Manchester’s Award-winning Low Carbon Arts and Culture Sector

Jonny Sadler on 3.7.2017

Manchester arts and culture sector has been recognised for its efforts to tackle climate change with a prestigious European award. The EU’s ‘URBACT Good Practice’ scheme rewards initiatives that take action to address challenges facing cities across Europe. With climate change recognised as one of the most pressing issues facing cities across the world, the judges were impressed by the way that Manchester’s museums, galleries, theatres, production companies and media organisations are working together to play their part.


Coming together as the Manchester Arts Sustainability Team (MAST), the group now has 30 members including well-known names likes Manchester International Festival, BBC, ITV, and Manchester Art Gallery, as well as many of the city’s much-loved community-based organisations, like Z-Arts in Hulme, Edge Theatre in Chorlton, and the Jewish Museum in Cheetham Hill.


Starting in 2010 the partnership has helped to inspire its members to deliver a wide range of different actions to tackle climate change. From LED lights to recycling bins to sharing sets and costumes, MAST has shown what is possible when a sector works together to contribute to the city’s commitment to cut carbon emissions. Over the last three years there has been a 16% reduction in CO2 emitted by the partnership.


The Royal Exchange Theatre has been part of MAST since the beginning, keen to share the work they had already started to reduce their environmental impact and energy bills. “We started simply with the introduction of basic recycling and the monitoring of energy use, and just went from there”, says Simon Curtis, Head of Production at the Royal Exchange and chair of the MAST group. “Ten years later we have reduced our electricity use by 48% and reduced the amount of waste we send to landfill by 75%.”


“MAST members are passionate about making art and cultural activities for our city and its people, and we want to do this in a way that works with the environment. The city has set inspiring and bold climate change targets and we are committed to playing our part in delivering them.”


Manchester Art Gallery are another MAST member that have been working hard to reduce their energy use and carbon emissions. Combined with their wildlife-friendly garden, the new café with its menu of seasonal and low-food-miles produce, and the partnership with the Real Junk Food Project to reduce food waste, the Gallery is another organisation that takes its role seriously.


So what next for Manchester’s arts and culture sector and their efforts on climate change? Well, the hard work shows no signs of stopping any time soon. On 10th July 2017 MAST will launch their five-year strategic report at Manchester’s Climate Change Conference 2017 (, looking back at their work to date, and setting out their ambitions to contribute towards Manchester’s aim to become a zero carbon city by 2050.


It’s likely they will also be busy sharing their story with others. Throughout 2017 the EU’s URBACT programme will be showcasing Manchester’s work and encouraging other cities to see if it’s an approach they can replicate. All culminating in the URBACT Cities Festival in Tallinn, Estonia in October 2017.


With the UK’s place in Europe and the world somewhat uncertain, its good to know there is at least one certainty: Manchester is a city committed to action on climate change and has many great examples of progress from across the city’s business sectors and communities; whatever, the future holds, we are committed to continue sharing these stories and continually learning from our partners around the world.

Editors notes:

1.      Further information on MAST is available from

2.      Manchester’s URBACT profile is available from

3.      Further information on URBACT and the URBACT Cities Festival is available from at and

4.      Further information on Manchester’s plans to become a zero carbon city are available in the Manchester Climate Change Strategy 2017-50