Staging Change 2019 round up

Alice Boyd

2020 marks the start of the climate decade, 10 critical years for climate action. Now is the time to act. At Staging Change, we have a number of exciting projects in the pipeline, which we can't wait to share with you. It is more important than ever that we look at how we can make the theatre industry carbon neutral. Over the next year, we will be exploring this and sharing the work of artists and venues who are already making strides towards this goal.

This time of year is also a fantastic time to reflect on the previous year. 2019 was a big one for Staging Change! Here are some of our highlights:

Our launch

Staging Change network
The first theatre companies to join the Staging Change network

Staging Change was launched in February of 2019 after the success of the #SustainableFringe campaign at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2018. After a number of late nights creating the website and introducing the network to theatre companies and venues, Staging Change was born! We now have over 200 artists, groups and venues in the Staging Change network, including major Fringe venues, National Theatre Wales and the house touring network.

Letters To The Earth

Letters To The Earth at the North Wall Arts Centre, Oxford

In April, Poltergeist and Staging Change performed a reading of Letters to the Earth at The North Wall Arts Centre, Oxford, as part of the Alchymy festival. Inspired by the school climate strikes and extinction rebellion, Culture Declares Emergency invited people across the UK to write letters to the Earth to be read across the nation's theatres and art venues. Letters to the Earth was backed by Royal Court, Shakespeare’s Globe and National Theatre Wales, and supported by award-winning poet Kate Tempest, Bafta-winner Michaela Coel and playwright Simon Stephens. Read more here.

Sustainability Day at The Pleasance

Dr Matt Winning and Oluwafemi Nylander speaking as part of the green performance panel

In June, Staging Change held day of workshops and talks at the Pleasance Theatre, London. The day started with a panel discussion with Tom Harper from Unusual Rigging, Josie Tucker and Richard Ashton from Adapt, and Josie Dale-Jones from ThisEgg. This was followed by a design workshop from Shankho Chaudhuri (Production Design Assistant at the National Theatre), Dr. Leila Sheldrick (Lecturer at Imperial College London) and Fernanda Dobal (interdisciplinary designer), where participants created prototypes for tackling specific sustainability issues in the theatre and entertainment industry.

The second half of the day included a panel about green performance, with speakers including ​actor and Extinction Rebellion and Culture Declares Activist, Tamaryn Payne; climate comedian, Dr Matt Winning; actor and poet, Femi Nylander; and ecocritic, Julie Hudson. This was followed by a performance of Pleasance's show 'Kill Climate Deniers'.

Speakers and workshop leaders at the Sustainability Day

Start Your Sustainable Fringe

Speakers on our Creating A Greener Future Panel. From left to right: Luke Rollason, James Mackenzie, Sir Timothy O'Shea, Lyn Gardner, Bea Udale-Smith

At the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August, Staging Change, Creative Carbon Scotland and the University of Edinburgh’s Social Responsibility and Sustainability Department collaborated to produce a day of workshops, talks and activities to help Fringe-goers have a more #SustainableFringe. Participants heard from a range of exciting speakers, picked up tips on how to reduce their impact as Fringe-goers, and met others who are passionate about green action.

Staging Change held two events as part of this. The first was a design workshop, led by Shankho Chaudhuri (Production Design Assistant at the National Theatre), where participants discussed how the festival could be more environmentally sustainable. The second event was our 'Creating A Greener Future' panel, where we heard from theatre critic, Lyn Gardner; chair of the Fringe Society and former Principal of Edinburgh University, Sir Tim O'Shea; director of ZOO Venues, James Mackenzie; and theatre makers, Bea Udale-Smith and Luke Rollason.

“Science gives us knowledge, but one of the things that art can do is give us meaning” - Lyn Gardner
"The message you are given is that your work is disposable. So you begin to treat what you make it with as if it were disposable." - Luke Rollason
"We can no longer make art for art's sake" - Bea Udale-Smith
"Venues want to engage to make the festival more sustainable and better for everyone. Venues and participants have to work together" - James Mackenzie
"Reducing our carbon footprint is one of the Fringe Society's top eight goals" - Sir Timothy O'Shea


Winners of the Sustainable Fringe Awards

At the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Creative Carbon Scotland, in collaboration with Staging Change, hosted the Sustainable Fringe Awards. One theatre company and one venue were awarded £100 for an innovative idea seeking to tackle issues of climate change or environmental sustainability at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, in design, content or execution. The winners were Pianodrome, a majestic 100-seater amphitheatre made entirely from upcycled pianos, and the carbon neutral show 'How To Save A Rock'. Read more about the winners here.

Staging Change also worked with the VAULT Festival to curate a list of the top green shows at the festival, which engage with topics of climate change and environmental sustainability. 'How To Save A Rock' won the Staging Change Award 2019, giving them a guaranteed slot at VAULT Festival 2020. Click here to read more about the show and Staging Change's other top picks.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe activities

A selection of shows who took part in our green flyering campaign

At the festival, we held a number of events and campaigns. This included weekly 'SustainabiliTEAs' held at major venues, Pleasance, Summerhall, Underbelly and ZOO Venues. Each week, festival-participants could come along for a cup of tea and a chat about environmental sustainability at the festival. We also held a 'Sustainability Social' at Greenside venues.

Our flyering campaign was a real hit, with over 100 shows adding our 'Take A Photo' and 'Recycle Me' graphics to their print material. This encouraged artists to flyer responsibly, reducing their print run and the amount of paper waste left over at the end of the festival.

VAULT Festival workshop and resources

As the year drew to a close, we began looking forward to our activities for 2020. We began working with VAULT Festival to encourage participating shows to make their shows sustainably. We held a workshop for participants at the VAULT Festival offices in November, and have created a green guide for shows.

Join the network

Whether you're a green machine or new to the movement, everyone is welcome to join the Staging Change network. Find out more about how you can join here.

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