Thursday 3 December 2009

Being Tamsin

As I reported back in September, I was asked by Red Pepper to review "Rush! The Making of a Climate Activist" by Tamsin Omond. It appears in the current issue...

Most readers have probably never heard of Tamsin Omond, one of five protesters who bravely scaled the roof of Parliament in 2007 against the third runway at Heathrow. She is one amongst hundreds of other activists whose names you probably won’t know either, include 29 courageous campaigners prosecuted for stopping a coal train heading for the Drax power station in North Yorkshire in June 2008. Unlike her most of contemporaries, however, who are suspicious of the press, Tamsin Omond has happily submitted herself to newspaper lifestyle profiles that have latched onto her as a intriguingly posh and photogenic symbol of youthful climate change activism. Now the 24-year-old has written the climate change movement’s first autobiography, which tries to explain how she became so passionate about direct action that, rather than simply throw herself into one of the existing campaign groups, she decided to set up her own, the Suffragette-themed ‘Climate Rush’.

Rush! covers a exciting period for climate justice activism, from the summer of 2006 until the G20 protests in April 2009. However, by focusing largely on Omond and not the movement she is part of, it fails to convey any of its spirit or dynamism. It is also very badly written, sharing the style of celebrity books like the model Katie Price’s Being Jordan that fill paragraph after clumsy paragraph with tangential asides and extraneous detail to pad out a lack of more interesting insight. Omond is clearly aware of the dismay and mistrust she creates and confesses to spending April’s G20 protest avoiding people “who’d been so pissed off with me for courting the media”. Nevertheless, she still chooses to participate (I promise I’m not making this up!) in a Vogue photo-shoot outside the Bank of England, whilst others clash with the police, because the magazine wanted “the prettiest protesters for a series of action shots and portraits.”

By failing to explain decisions like this, Rush! is unlikely to repair the damage Omond has managed to inflict on her reputation with other campaigners – and that’s a shame, for she undoubtedly cares about the protests she participates in. Unfortunately, I think most people who read the book will instead see it as little more than a media calling card – a 221-page reminder to journalists that if they need to interview a ‘celebrity’ protester, Tamsin Omond is always available.

1 Comment:

Jim Jepps said...

Good review. Personally I wouldn't touch a book like this with a barge pole - but I'm grateful for those who do so you can confirm my suspicions!

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