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SCUDD  March 2009

SCUDD March 2009

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Subject:

Re: Theatre and the Environment

From:

Onassis Programme <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

SCUDD List at JISC <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 23 Mar 2009 23:04:03 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (203 lines)

A FRIENDLY REMINDER: if you click REPLY to this email, you will be sending an email to over 1400 subscribers. Please do so only if you wish to respond to everyone.

The SCUDD Annual Conference will be hosted by Queen Mary University of London on 3rd and 4th April.  This will begin with panels on the afternoon of 3rd April. The AGM will be held in the afternoon of 4th April.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A fair comment, but you have to start somewhere.... and perhaps our  
blog over the last year in which many of the questions you raise have  
already been painstakingly debated might have been a better way to  
introduce this project, it contains, among other things
.... a huge dialogue over carbon offsetting with advice from many  
institutions and everyone agonizing over the ethics...
... a section on theatre lighting and attempts to make it less eco  
offensive (the introduction of rechargable practicals etc.), and of  
course the fundamental question about whether its environmentally  
acceptable to use electricity just to make things look pretty, at all
....questions of audience transportation (should festivals do more to  
encourage pooled transport etc.)
and all kinds of other dilemmas faced when you attempt to try and  
better your environmental practice....

We are not for one moment suggesting we have cracked making theatre  
that doesn't have a negative environmental impact. But we are  
attempting better practice.... and trying to draw attention to it, to  
get others to consider these questions, and have certain expectations  
of touring companys' practice.
The first time I put environmental considerations on a theatre  
production meeting agenda, about 12 months ago, it was met with witty  
comments, gentle sarcasm and slight confusion by the team. That's how  
far the industry has to go. It is just not a consideration for most  
touring companies at the moment.
I knew very little then, and I know a bit more now about the best ways  
forward - but we have listened, researched, worked with partner  
organisations, got things wrong, got things right....  and the  
journey's been documented to try and help other small, cash strapped  
productions chart a course through these difficult questions, with  
humility and humour.
When we took this show to Edinburgh last summer, we discovered that  
the festival (unlike most music festivals etc) had no environmental  
policy on its website, no attempt to get people (audiences or  
companies) to share transport to get there, no policy for recycling  
the millions of fliers handed out in the streets.... this year, we are  
hoping to effect some change and currently talking to hundreds of  
companies intending to visit Edinburgh to try to get them to consider  
these questions.
So... I agree the need for humility, but I also think the urgency of  
getting people talking and thinking means publicizing what you're  
trying to do, however small, however embryonic - write it off as 'self  
aggrandizing fluff' if you don't like the tone of the original  
posting, but this been a year long journey to try and ask and research  
some of the environmental questions posed by touring theatre (should  
we do it at all?), with acknowledgment of the complexities, shifting  
debates and fundamental problems. And at this stage, if we are  
generating a bit of fluff to send out in press releases, its because  
we need to get theatre editors to cover these questions in their arts  
pages, to spread the debate wider.
(PS Maybe come and see the show!)
On 23 Mar 2009, at 22:15, Stephen Bottoms wrote:

> A FRIENDLY REMINDER: if you click REPLY to this email, you will be  
> sending an email to over 1400 subscribers. Please do so only if you  
> wish to respond to everyone.
>
> The SCUDD Annual Conference will be hosted by Queen Mary University  
> of London on 3rd and 4th April.  This will begin with panels on the  
> afternoon of 3rd April. The AGM will be held in the afternoon of 4th  
> April.
>
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
>
> The ecological politics of this posting are intriguing but perhaps  
> questionable. While any company aspiring to being greener in its  
> practices is to be applauded, premature claims to eco-virtue also  
> need to be queried. For one thing, the "offsetting" of carbon  
> emissions often entails the agencies involved paying people in  
> developing countries not to use fossil fuels so that we can. (Get on  
> your bike, so I can fly my plane.) This is both ethically  
> questionable and, in the long term, unsustainable. For another  
> thing, the transportation of a theatre company accounts for only a  
> fraction of the emissions involved in any given performance -- since  
> one also has to factor in, for example, the emissions involved in  
> the audience getting to the venue. Or the energy needed to power the  
> stage lighting (not mentioned in the posting below), or any number  
> of other issues. The fact is that theatre -- like very much else in  
> our everyday experience of the world -- is an inherently carbon- 
> emitting activity, and we need to face up to this rather than  
> pretend that "the creation of a completely sustainable touring  
> model" is this easily achievable. Really radical thinking is needed,  
> as well as "lightbulb-changing" efficiencies, or else we're just  
> moving deckchairs on the Titanic. A good place to begin would be  
> with (in Gregory Bateson's words) "a certain degree of humility" in  
> the face of the global problems confronting us -- as distinct from  
> self-aggrandising publicity fluff. Although, don't get me wrong,  
> it's good that these efforts are being made.
>
> Just thinking out loud.
>
> Steve Bottoms (U of Leeds)
>
>
> ________________________________________
> From: SCUDD List at JISC [[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Onassis  
> Programme [[log in to unmask]]
> Sent: 23 March 2009 21:15
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Theatre and the Environment
>
> A FRIENDLY REMINDER: if you click REPLY to this email, you will be  
> sending an email to over 1400 subscribers. Please do so only if you  
> wish to respond to everyone.
>
> The SCUDD Annual Conference will be hosted by Queen Mary University  
> of London on 3rd and 4th April. This will begin with panels on the  
> afternoon of 3rd April. The AGM will be held in the afternoon of 4th  
> April.
>
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
>
> Hello.
> If you are interested in theatre's response to environmental issues,  
> and - sometimes overlooked - the actual impact of the industry on  
> the environment, then on Friday afternoon, Cloudcuckooland - perhaps  
> the first environmentally friendly touring production... (which is  
> also great fun and has won a load of awards for the actual show) is  
> in London for the afternoon (produced by the Onassis Programme at  
> Oxford University). There is an article below about the  
> environmental aspects of this project, and the director/producer and  
> tour manager will be around after the performance to discuss it.
> The actual show is at 2pm at Riverside Studios... here's the link: http://www.riversidestudios.co.uk/cgi-bin/page.pl?l=1235754390
> It was originally made for children and families, but has developed  
> a bit of a cult adult following, so its certainly no problem to turn  
> up to see it without kids.... in fact positively encouraged. There  
> is only one performance though, so do book.
> Also, we would love to hear from anyone working on this area  
> (theatre and the environment) as we are encouraging a number of  
> discussion forums around the project about theatre's environmental  
> impact. My contact details are below.
>
> Is this the first ever environmentally sustainable touring musical?
>
> There are certain truths about touring theatre everyone knows.  
> Budgets are tight. Everything is done as cheaply as possible. Sets,  
> props, luggage and actors are thrown in the back of a van and driven  
> from venue to venue on extraordinarily tight schedules, before being  
> deposited at the nearest (cheapest) B&B.
>
> But when being kind to the environment is becoming an important part  
> of most commercial operations, surely theatre must, at some point,  
> follow. But being eco-friendly seldom goes hand in hand with  
> shoestring budgets. While multinational companies can be be  
> environmentally conscious without it making too much of a dent in  
> their profits. The tiny margins on which most theatre companies  
> survive do not lend themselves to offsetting flights, sustainable  
> props and green transport. But in Cloudcuckooland, the Onassis'  
> programme's musical for children, the message of not trashing the  
> planet has been reflected in the creation of a completely  
> sustainable touring model.
>
> After their smash hit run at the Edinburgh Festival, for which they  
> were nominated for a Total Theatre Award and were named 'Pick of the  
> fringe' by The Observer, Cloudcuckooland embarked on a year-long  
> national tour, which is still continuing, and comes to the Old Fire  
> Station in Oxford tomorrow, Saturday 21 March, at 7pm.
>
> With a heavy touring schedule, creating a sustainable show has been  
> quite a challenge, according to director Helen Eastman. "It's tough.  
> We send the cast everywhere by train rather than driving them, and  
> we offset all our flights. The show has a lot of props, so we have  
> to be certain that they are all kind to the environment. There is  
> part of the show where we invite the children in the audience to  
> blow up hundreds of balloons to build a city on stage. But cheap  
> balloons are not environmentally friendly, so we have to buy the  
> more expensive ones which are. It just means we have to do  
> everything as efficiently as possible, and keep waste to an absolute  
> minimum. We really believe in the message of the show, so it's worth  
> the extra effort. We've got a brilliant cast and crew, and we always  
> get fantastic feedback from kids and their parents. I think that's  
> why everyone's prepared to go the extra mile to practice what the  
> show preaches."
>
> A totally sustainable theatre may be a long way off, but as being  
> sustainable becomes less of a choice and more of a requirement for  
> business, more and more touring companies are going to have to  
> follow Cloudcuckooland's model.
>
> Helen Eastman
> The Onassis Programme
> www.onassis.ox.ac.uk<http://www.onassis.ox.ac.uk/>
> 17 Shorts Gardens, London WC2H 9AT
> 07770 277812
>
>
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