Hi Staging Change Network, friends and supporters,
It’s Alice and Josie, Co-Directors of Staging Change. Over the last few months, we’ve been working on some projects behind the scenes (more below). However, as we mark our fourth year as a grassroots organisation, we have made the difficult choice to stop our work as Staging Change.
We have loved building this network, being part of the conversation about environmental sustainability in the theatre industry and creating opportunities to engage in climate justice in the arts. In the rest of this blog, we have taken this moment to look back on some of the work we’ve been part of.
Having been unable to secure funding for the core work of Staging Change, we have always run the network on a voluntary basis. Without financial support, we are no longer able to prioritise Staging Change, and therefore cannot give it the energy required to take effective actions.
Since forming, we feel the number of individuals and organisations working towards a common goal has grown. So, as we step down, we feel hopeful that there are other people taking on the work (and maybe being paid for it too!).
If you want to get involved in green action in the arts, take a look at Julie’s Bicycle’s work, who have been working on this since 2007, as well as the newly formed EcoStage. We truly believe that the arts has a key role in responding to ecological emergency. As storytellers, we have a unique capacity to communicate the urgent need for action. As Alison Tickell (CEO of Julie’s Bicycle) says, “the arts is the difference between knowing knowledge and feeling knowledge”.
As individuals, we will continue to work as freelance creatives, challenging ourselves and collaborators to develop environmentally sustainable practice. If you’d like to work with either of us in this capacity (as consultants or otherwise), please do get in touch.
Alice - www.aliceboyd.info
Josie - www.josiedalejones.com
Celebrate with us
Before we get into it, we just want to say a big thanks to our key collaborators and supporters: HOME Manchester, National Theatre, Adapt, Pleasance, Summerhall, VAULT, ZOO, Greenside, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Fringe Society, Greenhouse Theatre, Julie’s Bicycle and Creative Carbon Scotland. A huge thank you also to all of you in the network for joining us!
How we started:
Alice created a sustainable fringe campaign in 2018. In response to the interest in peer support and learning, she then founded Staging Change. After talking to Josie about the show she was making about the climate crisis, we became co-directors.
Together we wanted to support work being made by creatives that had environmental sustainability at its heart - either in the message of the shows themselves, or in the process and producing of them. As the years went by, more and more conversations were happening and Staging Change became as much a network as it did a bridge between freelancers and organisations and venues (among other things - more on that later).
We have loved building relationships, and have been amazed that over the last 4 years, over 400 freelancers, venues and organisations have joined from all over the world, from the UK, to Japan, to the USA.
We have led green arts workshops for people in and out of the network at various festivals and venues across the UK, including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, VAULT Festival, HOME Manchester, as well as international organisations in Germany and Switzerland. As well as that, it has been so exciting seeing so many of your faces at our networking events and panel discussions, as well as providing bespoke consultancy for a number of theatre companies and venues in the network.
Over the years, we have collected a whole range of inspiring stories and case studies from you all on our blog. These will be available for the rest of the year, so make sure to check them out here.
We will then be moving our blog and resources to a Google Drive folder, so they will be accessible after our website has shut down.
On the ground work at festivals has included rallying people around specific challenges (and solutions too). These have included:
Supported by Fringe Society, the #FutureFringe campaign encouraged Fringe stakeholders (venues, companies, freelancers, locals, participants, audiences) to consider how the festival can be improved for the future.
As a result, in 2021, Staging Change and The Greenhouse set up a pilot steering group made up of seven organisations working in these fields, funded by University of Edinburgh. Through the course of their collaboration, these organisations voiced some of the key challenges facing a better future for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe
We have worked at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe through an open call to award a production with the Staging Change Fringe Award 2019. This production was then supported with a slot at VAULT Festival the following Spring.
We also worked with Creative Carbon Scotland in the same year to deliver a Sustainable Fringe Award to a company and a venue creating work making green choices in their staging and delivery, creating and programming pieces that engaged audiences with some of the current issues we face. The winners were given £100 each.
We worked alongside VAULT Festival again in 2021 to run an award celebrating a production that demonstrated exemplary awareness and consideration of its environmental impact.
They received bespoke consultation from Staging Change and when the festival is able to run again, will receive in-kind press, marketing and artistic support from VAULT Festival.
Along the way, we have received a few commissions to produce installations and art pieces. It was such a joy to apply our creative skills to Staging Change, as well as working with fantastic collaborators.
At VAULT Festival 2020, we created an interactive game of climate charades with design duo Adapt. Give them a follow for brilliant climate-related content.
At HOME Manchester, we created an installation and sound piece inviting the public to collect flower seeds and plant them in the city – a commitment to caring and looking after our planet.
In collaboration with David Shearing, we created an audio piece encouraging listeners to tune into their surroundings and to question their idea of locality.
There would be little point to doing all this work without linking in with the wider community of individuals and organisations working on this same mission.
We contributed to the Theatre Green Book, which sets standards for making productions and theatre buildings sustainable. Check it out here.
In response to this, we worked with Josie’s company ThisEgg and Oxford Playhouse to create a case study for suing the Theatre Green Book. Soon to be released!
Alongside this, we took part in a number of discussion and working groups, with fantastic industry professionals such as Paule Constable, Vicki Mortimer and Paul Handley.
Shouting about our work
In response to our work, we’ve had some exciting reports of our work in the press, from featuring on Sky News in 2018, to write ups in euronews, The Scotsman and The Stage. Here are some lovely quotes:
"Staging Change is still small but it’s growing, and it needs to because Edinburgh Fringe faces particular problems in becoming greener, not least because of its pop-up nature." - Lyn Gardner, The Stage 2019
”With big things on the horizon… [they plan] to work with renowned London theatres and spread [their] message far and wide. “We have to work together”.” - Maeve Campbell, euronews 2019
We’ll still be working on climate action in our practice, so please do get in touch if you would like to work with us! We believe that we all have an individual responsibility to improve our practice in response to the intersectional nature of the climate crisis. At the same time, we need collective action and support from those at the top of the industry to create opportunities for change.
5 things you can do before we go:
Hold yourself accountable. Develop an environmental policy. Check out Julie's Bicycle's Environmental Policy template.
Challenge yourself and each other. Whether you’re a venue, freelancer or organisation, keep asking questions to each other. Read our first ever blog: 5 questions to ask venues.
Share your learnings. Telling each other our discoveries and mistakes is a great way to speed up change across the industry. Read about these amazing artists' work.
Broaden your thinking. Consider how the climate and ecological crises intersect with other injustices. Check out Intersectional Environmentalist.
Move forward together. Join other networks, such as EcoStage to keep collaborating with other makers and venues.
While Staging Change will be stopping, there are a number of organisations working on climate change in the arts.
Julie’s Bicycle - a pioneering not-for-profit mobilising the arts and culture to take action on the climate and ecological crisis.
EcoStage - a go-to place for practical guidelines, ecological values and the exchange of knowledge.
Theatre Green Book - standards for making productions sustainably, for making theatre buildings sustainable, and for improving operations like catering and front of house.
Thank you for everything!
Alice and Josie
Co-Directors of Staging Change