On Sunday, June 12, 2022, I joined the Voices of Future Generations Children’s Initiative to host a virtual storytime as part of the Festival of Nature.
The Festival of Nature is the UK’s largest free celebration of the natural world. (We) Children from around the globe took the audience on a magical journey by sharing our stories, hopes, dreams and vision for a sustainable world.
I was the speaker who opened up the event for the VoFG CI delegation, then Child Authors followed.
If you missed it or want to watch it again here is the video:
Magical music comes to the aid of a young blind immigrant struggling to wake her adopted city, in order to secure a spark of real recovery and build back better lives in the aftermath of a global pandemic.
Song Spark Recovery Magic By Nico Roman Cordonier Gehring (12)
“Something important is missing…” mused Song, as she helped her mother carry their battered chairs and worn rugs up the cold concrete stairwells to their council flat. Since they first saw the grim, looming halls of the housing estate, she had felt an icy absence – like a gap opening in her shattered world. It was a whispered warning, spoken over and over in the background, too soft for conscious grasp, but ominous in its subliminal impact. The omission haunted her: their new building had no song!
Where they had lived in the West, before a terrible global coronavirus pandemic had ripped her grandmother away from her tiny family, also taking her mother’s low-paying janitorial job, life had been different.
Although she had learned not to mention it to strangers, to Song each building hummed with its community’s unique spirit, celebrating their shared ideas, dreams and lives. Each edifice, each neighbourhood sang its own special tune, woven from the shared history and harmony of its people and place. Sightless since birth, Song relied on textures, tastes, scents and especially sound – music – to make sense of her world. Her service dog, Mozart, a small husky granted to her family by a local charity, helped her to navigate when her mother was away. But she used to revel in the quiet music, entering a home for a morning playdate, or tiptoeing past and listening, on a peaceful evening, could learn the purpose of an office-building or the courageous mission of a hospital. Here in the East, even as vaccines slowly reached each generation and the pandemic slowly wound down, things were strange. Her new building sounded heavy, chill and empty, the long hallways echoing with dust and neglect, the inhabitants disconnected and alien. Not even the sad, tattered sparrows on the grimy windowsills were singing.
Song could not see the towering, imposing glass structures far above her, nor the flashing neon lights that attracted others to the city, even in days devastated by the disease, with its millions of losses, the fear, distrust and economic collapse. She only felt the disconnect, and suffered.
Song tried to settle into their flat. Her mother had to leave very early each morning to labour in the chemical sewers of a factory that had re-opened, making personal protective equipment for hospitals, and Song was left alone with Mozart. The winter was oppressive. Song sensed deeply the hopelessness and grief of the grim city, polluted and silent. The scents of iridescent diesel oil spills wafted from the puddles on the roads and discarded rubbish rotting uncollected on the curbs. Slimy discarded masks, gloves and other plastics clogged the drains, making Song and Mozart slip if they went out. Already, the constant horns of traffic again blared and roared along the highways beside their grimy flat, melding with the constant background wail of ambulances.
Song sat on the faded linoleum next to the open window in their tiny kitchen, taking tiny shallow breaths of the cold, polluted city air. She was sad and angry. She wondered how her world, so full of joyful tunes, had somehow –in the midst of the global pandemic and the disastrous move– turned so silent. She wanted to change things, but she couldn’t imagine how.
Her one cheerful thought, which she held close to warm her like a glowing golden ember, was her special flute. Once her grandfather could visit, bringing the ancient instrument that he had reserved just for her, Song hoped the crystal notes would form and dance around her as they always did when she played in his tiny cabin along the white cliffs and turquoise heather moors of the West.
Finally, after nearly two weeks of painful pause, the day arrived! Masked and cautious, Song and her mother travelled through the cluttered, noisy but somehow dead streets of their pandemic-struck city to the train station. When Song’s grandfather stepped smiling from the carriage, his wrinkled arms outstretched, Sybil barely needed the pressure of her mother’s light hand on her back to fly towards him. His answering laughter, and the pure notes of greeting that she heard from the precious instrument he carried carefully, made all the waiting worthwhile. On a bark of welcome from Mozart, as he too heard the notes leaking from the battered but beloved black case, a bit of her former confidence returned.
With her flute, Song’s grim life in the dead, silent, cluttered city of the East improved. Cold, lonely halls and silent sadness still formed a cage around her tiny soul, but her music surrounded her, clear and pure, the notes cascading through her days. Unfortunately, the only teacher available in the city was much more expensive. As she set out with Mozart for her first lesson, she had a spark. Rather than burden her tiny family, she could contribute to the cost herself, by playing her flute!
Song’s first clandestine concert took place in the centre of her new city, at the intersection two major alleyways, next to an abandoned street market. Her trusted Mozart guided her through the crowds. Secretly she hoped that they all had been vaccinated because she felt people gathering, and some seemed rather close.
Song unpacked her instrument and started to play. The indigo notes of the ancient, slender silver instrument flowed like a crystal river through the grey, silent city streets, touching the lives of each person, and planting seeds of hope in the crushed hearts of the homes, buildings and neighbourhoods themselves. As Song shared her very soul, the city around her slowly stopped. Pedestrians, cars, buses froze to hear the lovely music. The notes formed a warm waterfall of beauty and light. And as the people of the soundless, soulless, songless city learned to listen, many for the first time in their lives, they became inspired to build back better.
In the crowd, a boy on a skateboard with gleaming raven-wing hair and purple high-tops stopped, astonished, and then quickly pulled out his mobile. His light fingers sped across the keys, and an app glowed with indigo energy as Song’s music engraved electronically. After the performance, Song crumpled in exhaustion on the stone stairs beneath the arches of a stone doorway. Then Mozart barked in greeting. The boy approached, with awed eyes, and asked her permission to post her performance online. Scarcely recognising herself, Song agreed.
The music went viral, travelling everywhere through the city, and transformation travelled with it. A sad, pointless prison for the poor broke the chains of solitude and started rapping its rhythm out from the ground. A polluted petrol station and a greedy fast-food restaurant realised their destiny, and lifted an upbeat, jazzy saxophone duet number. A rubbish tip heard her music, waking from its methane-laden haze and throbbing with deep, happy, decomposing bass notes. The cut-rate pawnshop awakened from its uncaring mist of mangled memories, to pluck a guitar string. With Song’s music came a spark, and with the spark, recovery.
Millions of views and new listeners later, the entire city began to slowly awaken, as if from hibernation. Song and her new friend, Raven, composed new melodies directly online, activating his music apps and her flute talent, and more and more people tuned in to listen, and to transform themselves.
A visiting playwright teaching a story to a group of children in a sad, underfunded schoolroom with a special indigo ink pen paused to listen, as Song’s notes played through the public address speakers, and smiled softly to himself, as the building began to hum the notes back, and recovered into a handsome library brimming with books. A travelling street artist spray-painting an endangered orca and her calves onto a tall shipping company wall with shimmering indigo paints laughed in delight, as the high-rise responded with a soaring soprano solo, and transformed itself into an ocean-wise sustainable aquaculture co-operative.
As Song’s music washed through the city, relentlessly recovering, more and more buildings changed. The clawed pawnshop became a public museum, open to all and housing a tiny delicious bistro and an antiques hall. The dank prison became a community centre with rehabilitation programmes and a legal aid clinic. The petrol station and a fast-food restaurant became an electric vehicle charging station, with renewable solar panels on the roof, and a farmers market in a green corner nearby. The busy highways and rushing traffic calmed, replaced by bike paths and electric trams.
As Song’s mother explained, leaning over the counter of her new job in a tiny global coffee shop that had opened in the revived arts, crafts and organic foods market: “The children have almost invented a whole new form of music… and it’s changing our city, for the better.” Unheard by the adults, the little shop itself began to giggle, as its own lilting jig awoke in response to the flute’s magical notes. Song herself heard the music of her own building awaken and fill the air around her with joy, and stepped confidently with Mozart out into the warm sunshine of their new jade and olive green rooftop garden. She smelled the lavender bushes as returning bees buzzed softly around her and her friend, felt the balconies of their green flats bursting with new fruit and flowers below, and smiled in delight as once-grim halls echoed with children’s laughter, and with the music of a real recovery.
I’m happy to announce that I’m a junior editor of an international online journal for and by youth.
Harmony was launched in the UN’s COP26 climate change events in Glasgow on November 6, 2021. This online journal was built on special links that the youth created during the global pandemic lockdowns. They hosted a series of short online tutorials with professors and heads of institutes from world-class universities to inspire young people that were left stranded by COVID-19 school closures.
Interview by Kings College School Cambridge (to read the full interviewclick here)
Why was it important for you to visit COP26?
Nico: We wanted to attend COP26 for several reasons; firstly, it was a great opportunity for us to learn much more about climate change and what we can do to play our part in combating it. It was also especially important for us to attend as the event was in Scotland which made it easy to get to but also because we wanted to represent. One of our other main objectives was to build connections within the community. Thomas: We were very grateful to be invited to contribute to COP26 and represent young people. It was a great opportunity for us to both learn and share ideas. We were pleased that we were able to meet so many people from all over the globe and also speak with various organisations.
What did you do whilst you were there?
Nico: We arrived on Friday but Saturday was the main day of activities. In the morning we went to the “Green Zone” where we were able to check out lots of interesting climate focused experiments and witness the operations that different organisations are doing to help the climate cause. Some of the main highlights for me were seeing the ”eco-choir”, who have sung in different competitions, and WWF presentation (World Wide Fund for Nature) who spoke about the importance of marshes and wetlands eco systems.
The Green Zone was actually housed in a Science Museum so were able to see the COP26 events along with the normal exhibits which we enjoyed. We were also invited to be part of the launch of a youth-led journal called “Harmony”. The journal will include youth views on science, law and sustainability solutions. This comprised 5 University students, 8 young people, and several other youth campaigners online from across the world including Canada, Kenya, Taiwan, England and France.
Thomas: We really enjoyed listening to the eco-choir who spoke about what children can do to solve climate problems and this was really interesting and informative. We also saw some fascinating displays about polar regions melting and the effects that would have. We were able to go inside a cool jungle which was essentially a view of the future that nature had “taken back”. It was a really interactive and visually immersive experience. We were excited to launch the “Harmony” journal which will be a seasonal online publication with many different organisations contributing, such as WWF and various other youth-led organisations. We also met a Tik Tok influencer called Cam Whitehall, who campaigns a lot about climate and conservation and he was very interested to help with the journal which is great because he has many young followers.
What do you hope COP26 will achieve?
Nico: I was excited when they announced the reforestation commitment which aims to restore most or all forests by 2030. This was signed by several countries including Brazil and Australia. As a result, 85% of the world’s forests are going to be protected and reforested. I’m also keen to see what they’re going to do with the funds they’ve recently acquired in the area of reforestation to help deal with climate change.
Thomas: I hope they’ll be able to pledge to protect the world’s wetlands as this is very important in the journey to slowing climate change. The world’s woodlands, fens but also mangroves are vitally important both to nature and conservation so I am interested to see what commitments are made to these areas. I am also hoping they make progress on protecting the Arctic and that they agree pledges and funds to protect these regions.
What’s next for you?
Nico: I am looking forward to working towards the goals with the Harmony journal – I’m keen to start distributing the first copy, I would love for it to get a big following and grow a community. Next steps are also going to be continuing to work with the main youth organisations throughout the world to continue to create a community of people who understand and can help climate change.
Thomas: I’m also looking forward to launching the Harmony journal as a means to spread awareness – there is no time left to leave this to tomorrow – the world’s leaders need to start tackling the situation more urgently today. The more people know about climate change and the more they can educate themselves, the more we can all make a difference together.
We are sending you the Cambridge Schools Eco-Council’s open letter to schoolchildren around the world, especially in Australia, in hopes that you could pass it along. As you know, as part of the global strike, Cambridge children are marching this Friday, meeting at 9:30 at Shire Hall, to raise awareness and (on Valentine’s day) to show we care about the terrible impacts of climate change on children and wildlife who are already losing their homes and their lives, especially in Australia. Fires and floods are raging, and so are we!We’ll be carrying home-made art symbols of torches, smoke and fires, and also blue floodwaters, with us when we march, and over 30 children from different Cambridgeshire schools will be running through the march, wearing masks to speak for the koalas, kangaroos, wombats, wallabies and other unique, vulnerable and voiceless Australian animals who have been dying by the thousands in the bush fires due to climate change. Tomorrow we are also sending our Open Letter to the world’s schoolchildren who are also losing their homes, especially in Australia, as a plea to decision-makers everywhere to listen to the science and act now to stop this madness.
Thank you, Nico Roman (11, Kings College School, Cambridge), Co-Chair, Cambridge Schools Eco-Council
We are writing in support of all the school children, wildlife and everyone whose homes and lives are being lost by the ferocious fires and floods in Australia, and around the world. We feel it is terribly unjust to continue burning fossil fuels and carry on harming our future. As children, and as the first generation to be hit so hard by climate change, we need to look out for each other.
Right now, we can only imagine what it must be like to live with the fear that your own home may burn. We have been devastated by all the news and tragic losses to habitats and wildlife, and we are thinking of you every day and know that the same could so easily happen to us.
As pupils from over 30 local schools and voices of over 3000 local citizens in Cambridge, UK, together with you and other friends around the world who have marched together in the global climate days of action, we write in solidarity today.
We are desperately worried as our planet continues to heat up, and we carry on facing a worsening fate of extreme weather conditions. We are terrified that we are reaching the highest record level of CO2 in our atmosphere for roughly a million years. It is the responsibility of us all not only to reduce our carbon footprints urgently and immediately, but to become carbon neutral and then negative as soon as possible.
Our whole world is at stake. As Greta Thunberg from Sweden has said: “We do need hope, but the one thing that we need more than hope is action. Once we start to act, hope is everywhere.” We may be geographically distant, but as kids terrified by the mess that bad decisions have got us all into, we stand right by your side.
Please could you pass this letter on to schoolchildren and members of the local press that you might know in Australia? A Cambridge news story is here, if they would like to know more:
“Even the smallest child can make a BIG difference!”
Nico (10 years-old)
Hello! and thank you for reading my blog.
If you are not familiar with the Youth Strike 4 Climate or my blog please read this and check my other posts.
I’m Nico Roman, but everybody calls me Nico. I’m in year 5 at King’s College School in Cambridge, UK. I’m Co-Chair of our Eco-Council (the first-ever Cambridge School Eco-Council in response to the threat of Climate Change on future generations) and a UNESCO Voices of Future Generations Child Ambassador for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
On March 15, 2019 (the day of the Global Climate Strike) we started gathering at Shire Hall. At 10am, there were speakers from lots of different schools. Any school that wanted to send a speaker up did it!
“It was amazing to see hundreds, even thousands of us there.”
Then, at 10:30 – we marched. It was a longer march than last time (Feb 15, 2019), all along King’s Parade and through the city centre, down to St. Andrews Street, and up to the Guildhall.
The smallest children – including me 🙂 – were in front with the banners, everyone was awear of this – to keep a slow and steady pace – we are great at planning and organising! 😉
At 11:00, we were joined by some supportive University Students, and met at the Guildhall for some more speeches til 11:30am
We had some more skpeakers, one of them was my older brother Jona David, UN Child Author of a brilliant book on climate change (The Cosmic Climate Invention), and some brave kids from different schools demanding the world’s decision makers to take responsibility and solve this climate crisis.
And I also had a message to share with everyone – here is part of it:
“Even the smallest child can make a BIG difference!
Our new eco-council brings together pupils from schools all across Cambridge, to share our concerns, to cooperate, and to speak out!
We are hosting these Youth Strikes for our Climate in Cambridge, because we are petrified. We care about all the kids here locally and worldwide who will be hurt, or even die in typhoons, floods and droughts.
In school, we learn to be kind, to care for others, and to be responsible.
Destroying our whole planet is totally NOT ON.
Maybe our decision-makers need to go BACK TO SCHOOL.”
Nico (10), Co-Chair, Cambridge School Eco-Council and UN Child Ambassador for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
I was also interviewed by ITV News – to see other media coverage click here
Join us for April’s Friday for Future in Cambridge (or anywhere!)
Next School Strike for Climate Justice will be on April 12, 2019.
11.00 am – Meet at Shire Hall
11.15 am – Walk to King’s Parade
11.30 am – Lie-down at King’s College
Please wear blue, so it looks like Cambridge is flooding!
The lie-down will be for 11-minutes in front of King’s College to send a message about the floods that could drown the iconic town and University of Cambridge if climate change continues.
We will continue to march UNITED! on April 12 and many times after until we see Climate Justice!
We are going to change the fate of humanity! Are you part of this movement yet?
Thousands of children across the Anglia region join school strike for climate – by ITV News
Schoolchildren across the Anglia region have joined others across the world in leaving classes to protest against climate change.
Schoolchildren in Cambridge have set up an eco-council to work together to learn about, and find solutions to, the climate and ecological crisis
“We are truly in a climate emergency, and we need to act quickly to prevent an unimaginable future of heatwaves, extreme weather events, crop failures, and eventually wars over resources such as land, food and water. We are afraid for our own future and for generations of children to come, and the terrifying changes are already happening.”
OPEN LETTER FROM CAMBRIDGE SCHOOLCHILDREN
Organisers of the Youth Strike 4 Climate say events will take place in more than 100 towns and cities around the UK in the second walkout for climate action in the UK.
Driven by what students say is “an alarming lack of government leadership on climate action”, the strikes are part of a global day of walkouts and demonstrations by young people in more than 100 countries
Youth Strike 4 Climate in Cambridge: Video and galleries from day of action
An open letter written by Cambridge school children has been sent to more than 40 schools in the area, urging teachers and pupils to attend the strikes and inviting them to join the Cambridge Schools Eco-Council. The letter follows the successful inaugural meeting of the eco-council on March 9, and the second school strike this year on March 15, which saw 500 school pupils take to the streets of the city to highlight the seriousness of the climate crisis.
The open letter says: “We are truly in a climate emergency, and we need to act quickly to prevent an unimaginable future of heatwaves, extreme weather events, crop failures, and eventually wars over resources such as land, food and water. We are afraid for our own future and for generations of children to come, and the terrifying changes are already happening.”
The school strike for climate movement was started by 16 year-old Greta Thunberg in Sweden last year and has now spread worldwide.
“I have a message for everyone… even the smallest child can make a BIG difference! Our new eco-council brings together pupils from schools all across Cambridge, to share our concerns, to cooperate, and to speak out!
We are hosting these Youth Strikes for our Climate in Cambridge, because we are petrified. We care about all the kids here locally and worldwide who will be hurt, or even die in typhoons, floods and droughts.
In school, we learn to be kind, to care for others, and to be responsible. Destroying our whole planet is totally NOT ON. Maybe our decision-makers need to go BACK TO SCHOOL.
Any schools here today are welcome to join the Eco-Council – just come find me with an email address!
And here’s a new chant, for later – Carbon breaks the golden rule; Decision-makers, back to school!”
Nico Roman, 10, from King’s College School in Cambridge, co-chair of Cambridge Schools Eco-Council, and a UNESCO Voices Child Ambassador.
Youth Strike 4 Climate: Hundreds of Cambridge students march through city
Inspired by Swedish climate activist 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, students are calling for the government to take action on global warming.
Up to a 1,000 schoolchildren and university students gathered outside Shire Hall in Cambridge for the Youth Strike 4 Climate at 9.30am.
Waving banners and chanting, the students will march from Shire Hall to the Guildhall from around 10.30am.
It is the second time city students have taken to the streets for climate change. In calling for climate change to be declared an emergency.
The campaigners came from schools and colleges across the region including Chesterton Community College, Impington Village College, Parkside, Coleridge Community College, King’s School, Hills Road Sixth Form College, Witchford Village College and Cambourne Village College.
More media coverage
School pupils of all ages have gathered outside Shire Hall and The Guildhall – Cambridge News