of a young life that possibly wouldn’t be lived. At the end looking at all the shoes laid out, one after the other – trainers, wellington boots, StartRite, glittery, colourful, patent shoes, some hardly worn, others well loved, bearing the imprint of their young owner, it was impossible not to be moved.”

La Pethick

Activist and grandmother, La Pethick, 83, said, “Climate Change may have been displaced by Covid-19 but it has not gone away and is worsening. Children will starve in their millions. People in the global south are likely to suffer most, but climate change will have enormous impacts everywhere, including here in Hastings. We demand that government takes action, now.”

In the face of scientific consensus, the UK government, (including our own Borough and County Councils through their pension scheme investments) continue to support the use and extraction of fossil fuels. Our carbon footprint is rising, and carbon-intense industries are offered tax-payer funded bailouts to help them recover from lockdown.

Extinction Rebellion demand that government act immediately in response to this existential threat, which is significantly more serious than the ongoing, and devastating Covid-19 crisis.

In recent polls, only 9% of the UK population want to go back to the way things were before the pandemic, and 48%  agree that the government should respond with the same urgency to the climate and ecological crisis as the coronavirus crisis.

After the event, all the shoes were gathered up, and will be donated to local charities. XRHSL returned the pier to the state in which they found it, and thank Hastings Pier for granting permission for this event.

Veteran activist John Lynes participated in the action © Donna Ford

Posted 09:16 Wednesday, Jul 15, 2020 In: Campaigns

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