Family Activist Network at Paris COP 21

We were unsure of whether to go to Paris, or stay at home.
We were frustrated at not being able to be clear (about whether to go Paris, or stay at home).
We didn't prepare as much as we should.
We rushed to get everything ready on Thursday, we don't get any better at this task with each new go.
We made important decisions at the last minute, after reading that others had already acted.
So we wrote an email to school, explaining that Oisin and Roma would not be there today.
We felt better about this; that we were prepared to stand by our decision to go to Paris, and not stay at home.
We talked about sending another letter.
But there was more to it than that.
We were excited, we were nervous, I think.
We wanted to get going, to get out of the house. It’s much less stressful when you've left, when what is forgotten is gone (how will we charge the phones?)
We remembered that it’s easier in the car, with four children, while seeing the carriage become playground.
I was surprised how much more interesting the interior of the train was to the children than the outside, so I took the window seat.
We were 6. A familiar, family 6. Us. We.
We knew, or perhaps Paula and Sam and Fionn knew, that we would soon be more.
An unfamiliar We. Who would we become? How would we align with you?

The younger children start to make friends around a Disney tree.
The group grows.
How will I remember all the names?
We are delayed at security as we fumble for tickets watching the other families walk through.
Oisín is already concerned that we are separated from his friends
We wait and share snacks 'what time did you set off?' 'so these are your children? 'How old are they?'
Oisín has made a new friend.
Roma and Mala stay close.
Fionn sleeps.

Excited children run from the station.
Hope, Max, Fionn, Neal, Martha, Ruby, Gabriel, Ed, James, Martha, Corin, Roma, Mala, Syd.
They are already self-organising, forming groups, holding hands, copying, laughing, running, climbing, caring, chatting.
Did they only meet 4 hours ago?
Roma loses her tiny teddy and weeps.
We walk with clattering luggage and tired children.
It’s getting dark.
Middle aged women in sequined dresses and heavy make-up appear in shop doorways.

We gleefully make it to the ironically named ‘Hotel Baby’.
Our arrival is met with a warm smile.
The children are excited.
Beds to jump on, a tv, the joy of the tiny lift.

Our first meal.
We are tired and hungry.
The toddlers are cranky.
But as we wait for food we chat, sprawled out as we are.
A family get together.
There is good food, beer, wine, orange juice, cola.
We talk about ‘the plan’.
There are different views – do we attend the protest or not?
We’re not sure, but being here make us feel braver…we’ve made it this far…

The next morning the news that the protest is no longer illegal.
We go.
Is the mood more somber? Perhaps.
The side streets are blocked by military police with guns and riot shields.
Red cheeks, red lipstck, red bows, red lines.
Angels with painted faces.
Someone walks past retorting 'there are children here?!'
Yes there are children. 14 beautiful children, eyes wide and full of excitement.

It feels calm now.
The Institute banner is unraveled.
Strangers become comrades.
This choreography gets under way. Red lines.

We make a move.
Was this a collective decision? It seems like it was.
The armed police stand to one side but only after some negotiation.
Crossing the police border within a few feet and all seems different; no angels with painted faces. No inflatable cobbles, no stern men with guns and shields.
Eating baguettes and croissants we pause, again we don’t really discuss this, it just seemed to happen.
A patch of grass and some benches seem to prompt a pause.
The children seize the opportunity and congregate on a large grated floor.
They push leaves through the grates and dance; they form a conga under the banner and parade creating a spectacle for the heavy Paris traffic.
Helicopters circle overhead.

With no particular sense of urgency we make a move again.
We herd the younger children, making failed attempts to fasten coats, wipe noses, hold hands.
The older boys giggle and chat having formed their own assemblage.

We block up the busy metro carriage with prams.
As we surface from underground we beeline for the brasserie opposite; it’s almost as if it is calling for us.
The atmosphere is relaxed; celebratory even.
The restaurateur hands out bonbons to the children as we leave and takes pictures.

We thought about how you all do this.
We were humbled, inspired and enthralled.
Our minds raced about money and rituals and work and time off and energy and organisation and school and: and… and… and…

We were keen to discuss what it means to be a family activist.
And we found it clear that we were all artists, of one kind or another.
Climate change-art-activist-families.
A bit of a mouthful.
We realised that for us, we are fascinated by what the family can do.
We changed ourselves while walking around Paris, and we changed Paris too, if only a little.
We were interested when other FANs pointed out that they were not activists - "we've never been on a protest before", to the point of feeling a fraud.
We want to imagine now new forms of (family) activism, to which we are all invited, including those not yet met.