Chris Packham at massive Bath Extinction Rebellion protest today

File images of the Red Rebels and, inset, naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham
File images of the Red Rebels and, inset, naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham -Credit:Cornwall Live/ PA

TV star Chris Packham and 400 protesters dressed as Red Rebels will take part in a huge Extinction Rebellion procession through Bath city centre today. Police have warned that the event, from 2pm to 4pm, may cause disruption and said they will “engage” with those taking part.

Extinction Rebellion has said the city will be “flooded in red” for a “funeral for nature”, organised to mark the “devastating decline of the natural world” in the lead up to Earth Day on Monday, April 22, an annual event which engages up to a billion people around the world each year.

The Funeral for Nature procession is set to include 400 Red Rebels dressed in their distinctive red outfits and hundreds of “mourners” in black. They will be accompanied by drummers playing a single funeral beat as they make their way through the city’s historic streets, culminating in a dramatic finale in front of the Abbey.

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Extinction Rebellion said this will be the largest global assembly of Red Rebels ever seen, with 400 expected to take part. This is five times more than ever before, with people travelling from across the UK and joined by groups from the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark.

Funerals for Nature will be taking place simultaneously in Boston, Sydney, Gothenburg and Lisbon. The Gothenburg event will be a Nordic Funeral for Nature with groups joining from Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland.

Extinction Rebellion said the Bath procession has been designed to raise awareness of the UK’s position as one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, with 43% of UK bird species in decline, and 97% of wildflower meadows disappearing since the second world war. The organisers said statistics like these motivated the group to take action, flooding the city in red and declaring “code red for nature”.

'Eulogy' from Chris Packham

Thousands of “orders of service” will be given out to onlookers, containing information about the crisis and what they can do about it. The Bath procession will be joined by nature campaigner and TV presenter Chris Packham who will deliver a “eulogy” to the crowd at the finale of the event when it arrives in front of the Abbey. This will follow a flash mob performance by the West of England Youth Orchestra.

The centre-piece of the procession will be a funeral bier, constructed from willow, with a Mother Earth figure created by artist Anna Gillespie. It will lie on a naturalistic bed of planting staged by Chelsea award-winning landscape designers Dan Pearson Studio, followed by mourners in black hats and veils.

The event has been planned to coincide with Earth Day and highlight that the planet is on “code red” for nature and that around the world, biodiversity is being “annihilated at a terrifying rate”, Extinction Rebellion said. Organisers said the world is entering the “sixth mass extinction” event and the consequences could be catastrophic if people do not act swiftly, and claimed that in spite of promises from governments, biodiversity loss shows no sign of slowing.

Naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham -Credit:Joe Giddens/PA Wire
Naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham -Credit:Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Mr Packham said: “By marching now we can share our grief, our sorrow and our despair at what we have destroyed and continue to destroy in the natural world. But we must show an emergency response.

“We must summon a ‘death bed’ resistance to this destruction. And we can – because the survival of millions of species rests in one species’ bloodied hands – ours. It’s our fingers on the flickering pulse of life on earth and those clever, adaptable and intelligent fingers must not be folded in prayer in the hope that ‘everything will turn out okay’, but formed into the cupped hands that can nurture nature back to life .

“We must do it now, urgently, forthrightly. We have tried asking, now it is time for demands. If we want a planet where our beautiful and complex living systems don’t just survive but thrive we must stop talking and start acting to make a difference.”

Rob Delius, head of sustainability and an architect at Stride Treglown, is one of the organisers and who put forward the Funeral for Nature idea. He said: “The intention is to send a powerful SOS message for nature by creating a visual spectacle that will in equal measures shock and inspire onlookers.

"The UK has sleepwalked into this nature crisis and the fact that we are now one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world simply isn’t being talked about enough. We want the processions to create a talking point and for the public to be moved to demand that government, local authorities, landowners and businesses urgently do more to restore biodiversity.”

Doug Francisco, creative director and founding member of artists’ collective The Invisible Circus, said: “There is no better time to act than right now. It is clear that we are in a crisis and there are no second chances – we have to do something immediately.

“We hope that this demonstration, in its beauty and urgency, will incite action in more cities across the world. We want to see Red Rebels on streets across the globe, spreading the message that if we don’t act now, we won’t be able to act at all.”

Artist Anna Gillespie added: “Unlike conventional protests, the procession will be free of banners or placards. Instead we are relying on the strong imagery of the huge assembly of Red Rebels and the impact of the figure of Mother Nature on a funeral bier carried by mourners to get the message across. Everyone participating has a powerful desire to express their desperate feelings of loss and fear as the natural world struggles to survive in the face of our human onslaught.”

Avon and Somerset police said: “A protest is planned in Bath at 2pm today that may result in some disruption. Our priority is to facilitate peaceful protest, while protecting the rights of people who live and work in the city. Officers will engage with those attending the protest and the public.”

The event is being organised with Extinction Rebellion in collaboration with the Red Rebel Brigade, artists, designers and community groups. The procession begins at 2pm from the Percy Centre on New King Street and will pass via the Circus and Bath’s main thoroughfare Milsom Street ending in front of the Abbey.