South Yorkshire goes to London for the biggest Climate Protest in UK history 

A guest blog by Loz Barfoot.

On Friday 21 April, people from all over the country will be occupying the streets outside the Houses of Parliament in what is expected to be the biggest climate protest in UK history. The “Big One” takes place over a four-day weekend (21-24 April), bringing together many of the UK’s environmental groups in a peaceful demonstration. It will include parents and grandparents, children and grandchildren, teachers, NHS staff, scientists and artists, students, delivery drivers, cleaners, civil servants, dancers, musicians, singers, and speakers from up and down the country. You might well ask ‘Who isn’t going?’ 

South Yorkshire Climate Alliance (SCA), which brings together local organisations and individuals pressing for action to tackle the climate emergency is organising a large contingent from South Yorkshire to participate in this event. Around one hundred and fifty return coach tickets from Sheffield to London have been made available for a pay-what-you-can fee (ideally £10-30). This enables people to attend and be heard, with one coach already sold out. 

Certainly, the issue of climate change is on the minds of many from South Yorkshire, with Sheffield being considered the UK’s greenest city by several media outlets. With recent climate catastrophes inflicting the people of Pakistan, there is a certain resonance with histories of flooding past and present here. But a brief visit to The Ruskin Collection at Sheffield’s Millennium Gallery provides a stark reminder that ‘in our time of unprecedented climate emergency, the flood is not the same for all people… It could be a sense of overwhelming due to economic uncertainty, displacement, or challenging personal circumstance.’ Such is the complexity of the problem, one not of nature but of the unsustainable model of globalised social and material production. So, when thousands die in Pakistan and millions are displaced when flood-borne diseases spread and one of the world’s largest crop exporters confronts critical food shortages as a result of climate change, it is no wonder a cost-of-living crisis begins to be felt acutely the world over – and not by ripples but waves. 

In 2019, the UK government declared a climate emergency following the peaceful demonstration of a few thousand climate activists. Since then, the government has utterly failed to implement any substantive emergency measures. This is made abundantly clear in the UN’s recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. Consequently, when our political leaders lack the will and the courage to implement the radical measures the UN is calling for, the catastrophes inflicting our global society become a political choice; more accurately, the choice of our leaders. The Big One provides us, the people of South Yorkshire, the opportunity to articulate our own choices and demands. 

One of the main demands made by SYCA is for fast and reliable public transport. That means less reliance on cars and more reliance on cheaper and greener public transport. Importantly, it means demanding our transport system be taken back into public ownership, where the profits go back into the community instead of the elites’ back pockets. Public transport is a key environmental and social justice issue, with 29% of households in Sheffield without vehicle transport and the figure rising in areas of higher social deprivation. Nearly a quarter of public transport services in South Yorkshire are at risk of being cut. When you cannot rely on public transport you cannot rely on getting to work, to school, on receiving healthcare or enjoying your leisure time. When public transport is not affordable, the community is more susceptible to rises in other costs too – like fuel and food. That is why, in collaboration with the South Yorkshire Better Buses campaign, local organisations and community members from this area will be protesting outside the Department for Transport in Westminster on Friday 21st.  

Art workshops are being held at the Kelham Island Arts Collective (KIAC) in Sheffield in preparation for the events taking place over the Big One weekend. This includes family-friendly animal mask making for use on Saturday 22 April (which coincides with Earth Day), banner and placard making, as well the repurposing of umbrellas to create a vast stock of climate-themed brollies. Everyone is welcome, and the next workshops are taking place Tuesday 11 April and Monday 17 April between 6-9 pm with open drop-ins.

Sheffield Climate Choir has been born and they look forward to combining with choirs from all over the country.

Every single person makes this movement collectively more powerful, and the more powerful the movement the harder it is for those in power to ignore it. It is easy to feel alone and powerless, and therefore extremely important to find other people who feel the same way. That is what this event is about, bringing people together in solidarity. If the demands of a few thousand protestors can shake the government enough to declare an emergency, imagine what tens of thousands can do. It can most certainly bring about change and shift the tide. But first, it requires us to show up and flood the streets ourselves. 

For more information on coaches to London from Sheffield for the Big One, please visit

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