CDE Launch

April 3, 2019
More than 190 UK arts and culture institutions and individuals have declared a climate and ecological emergency
A beautifully-curated and disruptive procession, stopping at institutions along the River Thames set off from Somerset House with more than 150 people this morning
Declarers include Somerset House, Battersea Arts Centre, Cardboard Citizens, HOME in Manchester, Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, London National Park City, Royal Court Theatre, Jerwood Arts, The Junction (Cambridge), Invisible Dust, writer Jay Griffiths, director Peter Kosminsky and actor Tamaryn Payne

Culture Declares Emergency launched today, with more than 190 leading UK arts and culture institutions and individuals having today declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency. The first wave of Declarers include some of London’s best known arts and cultural venues including The Royal Court, The Lyric Hammersmith, The Gate Theatre and Battersea Arts Centre as well as actor Tamaryn Payne from Hollyoaks and Peter Kosminsky, director of Wolf Hall and Secret State. Full list of the first wave of Declarers is below [1].

Created by by a group of concerned individuals and institutions from the arts and culture sector, the Culture Declares Emergency launch has been stopping traffic at Somerset House going on to back up traffic across Waterloo Bridge this morning, with a beautifully curated and disruptive nonviolent horse led procession through London to mark the occasion. More than 150 people are present including Executive Director of The Royal Court Theatre Lucy Davies and Director of Somerset House Jonathan Reekie CBE. A real horse was deliberately chosen to lead the procession to symbolically show the need for culture to align with nature, alongside the grave truth that all living species are in peril, with large mammals being most at risk of extinction.

Walking with the procession are ‘Heralds’ wearing living grass coats grown by visual artists Ackroyd & Harvey and carrying banners with names of declarers listed. A newly composed soundscape by Mira Calix features in the ceremony of declarations of Planetary Emergency, as well as readings from selected ‘Letters To The Earth’, writings submitted by the general public for a nationwide cultural action – the first project of Culture Declares which will take place on Friday 12 April [2].

Inspired by Extinction Rebellion and School Strike For Climate, Culture Declares Emergency is organising a range of events in the run up to Extinction Rebellion’s International Rebellion, which begins Monday 15 April.

Bridget McKenzie, cultural consultant and one of the organisers of Culture Declares Emergency, said:  “Culture Declares Emergency is about revelation of truth and declaration of our intentions. It is coming together in one sound with and for many voices, in solidarity with all those affected by the Climate and Ecological Emergency. It is the first of many waves of artists and cultural organisations announcing their intentions. It begins in London, a place implicated with the extractive and colonial histories that have led us to this Emergency but it is also a place rich with culture that can be turned towards the task of reimagining how we relate to one another and the living planet.”

Karishma Rafferty, a curator at Somerset House, said: “Somerset House is a historical site with over two and a half thousand creative residents based here, our cultural programme is all about engaging with the critical issues of our times, which includes, obviously, the current Climate and Ecological Emergency, so this is completely in keeping with our values in terms of galvanizing the sector in terms of acting on the Emergency at hand.  

“It just seems like the right thing to be doing. We address the environment as a very strong theme within our programme, we have two programmes coming up later in the month which specifically address the role of language and voice in tackling the issues at hand and we really believe that it is not just politicians and scientists that need to be engaged in galvanising the public, but actually artists and the creative sector together play a really important role.

“It requires not just one organisation or institution or even a very large community like ours, it requires all kinds of different groups within society taking this up.”

Cathy Eastburn, a Musician and Therapeutic Sound Worker at Sarasa Sound, said:“The continuing denial by the UK government that climate breakdown is now unfolding and their failure to do anything meaningful about are terrifying and unacceptable. It’s criminal negligence.”

“So I’m Declaring Climate Emergency as a musician and therapeutic sound worker to encourage more people to take positive action and to hopefully inspire the UK government to accept the truth of climate change and act in accordance with the facts. We can’t squander any more time on denial or pretending it’s not happening. I think artists have an important role to play in speaking the truth and leading by positive example. We owe it to ourselves and our children to be honest, generous, loving and brave.”

“Stories are political. As culture makers we are all engaged in telling stories, in building narratives about ourselves and the world. As long as we operate only as individuals and fail to understand ourselves as intrinsically connected, we will not meet the scale of the challenge. But we can tell a different story and shift the narrative. We can tell the story of a global community, each part affecting the other. We can understand that community is the answer to climate change. That we all need to work together because we all have a stake in the health of the planet. It will take all of us to achieve climate justice. Now is the time for change” Anthony Simpson-Pyke from the Gate Theatre who are declaring.

Pledges
Those declaring will make a series of pledges, and follow up with a range of actions to respond to the emergency. For example:
  • “The Royal Court is declaring because we have a long-standing commitment to sustainability and producing climate plays and we want to be part of ramping up the urgency. We are committed to using our spaces and our platform to doing so.” Lucy Davies, Executive Producer.
  • Amongst 7 pledges, ONCA gallery based in Brighton, pledge to “Work towards reducing ONCA’s CO2 emissions to net zero by 2025 by continuously reviewing and developing our environmental policies in dialogue with our suppliers” Persephone Pearl, Director
  • Invisible Dust (London and Scarborough), who work with leading artists and scientists to produce unique and exciting works of contemporary art, will commit to making the emergency visible through visual arts, working hard to reach more audiences with a range of work through the lens of climate change

If you are an organisation or cultural practitioner and would like to declare in future announcements, please do so here.[3]

Why culture?

Through their prodigious convening powers, the arts and culture bring people together across differences to find commonality.  

At a time of emergency culture gives space to articulate our place and survival in the web of life: creating the conditions for change, transforming and renewing our stories and visions of a liveable world.  We can shape new ways of being human on Earth. The human imagination is infinite: we are all creators, makers and alchemists of change.

Culture explores the fierce poetry of the heart; the pain of what we are losing and a yearning for the restoration and celebration of life.

Culture energises people’s courage and capacities for action to respond collectively to the challenges being faced.

Being bold, active players in this great re-imagining is why and how culture matters.

The declaration movement has been gaining pace internationally. It started with Climate Mobilization in the US and Australia, and is now promoted byExtinction Rebellion, Sunrise Movement and School Strike for Climate amongst others. The number of UK councils declaring is increasing all the time – including the Greater London Authority – with councils committing resources to tackling this emergency. Their declarations state they will work with civic partners, so this is where culture comes in. [4]

Judy Ling-Wong CBE, Black Environment Network, commented: “It is really important that individuals feel powerful. They need to know that how they choose to live and what they think and say shapes the world.”

“To do this effectively they need the right information. Our future cannot be left to a few passionate specialist organisations or to governments that shape actions based on economics and not on the real threat to our future. We need everyone to play their part.”

If organisations and practitioners have creative or civic resources to contribute, such as meeting space, biodiverse places, skilled people, community partners, or innovative ideas and programmes, then declaration allows them to explain the contribution they can make. There is no more important way to express the value of arts and culture at this time.

In areas or councils where an emergency has been declared, organisations and people may be called upon by local people, politicians or funders to respond. But making your own declaration, as an organisation or as an individual, is a good place to start. If an area or council has not declared, culture can lead by example, using the power of declarations to inspire others to do the same.

Notes to editors

  1. List of declarers:

Ackroyd & Harvey, Adam Weymouth, Alan Boldon, Alison Tickell, Amanda Brown, Amelia    Amos Jacob, Anisha Grover, Anna Hope, Anne-Marie Culhane, Anthony Simpson-Pike, Art.Earth, Arts Admin, Asya Robins, Azul Valerie Thome, Barbara Anne Bull, Battersea Arts Centre, Becky Burchell, Begüm Bitir, Belarus Free Theatre, Biljana, Biodanza Time, Bram Thomas Arnold, Breaking Convention, Brian McKenzie, C Space, Cardboard Citizens, Caroline Pedler, Caroline Ross, Caroline Royds, Carryl Sorene, Cate Chapman, Cathy Eastburn, Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World, CHANGE Festival, Christian de Sousa, Claire Carter, Claire MacDonald, Clare Lovett, Clare Whistler, Climate Healers, Climate Museum UK, ClimateKeys, COAL art & environment, Cocoloco, Common Unity, Corelate, Creative Carbon Scotland, Culture Unstained, Damian Hebron, Dancing Tao, Darren Pryce, Deirdre O’Mahony, Di Robson, Do the Green Thing, Dorinda Talbot, Dr. Cathy Fitzgerald, Earth Nut, Edwina Fitzpatrick, Ella Crowley, Ella Duffy, Emilio Mula, Emily Critchley, Emma Burleigh, Emma Pavans de Ceccatty, Farnham Eco Cinema, Fashion Revolution, Felicitas Aga, Feral Theatre, Fiona Cunningham-Reid, Fiona Massari, Fish Factory Arts, Friction Arts, Gate Theatre, Giulia, Happy Museum Project, Heleen Elizabeth, Helen Wyatt, Hilary Jennings, HOME, In Defense of Animals, Incognito Art Space, Invisible Dust, Isis Usborne, Isley Lynn, Jackie Yeomans, Jack Harries, James Aldridge, James Murray-White, James Roberts, Jane Mather, Jay Griffiths, Jelly Green, Jenn Richter, Jenny Jones, Jerwood Arts, Jessica Caudery, Jiggy Bhore, Jo Reuben, Jodi Le Bigre, John Dunbar Kilburn, Jude Allen, Jude Rogers, Judy Ling Wong CBE, Julie Alice Chappell, Kay Michael, Katharine Burke, Kathleen Jones, Kilter Theatre, Lewisham Unity, Library of Change, Lies Van Hee, Lisa Autogena, London National Park City, London National Park City Foundation, Lorelei Lodestar, Lost Species Day, Louise Mor, Lucy Davies, Lucy Hopkins, Lucy Kerr, Lucy Neal, Lyric Theatre, Magda Oldziejewska, Maria Armanda Goncalves, Marion Leeper, Mark Eminger, Mark Goldthorpe, Mat Osmond, Matt Hocking, Meg McKenzie, Meike Brunkhorst, Miracle Productions, Miss L Barbagallo, Natalie King, Natalie Taylor, Nathalie S, New Futures Academy, New Weather Institute, Nikki Tomlinson, ONCA Gallery, Orlaith Treacy, Ottilie Neser, Penny Florence, Peter Kosminsky, Petia Tzanova, Philip Webb Gregg, Phineas Vidkun Knesal Olafssen, Pisanfil73, Precious Earth Art Collective, Pulse Arts    Rebecca Clark, Refugi and Company – Sanctuary, Richard Evans, Rose Fenton, Royal Court Theatre, Ruth Ben-Tovim, SAIL (Sustainable Arts In Leeds), Sara Zaltash, Sarah Ellen Lundy, Sarah Woods, Scott Marsden, Shelley Castle, Simple Gifts, Slow Dans, Small Earth Institute, Smashfest, Somerset House, Sonia Hammond, Sophie Morrish, Staging Change, Station House Opera, Steven Starr, Sue Davies, Susan Benn, Susan Richardson, Sustainable Museums, Talking Birds, Tamaryn Payne, The Climate Save Movement, The Green Room, The Junction, The Sun Exchange, Theatre of Awakening, Tina Lawlor Mottram, Tom Henderson Smith, Tom Scott, Tony Wheeler, World Saving Hustle, Yael Filipovic, Zoe Lafferty, Zoe Young

Letters to the Earth: https://www.letterstotheearth.com/

The Culture Declares Emergency toolkit

The Culture Declares Emergency toolkit offers a template text and many resources to help with declaring, responding to the emergency and then sustaining change. Those declaring believe that culture is essential to help guide us in making the transformational change necessary to address the emergency of the combined catastrophes of climate change, a mass extinction of vital biodiversity and a degradation of ecosystems everywhere. Culture has the power to bring people together, disrupt the status quo and spark change.

Councils declaring climate emergency: https://www.campaigncc.org/councils_climate_emergency, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/newsbeat-47570654