Case Study: Environmental Activism Conversation with Macrobert Arts Centre
Two paintings by P1-P3 school pupils of endangered species
Located at the heart of the University of Stirling, Macrobert Arts Centre is a cultural hub offering live performances including comedy, dance, family friendly events, music, opera, art exhibitions, and a year round cinema programme.
Macrobert Arts Centre have been an active member of the Green Arts community for years, but had a long held ambition to bring together their creative programming with their work in making the centre more environmentally sustainable. They felt that by energising their audience and community to take action, they could make far more impact than they could on their own.
Each season, Macrobert Arts Centre uses their creative programme to invite exploration of an idea, question or topic of importance to the contemporary world, which is known as the Conversation. These Conversations have dealt with a wide range of themes and include a mixture of artistic programming and participation opportunities. Over summer 2019, they focused their Conversation on environmental activism, and particularly on inspiring children and families to take action to improve the environment.
They used a live performance of Elmer the Elephant (Selladoor Family) as a stimulus for people to think about our natural environment and what we might do to protect it. They held an Eco Fayre, and were joined by the RSPB and The Woodland Trust, who introduced some simple, hands-on actions that families could replicate together at home. Children (and their grown-ups) made bird feeders and bee hotels from plastic bottles, and learned how woodlands and trees are helping the fight against climate change, flooding and biodiversity loss.
They also worked with local schools and families to hold an environmental-themed ‘epic art competition’, where children and young people aged 5-18 were invited to submit their drawings of a bird or animal affected by an environmental impact. Over 300 entries were received, and were exhibited in The Arthouse, their gallery space, in July and August.
They used this Conversation as a prompt to review and highlight some of the steps they’ve been taking toward greening their practice, including dramatically reducing the use of palm oil and single use plastics in their sweet kiosk. They realised that they could be more active in guiding their audiences toward these options, so introduced some new signage (made from re-purposed scrap card) to help people make greener choices.
What can we learn from this?
“Our Conversations are always lively, vibrant moments in the Macrobert calendar, and it was great to work with children and families to bring extra focus to our green ambitions this summer. We were overwhelmed and delighted by the level of awareness and enthusiasm with which children were keen to champion environmental action. Bringing together our creative programme and our environmental aspirations helped us realise more impact by working alongside our audiences and partners, and helped us to re-energise our own green activity too”. Kathryn Welch, Operations Director, Macrobert Arts Centre
Some of the most noteworthy aspects of this project were:
- Choosing to focus on children and families specifically, allowing them to tailor their activities and aims to this audience’s needs as well as giving the Conversation a clearer identity
- Collaborating with non-arts organisations to forge connections and get expert input from a wider array of sources
- Matching up their programming with how they approached the environmental impact of their own organisation
As a result, the Conversation allowed Macrobert Arts Centre to take a leadership role in encouraging their audiences to take action on environmental issues, drawing connections between creative programming and their own carbon management to take their environmental engagement to a deeper level.
Macrobert Arts Centre are a member of our Green Arts Initiative: a networked community of practice for Scottish cultural organisations committed to reducing their environmental impact. It is free to become part of the community, and there are lots of resources and case studies (like this one!) to support #GreenArts organisations. Take a look at our Green Arts Initiative page for more information.
All images are from Macrobert Arts Centre