Climate Change – what is our responsibility to this issue as art makers and communicators

Convener: Angela McSherry 

Participants: Nick, Jane , Emma, Ian, Lisa, Siri and many others

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Do we have an enhanced responsibility because we have many vehicles for communication and because theatre has great capacity to change hearts and minds….

Is there a disinclination on behalf of artists to tackle issue subjects – we talked about the fact that YPT/TIE has tackled successfully issue based work (but is uncelebrated in public press etc)

Is this an opportunity for collective action – do we have the vehicles for this (later in the discussion we were alerted to an initiative called Transition Towns eg Lewes, Totnes, Brixton – a great eg of bottom up activisim)

How do we enable audiences to reimagine their futures – this is key alongside the practical changes we need to make – we have to enable communities to become ‘ready’ for a new way of living (and of course to make this a positive aspiration).

Bush Theatre has scripts in development that do re-imagine futures and theatre has the chance to use popular forms to relay hard info in accessible and through less didactic routes.

Is theatre too ironic for a serious message?

This has to become a sort of ‘moral’ issue and the sector needs to influence one another (in the same way that smoking has become unacceptable (as well as illegal) in public places. Is it better to be bottom up (but is there also a fear of hypocrisy…ie if you put your head above the parapet and offer leadership you might be fearful of revealing chinks in your Carbon practice – but better to do something and risk embarrassment than do nothing at all. But this issue leads to people maybe doing things quietly rather than publically…)

But hey we are an industry obsessed with ‘the new’ (example given of Mary Poppins set about to be trashed into landfill and a brand new one built for the tour….how can we change this mindset. How can we at least ensure that people ask themselves questions re sustainability (in every sense of the word).

We talked about the very mixed messages that are part of the Climate Change debate. And the fact that this is an early-stages issue – everyone is grappling with the best way to mitigate and adapt to climate change. New solutions appear (LED lights) and then new info comes into play that calls the solution into question (eg LED lights depend on components that are sourced in war torn areas of Africa and indeed compound the issues of war torn areas…). But we also talked about the need to focus on positive actions and stories.

We talked about guerilla forms of theatre taking place in work places, in schools (ref back to early Mike Leigh/Shared Experience work of 70’s). We talked about gathering points (for some first time they had sat with a group of people and discussed climate change)…different fora  for people to gather…and of course this led to a conversation re chat rooms.

Theatre has the potential  to re-imagine futures but also provides a mirror – enables people to see how their lives are changing (for good/for bad…) but theatre can also document change.

Good to hear from an actor that she making great efforts to monitor and change her travel practice given that we are such a mobile industry.

Info we exchanged in our closing moments:

Central School of Speech and Drama exploring the development of a mobile theatre conceived on sustainable criteria

The Lift has been conceived placing sustainability at its heart.

TippingPoint (Art + Climate Change) are holding a prototype day long conference in late Feb/March to trail a larger cross sector event taking place in Autumn 08. Also planning a week long residency for writers where they will have access to senior climate change scientists to provide hard core info).