Green Tease Reflections: #arts4cop26 online planning discussion

11th May 2020

29th April 2020: Over 80 participants gathered for an online discussion about arts and culture's plans for COP26 and how to collectively reorganise and reorient these in light of COVID-19 and the postponement of COP. The event was co-organised with Stop Climate Chaos Scotland and ecoartscotland.

The event opened with introductions from Kat Jones of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS) and writer and artist Wallace Heim who offered two contrasting prompts for the ensuing discussion.

Kat gave us the basics about the postponement of COP26 and predicted it would now take place between May and November 2021 in Glasgow, although no date has yet been confirmed. She then discussed SCCS’s plans for COP26, which involve an emphasis on Glasgow’s distinctive history as the ‘Dear Green Place’ and a centre of the early industrial revolution, with Watt’s steam engine for example. SCCS wants to welcome the international community to Glasgow through the city’s unique artistic traditions, music, dance, and ceilidh culture. She stressed the importance of work before and after COP as well as during the brief 2 weeks of the conference itself and working with local communities to create a lasting legacy. She encouraged people to make use of their new Climate Fringe website as a means of publicising work.

Wallace reflected on her own experiences to offer broader thoughts on the role of the arts in crises, the impact of social distancing, and what we can learn from the COVID-19 pandemic. Her complete introductory talk has been published on our website as a guest blog.

First Breakout Session

We separated into smaller groups to introduce ourselves to each other and share our experiences of how planning around COP26 has been negatively impacted by coronavirus and how we might learn from and adapt to the situation to continue making and doing. Some of the thoughts shared back to the main group were:

  • Using this time for networking and skillsharing
  • The importance of platforms and resources for finding out what others are doing and planning
  • Digital media providing an opportunity to reach different people
  • How working with limitations requires finding creative solutions, which is where the arts can excel
  • That longer run-up time provides more opportunities to engage with local communities

Second Breakout Session

We returned to our groups to discuss more specific themes in greater detail. These groups and the main outcomes of their discussions were:

1. What makes for effective collaboration between arts and civil society organisations?

  • It is important to find examples of successful collaborations in the past to learn from
  • The main barriers were not knowing who to work with and how to find funding
  • We need to actively work on reaching out and discovering what others are doing

2. Culture and arts as welcome: global civil society is coming to COP26, what’s our response?

  • Connecting up the global and the local, how to draw connections between visitors and what’s happening here in Glasgow
  • Arts and culture as a means of drawing delegates away from the main site and engaging people on a more human level

3. Bringing the voices of those most affected by climate emergency to COP

  • Being aware of language barriers and the need for work to be multilingual
  • Providing a platform for international and especially indigenous voices in Glasgow, as well as a platform for non-human voices
  • Need to work outside of traditional structures to reach people

4. Arts and protest at COP

  • Importance of protests having a specific goal in mind, raising awareness of specific issues such as climate justice for the global south
  • Using online resources to keep in contact and share information, as well as partnering with others such as Glasgow Life to reach more people
  • Interest in ‘carnivals’ and ‘celebrations’ as an alternative form of protest

5. The role of cultural organisations in increasing awareness that COP is coming to Glasgow and empowering people to get involved

  • COP as punctuation mark in a longer continuity, how to create a legacy
  • COP as a means of mainstreaming ideas and behaviours faster than would be possible otherwise

6. Adapting artistic engagement practices around COP26  in light of coronavirus

  • Being aware of the limitations of digital approaches and inequalities that can result (e.g. slower internet connection in rural areas)
  • Using the time to reflect: potential for arts to play a role in COVID-19 re-framing how people see climate change
  • World soil conference coming to Glasgow in 2022, providing further opportunities for engagement

7. Using art to frame the COP

  • Does art provide the space, and a spectacle in Glasgow? Or is it to open up and question the issues?
  • How can arts and science work together?
  • Fossil fuels and colonialism as issues that the arts can play a role in highlighting

Resources and next steps

All the notes taken during the discussion remain accessible online here.

People in the same breakout groups shared emails so that they could keep in touch. If you are interested in any of the breakout group themes and would like to get involved, please email lewis.coenen-rowe@creativecarbonscotland.com to be put in touch.

Useful resources for hearing about and organising work around COP26 include:

  • The Climate Fringe website has been repurposed as a hub for online events.  If you are planning activity online please post it to the site. Or email tami@stopclimatechaos.scot with your event details.
  • TheArts4COP26 facebook page provides an informal environment to share ideas and plans
  • SCCS are starting a monthly newsletter on events and the climate fringe, hosting, and the Civil Society Hub at COP26
  • The Green Tease network provides opportunities to meet others through online meetups and a database as well as an open call that offers support for events
  • The COP26 civil society coalition Slack working groups, including a dedicated ‘Culture’ channel, are being used for organising

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We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

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A project initiated by Edinburgh’s Festivals with key partners the Federation of Scottish Theatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network

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