2pm Trafalgar Sq tomorrow - “Rally for the Imagination”: artists, cultural workers and leaders call on Arts Council England to Declare Climate Emergency
On Friday 27th September, the final day of Global Strike for Climate, Culture Declares Emergency teams up with Music Declares Emergency and their 2000+ signatories, as well as Architects Declare Emergency, to host a ‘Rally for the Imagination’.
The rally is in response to Caroline Lucas’ Letter to the Earth in which she says that although it’s “not an easy thing to admit… politics has failed” in addressing the urgent action needed to tackle the climate and ecological emergency. She goes on, ‘Political failure is, at root, a failure of imagination’.
Asking for direct help from the Culture sector, Caroline Lucas asks artists to “paint the positive pictures of how the world could be – and to tell the vivid and compelling stories that show us that, when people come together and act, there is always hope”.
The rally will open with Caroline’s Letter, followed by responses from artists, designers, musicians, campaigners and cultural leaders. Speakers include Sam Lee, award-winning folk singer and musician; Rakaya Fetuga, Roundhouse Slam Winner and Resident Artist; Farhana Yamin, leading international environmental lawyer and climate change and development policy expert; Michael Pawlyn, lead architect on the Eden Project and passionate advocate of regenerative design; Tree Sisters, the global tropical forest restoration network; Chris Garard, Director of divestment campaigners Culture Unstained; Helen Paris of Curious Performance; and Jarvis Smith, star of reality TV series ‘Dumped’ and Founder of MyGreenPod.
Whilst working together as artists and cultural workers, the pioneers of the ‘sector Declares’ model recognise that the current emergency calls on a society-wide revolution of the imagination. Over half of local British authorities have declared climate and ecological emergency, inspired and mobilised by the activity of Extinction Rebellion and the Youth Strikes for Climate. The call is for more sectors to likewise declare emergency and take bold and imaginative action for environmental justice.
As Farhana Yamin, Environmental Lawyer, says: “It’s a healthy and vibrant model, unleashing creativity and helping us not only to reach the 3.5% engaged adults but the bigger prize of the 20% plus needed for real systems change… I think these will be a really significant driver of rapid change.”
“We are close to a tipping point in public attitudes to the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. The construction industry has a crucial role to play and by connecting up with other declare initiatives we can help move towards that tipping point.” Michael Pawyln, Architects Declare.
“As artists, we are uniquely positioned to speak up and out. Our voices ripple so strongly through society. Jointly we can support one another, sharing expertise as a collective and a community. This is a long road and we’re going down it together, so let’s make friends and let’s find the joy in being part of something great." Fay Milton, Music Declares Emergency.
“The Climate and Ecological Emergency compels us to be revolutionaries in our own field of expertise. It calls for us to imagine new possibilities and to propose systemic change” says Kelly Hill, Culture Declares Emergency.
Speakers at the Rally will sow the seeds for creative individual and collective responses to the emergency, giving examples of creative work already underway.
Closing the Rally will be a letter addressed to the Arts Council, calling on it to place the Climate and Ecological Emergency directly at the heart of their 2020 - 2030 year strategy. It asks the Arts Council to look at how Culture can support the necessary re-imagining of our future and how people, communities, nations and planet can mitigate the worst of the impacts, adapt to them and help reduce suffering.
Lucy Neal, spokesperson for Culture Declares Emergency: ‘Send this letter to your local Arts Council representatives. Perhaps it can act as a rallying cry to revive the imaginative capabilities of our species: to help us all grapple with the fierce need to imagine new futures whilst we live in a time of burning forests, polluted air, soil and water, global climate events, melting ice caps and the on-going death toll of millions of species.”
Notes to editors
Culture Declares Emergency is a growing international community of individuals and organisations from the Arts and Culture sector concerned about the dire state of the planet. It launched in London on 3rd April 2019, and since its first Assembly at the Roundhouse on July 8th over 600 have declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency with the commitment to act for environmental justice. Declarers include some of the UK's best known organisations including The Tate, Somerset House, The Royal Court Theatre, HOME Manchester, Julie’s Bicycle, Complicite and The Roundhouse, as well as artists Sir Anthony Gormley and Gavin Turk, director Katie Mitchell, actor Tamaryn Payne from Hollyoaks, and Peter Kosminsky, director of Wolf Hall and Secret State.
Sign up and learn more on http://culturedeclares.org/
About Music Declares Emergency
Music Declares Emergency is a group of artists, music industry professionals and organisations that stand together to declare a climate and ecological emergency and call for an immediate governmental response to protect all life on Earth. We believe in the power of music to promote the cultural change needed to create a better future.
Universal Music UK, AIM, Sony Music UK, Warner Music UK, Beggars Group, Radiohead, Festival Republic, Opera North, Warner Chappell Music UK, Beth Orton, SJM Concerts,Imelda May, Coda Agency, Crosstown Concerts, Domino, Bonobo, Abbey Road Studios, Nadine Shah, Warp, The BRIT School, Music Venue Trust and hundreds of other artists and businesses were amongst initial signatories.
In May 2019 RIBA Stirling Prize winners declared climate and biodiversity emergency in an open letter. “The twin crises of climate breakdown and biodiversity loss are the most serious issue of our time.
Buildings and construction play a major part in that crisis, accounting for nearly 40 percent of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions whilst also having a significant impact on our natural habitats.” Over 600 have since signed up to Declare.
About Letters to the Earth
Earlier this year Culture Declares Emergency invited the British public to put pen to paper and write a letter to the Earth. The invitation was open to all – to think beyond the human narrative and bear witness to the scale of the crisis. Letters of love, loss, hope and action were written by over 1000 people worldwide – from school children to great grandparents, authors, scientists, actors, nurses.
A collection of the Letters to the Earth will be published by HarperCollins this November. Letters to the Earth weaves the voices of children and the public together with notable contributions from Yoko Ono, Mark Rylance, Kate Tempest, Jay Griffiths, writer Nick Drake, Rob Cowen, Daniela Torres Perez (founder of UK Student Climate Network), Simon McBurney, Matthew Todd, Polly Higgins, XR Co-Founder Dr Gail Bradbrook, Joanna Macy and Caroline Lucas MP. The book will also include words and illustrations by CILIP Kate Greenaway prize-winner Jackie Morris. Together they are an invitation to consider how this existential threat affects the way we live our lives and the action we take.
Pre-sales orders can be purchased here: https://www.waterstones.com/book/letters-to-the-earth/anna-hope/kay-michael/9780008374440
Letter to the Arts Council, for print and distribution
Dear Arts Council England
Culture Declares Emergency: Response to Draft Strategy 2020-30
Our hearts lifted when we read the 2020-30 draft strategy’s opening statements acknowledging how much the world has changed – economically, technologically, socially and environmentally – and that pace of change will only increase. The strategy continues: “Overshadowing all of this, climate change and environmental degradation look certain to be the pre-eminent forces shaping our social, political and economic landscape up to 2030 and beyond.”
We welcome this truthful statement and write with the profound question as to why, if this is so, it does not inform and shape the vision and strategy itself?
If the facts of climate and ecological change overshadow all else, they would surely underpin and be addressed throughout the entire strategy? The imminent threat to the continuity of life on this planet, caused by the dominant industrial system, would be the pivot around which all planning for Culture in the future turns. Instead, there is nothing in the strategy other than the requirement for funded organisations to reduce their carbon footprint - a policy pioneered positively by ACE internationally since 2012.
The ‘key issues facing the arts’ do not mention the climate and ecological emergency, despite the fact that the UK Parliament, that ultimately funds ACE, has declared one. Heatwaves, Arctic fires and permafrost melting sooner than expected make climate change part of everyday conversations: a shift is underway in the cultural narrative of change.
Since April 2019, over 600 arts and cultural organisations have declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency - inspired by the IPPC, Greta Thunberg, Global Youth Strikes, the Sunrise Movement, David Attenborough, Extinction Rebellion and more. Many of these organisations are NPOs; many are located in local authorities that have also declared Climate and Ecological Emergencies.
Looking at the strategy’s three areas of attention: People, Communities and Country, we note there is no sense these are nested inside each other, nor ultimately nested inside dependence on a threatened and fragile planet. An inspiring strategy would have four areas: People, Communities, Country and Planet, starting with the Planet.
To address specific points:
“We want to see communities that are more socially cohesive and economically robust, and in which residents experience improved physical and mental wellbeing as a result of investment in culture.” We ask how this is possible without healthy environments in which Earth’s living systems are protected?
At a local level there is a dynamic opportunity for ACE to partner with and incentivise Local Authorities, particularly those that have declared emergency, to stimulate discussion and action and support the development of best practice around systemic change. We urge ACE to embrace its national role and influence to lead conversations and creative responses to the planetary emergency - inside and outside the sector.
The investment principle on environmental sustainability can be where the issue finally gets true recognition - however it is the last thing on the list and comes across as something applied after the real work has been done rather than being an integral part of how we approach everything we do – what we make, how we make it and how we share it.
NPOs will be expected to demonstrate three areas of excellence including:
“Dynamism and environmental sustainability – they will be capable of adapting to meet the opportunities and challenges of a rapidly changing world, and leading the way in addressing climate change and resource exploitation.”
This suggests more outward facing roles for organisations. However, in the actual detail of the consultation, this refers narrowly to organisations themselves having a reduced footprint. It does not suggest organisations can play outward-facing civic roles as leaders on environmental challenges in their communities.
References to the following are completely missing:
o an emergency response to the planetary crisis
o a recognition of the importance of ecological literacy
o anticipating the threats to the future health and wellbeing of children and people
o acknowledging the systems of oppression and injustice - colonialism, racism and sexism - that perpetuate the crisis
o Championing the power of arts and culture to reimagine vivid and compelling stories of how we might live with one another and the planet
In short, the strategy neither addresses the urgency of the climate and ecological emergency nor grasps the chance to trumpet boldly the pivotal role arts and culture play in bringing about societal changes needed to avert disaster. Artists and organisations are already proving to be proactive innovators of systemic change. Resources need to be allocated to support that.
Culture Declares Emergency urges ACE to prioritise the importance it claims to give to the emergency throughout its new 10-year strategy. Without this, there is a real danger ACE will be left behind.
Culture Declares Emergency urges ACE to declare a Climate and Ecological Emergency and offers all heads, hearts and hands in support of such a declaration. There is a bold opportunity to be grasped.
10 years is the maximum window of opportunity we have to radically turn things around so as to avoid dangerous and potentially catastrophic and existential levels of climate change. This radical change will be led by artists and cultural practitioners whether ACE accompanies them or falls behind.
How great if we could all travel together!
Culture Declares Emergency
‘I see art and creativity as absolutely central to winning and sustaining people. This is hard work, and people need to be fed as full human beings not just with food, but their spirits need to be fed as well. Art keeps people in movements because it gives us moments of beauty, release and community.’ Naomi Klein
Office: +447814919928, +447973 956107
Twitter: https://twitter.com/culturedeclares #ArtsStrike4Climate
Media Drive, including preview video of Caroline Lucas’ Speech, Letter to the Earth: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1PW5xA7OK_BO4C5mJkCOZ_g6lG74RX0YV?usp=sharing
Pictures from the Rally: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1zbR7KyCkLOZ1EVke1JvOmixtMH8ZPBdk
(Photo credit: Talia Woodin @taltakingpics)
Link to Pre-Order Letters To The Earth: https://www.waterstones.com/book/letters-to-the-earth/anna-hope/kay-michael/9780008374440