Dan Barnard, 27 January 2013

Lots of the below reads like advice or instructions - this is just how it was phrased in

this small group - please don't feel like any of the below is trying to make you do

anything - its just ideas for what you could do if you wanted to.

You can make art that comments on climate change or art that is made in an

environmentally friendly way. If you make it in an environmentally friendly way,

communicate that to your audience.

The fundamental principles are reduce, re-use recycle - if you think through everything

in terms of these you can go a very long way.

A play on Broadway called Peter and the Star Catcher saved huge amounts of money

by building the entire set from salvaged materials. They spent much less on set, much

more on employing people to find the salvaged materials and still ended up saving lots

of money. The set was also universally praised for its quality by people who didn't

know it was salvaged. For some people this financial saving is a stronger argument. It

is a case of finding out what matters to a person and then suggesting how

sustainability might help them - it very often can.

In the UK there is a website called Setexchange.co.uk - and also an organisation

called Scenery Salvage.

There is a great deal of information, advice and resources on the Julie's Bicycle

website. They take research and produce practically-focused information.

Although the arts are very small in terms of their direct climatic impact they have the

ability to influence the debate significantly - they can punch far above their weight.

Research from festivals suggests that 43% of people have made environmental

changes in their own lives because of things they experienced at festivals - people

doing environmental things made them think differently about what they could do.

Even when the work itself doesn't directly talk about climate change, by making efforts

to cut our carbon footprint and make work more sustainably and communicating that to

our audiences we can contribute towards a tipping point where people realise that this

is something everyone is doing, it is something worth doing, it is something that is

possible - and a huge cultural shift can take place. We discussed analogies to the

cultural shift that took place around smoking. This is something the Almeida Theatre's

green group is discussing - both what can we do and how can we most effectively

communicate this to the audience.

An interesting case study is the Young Vic's series called Classics for a New Climate -

the first of which was After Miss Julie. Interestingly, by focusing on working more

sustainably for a single production, many things emerged from that which are now

routine practice for all Young Vic productions - because they save money as well as

being more sustainable. Also, from this being in the building, it occurred to someone to

experiment with setting the thermostat to permit a little more variation in temperature

in the building. No-one complained and so this has continued - saving a great deal of

money as well as energy. In this way, one focused project within a building (or a

community?) can have a snowball effect. Research from this show also found that the

very act of going to the theatre and having a communal experience, rather than

staying at home using gas and electricity on e.g televisions, sound systems etc,

massively lowers the carbon footprint of that group of people - so theatre as a

communal activity is inherently sustainable. We can celebrate this and then do even


There have been some inspiring creative pieces. There was a dance piece that

worked with researchers from MIT to create kinetic body suits for the dancers and the

energy in these body suits fed into powering the LED lighting for the show. Also

someone mentioned the Liberate Tate wind turbine project, of which videos are online.

Art can present alternatives to the way we live. Theatre can also be a way of

interrogating the decisions we make. Theatre is almost unique in that it can hold

people's focused attention for a long period of time - an hour or two. This allows us to

honestly represent the complexity of a subject like climate change - which resists

being compressed into a soundbite -and people distrust these soundbites because

they know it is a complex topic. Theatre can also present climate change in terms of

human stories that people can relate too - rather than big ideas that seem


A lot of art about climate change can focus on the disaster narratives. Research has

proven that this is ineffective in terms of producing behaviour change as it

disempowers people and encourages them to bury their heads in the sand. An

alternative is to present the optimistic elements of more sustainable living - how living

sustainably can be easy, joyful, enriching.

It is good to empower audiences to discuss and have ownership of the subject through

post show discussions, giving people contact details to feed back, offering them web

links etc - so it can feel like a two way, not a didactic process. We also discussed the

idea of asking people to sign up for an email in three months time which would ask

them whether the experience had changed the way they lived in terms of sustainability

in any way - keeping the relationship going beyond the moment of the show.

An example of a project that sought to focus on the positive and also make and tour

work in a very low carbon way is fanSHEN's GreenandPleasantLand - which toured

entirely by train, was powered by a bicycle generator and told a story for families about

environmental transition. With that project, they took environmental decisions as

creative restrictions - e.g the most sustainable light source is the sun - so we'll do the

show outdoors in the daytime - which in turn led to aesthetic decisions. The artists who

made that enjoyed the creative challenges - which made them work in a new way and

also develop their artistic practice. In 2013 they are making an indoor show powered

by 4 adapted gym machines - people will work out during the day to generate

electricity for the show in the evening.

It is good to measure the impact that your efforts have so that you can discuss and

compare them etc. Julie's Bicycle have web tools that allow you to do this. Also, it is

arguable that the very act of measuring something, by raising awareness, actually

changes your behaviour.

In Denmark there is a project called ArtEpi - it is a sustainable city made from recycled

and sustainable materials that combines architecture, science and art. It is traveling

around Europe. 300 to 500 people live there.

The Danish Arts Council have a research grant that Europeans can apply to providing

there is a Danish dimension.

We discussed a specific project - a play that was touring in camper vans - and the

different options for it. There are solar generators, wind generators and also hydrogen

fuel generators. A company called Solar Sense do solar solutions. There are also

options like bicycle power. With generators, bear in mind the extra fuel that you will

use transporting it - perhaps this would mean it would be better to use mains


There have recently been huge progress in terms of LED lighting.

We also discussed how Julie's Bicycle has a certification scheme for venues and


We discussed how a lot of people immediately seek to find some element of hypocrisy

when you start talking about sustainability - it is good to be aware of this so you can be

prepared with counter-arguments etc.

Julie's Bicycle are still thinking about what the most effective way to communicate

environmental efforts is - learning about this is an ongoing process.

At last D&D a group was set up in which small-scale artists, companies etc that are

not at National Portfolio Organisation level can discuss working more sustainably - it is

called Small Fish in a Big Green Sea. If you want to get involved email Dan - his

contact details are on fanSHEN's website - fanshen.org.uk


aesthetics, ecology, fanSHEN, money, Creativity, Sustainability, Innovation, Money,

creativity, Setexchange, environment, innovation, Julie's Bicycle, climate change,

sustainability, Small Fish in a Big Green Sea