1.5 Degrees Live!

Caitlin Evans: Interview with Patrick Dunne


“We looked around and realised maybe we’d have to do it, because if we don’t do it nobody else will. We can’t just expect other people to step up and act for us anymore.”

Climate change and the environment are set to be a ket part of the conversation at this year's Edinburgh Fringe, and '1.5 Degrees Live!' Is a show at the heart of it. A mass reading of the IPCC Report in a shipping container, 10 hours a day for 5 days. I spoke to Patrick Dunne about what motivated him to make this show and how it was going.


Tell me about the show: What is it? Where and when are you performing?


The show is being performed 11am to 9pm, everyday from the 12th to 16th August. We are performing 10 hours a day at Greenside Infirmary Street, in a shipping container. The show is a full reading of the IPCC report from 2018 on the impacts of global warming above 1.5 degrees. We are going to get about 120 people to read it with us in 15 - 20 min chunks, 2 people per hour, and we are going to read the whole thing! That’s the plan!


Amazing! It sounds like a challenge…


Yes, it is a challenge. It was a bright idea in January. I went swimming in the sea with my girlfriend and, maybe it was hyperthermia or something, but we thought to ourselves “that report is going to disappear.” The risk was that with Brexit and Trump, it would be in the headlines for a week with all of its warnings, its possible outcomes and the potential actions that we can take... we decided that this was going to disappear unless we kept talking about it.


We thought it would be great if someone read it out at the Fringe, like they did with the Chilcot report in 2016 (Iraq Out and Loud production). I know lots of people who remember that. I don’t know anybody that actually went to see it, but lots of people remember it because it was a different and challenging event. We wanted to see someone read out the IPCC report in the same way. We looked around and realised maybe we’d have to do it, because if we don’t do it nobody else will. We can’t just expect other people to step up and act for us anymore, so we thought we’d try and do it!


What is your aim for the piece? What impact do you want it to have?


Our aim is to make climate change part of the conversation and to have as many conversations as we can. We want to invite comedians, performers, authors from the International Festival, acrobats from the Circus, people from all over the world, because they are all here. It's pretty dense, but we want people to leave having learnt at least one thing new about the issue.


What we really want is for emissions to go down, but I don’t think this particular event over a week is going to contribute much towards that. We’d like people to go and talk about it. The more people that talk about it, the more difficult questions get asked. The more difficult questions get asked, the more politicians have to answer them.

"We want climate change and the environment to be a central topic at this year's Fringe. For me personally, I think the climate crisis, climate change and the science behind it needs to be a part of every conversation, whether that be airport expansion, football or art."

What audience do you hope to reach? It sounds like you are inviting specific politicians and artists to read, are you opening it up for anybody to be part of the conversation?


We are following the model of the Iraq Out Loud event at the Edinburgh Fringe a few years ago. People went to it because interesting people were reading. If, for example, a comedian with 500,000 twitter followers was to read, people may come who have never heard of us, what we are doing, why we are doing it. They may not have even heard about the IPCC report.


If we can attract people like that and they tweet about what we are doing, suddenly we are passing the message on to a new group of people. outside of the ‘green bubble’. It's important to get people to read who have a completely different audience than those who would traditionally be interested in climate change and the environment.


Have you met any challenges in the development of the show? Or do you anticipate the you’ll meet any challenges along the way?


The report itself is a challenge. It’s a very scientific document, which is not really written to be read out loud to an audience. It is full of references, the sentences are full of clauses, the pages broken by tables, models and graphs. So, it’s a challenge for us to present it to people without editing or interpreting it in anyway because it is not our intention, nor are we qualified, to do that. Our vision is to lay out this report as truthfully and uninterpreted as possible.


We have run lots of trial readings to look at how to present it and how to make it readable. Especially for the people reading it, if someone has never seen it before it can be quite tough. Within the report is amazing stuff; amazing insight, amazing facts and really alarming details and projections based on incredibly thorough science.

"What I am always struck by when I’m reading it is how many thousands of scientists and studies have contributed to the report. There’s a real depth and weight of global research and science. Not a word is put in lightly, without references or support."

We need to stay true to the document, while at the same time giving the audience the opportunity to listen, absorb it and go out better informed than when they came in.


Leading on from that, how do you think theatre and the arts can be used as a form of activism?


All the creative arts give people a way to represent the world as they experience it, be it through the challenges they face or their vision of what the world could be in the future. We’re one show among many that are going to be talking about climate change and the impact of the environmental situation we are in at the moment.


All of these stories and many, many more that are needed to convey the emotional response people have to environmental collapse, have a huge role to play because they shape a narrative.


I’m interested in the fact you believe that "we need to do this because nobody else is going to." I think that’s very bold. Who do you think holds responsibility in creating work that responds to science like this? Who is responsible for promoting awareness and continuing conversations about climate change?


In the last 8 or 9 months, Greta Thunberg, the school strikers, Extinction Rebellion and others around the world have shown that people are standing up and are doing it themselves. It's very empowering to think we can do something! It’s been encouraging to think we can make a difference in a small way and attract other people to be a part of it.


Who has inspired you to make this piece?


Greta Thunberg is a big inspiration and an obvious one. We don’t want to make her a saint or whatever as she already has hateful press… but if you listen to her speeches they are brilliant. We were inspired by non-violent direct action, people standing up and making a difference like the suffragettes and the civil rights movement, ordinary people standing up and doing something.


I’ve been inspired by the amount of environmental activism over the past year, especially around the IPCC report and more recently the IPBES report about biodiversity loss. It’s really nice to get in contact with people who have supported us in taking this to the Fringe.

"There is a willingness for people to make change and produce challenging and interesting theatre."

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