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The Power of the Written Word: Monique Roffey talks to Run-Riot about Writers Rebel

Best known for her lyrical, sexy, sea-salted Costa Book of the Year, The Mermaid of Black Conch, Monique Roffey is a writer, lecturer and activist. Co-founder of Writers Rebel, a literary arm of Extinction Rebellion, she believes deeply in the power of culture to change minds, behaviour and policy.

From 21st-24th April, Roffey and Writers Rebel will be taking part in The Big One, a four-day protest organised by XR culminating in more than 100,000 people gathering at the Houses of Parliament. With writers including Zadie Smith and Jay Griffith, Roffey will be picketing, as well as marching at The Big One’s main event. 

Ahead of the protest, Roffey tells Run Riot about the comfort she finds in activism, and how protests have inspired her next book.

Kate Wyver: What are you proudest of Writers Rebel (WR) having achieved so far, and what are your hopes for its future?

Monique Roffey: I think me and the other members are proud of many things WR have achieved, mostly that we’ve held our form and are still going! I’m proud that we have provided multiple platforms for writers to come together to speak truth to power about the climate emergency. 

Whether it’s via our open-air, live events, our online events, or our blogs and podcasts, we have managed, over the last four years, to mobilise hundreds of writers. All of our core members lead very full lives, sometimes juggling family and multiple jobs, and yet we have managed to find time and capacity to rustle up a very shy and reticent, fiercely independent cohort of people. Yeah, I’m proud of that. 

In the future, we would like to see other chapters of WR set up: WR North, or WR Southeast for example. We are encouraging others to do what we have done. There is a WR Norwich. 

Kate: How far do you believe culture and creativity can influence policy on climate change?

Monique: I think those who make art, literature and theatre, etc, have a huge bearing on culture and how society thinks. The Tories love their art and theatre, don’t they? And yet so often, especially these days, culture is made by the left. It belongs to those of us who vote and live and stand for community-minded socialist thinking. Culture is made by mavericks and outliers. It’s our thing to push and break boundaries and establish new parameters. XR has come on the scene using art like no other movement for a long time.

Kate: Tell me about your involvement with The Big One.

Monique: I’m part of the WR programming team for one of our open-air live events on Friday 21st April. We are arranging an 'open mic’ type event of about 24 writers outside 55 Tufton Street. Writers coming include Jay Griffith and Tom Bullough, who are XR stalwarts and have successfully defended themselves in court after arrest, as well as some big names like Hannah Lowe, Zadie Smith and Baroness Rosie Boycott. 

We’ll be part of the People’s Picket outside 55 Tufton Street from midday-2pm. About eight XR groups are picketing Tufton Street, including us. We have a history with Tufton Street in that we held an event there in 2020 with George Monbiot. I will also be marching on 'The Big One' Saturday. 

Kate: How can we keep putting our trust in politicians who keep letting us down? 

Monique: Short answer: we can’t. 

Kate: How do you use your activism to fuel your writing?

Monique: Ha ha, my next novel is about an uprising! Watch this space, it's out in the spring of 2024. Being part of XR was some kind of unconscious research, over the years. I've found it hugely inspiring to be part of a very big and also very effective movement.

Kate: If you had to pick one book that might influence someone to commit to positive change, what would it be?

Monique: Greta Thunberg's new book, The Climate Book. I’d tell anyone new to climate change literature to start there. It’s full of bite-sized essays by the most knowledgeable climate experts on earth. Also, The Great Derangement by Amitav Ghosh and Why Rebel by Jay Griffith. 

Kate: What do you do when engaging the consequences of climate change becomes overwhelming?

Monique: I take huge comfort in activism. I always feel that at least I’ve got off my arse and I'm out there doing something. So just that helps. I still think there’s a bit of hope. I think we have to hold some hope.

Kate: Is there anything else we should know?

Monique: Please have a look at our website: If you feel you want to write for our blog, let us know. Also, join our fab weekly newsletter!


In 2019, Monique Roffey and a small band of writer friends co-founded Writers Rebel. WR is an active campaigning group inside Extinction Rebellion. To find out more, head to Monique's website and Writers Rebel. 

Join The Big One in Parliament Square, 21-24 April 2023. For more information on how to take part, head here. 

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