The Climate Fringe is an online hub for events with a focus on climate justice, the arts and creative approaches. Kat Jones of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland talks a bit about how the last few months have changed the way they work.
Back in February Stop Climate Chaos Scotland were preparing for a frantic countdown to the COP26 climate talks, scheduled to be held in Glasgow in November 2020. Among other things we were planning to launch a website to bring together all the civil society-led events taking place across Scotland as the buzz of COP coming to Glasgow grew.
Just before we planned to go live with the website, however, coronavirus struck and a total rethink was needed. We repurposed our plans to create a hub for online events, with podcasts, blogs and webinars to highlight what’s going on in the Scottish climate movement and launched at the end of May, the day that a new date for COP was announced.
Since then, hundreds of events have been uploaded on the site and we are finding we are reaching far beyond Scotland. We are all finding that, with the difficulties and limitations of not being able to meet in person, comes the freedom of the online format to engage far wider. And we are finding that event audiences are coming from all over the world and, importantly, that speakers from the global south are in the line-up of events that would be usually very hard to those voices.
At the Climate Fringe we are particularly aiming to inspire people to get involved through connecting people with creative approaches online, bringing forward the voices of those most affected by climate breakdown, and highlighting where artists and activists are working together.
ÚNA Festival is a case in point. This Glasgow-based arts festival links artists in Latin America and Scotland and has a focus on stories, myth and art, and how they connect us with the natural world.
I spoke to Isabella Noero, the director of ÚNA, who is originally from Colombia, about the planning for the festival that took place in July. She said “We found that moving the festival to online had its challenges, but we have also been able to bring in more artists from Latin America, and from less accessible locations, to the digital edition of the festival, while opening it up to audiences all over the world.”
ÚNA will be bringing artists from across Latin America to Glasgow during COP26 in November 2021 and this year’s online event has helped build their connections ahead of that. “Chile held the presidency of the 2019 summit and so the link with Scotland is particularly important” said Isabella, adding “The eyes of the world will be on Glasgow during COP and so we will aim to share the richness of Scottish culture and highlight the many similarities it shares with Latin America”
Unsurprisingly Creative Carbon Scotland has been taking an innovative approach to communicating during the pandemic. The organisation was set up to work with the arts and culture community on climate and sustainability, and has found creative ways of producing online events that break the usual panel discussion mould.
“Our next event will consist of a participatory public art work by Rosanna Irvine where participants will connect to devise collective manifestos” says Lewis Coenen-Rowe, Transformation Through Culture Officer at Creative Carbon Scotland.
They are also working with artist and games designer Matteo Menapace to create a workshop disguised as a role-playing game as well as a virtual ‘Museum of the FutureNow’ created by artists Jo Hodges and Robbie Coleman. “These events will allow participants to step out of their daily roles and to be more imaginative and playful in the process of imagining solutions to shared problems” said Lewis.
At Govanhill Swap-market, a space for swapping and sharing resources, artist-activist Ailie Rutherford has been running fortnightly online meetings for their local members.
“We are coming together to draw, sketch and discuss, around subjects of social justice, the economy and climate breakdown.” said Ailie. “The aim is to help people find space for creative resistance and action in times of physical distancing. And what’s really exciting is to see the ways people are connecting this work up to create really strong networks and trans-local collaborations. A lot of people are talking about the need for new radical imaginations; the need to collectively imagine a different way of being, living and working together. I think this is where art-activism becomes really important and useful.”
But taking things online is not the whole answer, and there are risks too. Ailie’s Swap market events have seen many new faces, many dialling in from across the globe, however Ailie found that at least half of their usual Swap Market members do not have access online.
“We have also needed to instigate a lot of offline ways of sharing and remote exchanges” says Ailie. “We’ve been using the Swap Market’s shop windows, local notice boards and poster sites to host art-works.”
Amid deep uncertainty over the pandemic a combination of online innovation and offline activities are essential if we are to engage people across Scottish society and get more involvement in climate and environment issues in the run-up to COP26.
We have 13 months until the biggest conference that the UK has ever hosted, with nearly 200 world leaders coming to Glasgow to discuss how to respond to the climate emergency. We cannot let the coronavirus crisis result in a lack of action on the climate crisis. This is an opportunity to have conversations across Scottish civil society and connect with the global voices most affected by climate breakdown. There are already so many events and activities to get involved with and we hope this will grow even more over the coming months.
We are inviting organisations and individuals to run events to engage even more people and to make them part of the Climate Fringe. Please connect with us at Climatefringe.org