On the streets at COP26, I catch up with a ‘Sussex legend’

A young Sudanese man waves his national flag while wearing the Coat of Hopes, covered with patches sewn on during its 60-day journey.
From Sussex to Sudan: a young activist from Sudan dons the Coat of Hopes, which began its journey in Newhaven. Photo credit: Anna Scott

DAY 3 in Glasgow 

After my day in the Green Zone, I decided that I would spend a day on the streets. The sun was out and the autumn leaves looked so  golden and beautiful it seemed criminal to be inside.

I began the day with a special Sussex Bylines assignment. In late August, one of the editors, Ginny Smith, had met The Coat of Hopes pilgrims on Newhaven Beach as they began their 60-day marathon walk. Now, having arrived in Glasgow,  it was my turn to meet them.

Project initiator, Barbara Keal, had invited me to join their morning march so I made my way towards St George’s Tron church, sincerely hoping I would find them. I needn’t have worried – Barbara was wearing a bright yellow coat and an iconic rabbit ear hat, impossible to miss.

The Coat of Hopes makes its way through the streets of Glasgow. Among the marchers is Barbara Keal wearing bright yellow coat and rabbit ear hat.
Hard to miss: Barbara Keal in her bright yellow coat and rabbit ear hat. Photo credit: Anna Scott

Having walked together for so long, the community spirit among the pilgrims was infectious. They instantly made me feel welcome and before long I was joining in the Coat of Hopes song, along with the rest of them.

Led by a drum and a Coat of Hopes standard, we marched through Glasgow city centre. The majestic Coat of Hopes naturally attracted a fair bit of attention with Barbara stopping to explain the story to anybody who was interested. 

I was very touched when Barbara invited me to wear the Coat of Hopes for part of the march. It was an amazing feeling to wear a coat made by so many, which had travelled so far, and before long my self-consciousness evaporated!

Our correspondent, Anna Scott, dons the Coat of Hopes – proud to be the latest person to wear it after its 500-mile journey. Photo credit: Coat of Hopes

Outside the Blue Zone, where the delegates meet, Barbara delivered her powerful invitation. Journalists and passers-by all stopped to listen and the pilgrims sang with gusto. A particularly lovely moment was when a young man from Sudan donned the coat, waving his national flag. 

After that we headed to a nearby cafe where I had a lovely time interviewing Barbara over a hot drink. 

Now in a state of complete plan-less-ness, I decided to let the day unfold. As luck would have it I met an activist from Young Friends of the Earth who tipped me off that there was a Youth Hub, at Glasgow University, holding workshops. So that is where I headed.

Once inside I opted for an open-mic for people to share their climate stories. It was fantastic to hear so many young activists talk about their experiences, eco-anxiety, and volunteering – and the mood at COP26. At the end, we sat in a circle and had an open chat facilitated by activists from the campaign group Force of Nature. None of us wanted to leave and had to be ushered out of the building at 5pm! 

Feeling inspired, but exhausted, I called it a day. But it has been so uplifting to meet so many people so aware of the climate crisis we face and desperate for the world to tackle all the challenges ahead.