British arts organisations declare a climate emergency

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.

More than 190 UK institutions and individuals from the arts and culture sectors have pledged to declare a climate emergency and in this way become part of a first wave of climate emergency declarers in the country.

“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,” wrote the group in a media release on 3 April 2019, containing the list of declarers.

“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

Inspired by Extinction Rebellion and school strikers
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 2019.

The group ‘Culture Declares Emergency’ arose from conversations between artists and arts sector practitioners who are supportive of, or involved in, the Extinction Rebellion movement. The Culture Declares Emergency working group is separate from Extinction Rebellion, but is an ally.

On their draft website, the group explains:

“Humans are capable of responding in a remarkable variety of ways to accelerate climate solutions and adaptations, and culture can help stir up human response as well as creating new stories and visions for our world.

The declaration movement is gaining pace internationally. It started with Climate Mobilization in the US and Australia, and is now promoted by Extinction Rebellion, Sunrise Movement, School Strike for Climate and other groups calling for urgent action. More councils across the UK are declaring all the time, including the Greater London Authority, and are committing resources to tackling this emergency. Their declarations state they will work with civic partners, so this is where you come in.

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

If your area or council has declared an emergency, you may be called upon by local people, politicians or funders to respond. Making your own declaration, as an organisation or as an individual, is a good place to start. If your area or council has not declared, you can lead by example, using the power of your declaration to inspire your area or council to do the same.”

→ The Culture Declares Emergency toolkit offers a template text and many resources to help with declaring, responding to the emergency and then sustaining change.

→ See the How to Declare section for Further Resources for a Declaration statement, which explains the Climate and Ecological Emergency in more detail.”

Symbolic, horse-lead procession
‘Culture Declares Emergency’ held a symbolic, horse-lead procession through the streets of London on 3 April 2019 to visit some of the over 190 cultural institutions and individuals who have joined them in declaring a climate and ecological emergency.

The group blocked roads after setting off from Somerset House across Waterloo Bridge and along the Southbank, stopping to make announcements and hold short performances at the venues such as the Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe.

Walking with the procession were ‘Heralds’ wearing living grass coats grown by visual artists Ackroyd & Harvey and carrying banners with names of the declarers listed.

A newly composed soundscape by Mira Calix featured 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 this Friday, 12 April 2019.

Announcing intentions
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.”

“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,” said Karishma Rafferty, a curator at Somerset House.

Work with communities
“Humanity faces the combined catastrophes of man-made climate change, a mass extinction of vital biodiversity and a degradation of ecosystems health everywhere. This is a Climate and Ecological Emergency, and radical action is needed now to give some hope for thriving life and for social justice. Local governments all over the world are declaring an emergency, and rebels and school strikers are demanding action.

We are arts and culture practitioners, and invite you to join us in Declaring a Climate and Ecological Emergency together, on April 3rd. In our Declaration, we pledge to work with communities in tackling this emergency, we call for Truth, Action and Justice, and we express the value of Arts and Culture in imagining and forging better ways of relating to each other and the living planet.”

→ Current draft site:

→ Coming soon:

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