By Published On: August 5, 2021Categories: Change Makers, Education, Sustainable legacies, The nitty-grittyTags: ,
Project year

2020-onwards

Industry/Media

Theatre, Producing

Web links
Website
Link Two
Link Three
Creative team credits

Net Zero West End

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Description

What was the case study project about?

The project is an ongoing attempt to frame my learning and ideas around theatre production and sustainability, both in practical and thematic terms. It is unusual for a project in the sense that it does not have an end date, and will not be shown to an audience, however I do think of it in terms of a personal project to challenge myself towards a better understanding of sustainable and ecological theatre, and to share those understandings with others, particularly other producers.

The main part of the project is the blog Net Zero West End, which is an invitation to myself to write down my thoughts and findings. I was starting the blog at a time of incredible change in the theatre sector, with productions and buildings shut down overnight. Living close to the West End at the time, I went out to photograph these venues, with their surreal sense of sudden decay and a bleak hope of reopening. Another part of the project was to create a piece of artwork. For a long time I have been particularly interested in mushrooms and fungi, and around the time I started the blog there was a particular boom in people talking about fungi, and how their representation of decay and renewable seemed particularly resonant. So I made a handmade book called ‘The Mushroom Project’ which links with the blog but in a much more abstract way.

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Eco Thinking

What does ecological thinking mean to you and how do you approach it in your work?

As someone who tends to be ‘behind the scenes’ of art/entertainment I find it hard to think of myself as ‘a creative’. Especially as my career to date has largely been in the commercial sector, I can find it hard to see my place or contribution to creativity at all, let alone in a consciously ecologically-focussed way. However, my project is focussed very deliberately on trying to understand sustainable theatre from a producer’s perspective. The reason for this, is I think the producer’s position is a great position to see overlaps, connections, and encourage new people into new discussions. A producer’s role is to be a ‘bee or a butterfly’, to have an understanding of all the different elements of production, and to pull a diverse and talented group of people together to create a production. For myself, I sometimes find it difficult to hold this in mind, and to understand my role as inherently key to an ecologically creative process. It can also be difficult to consciously understand my role as having the power to influence audiences. I think often be difficult, if you are not an ‘expert’ or ‘creative’ in a certain area of discipline, to feel you have the authority or remit to try to influence others. However, for me thinking ecologically is to appreciate my role as being one where I can pull together a web of people who do have those expertise, and that is the power of being a facilitator.

Aims and Objectives

What were the aims and objectives of the project?

My aims of the project were to challenge myself both to publicly share my views and knowledge, to push myself to complete a creative project, and to act as an advocate for change. It was also to create an ongoing roadmap to push myself to keep doing new projects and gain confidence in publicly airing them. I did successfully achieve completing the creative aspect The Mushroom Project. I also have managed to write blog posts sharing my work. One excellent outcome is that I am working as Sustainability Producing Consultant for a small children’s theatre company. It is only a few days’ work but has made me focussed my thinking and created a few sessions that I have shared with them to help start them on the road to producing their productions more sustainably. What I have not achieved yet is confidence in sharing either my creative work or blog posts widely. Without ‘expertise’ I am still struggling to position myself as an advocate for more sustainable productions, and continue to battle with challenging myself to do so.

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Learning Points

What did you do to challenge the status quo?

I have pushed myself a few times to (very lightly) lobby theatre producing groups to put sustainability at the front of conversations about the industry’s recovery after COVID-19. I feel I could have done this more strongly, but do feel a level of success that (no doubt due to other pressures as well) this has meant sustainability has been on the agenda of some of those meetings. I have also tried to push, both publicly and in my mind, the idea that commercial theatre can and does have a role to play in ecologically-minded work. With the production company I am working with, we are looking at doing group Carbon Literacy Training, and are making a ‘manifesto’ for the company. I think this could be a good blueprint for future conversations with other companies/individuals.

Reflection

What are some of the best decisions in relation to ecological motivation and action you’ve made related to this project?

One of the best decisions I made was to engage with various voluntary groups. This is something which can be difficult to do: the meetings are hard to find time for when working fulltime, and to can feel difficult to find the confidence to put your voice forward. However, it is also a way of discovering new ideas and work people are doing, that you would be unable to find on your own. Another good decision, was to stop worrying about whether any of what I was doing was connected or structured, and instead to ‘go with the flow’ and trust that it could all be connected if I wanted it to be. In theory there is little in common with fungi in a wood, and the nitty gritty issues of West End producing challenges, but it’s also important to decide that that doesn’t matter – if there is a link more me, then I can explain that link to others.

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Sharing is Caring

What is your advice and best tips for other people and teams who want to bring these values into their work?

My main advice would be to keep reading, keep watching films/documentaries, and keep listening/engaging with other people’s work. It can be difficult to keep up enthusiasm and momentum, when the requirements of everyday life, or eco-fatigue get in the way. But I find hearing about a new art project, or reading an article about the climate fight, always starts my brain racing again and inspired me to keep making connections where they don’t always seem obvious. Another thing, is to tell people about your work and aims. If you find yourself feeling self-conscious when discussing the environment, or creativity, and get ‘imposter syndrome’, telling people the projects you are planning to do does then create the self-motivation to actually do them! Also in the process of sharing your thoughts, discoveries, or reading suggestions, you realise you know more than you think you do.

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Moving Forwards

How can you be more accountable through your actions as a creative professional?

I struggle to keep ecological thinking at the front of my mind, both in life and my career, when things are difficult. If a production is struggling to find funding, or I am out of a job, or my mental health is suffering, or I am short on time, it can be easy to let the needs of the planet fall into second-place. I need to challenge myself to keep up my best ecological practice even when times are difficult, and to remind myself that those on the front-line of climate change, and/or in the Global South, do not have the luxury of forgetting the urgency of the climate crisis when times are tough. By setting standards for myself, and sharing those with others I can create an accountability structure for myself. I have created a list of ‘My Producer Pledges’ and would encourage others to do the same. This doesn’t have to be an unbreakable rule book, but acts as a reminder of the life you want to live, the work you want to make, and the person you want to be.