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Cambridge Just Stop Oil protester Louise Harris aims for Christmas number one with ‘We tried’

Former Cambridge student Louise Harris has composed the first climate protest song to top the UK iTunes chart – and environmental campaigner Chris Packham is calling for it to be this year’s Christmas number one.

Louise, who studied psychology at Fitzwilliam College in the city until 2019, released her song We Tried earlier this month and has seen it fly up the charts with support from the TV presenter and from music legend Brian Eno.

Louise Harris, 'We Tried' video screenshot
Louise Harris, 'We Tried' video screenshot

Until now, Louise was known for being the Just Stop Oil protestor who filmed herself crying on top of a gantry over the M25, her emotional testimony going internationally viral this time last year. This protest led to Louise’s arrest, and she was remanded to prison for eight days.

Now facing a suspended sentence, Louise has turned to music to express her grief, despair and anger at the escalating climate crisis and lack of appropriate action from governments.

We Tried is deliberately written from the perspective of our currently projected future of irreversible climate catastrophe (‘We ran out of time…oh well, we tried’).

Louise Harris, 'We Tried' singer
Louise Harris, 'We Tried' singer

Louise invites listeners to ask how they would feel if this future happens – and then uses that feeling to spur themselves into the only hopeful solution left: collective climate action.

She recently sang the song outside of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s London home as part of a Just Stop Oil protest and was arrested.

“I wrote ‘We Tried’ back in July 2022,” says Louise, “three days after my 24th birthday. The song expresses feelings of grief, anger, a longing to be taken somewhere else, and exhaustion at living in a world where you are constantly being gaslit – by the media, politicians, and, hardest of all, by people you love.

“The message of my song and video is this: the climate crisis affects me and my family, you and yours. No one is exempt. It has been created by a few handfuls of people in power who, I’ve concluded, must not know what love is. But what matters is – I know what love is. You know what love is. We know. And together, we outnumber the people in power eight billion times over. So what are we waiting for? We must come together, and act – not as individuals, but as a collective – through civil disobedience; protest; a mass movement. Can we truthfully say ‘we tried’?”

She continues: “Historically, music and art have been instrumental in bringing about social change, in sparking revolutions. It’s time to do it again. After all – if art can’t change the world, what can?”

Louise Harris, former Cambridge University student and Just Stop Oil activist
Louise Harris, former Cambridge University student and Just Stop Oil activist

This climate anthem is just the beginning of Louise’s music activism journey, with plans to release an entire climate album in 2024 if she reaches her goal of raising £20,000.

Chris Packham said: “It’s a beautiful song. It’s melodic. It’s ‘catchy’, it’s ‘pop’, it’s ‘sing-along’. It’s lovely, isn’t it…? No, it isn’t. It’s horrific, terrifying and tragic. Listen to it, hear every desperate note, each lingering plea. Don’t just look at, see the pictures. Read the music, read the room, our planet’s youth in abject distress. This is their voice, their cry, their tears laid bare. So ask yourself: do you want this to be the ultimate anthem for doomed youth, a threnody for their funeral? It’s beautiful, beautiful for its razor sharp honesty, beautiful for its truth, beautiful for its purity of frightened heart. Please listen, please learn, please act.”

Christiana Figueres, former UN Climate Change executive secretary & chief negotiator of the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement, said: “I often talk about facing the climate and ecological crises head on: not shying away from the pain and in fact using it to generate the clarity of what needs to be done. Here’s a young woman doing just that with this song: musician and activist Louise Harris. A powerful song. Thank you Louise.”

“This beautiful and moving song is a powerful weapon,” said musician and producer Brian Eno. “We need to wake up to the cowardly inertia of our governments, to the greedy shortsightedness of business-as-usual, and to the numbing distractions of the media. This song woke me up. I hope it gets centuries of airtime.”

Louise’s song overtook competition from The Beatles and Dua Lipa when it topped the iTunes singles chart one week after its release.

Now she hopes to overtake the likes of WHAM!, Sam Ryder, Mariah Carey along with Ed Sheeran and Elton John’s Merry Christmas to reach the coveted Christmas number one spot. The official chart will be revealed tomorrow (December 22).

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