“Climate change needs clever collective thinking. We aren’t going to solve it with individual thinking. And cultural venues provide a great place for communities to come together and think together about this knotty problem.”
This is the spark that led Ben Twist to start Creative Carbon Scotland back in 2011.
“We started with basic carbon management, but I always thought it would also be about influencing the public through the work of cultural organisations and artists.”
And that is how it has turned out.
Climate Beacons and Artistic Collaborations
One of Creative Carbon Scotland’s most recent endeavours is the Climate Beacons project, which aimed to facilitate discussions about climate change across Scotland, especially in 2021 as Glasgow prepared to host COP26. Climate Beacons brought together climate-conscious people, activists, civic society, researchers and all sorts of other groups with cultural organisations to think collectively about climate action in cultural venues.
One thing about theatres, galleries, museums, concert halls, arts centres and so on – is that in their normal work they bring people together to think collectively about something. When you go to the theatre you set aside time in your busy week to go and think about something particular for a couple of hours – and the rest of the audience has done the same. There are people who provide you with material to think about, and they help you work things out. And – this is something I learned as a director – audiences collectively are cleverer and quicker than individuals. You somehow learn from those around you, your joint brain is bigger than all the individual ones. We need this joint thinking if we are to address climate change successfully.
The project’s goal was to engage the Scottish public through collaboration between arts and culture, and environmental and climate change specialists. They wanted to support creativity and collaboration, with Creative Carbon Scotland encouraging these local hubs to shape the project to stimulate public involvement that would last well beyond the events and discussions that took place.
Catching up in 2022
We caught up with Ben and the Creative Carbon Scotland team in May 2022 to find out how the Creative Beacons project had developed over the last 12 months, and how COP26 had influenced their work.
What projects and discussions was Climate Beacons able to facilitate?
The seven Climate Beacons have produced an impressive range of cultural-climate projects including artist-led rainforest field trips, storytelling workshops, the creation of a “People’s Palace of Possibility,” a meadow-making day, a museum exhibition with a participatory art project, concerts and a community photography competition.
A “Storm Ceilidh” was held on Lewis where the public could learn more about Met Office analysis and the impact of storms in the Outer Hebrides as expressed by local voices. Inverclyde held an online discussion on “Growing Against Inequalities.” Dundee Rep premiered a new pop musical telling the 200,000‑year love story between Earth and Humanity.
Learn more about the projects and discussions the Climate Beacons achieved.
What parts of the project are you most proud of?
First, we are very proud of the wealth and diversity of what the Climate Beacons accomplished in just one year.
Second, we are proud that not one but two Scottish Government Directorates supported the project, the Energy and Climate Change Directorate and the Culture and Major Events Directorate. In addition to funding provided by Creative Scotland and Museums Galleries Scotland, getting the support of the Government confirmed we were on the right path with the Beacons.
Finally, we are proud that the Beacons are place-based, community-centered, and rooted in equity and a just transition.
Moving out to the rest of the world
Creative Carbon Scotland are now working to extend Climate Beacons internationally to demonstrate that Scotland is a leader in all three areas: taking action on climate change, realizing and celebrating our unique arts and culture, and using the power of arts and culture in climate action. Their vision is to establish one or more Beacons with artists, cultural organisations, and environmental agencies in the “MENA” (Middle East and North Africa) region where COP27 is being held, specifically in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt from 7– 18 November 2022. A Climate Beacon for COP27 will support MENA colleagues and keep up momentum internationally on harnessing the power of arts and culture for climate change.