Sustainability: welcoming, accommodate and transporting artists
The Kunstenfestivaldesarts is an international arts festival dedicated to contemporary theatre, performance, dance and by extension film and visual arts. It takes place in 20 cultural institutions in Brussels.
We too are thinking about how we can become more sustainable/greener/ecological when it comes to welcoming, accommodate and transporting artists during the festival. For example, last year we abolished the small plastic bottles that we gave to artists during rehearsals and performances. Instead, we asked them to bring their own drinking bottles to reduce the one-off plastic consumption.
Each year we also prepare a welcome package for each artist, including a paper brochure with all the necessary information for their stay in Brussels. I’m now working on an online interactive map with all the information instead of the paper brochure.
Concretely, I was wondering how you (as a festival/venue) receive, transport and accommodate artists in the most ecological/sustainable way? And if you could give me some tips or examples?
Thanks in advance
I am one of the IETM advisors and have been working as a producer/director for a couple of festivals with some thinking about how to address the Climate Emergency and be more sustainable.
To meet the conditions of the Paris Agreement we need to get to zero emissions quickly. That means a significant shift in the way we work. #changemeanschange
I look at this in 3 ways:
1. Practical ways to reduce carbon emissions and waste
Bottles and online information is a good start. Be aware that a lot of online options are also very resource heavy and rely on tech that use rare minerals as well as power to keep them charged. Does it need an App? Is this is a good use of resources? Is the material being created being read? If you are making more videos and interactive materials, being aware that this takes a lot more energy and strorage, etc. Are there other ways to share information? I think we need to remember that our special knowledge and skill is in the live experience. This is being lost as the world spends more and more time on screens. How can our sector help encourage people off their screens as part of a sustainable future.
Audit the materials the festival creates and the waste it creates then seek to reduce it. This asks you to look through supply chains and think about a circular economy approach so you create less materials to create less waste, recyle wherever possible and be really honest about whether its not possible, so really interrogate why? At Sydney Festival there was a challenge to the marketing department because they had a new variation on the brand every year but this was so wasteful as nothing could be used again...and it was slowly changed.
In the last Festival I directed we committed to support small local businesses as a way to practice radical localism, shorten supply chains, reduce transport of materials and boost the local economy. In the process we discovered some wonderful new catering options who were social enterprises helping to give disadvantaged people jobs and also source food locally.
Transport is a big issue. I made a committment to halve transport emmissions and encourage people not to fly. That is a huge challenge in Australia because it is such a big country and people fly without thinking but we have started to challenge the trend. I lead by example, try not to fly if I can use other means of transport. I was planning to come to the Tromso meeting travelling 40% by train which is a big commitment when coming from Australia. You are lucky in Europe as the train networks are excellent. If you are bringing people from the same region who don't know each other, can they travel together? It starts to ask questions like when does the Festival begin? Does it begins when people leave home and start travelling. Can you share these stories? By sharing journeys I have had many wonderful conversations and made new friends. I have had many meetings with people when travelling together so new ways of travelling offer opportunities for new ways of working.
Regarding accommodation I always look for companies with an environmental impact statement. Just asking for it is environmental advocacy. I started experimenting with artists being billeted with local people. There was some resistance but when I pointed out that this was not really different to Airbnb, but that people were donating their rooms so it wasn't a financial transacton and the money saved could be spent on artists. Then more people then got on board.
I am interested in where community development meets audience development with my eye firmly on what kind of world we want to live in and to try and spend most money on paying people and supporting small local business.
We have started exploring how to be plastic free, who would be most impacted and how far we take it through the supply chains. It certainly helps to see where the real challenges are.
2. Communication. Exploring ways the work itself and martketing communicates about sustainability and the Climate Emergency. OK, I understand that audiences don't want all the work in a Festival to be about climate change but it may be useful to assess where your audience is on this crisis and to be creative about how the festival can communicate to encourage new perspectives, ideas and conversations about how to address all the various challenges that Climate change presents.
We also considered the other means of communication such as website, social media program and how to share the stories about how the Festival is respnding to the Climate Crisis.
3. Systems and structures that need to change in order to make long term change.
One of the ways I have started to think about it is to look at the percentage of artists that are commissioned and programmed locally, regionally, nationally, and then looking overseas to the same international region, then those from a long way away. Just to study it and see what the trends are, then to see how adjustments might change carbon emmisions.
There are some strong structural challenges in the arts in Australia, E.G. a dominance of white people work in the arts in a very multicultural society. In an effort to support other voices and the local Indigenous community we only brought First Nations and black / Asian international speakers for our last festival as these voices offered new perspectives to many of the festial participants, supported local voices that are not being heard and sent a strong message about structural change that needs to take place in our society.
I use triple bottom line accounting and try to consider the social and environmental impact of every decision.
And keep asking difficult questions. That is how we make change.
I hope that helps.
Thank you, Pippa, for sharing your opinion and practice! very useful points and angles that makes sense when thinking of new ways and approaches.