Leicester: Environmental Activism

A group of young people stand in a city centre holding banners and placards with messages about the need for climate action and protecting the planet.
  Young people from Climate Strike Leicester (CSL) protesting in 2019. By kind permission of Veronica Matthew.

When

1970s onwards

Where

Leicester

Inspired by a growing global movement, 15 teenagers formed Climate Strike Leicester (CSL) in 2019. Within seven months the group had organised a city centre climate strike with 800 protestors. “We did it all by ourselves…No adults were in the room. It was just us teenagers” one of the founders recalled.

Environmental Activism in Leicester film from the Leicester Journey to Justice Exhibition, 2019.
Veronica Matthew and Climate Strike Leicester.
Poster with the headline Global Climate Strike and the image of a globe dissolving into a puddle. Further details of the demonstration are below the image.
A CSL poster that was tied to lamp posts across the city to draw attention to its first strike, March 2019. By kind permission of Veronica Matthew.

There has been support for environmental activism in Leicester for half a century. The Leicester Environmental Action Group (LEAG) formed in 1972 following a series of lectures on the environment at Vaughan College, inspiring a generation of activists. LEAG successfully opposed road expansion schemes, promoted recycling and the rewilding of derelict urban spaces.

A letter from the Chief Superintendent thanking the receiver for her letter thanking the police for their help during the protest.
A letter from Leicestershire Constabulary referring to a “Bike-In” protest on 14 June 1975, which aimed to reclaim the streets from cars.
By kind permission of Veronica Matthew.

They organised tree-planting programmes and staged protests to curb car use, including a race between a car, bicycle, and bus from Humberstone to the headquarters of BBC Leicester. The LEAG eventually merged into Leicester Friends of the Earth.

A poster in black writing on green paper showing a cartoon car crashing through a house. The text reads: “Don’t let it happen! Are we going to allow our homes to be demolished to make way for other people’s cars? We are an association of residents opposed to the Eastern relief road. Your support is essential if we are to win!”
Poster urging support for Leicester Environmental Action Group’s campaign against the Eastern Relief Road.
By kind permission of Veronica Matthew.

The climate crisis is our most serious and dangerous threat, affecting all of and demanding life changes by all of us. As this story shows, activism crosses generations and can involve everyone in the choices we make on a daily basis. Possible solutions start with collective action for more sustainable ways of living. So what does that mean in practice? Draw up a plan of action in your home, your place of work or study and your neighbourhood.

There needs to be systemic change at national and international levels, so people need also to be involved in wider social movements and mass action.

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