Art and Activism with children and young people

Rumpus Room is a notforprofit artist-led initiative dedicated to collaborative art practice which is rooted in mutual exchange with children and young people in order to challenge how we play, learn and make art.

We are continuously in awe of the children and young people we work with and for; the care they have for their planet and their desire and drive for climate action. Together (pre-covid, during lockdown and into our recovery) we have collectively explored how we can act and adapt through making art and being creative together.

In 2019, we set up our Rumpus Room open studio in Govanhill Glasgow. The studio is run by artists and hosts a programme of youth-led creative activity. The studio is a shared experimental creative space where children, young people and families can work independently and in collaboration with experienced artists, musicians and performers.

Quite early on in the studio set up, children and young people approached us to help them make banners and posters for the international Youth Climate Strikes in September 2019. They shared their wants to involve themselves in climate action, making sure we nurture our land and the nature that lives and grows here. From this session, the self-initiated Young Activist Group was formed, with the children and young people running it with Rumpus Room as hosts.

“Don’t treat earth like Uranus”

– Young Activist Group protest poster slogan

Climate change is a children’s human rights crisis because it will affect children now and in the long term. Climate change puts children and young people’s basic rights at risk and it gets in the way of our air being clean; of our communities being filled with flowers, bees and butterflies; of our rivers and seas being cool enough to encourage marine life. Climate change prevents children around the world from accessing their right to clean water and food, education, a home and protection.

During lockdown we continued to meet online with the Young Activist Group and explore issues that were important to them during this uncertain time through making art, creating actions and sharing ideas together.

“We talked about positive changes that might come out of lockdown – cycling, ideas of the word wild/wilderness, waste, community and how we’ve had to adapt.”

– Young Activist Group member.  

We asked the children and young people of Govanhill ‘when the world reopens post-COVID… what do you want to be in it?

“Continue a world of care, looking out for neighbours, helping others, enjoy a slow-paced life, having the time for others.”
“I want to start thinking about my future, I want to leave a lot of stuff behind.”
“A better community.”

The children and young people’s responses were overwhelmingly positive with care at the core of their vision of a post-COVID world. They wanted to care for their communities and for the planet along with the continuation of mutual-aid and the forming of stronger support bonds within and between families.  

From this, the Young Activist group co-produced a digital magazine with artist Lucy Grainge and writer/activist Rosemarie Geary with a series of creative tasks to do with children and young people and help them consider climate activists, the environment, and art. Here are a few:

• Write a news headline for the future about the climate: one positive and one negative – you could chop up all newspaper headlines also then add in your own word. Choose a year: 2050, 2100, 3000.

• Make a protest poster: posters are a very powerful tool for communicating a message quickly. We want you to make your own. Think about what words you would like on it? And will there be an image? How will it grab attention?

• Find a plant or tree you can look at each day. Redraw it for 5 mins each day for a week. Notice how things change. Do the leaves bend or change colours? Do they have any visits? Does it change depending on what time of the day you observe it?

“Fight climate change or die frying”

– Young Activist Group protest poster slogan

It is really important to the Young Activist Group that climate change does not get forgotten about during the Covid-19 crisis and instead we consider how to be green. It is our role at Rumpus Room to listen and take children and young people seriously; be creative together, and support them to feel empowered and to act.

You can view the magazine made by the group below.

Scan the QR code for instant access to the Adapt + Act worksheets online. Intended to be used as an open source resource by anyone, anywhere.

Rumpus Room
Catrin Jeans, Nadia Rossi and Rachel Walker