Arts and culture organisations tackling the climate crisis

A Green Arts Forum was held by Theatre Forum on Thursday, April 22 as part of their Green Arts Initiative.
Image from Theatre Forum

A Green Arts Forum was held by Theatre Forum on Thursday, April 22 as part of their Green Arts Initiative.

The forum included discussions around the Creative Climate Action Plan, toolkits for the Cultural Adaptations project, the Green Venues Pilots, and how individual arts centres are working to improve their sustainability.

Anna Walsh, director of Theatre Forum, opened the forum by highlighting the significance of climate action and that it is not forgotten.

“I think all of this is hugely important and comes into focus, as we emerge from one crisis, the Covid one, and we need to think about how we tackle the climate crisis which has never really gone away,” said Walsh.

Creative Climate Action Fund

Tania Banotti, director of Creative Ireland was the first speaker. She gave an overview of the Creative Climate Action Fund.

According to the Creative Ireland website, this fund is taking applications from those who can “meaningfully connect people with the profound changes that are happening in our environment, society and economy arising from climate change, and can transform that connection into behaviour change or climate action.”

Banotti emphasised this point saying that with the fund, Creative Ireland “is really challenging you to go beyond generic awareness-raising eye-catching moment to thinking about public engagement that will really prompt behaviour change.”

She explains that this fund is focused on public engagement.

Embedded Artists and Adapting our Culture

Maeve Stone and Mark O’Brien from Axis Ballymun also spoke during the forum about their experiences with the Embedded Artist Projects and Adapting our Culture toolkits. Embedded Artists Projects involve the partnership between an artist and a non-arts-based organisation to address key societal issues, in this case, climate change. 

The Adapting our Culture toolkit will show cultural organisations how to develop an action plan to support their adaptation to a more climate-friendly organisation.

Speaking about his experience with Axis Ballymun using these toolkits, O’Brien said: “I’ve learned a huge amount, both from the structural climate point of view but also from how an organisation can be affected by an artist being at the heart of the process.”

Stone said that her experience has highlighted “the idea of needing to reorganise and redesign how we live and work so that we thrive in the future.”

Climate Action Bill 

Catríona Fallon, founder of the Green Arts Initiative in Ireland spoke about the implications of the Climate Action Bill on the arts and culture sector. She said that while when considered within Ireland’s overall carbon footprint, the arts sector’s contribution is very small, there is still room for improvement. 

Fallon looked at the actions taken in England and Scotland. One example she gives is that in these countries any organisation funded by the Arts Council for an extended period of time – in England it is four years and in Scotland, it is three years – must adhere to a certain environmental reporting as part of their funding. 

Fallon also emphasised the importance of measuring carbon in order to help guide changes.  

“Without measuring the current carbon footprint of arts organisations particularly building-based organisations, it will be very difficult to set targets for reductions in carbon emissions,” she said.

Greening Venues Pilot Project

Another initiative discussed during the forum was the Greening Venues Pilot Project.

“The aim is basically to give the venues a clear overview of all their environmental impacts and to calculate their carbon footprint,” explained Fallon.

This project began in 2020 with seven venues across Ireland involved and it runs for two years. According to Fallon, it is hopeful that at the end, it would enable the venues involved to continue to collate data every year thereafter and then set targets to reduce their emissions.

Through this pilot project, they discovered that despite waste often being the main focus in sustainability, electricity and heating contributed far more to the venue’s overall carbon footprint.

Finally, the forum heard from representatives of two of the art venues taking part in the pilot project.

Niall O’Connell from the Pavilion Theatre spoke about his focus on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and how the theatre has been applying these goals across its operations.

“Small simple actions can actually have quite good outputs for the Sustainable Development Goals,” said O’Connell.

He also emphasised the importance of collaboration and supporting local businesses to further Sustainable Development Goals.

“If we do really want to look at sustainability and the power of sustainability, we do need to look at our own communities and how can we create a sustainable community and a sustainable economy as well,” he said.

Finally, Derek Blanche, events manager from VISUAL Carlow, spoke about the sustainability that the art centre has been taking. 

First, the beds and grass areas around VISUAL were replanted with pollinator plants or let grow into meadows, Blanche explains, then VISUAL was able to set up beehives in St Patrick’s, Carlow College. 

Since then VISUAL has produced bee video diaries and launched the bees needs project.

“This was an ambitious, community-based Schools project for students aged 9 to 13 years of age,” said Blanche.  In these workshops “the children explored the needs of bees by diversity,” he said.

The Green Arts Initiative is run by Theatre Forum, guided by Creative Carbon Scotland. 
Further information and resources can be found here.

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