Emergence consciously seeks to embody the values we treasure in a hope that a more creative, caring and compassionate planet might be our next evolution, revolution, or re-evolution.
Emergence is a collaborative project that advocates creative practice for a sustainable future through hosting artful events and gatherings.
These activities focus on finding inspiring ways to;
We are committed to a relational, values-based approach emphasizing a need for experimentation, spontaneity and diversity which sees us all as ‘co-creators’ of the future rather than as ‘co-dependents’ reliant on specialist knowledge or heroic leadership.
Life processes are messy and cannot be understood by reductionist, mechanistic thinking or applying traditional problem solving approaches. By separating everything out into distinct ‘issues’ however logical or attractive this might be, the world cannot be ‘changed’. We cannot continue to separate climate change from economics, wellbeing from community or human rights from ecology. We need a new methodology, a new way of seeing, new processes – which embrace a ‘whole system, values-based approach’.
Emergence recognizes that the world in which we live is one which itself has emerged from countless processes, decisions, policies as well as intended and unintended actions. We recognize that the outcome of our actions is unknown and there is no one grand solution or magic widget capable of fixing everything that is broken. Everything is interconnected. The threads that comprise the web of life run through each of us and connect all our actions for good or ill.Emergence is not about bringing ‘artists’ together with ‘ecologically minded people,’ ‘economists,’ ‘activists’ or ‘scientists’. This approach embeds the reductionist thinking we are attempting to move away from.
Emergence is a creative project and growing network which itself strives to work emergently, learning as it develops, continually seeking to find new connections with people and projects committed to working in this way.We all have a multitude of skills and personas within us – we are not reducible to one thing. In order to explore this we need to develop ways to work together which recognize a more relational and dialogic approach. Action-research, reflective learning and attempting a truly collaborative process are our guiding principles.
By Fern Smith
Emergence draws inspiration from quantum physics, complexity science and systems theory and aims to bring systemic thinking and emergent practice to learning ‘the art of living within the ecological limits of a finite planet (Tim Jackson).’
By Fern Smith
In the words of Margaret Wheatley, one of the inspirations behind the project; Emergence is both a ‘midwife’ to new ways of being, creating and doing and a ‘hospice worker’ to an old paradigm no longer fit for purpose. The old paradigm has meant that we have put profit before the planet and people and is based on an evolutionary theory that advocates survival of the fittest rather than one that truly mirrors natural processes, cooperation and interdependence.
Emergence evolved out of frustration and inspiration in equal measure. It grew out of a time when I was lucky enough to be nominated for a Clore Leadership Programme fellowship, paradoxically whilst considering moving away from the arts. This feeling came not fully formed but as an increasingly niggling doubt which had arisen from personal experience of theatre-making and touring for over twenty years. I believed absolutely in the work our company (Volcano Theatre) was making but the audiences and the gigs were increasingly hard to get – or was it always that hard? From the late 90’s onwards, a raft of small independent venues which had previously championed more risky work closed down or were increasingly strapped for cash and having to play safer. I had spent the majority of my life believing that there was nothing more vital, essential and transformative than theatre – a certain kind of theatre –un-gagged, courageous, provocative. I poured my passion and stamina into this but found it harder to play to half-empty or a quarter-full houses. I wondered where everyone was and wondered why even performing arts students did not seem to want to go to the theatre? I was still wanting to make work, thinking that it would always be the next show which made the difference that made the difference! But I felt increasingly that fewer and fewer people were listening. Paradoxically, there seemed no shortage of people wanting to pay inflated ticket prices to see musicals, West End farces or celebrity-studded shows passing as edgy but which appeared to me depressingly mediocre. Theatre seemed to be doing a very good job as a great distractor but seemed to be less successful at making change. Making change was after all why I was originally drawn to theatre – it seemed to offer the hope of a more egalitarian space which proclaimed the power of transformative ideas and the bloody beating heart in equal measure. Theatre as light-entertainment seemed a poor substitute. I really felt that theatre could change the world and maybe I still do but it seemed not enough people agreed with me or desired that change as the mockingly familiar empty seats seemed to testify.
In 2010 I was given a year-long sabbatical from Volcano to be the Clore Fellow for Wales on the Clore Leadership Programme – ostensibly to develop myself as a leader. I did investigate and meet leadership of many types over my year of inquiry and it took me to places I could not previously have envisaged. I became curious about how we develop ‘inner leadership’ – how we lead ourselves, surely a prerequisite of leading others. I also found myself sitting with a number of questions which became increasingly insistent– who are we leading and towards what? Who is and why are they following? In who’s name are we acting and in who’s interests? These questions emerged along the way; they were not fully formed to begin with. What faint trace I did follow initially was an instinctive interest in utopian ideas and how they spread. I also had consciously given myself up to ‘“the methodology of the marvelous” – the inexplicable synchronistic process by which one attracts, as if by magnetism, the next piece of vital information”’ (Suzi Gablik 1991). This led me to magical places, where I encountered some courageous, smart and compassionate thinkers. It also led me to Emergence and the extending circle of people I have been lucky enough to work with over the course of the project.
To lose one’s faith in one’s work is unlucky, to find it again in a subtly changed form is nothing short of miraculous. Emergence is working through all of this process. It is alchemy, the secret to re-generation. Looking for definitions of Emergence often seems disappointing – the explanations do not seem to match the lived experience of watching it happen. The term comes from systems theory but its modus operandi is more often deeply poetic or improbably transcendent. This word reminds me that the world is not merely material. It is a participatory universe that continually seeks to orient towards balance and health. Something is moving through it – an emergent quality if we can step back, silence ourselves and be open to the possibility…
Volcano is an original voice in theatre. They provoke and invigorate with performance that is dissenting, unpredictable and robust.
Volcano offers an alternative voice in Welsh theatre, and always questions conventional assumptions of what theatre should be. Their work is disruptive, immoderate, responsible and bold. They appeal both to the mind and to the primitive instincts and urges, making intelligent theatre that is also visceral. They are a testimony that theatre can represent emotional anarchy and be rigorously questioning at the same time.
Volcano is the principle arts organization which has developed, supported and led the Emergence initiative and has developed a number of effective partnerships to present Emergence events.
CC-SW are a networking organisation that enables people to learn from each other and discover interesting good practice projects in Wales. They work with people and organisations across a broad range of issues – from climate change to economy and fair-trade to health. They work to increase awareness of sustainability issues and good practice examples, and of practical resources encouraging sustainable living in Wales.
Cynnal Cymru-Sustain Wales co-developed Emergence and are the leading sustainability partners on the Creu Cymru Emergence project.
CAT is an education and visitor centre which demonstrates practical solutions for sustainability. They cover all aspects of green living: environmental building, eco-sanitation, woodland management, renewable energy, energy efficiency and organic growing. CAT is concerned with the search for globally sustainable, whole and ecologically sound technologies and ways of life. Within this search the role of CAT is to explore and demonstrate a wide range of alternatives, communicating to other people the options for them to achieve positive change in their own lives.
CAT partnered with Volcano to present the 2012 Emergence Summit.
Arts Council of Wales is the country’s funding and development agency for the arts. Their vision is of a creative Wales where the arts are central to the life of the nation. Their priorities are: supporting the creation of the best in great art, encouraging more people to enjoy and take part in the arts and growing the arts economy.
Arts Council of Wales provided financial support for Emergence Swansea and Carnarvon, the Emergence summit, document and website.
The British Council creates international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and builds trust between them worldwide.
British Council Wales gave financial support enabling the meeting of the Emergence Advisory panel, conducting the Emergence survey and Emergence Cardiff.
Creu Cymru is the development agency for theatres and arts centres in Wales.
Established in 2001 through the initiative of the arts sector, Creu Cymru nurtures and supports a vibrant, sustainable and flourishing network of venues across Wales.
Creu Cymru, in partnership with CC-SW, are leading the Emergence ‘green theatres’ initiative working with a network of theatres and their audiences in Wales to reduce their environmental impact.
Cardiff University is the leading research university in Wales and is one of the UK’s top 20 universities.
Cardiff University is partnered with Creu Cymru, Cynnal Cymru, Volcano Theatre and Julie’s Bicycles to develop a green theatres sustainability programme in Wales under the Emergence banner.
Julie’s Bicycle is a not for profit organisation making sustainability intrinsic to the business, art and ethics of the creative industries. Founded by the music industry, with expertise from the arts and sustainability, Julie’s Bicycle bridges the gap between the creative industries and sustainability. Based on a foundation of peer-reviewed research, Julie’s Bicycles sustain creativity, enabling the arts to create change. Working with over 1000 arts organisations across the UK and internationally, large and small, Julie’s Bicycles help them measure, manage and reduce their environmental impacts.
Julie’s Bicycles are partners on the Creu Cymru Emergence green theatres project alongside Cynnal Cymru-Sustain Wales and Cardiff University.