Merry Christmas

The festive season is upon us. Which means Devoted and Disgruntled is only a month away

Last D&D I called two conversations. One was called ‘art and activism: how art can change the world’. The second one almost didn’t happen.

I’d been researching the potential development of fracking in the UK since August 2013. I knew I wanted to turn my research into a performance but I wasn’t sure about the way forwards. So I tentatively called a session ‘a play about fracking…’. Chris Grady picked up on this and we had a very good conversation.

I’ve been plugging away at the fracking project over the past 12 months. I’ve tried to set up a development process, found collaborators, made an unsuccessful grants for the arts application (who hasn’t!), had an early draft of the script rejected from a new writing festival, explored the possibility of reworking the project as a board game with Cambridge academics, decided it needed to be about energy policy more broadly…

12 months ago I only had an inkling of how many brilliant people are using creativity to change the world. I’ve been very pleased to discover that I’m not the only one working in this area.

It’s been great to find out about the various groups united in the Art Not Oil coalition. BP or not BP, Liberate Tate, Shell out Sounds and others are all staging creative interventions to highlight the issue of oil sponsorship of our major cultural institutions.

Looking around on twitter one evening I came across Tipping Point, an arts organisation that exists to ‘energise the artistic response to climate change’. Platform is another organisation anyone interested in this area should be in touch with.

And it’s great to see theatre spaces getting involved. To name but a few events this year – Chris Rapley and Duncan Macmillan’s 2071 at The Royal Court was accompanied by a ‘day of action‘ to provide practical ideas for making small changes in our own lives to help counteract climate change. The Bush ran a session on youth democracy as part of Radar festival. The Arcola offers discounts for theatre tickets if you bring wood to burn in their wood-burning stove…  These just a few examples of theatre spaces making opportunities for audiences to actively engage with creating the future.

Aside from the logistics of pulling a development process together the biggest artistic problem I’ve been wrestling with over the past 12 months is how to tell the story about climate change. It’s a massive problem to open up. It raises a series of questions to which there is no obvious answer.

More and more people are engaging with the issue of climate change but still many people would rather not think about it. It’s everywhere but most people don’t talk about it much. Perhaps because they feel it’s too big a problem without any clear solution. As Naomi Klein says – “A lot of what we call apathy is just people not knowing how to deal with the overwhelming emotions. So you just push it away”.

I’ll be honest. I’d pretty much exhausted my enthusiasm for the fracking project when I was introduced to Clive Elsworth.

At the same time I’ve been trying to make a performance about fracking, Clive has been developing a musical about Climate Change.

Clive is also a representative of Citizens’ Climate Lobby in the UK.

Since 2007 CCL has been working to inspire “political will for a liveable world by empowering individuals to experience breakthroughs in exercising their personal and political power”.

There is now an international network of 200+ CCL groups campaigning for Fee and Dividend in countries around the world. http://www.pathwaytoparis.org/ sets out CCL’s strategy to move the world to price carbon in Paris next December.

I think artistic responses to climate change need to balance showing the seriousness and scale of the problem with providing audiences with a better understanding of how they can take positive action. It’s very useful to be able to point audiences to structures which can provide support as they process their response to climate change. CCL is one such structure.

I’m delighted to be joining forces with Clive on Climate Change the musical and to be working to develop CCL UK alongside.

Come and find us at D&D10.

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About hughchapmansblog

Poet and performance maker based in Cambridge and London

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