Theatre Royal Plymouth Declares a Climate Emergency

To coincide with Earth Day on 22 April 2024, Theatre Royal Plymouth (TRP) declared a climate and ecological emergency with Culture Declares. Natasha Pavey, Theatre Royal Plymouth Artist for Change, explains the journey behind the declaration.

Read TRP’s declaration statement and their eight pledges to be a more environmentally sustainable organisation here.

Two people hold a large Culture Declares banner outside of Theatre Royal Plymouth
Chief Executive and Executive Producer, James Mackenzie-Blackman and Artist for Change, Natasha Pavey pictured outside the Theatre Royal Plymouth (photo: Theatre Royal Plymouth).

Hello. I’m Tash (she/her), a theatremaker, creative producer, and climate justice activist from the South West.

Last summer, I started my role as Artist for Change at Theatre Royal Plymouth, one of two brilliant new roles supported by the Jerwood Developing Artists Fund. The year-long positions were designed to enable emerging artists to immerse themselves within an organisation, challenge conventional thinking around inclusivity and the climate emergency, and develop creative solutions for both the company and audiences. 

It’s been an amazing learning experience, and I’m so grateful to the team at TRP for welcoming me and supporting my community projects on the climate emergency. Going from drama school into the industry while remaining at home in Devon has been the perfect stepping stone for me.

Before starting my role, I knew TRP was eager to start making strides to improve its relationship with the climate emergency and environmental sustainability. It was important to the theatre from co-producing A Play for Living in a Time of Extinction last June to supporting Art and Energy’s Mossy Carpet community project.


But – here’s the but – I had a feeling there was definitely something missing amongst all this…

Picture me: full-on Google search mode, pre-job application submission. As all the best deep dives go, there were snacks, more tabs open than my laptop could handle, and creative and climate-loving friends at the end of a message, ready to support if the backup is needed…! While people have different strengths, I am a sleuth in identifying what climate commitments your local theatre or arts venue has made in T-minus one evening! 

Okay, it’s not that dramatic….maybe it is, we’re in a climate crisis after all!

Anyway, long story short, you’re reading this because I found that TRP was not yet on the list of declarers of a Climate and Ecological Emergency with Culture Declares. It felt odd that this was the case, as I knew how passionate TRP is about its environmental credentials, and so I saw an opportunity to help.

Moreover, I strongly believe that silence on an issue often speaks louder than its presence. In an era of social media and online personas, what we stand for and say publicly speaks volumes. 


Fast forward six months into my role, in January 2024, I put forward six proposals to TRP’s leadership team and six ideas to take steps on our climate action journey from a leadership level. At the top of this list was declaring a Climate and Ecological Emergency and signing the Oil Sponsorship Free Pledge. My thinking, with less than 10 years before the effects of the climate crisis become irreversible, is that it has to come from the top. It’s got to be organisation-wide and it’s got to be in every meeting room, in every department, led by the room where it happens (not that one, Hamilton fans!)…the decision makers: senior management and the Board of Trustees. 

I was so pleased to have the support of our Chief Executive and Executive Producer, James Mackenzie-Blackman. His open-mindedness and eagerness to do more and learn about new ways to do better are really inspiring. The grapple between an overloaded diary and finding time to have conversations on inclusion and climate was a position he was keen to challenge. He supported me in taking this to the wider senior management team and the Board of Trustees who were very supportive, even if it did feel a little like walking into Dragon’s Den!

I was grateful to talk later to Samra Said, who joined the Board with eight others in November 2022. It meant a lot to have her support and learn a little about her work with Arts and Homelessness International. We discussed my and James’ eagerness to ensure this declaration came with commitments and wasn’t just a tick-box exercise but also how powerful it is for organisations to use their voice and make a stand. How many more people feel safe and seen in an organisation that speaks up when it matters? It shouldn’t be something that is just inferred but rather something we’re proud to say from our hearts. Our brief conversation was a big inspiration and made me feel like I could make a difference.

A few months after I discussed my proposal with James, the Board approved it, and a date of declaration was set! 

With TRP’s new creative leadership team (four new Associate Directors of different disciplines and backgrounds) now fully in post and the first season of work curated entirely by them about to commence, now feels like the perfect time to make this declaration and publicly share our commitment to taking climate action in every aspect of the organisation as we transition into a new era for the theatre. 

For me, personally, the declaration means a lot. As a young creative in the early stages of my career, it feels massive to see an organisation make this declaration publicly, and it reassures me that it can be done. As a youth activist who grew up striking from school, attending protests and organising within political spaces, I’m used to barriers, so to be given the space and support to share my thoughts and ideas feels massive. There are gaps that need to be filled and areas to improve, but to have got this through is a brilliant step in the right direction. 

With my year at TRP shortly coming to a close, I’m proud that this can be a part of my legacy and I’m excited to watch TRP continue on their climate action journey (Hey! It’s on the big wide web now…!!).

I hope it also inspires other arts and culture venues to make similar commitments, especially those yet to declare in the South West. If we can do it, so can you! If we want to continue to enjoy theatre and make, platform and produce exciting new work, the climate emergency must be a priority in all areas of the organisation. 

You can read TRP’s declaration statement and our eight pledges to be a more environmentally sustainable organisation here.

A big thank you James, Liz, Sara, Tom, John, Mal and all who supported this and gave me the opportunity to share my ideas and get my voice heard. It means a lot, as an early career creative, to have a say within such a wonderful (but large!) organisation. 

A special thanks also to Culture Declares co-founders, Chloe Naldrett and Kay Michael for their kind words, advice and encouragement. To be following in the footsteps of inspiring women who have already found and created ways to fight for a liveable future within the arts and culture sector feels special.

This is just a step in a journey, a ripple in a stream that leads to an ocean. If you’ve read this far – sending you love, solidarity and the energy to keep swimming, keep declaring and keep speaking up for people and the planet by harnessing our superpower of being artists, creatives and cultural producers.

Watch and share TRP’s announcement of declaration on X/ Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin and Youtube

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