How to create a Climate Justice Memorial
A step-by-step guide for planning a climate memorial event during COP26
This action guide contains everything you need to create your own Climate Justice Memorial in a local park, street, in front of a bank, MP’s office or town hall - wherever makes sense for your community and climate demands.
What are climate justice memorials?
National Climate Justice Memorial laid outside the Bank of England by Pacific Climate Warriors and youth strikers
Memorials are spaces, installations or ceremonies which help commemorate something important to a community, often including ceremonial elements such as lighting of candles, songs, speakers and readings, a moment’s silence or gesture.
Simply put, creating a climate justice memorial involves bringing people in your community together to lay tributes to and remember the lives, stories and demands of those hardest hit by the climate crisis.
During the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, climate memorials will be laid across the country to lift up demands for climate justice and for the UK to #DefundClimateChaos.
Public memorials can be a powerful way to help people see and feel the urgency of the climate crisis. In this moment, we all need spaces to share our grief, anxiety, rage, memories and our care and solidarity for others. Climate Justice Memorials can help bring people together to learn from and celebrate the communities fighting back against the flooding, wildfires and the extreme weather we saw everywhere this year..
Our collective memorials can make it clear, in location and message alike, at whose doorstep the blame for climate chaos lies. Choose a location that helps make a direct, emotional connection between the people and lives impacted by the climate crisis, and those responsible. Some ideas include:.
- central public spaces that act as natural gathering points for our communities: town squares, pedestrian streets, parks, outside community centres.
- On the doorstep or windows of banks that finance fossil fuel extraction, or at the museums and institutions that take polluters cash-for-greenwash.
- At the offices of MPs, ministers, corporate executives and elected officials failing to take action in line climate science and climate justice
What’s important in your location choice is that your climate justice memorial can become an open, evolving and welcoming focal point that invites your community to come and lay down their grief and stories, and gather strength and resilience from others. They should be places that we can come back to time and again for healing, reconnection, celebration and protest through COP26 and beyond!
If you already have an idea for a powerful memorial - fantastic, we can’t wait to see the full creativity and diversity of the UK movement for climate justice. We encourage everyone to tell their own personal stories, to remember your own loved ones near and far.
If you’re looking for some creative new tactics, here are two simple but powerful Climate Justice Memorial ideas and resources you could try with a group of friends. They can all range from easy to more advanced depending on your or your group’s capacity.
- Simple Memorial - easy for individuals and small or remote groups to try out
- Street Memorial - advanced, for bigger experienced action groups
1. Simple memorials
This tactic involves creating a personal tribute or token out of a selection of visuals, posters, stories and messages that we’ve worked with frontline communities around the world to collate..
Download posters or order printed copies here.
This can be as simple as putting up a poster in your window or creating a Memorial Lantern. For more impact, you could lay this in a public space like a park or outside a community centre and invite others to create and add tributes to a collective memorial that builds over time. Prepared to go even further? These posters can also be wheatpasted windows, walls or pavement at the HQ offices and local branches of high street banks and insurers who must #DefundClimateChaos
Choose an image or story that moves you, cut it out and craft a personal tribute to bring along and lay either at an existing Climate Justice Memorial or a location you register.
You could use collage and crafting supplies to create window tributes with people’s photos and stories of climate impacts, or apply these onto a lantern or fairylight-filled jar. You could try your hand at wheatpasting a larger wall or window with several posters and your own printed slogans. To highlight your posters as a memorial you could also use chalking, individually painted tributes on stones, handwritten messages, handprints, painted hearts, ribbons, photographs, candles, flowers and other personal items.
- See more ideas in the Step-by-Step Guide below
- See How to wheatpaste a mural
- See How to make a Climate Memorial Lantern
- See Messaging Guide for COP26
2. Street memorials
This tactic is big, bold and beautiful. It involves bringing people together to design and then paint a mural or a whole street or square with massive art to highlight calls for climate justice.
Street murals are an increasingly popular and exciting tactic to inspire and mobilise people while collectively creating a powerful message.
There are no real limitations to where you could paint a street mural - from parks and town squares to whole roads in the centre of London’s financial district or outside a local bank branch that should #DefundClimateChaos.
You’ll need careful planning and some training but the preparation and painting together are great ways to build skills, strengthen your group and foster community and solidarity locally.
- Read the full action guide “A better world is paintable” (page 15-25)
- Follow the Step-by-Step Guide below
- Watch the How to Paint a Street Memorial training.
Step-by-step action guide
Get some like-minded people together
Get out laptops, phones, pens and paper
Follow the steps below to design and plan your own climate memorial
Register your action on the Defund Climate Chaos map
STEP 1: Location and target
Being clear about the purpose of your climate memorial will help you pin down the most suitable location. Some possible ideas include:
- central public spaces that act as natural gathering points for our communities: eg. town squares, pedestrian streets, parks, outside community centres, existing memorials/murals/statues.
- outside a campaign target that is fuelling the climate crisis eg. banks that still finance fossil fuel extraction, town halls of councils investing local pension funds in fossil fuels, or museums and universities that greenwash polluters for sponsorship.
- At the offices of the ministers, MPs and corporate leaders who block climate action.
If you were to create a climate justice memorial in your community, what location would make the biggest emotional impact? Jot down the first 3 places that come to mind.
Things to discuss
- What is a significant location in your community?
- If you are part of an existing grassroots campaign or group, what is a significant location for your campaign target?
- Who is the audience you want to see and participate in your climate memorial?
- Who is the target or decision maker you want to put in focus with your event?
- Is the location easily accessible by public transport?
- Is it open air and able to accommodate people safely with social distancing?
- Have you been there recently and checked out the logistics for your plans?
- Is it a safe location?
- Will the memorial be part of a larger march or rally that blocks traffic to the area or do you need to consider this?
- Does it make sense to get permission for your memorial site (eg. if it’s outside a community centre or in a town square)?
- If your memorial creation is part of a disobedient action (eg. laying a memorial outside a bank or MP office without permission) what do you need to do to make it safe for organisers and participants?
- Have you registered your action on the UK map? As soon as you have a location in mind head to defundclimatechaos.uk/#map to add it.
- You can update timings, precise location and details for participants later.
STEP 2: Choose your memorial object or concept
How we memorialise people and show our solidarity and care in moments of crisis or celebration varies greatly within our communities and cultures - from large murals, quilts, statues and street art to simple tributes made of candles, flowers and pictures of loved ones. The rituals and ceremonies we use vary greatly too, from song and dance to moments of silence and laying of wreaths or tributes.
Picking an appropriate and culturally sensitive memorial concept will be key to helping bring different people together and share a clear message about what climate justice means in your community. Do you want people to be able to express their hopes or fears around the climate crisis? Or to share a story of something they will lose to climate? Or to celebrate the resilience and strength of loved ones or groups you’ve made connections with on the frontlines of fossil fuel extraction and climate impacts?
If a passer-by came across your memorial event or action, what visual/audio cues or objects would let them know that they are at a memorial site for climate justice?
Jot down the first 3 objects/elements that come to mind.
Check out these videos examples for creative inspiration:
- BBC/Facebook: National Covid Memorial Wall,
- Black Lives Matter Rogers Park Memorial wall
- Youtube: The Rise for Climate Justice Mural Project
Or simply download or order copies of a ready-made, wheat-pastable photos, templates and posters you can use from defundclimatechaos.uk
Things to consider
- Who can help design your local climate memorial concept collectively? Think of local artists and community groups you could reach out to.
- How can the design and tone convey what’s at stake and the key messages of climate justice and solidarity with those on the frontlines of intersecting crises?
- Is there a simple object or tribute that anyone can create or bring to lay at your memorial to make it participatory? Some ideas include: a jam jar lantern, painted stone, photo frame, handwritten message or picture to add to a larger mural,
- If your focus is on a climate-impacted frontline community, how can you ensure their voices and traditions are represented in a respectful and sensitive way?
- What will your memorial look like with everyone’s contributions? What design /visual elements do you need to help link everyone’s individual tributes together?
- What kind of materials are easily accessible to all?
- Do you have access to raw materials and art supplies to help people create their tributes beforehand or on the day? What do you need to provide? See How to Host an Art Build and Supplies
STEP 3: Choose your demand and message
Our memorials can serve to help more people in our community to connect with their own anxiety about the climate crisis and to start conversations about what climate justice would look like. They can bring together different communities and grow our grassroots groups.
Whether you want to help people make the climate connection between the finance institutions fuelling more oil, coal and gas extraction, or memorialise the resilience of a particular community impacted by flooding, droughts or wildfires, you’ll need a simple, clear way of communicating your memorial’s key message to the public and media. What do you want? Why does it matter?
#DefundClimateChaos: key messages
What words, images and stories will best communicate the message you want to get across?
Jot down the first 3 words, images and stories that come to mind.
Things to consider
- Is there a recent climate impact that particularly touched you/your community or a section of your community? What stories, words and images could bring this to life?
- Is there a target you want to highlight in your community that is connected to the climate crisis eg. a bank financing coal plants in Bangladesh? a council continuing to invest in fossil fuels but making cuts to local social care?
- Do you know what fossil fuel companies and projects your local high street bank is financing? Check out these resources to find out more
See more detail in the Messaging Guide but here are four key points you could cover in speeches, media interviews, social media.
- The climate crisis is creating human tragedy. This year, once again, extreme weather events have destroyed lives and livelihoods across the world. Fossil fuel companies are to blame but there are other culprits too, hiding in the shadows: the UK financial institutions bankrolling fossil fuel extraction..
- Since the Paris agreement, the world’s 60 biggest banks have poured $3.8trillion into fossil fuels - big finance is pouring fuel on the fire as the world burns.
- It’s clear big finance and governments won’t change unless enough of us join together to make them. That’s why thousands of us are taking action in dozens of countries today.
- To stop climate chaos, we have to defund climate chaos. If we turn off the flow of money to fossil fuel corporations immediately - by targeting high street banks, investors, central banks and insurers - then we can stop new coal mines, oil wells and gas pipelines from creating further human tragedy.
STEP 4: Design your memorial ceremony, event or action
What rituals or elements have moved you and helped you feel connected to others at a previous memorial or action you’ve seen or attended?
Jot down the first 3 ideas that come to mind
Things to consider
- What time will your memorial creation start and finish? Do you want the memorial to build up over hours or days or stay put throughout the COP26?
- How permanent would you like this memorial to be? Who will you need to liaise with to ensure it can be protected for the duration of your event? Options include:
- Temporary: use chalk and materials that can be easily cleaned up and removed
- Semi-permanent: negotiate the period you will leave your memorial up
- Permanent: petition or lobby your target to keep the memorial in place -: this can create a reputational dilemma for your target if they choose to clear it up..
- If you don’t have permission, could you start a petition or open callout to your target to keep the climate memorial in place until the end of COP26?
- Template petition (coming soon) you can launch
- Contact [email protected] for support using your ActionNetwork tools
- We encourage you to tell everyone coming to your action to wear a mask and stay home if they are sick. We feel that holding actions outside with masked participants reflects best known practices to greatly minimize COVID risks.
- Consider designating a COVID safety point-person, who will make sure information about safety measures is communicated to participants before and during the action, and who has extra masks to hand out if people want to join the action who do not have a mask.
- Who will take the role of ensuring Covid safety precautions are followed?
- How can you minimise the impact of your action on low-paid workers like cleaners? It’s important to liaise with the workers who may be impacted by your event - here’s a template letter.
Ceremony and ritual
- What audio / soundscape / music should accompany your memorial?
- Check out this powerful soundscapes featuring frontline voices
- What rituals and ceremonies are culturally important to your community and the communities you are memorialising? How can you incorporate these elements into your event?
- Who could speak or give a reading or sing at your memorial event?
- Think about the flow of the day as people arrive, what happens while they create their tributes, and what they can do during the event? You could:
- pass out candles to light together if your event is at dusk
- gather together for a moment’s silence or a collective gesture of respect.
- Read out stories or statements from frontline activists around the world
Visuals and Messaging
- How can you make your message stand out visually among lots of small and unique tributes?
- A big banner?
- Sandwich boards?
- A window collage?
- How does your action connect to others happening around the world visually? You could use elements of these #DefundClimateChaos art kits in your memorial action
- Who will capture photos and videos? Think about the ideal photo you’d like to appear in your local newspaper.
- What is the draft script and shot-list for any video you will make?
- Will you livestream your event?
- How will you deliver your message directly to the target of your action?
- How will you set up your memorial practically?
- Follow this action planning template to make a ‘run sheet’ and plan for the day
- Practice, practice, practice!
STEP 5: Invite your community
Who do you want to participate in creating your memorial with you?
Jot down the first 3 groups of people or community groups that come to mind
Once you’ve designed your memorial event - it’s time to start inviting people to help you plan and take part in it.
- Register your climate memorial event on the UK map powered by Action Network
- Add basic time, location and details to create your event - you can update these anytime using the Event Host tools in Action Network.
- If your group is already using Action Network to organise/campaign, add your group as the Sponsor of the action to recruit new RSVPs onto your email list.
- Publish your actio and then share the link to your event widely by email, social media, local media, posters, flyers
- Create a short memorable URL with your link for ease of sharing eg. bit.ly
STEP 6: On the Day logistics and coordination
Roles on the day
What are all the different roles you need for this action? Depending on the size of your group and complexity of your action you may find some of these roles helpful:
- Transport - who will you get materials to your location?
- Materials - who will source the materials and props you need?
- Photos and video - who will take, edit and share these?
- Spokespeople - who will speak to the memorial audience?
- Social Media (at home) - who will be on your social media channels?
- Social Media (at action) - who will be livestreaming / live tweeting?
- Media Contact - who will write and send press releases and handle media?
- Police Liaison - who will liaise with police/authorities at the action?
- Legal Support - do you need any legal support in place or on standby?
- Art/Props creation - who will design and coordinate creation of the memorial?
- Safe-space + Care - who will ensure everyone is safe, looked after and Covid secure?
- Interpretation / BSL - do you need interpreters available to make it accessible?
What do you need for the action? Examples might include:
- Projector and/or PA system with mic for speakers, videos
- Additional sound system for playing soundscape or music
- Laptop and pen drive with all the files you need
- Materials for passers by to make and add their own tributes
- Jars, wire for handles and fairylights for evening memorials
- Wheatpaste / scissors / paintbrushes / cloths
- #DefundClimateChaos newspapers to hand out
- Additional lighting
- Flyers to promote your next meeting, event or action to new members
- How will the day of action flow?
- Prepare a ‘run sheet’ eg. with timings for set-up, order of speakers
- Does everyone involved know how to stay in touch and coordinate on the day?
- You could create a Signal / WhatsApp group with everyone in.
- Have you made a plan B and plan C of what you’ll do if various things go wrong?
- What if the bank brings in security guards to prevent your memorial set-up or the police get heavy handed?
- What if angry people approach you or submit inappropriate / offensive messages for your memorial? Some people get agitated by protests, make sure you have a few people who can de-escalate the situation, move them away from the crowd and try to talk to them.
- What if one or more of your speakers gets Covid or can’t attend?
- How will your action end? What do you want to leave in place and what do you need to clear up to minimise your impact on innocent workers and cleaners?
STEP 7: Amplify your action
Taking action in person is powerful, but it’s only half the story of making an impact. Think about how your targets, other activists around the world and those who can’t join in person will hear about it. Media coverage, social media, livestreaming and ways for people to participate in your action online are all crucial elements to amplify the power of your message and demands.
This superb video has some great tips for how to use video to amplify in-person actions online. And the following tips are well worth keeping in mind as you design your action.
Use #DefundClimateChaos hashtag when posting about your actions online. This will help other activists find your work and boost its reach.
- Go in with a plan. Before the event, think about the story you want to tell online (if any) and what it will take to do it. Are you hoping to live tweet remarks from speakers? Post a few photos to show that the action is happening? Use the action to educate your community on the role of finance in tackling the climate crisis? Create opportunities to recruit new members to your group? The answer will be unique to your group, but setting a few clear goals will help make sure your digital presence is cohesive and the day of the event is stress-free.
- Video and photos are essential; think about both quality and quantity before posting. Getting an experienced or professional photographer to your event is great, but we encourage both you and your participants to take your own photos and video to post on the day too using #DefundClimateChaos and #ClimateMemorial.
- Make sure photos and videos you post are as attention-grabbing as possible and show clearly what is happening where, why and by whom.
- Upload your best video clips and photos to this multimedia portal.
✅ Complete picture; no signs or people are cut off from the frame
✅ Photo shows what is happening clearly, even without a caption
✅ Good lighting; subjects aren’t directly backlit or facing the sun directly
✅ Clear picture; allow your camera to focus.
✅ Unique, show context of where you are
❌ Dead space; open, unused space without activists or signs in any part of the photo
❌ Blurry or low resolution photos
❌ Photos that don’t make sense at a glance without a caption. ; most people only glance at online content
❌ Photos that are very similar to other photos of the event you’ve already posted
Defund Climate Chaos
Visit defundclimatechaos.uk for more info, resources and live coverage and highlights from the day of action.