Change is Coming

V&A Museum of Childhood
October 8, 2019

Extinction Rebellion, V&A Museum of Childhood until February 2020

Change is Coming banner, Hyde Park, London, April 2019. Photo: This Ain’t Rock’n’Roll

This October, Extinction Rebellion is acting once again to persuade governments to acknowledge and address the climate crisis the world is facing. A non-violent protest group network raising awareness of global heating and climate change, Extinction Rebellion – known as XR – use civil disobedience to engage people with their cause. In their third major action since forming just over a year ago, they are occupying several major streets in central London, holding up traffic and holding talks and workshops instead.

These events have been adorned by the work of Extinction Rebellion’s Art Group, who have harnessed illustration and graphic design to create memorable visuals. These designs have also been shared online so that anyone can use them: they have been added to by other groups around the world but all feature the same colourways, typeface and styles.

At the V&A Museum of Childhood, we recently unveiled our own acquisition of a child’s hi-vis vest from the major XR action in April. This is quite a departure for the museum, known by most for its extensive collections of toys. Many children with concerns about their future, however, have been inspired by the actions of young activists such as Greta Thunberg, initiator of the School Strike for Climate, and have participated in these protests through the Extinction Rebellion Families Group. The vest is displayed here is part of a larger display of loans from the XR Families Group alongside the creative work of children produced at these actions, including flags, protest signs and giant banners.

Part of the Extinction Rebellion Families display at the V&A Museum of Childhood

The vest is adorned with a hand-stamped patch from XR’s Art Group, featuring the group’s immediately recognisable hourglass in a circle. This graphic symbol, evoking the idea of time running out, has been adopted from a 2011 design by street artist ESP, who has allowed the group to co-opt it to spread their message (and the V&A to collect the website). It’s been a hugely successful and iconic intervention, and the symbol can be seen all over the world, from Berlin to Buenos Aires, Mumbai to Melbourne.

With this display our intention is to embolden our young visitors with the knowledge that creative actions can empower them. When protestors use the same colours, illustrations and phrases, their shared messages and voices are amplified. Through harnessing their creativity and working together with others, young people too can make their own voices heard, a key notion for the redevelopment team as we work to renew the Museum of Childhood for the future.

Human Extinction Symbol, Glastonbury Festival 2019. Photo: @extinctsymbol

About the author

V&A Museum of Childhood
October 8, 2019

Project Curator, V&A Museum of Childhood Futureplan. Previously Research Curator, Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt. Other projects include Civic Objects / All of This Belongs to You; Rapid Response Collecting; and T-shirts 101

More from Kristian Volsing
6 comments so far, view or add yours


Thanks Kristian, that’s an engaging description of this highly significant acquisition. I’m really keen to see the display when I visit MoC in January, as well as the other XR design work in the RRC display when that reopens.

On an unrelated subject, I hope the redeveloped MoC will feature video games more prominently. My teenage son and I loved the exhibition you co-curated, and we’d appreciate more interpretation on such creative output.

Hi Russell,

Thanks for your kind words about the Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt exhibition and your interest in our new acquisitions and redevelopment here at the MoC. We’re working hard behind the scenes on developing content for the new galleries to make them relevant for contemporary audiences, with more details to be announced soon this year. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!


Oh dear, even the V&A has gone woke and is virtue signalling. There is little peaceful about XR, they are in effect a terror group. People have died because of their dangerous and pointless antics. People should re-read ‘Lord of the Flies’ to remind themselves about human nature.
In the current febrile and irrational ‘climate’ it is hopeless to point out that the earth’s climate is fine and there is nothing humans can do to change it.

You have surely missed the opportunity to stage a parallel exhibition:
“The Children’s Crusade 1212”
Children could then compare and contrast this with their own “Crusade”.

1. Leader:
Male, Pre-teen, Charismatic (Followers walked from Cologne to Genoa).
Female, Teen, Charismatic (Followers skipped school, were transported to rallies).

2. Objective:
Conversion from Islam to Christianity.
Conversion from Carbon-based Fossil Fuels to Renewable Energy.

3. Means:
Miracle – parting of the Mediterranean sea.
Miracle – unreliable energy sources provide users with a reliable source of energy.

4. Disillusion:
Thousands of deaths and defections when the Miracle did not occur.
Thousands of deaths and defections when the Miracle does not occur.

P.S. I live a green, environmentally aware, lifestyle. (But I have followed the “Catastrophic Man Made Global Warming” – from humanity’s CO2 emission – theories since the 1970s, and have yet to see any supporting evidence.)

Hi Kristian,
Thanks for your response & sorry I didn’t see it sooner. I really enjoyed the XR display for its concise and inspiring exploration of the movement’s artistic output and co-ordination of messaging.
And it’s great that the new galleries will promote links between children’s creativity and self-expression on subjects like climate change. I will keep an eye out for news on the transformation project.

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