“ashdenizen blog and twitter are consistently among the best sources for information and reflection on developments in the field of arts and climate change in the UK” (2020 Network)
ashdenizen is edited by Robert Butler, and is the blog associated with the Ashden Directory, a website focusing on environment and performance.
The Ashden Directory is edited by Robert Butler and Wallace Heim, with associate editor Kellie Gutman. The Directory includes features, interviews, news, a timeline and a database of ecologically – themed productions since 1893 in the United Kingdom. Our own projects include ‘New Metaphors for Sustainability’, ‘Flowers Onstage’ and ‘Six ways to look at climate change and theatre’.
It was only a couple of years ago that this blog was writing about why theatres don’t touch climate change. It seemed, at the time, as if there was something about theatre, or the way people conceived of mainstream theatre, that made the subject almost impossible to treat. This was part of a more general avoidance of the environment as a subject for the performing arts. The Ashden Directory had been launched, back in 2000, as a way of following and encouraging those works which did engage with this subject.
Fast forward to January 2011, and this month alone three climate change plays will open in London – Greenland at the National, The Heretic at the Royal Court, and Water at the Tricycle.
Why is this important? Because climate change alters the way we think about our lives. The news contained within the various IPCC reports will be as influential, as paradigm-shifting, on the way we see ourselves as Darwin’s Origin of Species. It is, ultimately, a question of values and relationships. As such, it is a natural subject for theatre.
But new plays don’t open in a vacuum. For them to succeed, there needs to be a lively engaged audience that has some sense of what is at stake. That’s why we have also been involved with the Open University in producing a new series of podcasts that puts cultural work around climate change in perspective.
The podcasts bring together 17 artists, activists, writers, film-makers, scientists, entrepreneurs and academics, including comedian Marcus Brigstocke, choreographer Siobhan Davies, BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin, architect Carolyn Steele and Mike Hulme, author ofWhy We Disagree About Climate Change.
Radio 4’s Quentin Cooper chairs these four ‘Mediating Change’ discussions which cover the history, publics, anatomy and futures of cultural responses to climate change. The podcasts are now available to download from iTunesU.
A new series of four podcasts on Culture and Climate Change is now online at iTunes U. The discussions bring together artists, writers, film-makers, scientists, academics and journalists with a comedian, a choreographer, a campaigner, and an entrepreneur.
The Mediating Change series is hosted by Quentin Cooper and contributors include Tim Smit, Marcus Brigstocke, Siobhan Davies (see pic), Roger Harrabin, Joe Smith and two of the Ashden Directory’s editors, Wallace Heim and Robert Butler. More details here.
The producer, Vicky Long, says:
Cultural activity in this area is gathering real momentum, with ‘Greenland’ opening at the National Theatre and ‘The Heretic’ opening at the Royal Court early next year. We feel it’s vital a critical framework is developed alongside this emerging work.
This series represents a first sustained exploration of culture and climate change in a publicly-available broadcast-quality format.
Michael Johnson-Chase is a former theatre professor, international program director at the Lark Play Development Center, producer and writer. After a stint as a solar installer, he is currently developing Green Collar Job training programs at Solar One, an environmentally focused arts and education center in NYC soon to feature New York City’s first net zero carbon classroom and performance facility.