Being Tamsin

Kevin Blowe reviews Rush! The Making of a Climate Activist by Tamsin Omond (Marion Boyars, 2009)
December 2009

Most readers have probably never heard of Tamsin Omond, one of five protesters who bravely scaled the roof of parliament in 2007 to protest against the third runway at Heathrow. She is one among hundreds of other climate activists whose names you probably won't know either.

Unlike most of her contemporaries, however, who are suspicious of the press, Tamsin Omond has happily submitted herself to newspaper lifestyle profiles that have latched onto her as an 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 an exciting period for climate 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 such as the model Katie Price's Being Jordan, filling 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 while 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 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.



Kevin BloweKevin Blowe is a community centre worker and activist in Newham, east London.






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