Green Tease Reflections: Renfrewshire Arts and Culture
4th March 2020: This Green Tease brought together representatives from Renfrewshire's arts organisations and local government alongside visitors from further afield to discuss the ways that arts and culture in the area could respond to the climate emergency as declared by the council.
- Leonie Bell, Paisley Partnership Strategic Lead, gave us a quick update on Future Paisley, a programme of events, activity and investment that aims to harness the power of culture to radically change the area’s reputation and help lift its communities out of poverty. As part of this, a major exhibition and events programme will launch in Paisley’s Piazza Centre, which will involve opportunities for communities across Renfrewshire to feed into discussion about the area’s future.
- Colin Grainger, Renfrewshire Council, discussed the council’s declaration of climate emergency and its target for net zero emissions by 2030, emphasising the role that arts and culture in the area could play in this and the importance of the response to the climate emergency recognising the specific economic and social issues that Renfrewshire faces.
- Lewis Coenen-Rowe, Creative Carbon Scotland, laid out the argument for why urgent action on climate change in the arts and culture sector is necessary. He pointed to the recent storms and how climate change is making Scotland’s winters wetter as well as making extreme weather events more likely. He also showed a map showing how predicted sea level rises would significantly affect Renfrewshire. He discussed how responding to climate change is a matter of culture as much as science and requires fundamental changes in the ways we think and operate. Arts and culture are well positioned to do this, reaching most of Scotland’s inhabitants and having the resources and mindsets for tackling our ways of thinking, but they must also ‘walk the walk’ by reducing their own environmental impact. He recommended joining the Green Arts Initiative as a good starting point.
Image obtained from https://coastal.climatecentral.org/
Presentation from Heather Claridge, Architecture and Design Scotland
Heather set the scene for us by laying out some of the ways that arts and culture can be mobilised towards sustainability goals. Her presentation discussed three projects that involved creative means of tackling sustainability issues in the west of Scotland.
- Living, working, playing with water was a project involving artist Minty Donald using creative methods to engage members of the public on our relationship with water and how it could become more positive in light of increased rainfall and flooding following climate change
- Land Art Generator Initiative had artists, architects and engineers collaborate on designing innovative renewable energy generation facilities that integrated social, cultural, and aesthetic concerns into their designs, trying to simultaneously work on technical and social solutions
- Stalled Spaces was a project that encouraged and supported community groups to make creative use of unused land within cities, with an emphasis on environmentally inflected projects
Her main lessons from this work were:
- Create a flexibility-defined brief: artistic and creative work is most effective when open-ended, allowing development during the project rather than working towards pre-defined outcomes
- Nurture a sense of partnership: take the time to allow people coming from different fields to properly understand each other’s perspectives in order to collaborate effectively
- Connect dots to strategic outcomes: think about how artistic and creative work can collaborate with work in other areas and support wider strategy
Group Activity: Walking the walk and talking the talk in sustainability
We then moved on to trying to think about how we might apply some of the things that Heather had discussed. In groups we designed and planned cultural activities of a wide variety of kinds, depending on the experience and backgrounds around the table. The aim was for these events to engage with specific issues pertinent to the climate emergency that would make a contribution to our wider culture shift, but would also avoid negative impacts by being designed in a sustainable way. Responses included:
- A bike-powered film screening
- An event promoting sustainable and active travel taking place alongside a congested road
- An event taking place at a stalled space starting as a performance and creating something permanent to remain on the site
- An event getting people to weave or knit together a poem that could then be displayed in public
- A green celebration of Ferguslie Park, working with artists and members of the community to change perceptions of the area
- A litter-pick where the rubbish is then used to make art or for other creative purposes
We finished with quick-fire presentations from arts organisations who are already carrying out environmental work.
- Becca Lewis, Glasgow Women’s Library, discussed her involvement in their ‘Green Cluster’. She emphasised that worldwide gender inequality means that climate change impacts fall more heavily on women than men, making it a feminist issue. She led us through practical actions they had taken, including joining the Green Arts Initiative, developing and publishing an environmental policy, carrying out an energy audit, using vegetarian catering, installing a more efficient boiler, and encouraging staff to travel using low emission forms of transport. Their current plans include a strong ecofeminist angle to their Open The Door festival in May 2020 and running a consultation with their local community using Climate Challenge funding.
- Gillian Steel, ReMode, introduced us to some of the environmental issues in the fashion industry, with less than 1% of discarded clothing being recycled and clothes now being worn fewer times before being thrown away. She pointed out that clothes require a huge amount of water to be produced and many cannot be recycled. Renfrewshire-based ReMode sells re-used and upcycled clothing through their shop, offers creative workshops and training in clothing repair, and puts on talks, events, and fashion shows. They aim to help shift the fashion industry towards more sustainable ways of running.
- Scott Morris, Scottish Ensemble, led us through their sustainability ‘journey’, from beginning to record their emissions, to writing an environmental policy, to advocating within the cultural sector, to premiering Elemental, their first creative response to the climate crisis. He emphasised the importance of getting buy-in from management staff and board members in order to make progress and pointed out that, like many arts organisations, travel was by far their largest source of emissions and the issue that most urgently needs to be tackled across the sector. He finally led us through potential future steps for Scottish Ensemble, suggesting potential methods of reducing travel emissions from touring.
Green Tease is a network and ongoing informal events programme, connecting creative practices and environmental sustainability across Scotland. Creative Carbon Scotland runs the Green Tease Open Call, which is a funded opportunity supporting sustainability practitioners and artists to exchange ideas, knowledge and practices with the aim of building connections and widening understanding of the role of arts in influencing a more sustainable society.