Manchester Roundtables April 2021

Lucy Latham, Julie’s Bicycle (05/05/21)

Manchester has been leading at the intersection of culture and climate for over a decade. Pioneers from the Manchester Arts Sustainability Team (MAST) have modelled a city-wide approach to collaborative action that has had a significant influence, not just in the UK, but internationally. 

With the support of the C-Change* programme, MAST and Manchester City Council, as a follow up to the Brave New World Event in November 2020 and to celebrate Earth Day 2021, Julie’s Bicycle was commissioned to co-produce a series of online environmental training events and conversations. The events featured experts, practitioners and policymakers from the Greater Manchester area and over 70 participants. Together, we discussed the fundamental issues facing humanity, what a sustainable future could look like, for Manchester, and cities and communities everywhere. These recorded events – now transformed into digital training modules - will be used to support the launch of MAST’s new website, supporting artists and organisations to understand and act on their environmental impacts and connect to Manchester’s climate goals

The series of events (ran on the 22nd and 23rd April) focused on decarbonisation, ecological economics and social justice. These three topics were selected to shine a light and promote a deeper understanding of the root causes and consequences of environmental degradation and what must be done. The Committee on Climate Change 2050 roadmap demands completely decarbonized electricity generation and massive re-forestation. The creative economy must keep apace with this transition – even drive it – but to do this we must also understand the structures which perpetuate environmental harm and injustice. For example, the glaring underrepresentation of Black, Asian minority ethnic, refugee, D/deaf, disabled, neurodivergent, working class and LGBTQI+ voices means that the stories and solutions proposed in response to climate breakdown are wholly inadequate and reinforce corrosive inequalities. How we steward our relationship with the natural environment is, at its heart, a question of justice: who gets to pollute, how much and where, who benefits and who pays the costs. These questions bring us to the economic modelling - the environmental crisis has its root causes in the historical exploitation of natural resources, land and labour – essentially an economy and society based on extraction. To act on the twin challenges of nature loss and climate change, whilst rebuilding a fair and prosperous society will require urgent transformation of the ways we organise, produce and consume. As a cultural sector, we need to explore what a sustainable business model could look like, what are the jobs and skills we need to get there, and how we take audiences along on this journey.

We are so grateful to all the speakers who participated - for their time, expertise and commitment to positive change.

Event speakers in running order:                 

·       Jonny Sadler, Deputy Director at the Manchester Climate Change Agency.

·       Simon Curtis, Chair of Manchester Arts Sustainability Team.

·       Dr Joe Blakey, Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Manchester and member of The Manchester Zero Carbon Advisory Group.

·       Mark Burton, independent Scholar-Activist working with Steady State Manchester since 2012.

·       Robin Lyons, Manchester based Actor and Theatre-Maker working with Ergon Theatre.

·       Farah Ahmed, Climate Justice Lead and Events Coordinator at Julie’s Bicycle.

·       Andrew Glassford, Podcast Producer and Theatre-Worker. His work includes the setup of the Retrofit Get in project with Red Co-op.

·       Farah Ahmad Khan, Artist, Writer, Barrister and Humanitarian Aid Worker; one half of Planet-People-Power.

·       Balraj Samrai, Music Producer, DJ, Director, Educator and Manager; one half of Planet-People-Power.

* C-Change is an URBACT transfer network - a European exchange and learning programme promoting sustainable urban development.