Case for Optimism

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The Project

Case for Optimism

A collaboration between Emergence and Case for Optimism at Volcano Theatre in Swansea. C4O is a programme of workshops for leaders in the field of arts and culture, to explore responses to the ongoing financial crisis, the end of the oil age and the challenge of climate change. The aim of the workshops is to engage practitioners in a much deeper conversation about the role of creativity, culture and art in the great transitions of our times.

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Case for Optimism

A collaboration between Emergence and Case for Optimism at Volcano Theatre in Swansea. C4O is a programme of workshops for leaders in the field of arts and culture, to explore responses to the ongoing financial crisis, the end of the oil age and the challenge of climate change. The aim of the workshops is to engage practitioners in a much deeper conversation about the role of creativity, culture and art in the great transitions of our times.

April 2011
Volcano Theatre, Swansea

A timely New Year 2012 phone call from Rhodri asking if Volcano would be interested in collaborating again on an Emergence activity became the opportunity to present ‘A Case for Optimism’ (C4O) in Swansea at Volcano’s High Street base. Funds had been set aside by Cynnal Cymru to support work which focused on attitude and behaviour change within the arts sector. Fern attended a C4O event in 2011 in London and as the team were looking for new platforms on which to present, this felt like a serendipitous opportunity.

C4O is a programme of workshops for leaders in the field of arts and culture, to explore responses to the ongoing financial crisis, the end of the oil age and the challenge of climate change. The aim of the workshops is to engage practitioners in a much deeper conversation about the role of creativity, culture and art in the great transitions of our times. C4O draws inspiration from the work of eco-psychologist, teacher and activist Joanna Macy. Macy’s work (The Work That Re-connects) has been developed and offered over a number of decades in the U.S and internationally. In turn it has inspired many in the field of deep ecology to take the work in different directions. All WTR projects share a recognizable structure which move through the spiral form and a number of distinct but interconnected stages; Gratitude, Honouring our Pain for the World, Seeing with New Eyes and Going Forth. C4O was developed by Teo Greenstreet, Hilary Jennings and Lucy Neal {LINKS} and has run a number of times in England and internationally. This was the first time C4O was presented in Wales.

Lucy Neal, one of the developers of C4O, had given a presentation in 2010 at Emergence Swansea called ‘Sustainable Ability’. It was evident that there was a much common ground between Emergence and what Lucy had been exploring since leaving her work as co-founder and director of the highly successful London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT). Early conversations and shared interest led to meetings with and invites from Lucy to a number of creative ecological gatherings. Fern had also recently trained as a facilitator of WTR with Jenny Mackewn and Chris Johnstone. C4O was also an opportunity to see how Macy’s work sat within a more professional arts context.

Emergence decided to run two separate C4O’s on alternate days, and funding enabled Emergence to make it free for invited participants. From previous experience the C4O team felt it was important to run these events with small groups with an optimum number of about 25 participants. An email invitation went out to as many South and West Wales arts practitioners as possible. Some had attended emergence gatherings previously, whilst others had not encountered the project. This was an opportunity for people to explore their own personal roles in the great transition as well as the collective role of the sector. Paul Allen, from Centre for Alternative Technology had given his ‘Zero Carbon Britain’ presentation at previous C4O’s. Emergence’s existing relationship with Lucy and Paul meant that running this event felt like a natural step and also enabled connections to be made with Teo Greenstreet and Hilary Jennings who both were invited to input into the Emergence Summit later that year.

C4O ran on two separate dates. April 2nd was aimed at theatre makers and venues, and 3rd April aimed at artists working in other disciplines. C4O as a structure enables a space for more heady information on climate change and resource use, but also daringly creates a framework for people to respond in more personal ways. The event is not about making ‘quick-fixes’, rather offers an opportunity to sit with often uncomfortable information and share how this impacts us and how it might inform our hopes and visions for a more positive future. In a professional setting, with its hierarchies and entrenched relationships, this is not always so easy to navigate or to experience. C4O is an event which inevitably brings up discomfort for many, especially those ‘do-ers’ amongst us who want to leap from statistics to a sustainable future without all the messy anxiety and incoherence which might lay between..

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Quotes

“Something we created in response to a complete lack of space to really reflect on how the arts and culture have a creative response to make that takes on board the world that we’re in that brings the elephants into the room – big ones like climate change, peak oil, resource depletion of all kind and the financial crisis that we’re in”

Teo Greenstreet

“Even with friends and other colleagues very rarely does discussion of issues like this come into general conversation”

Hilary Jennings

“After the C4O day I began to think what real changes I could make on a daily basis…I started with changing from using throwaway razors to a cut-throat which will last me a lifetime…”

Philip Ralph

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Contributors

Fern Smith

fern

Fern was born in London and now lives in Swansea, South Wales. After studying for a degree in Psychology and a Masters in Industrial Relations she formed Volcano Theatre Company with Paul Davies in the 1980’s.

Since then Fern has performed, directed and taught workshops for Volcano and as a freelancer nationally and internationally for 25 years. Fern is co-initiator and creative producer of Emergence.

fern [at] emergence-uk.org

 

Paul Allen

Paul Allen

External Relations, Centre for Alternative Technology

Paul is currently CAT’s External Relations Officer, heading the ground-breaking Zero Carbon Britain research and communications programme, liaising directly with key policy makers in Government, business, public sector and the devolved assemblies. Paul holds an Honours degree in Electronic and Electrical Engineering from Liverpool University and joined the Centre for Alternative Technology in 1988. Since then Paul has held many positions at CAT and helped spearhead many projects local to the Dyfi valley and further afield including Dulas Ltd – a CAT spin-off renewable engineering company and Eco Dyfi, a local organisation facilitating the regeneration and sustainable development of the Dyfi Valley (a UNESCO Biosphere reserve). Paul took up the newly created position as CAT’s Media and Communications Officer in 1995 acting as principal spokesperson for the centre and has played a key role in shaping CAT’s direction over the past three decades. He has also been influential on Wales’ position on climate change and sustainability in roles as Wales’ Climate Change Comissioner in 2007 and part of the Wales Science Advisory Council in 2010. Paul is also a sound engineer and musician, playing double bass, guitar, bouzouki bodhran and low whistle.


Lucy Neal

Lucy Neal

Instigator, theatre maker and educator, Lucy Neal is interested in the art of social sculpture and how celebratory events act as a catalyst for change. Co-founding director of the LIFT Festival, recent projects, The Trashcatchers’ Carnival and the Tooting Transition Shop explore how artists nurture collective space to imagine a more ecological and life-sustaining society. Co-author of MMM’s Sustainable Ability, she is Happiness Associate on the Happy Museum Project and co-founder of Case For Optimism. Active in the Transition Town movement since 2008, she is currently writing Playing For Time, the Transition Book on the Arts. She was awarded an OBE in 2005 for services to drama.

Designer and facilitator, Emergence Summit 2012

Teo Greenstreet

Teo Greenstreet

How can we develop creative environments that stimulate the changes needed to enable a sustainable future for society? I am a consultant and facilitator with 25 years experience in leading creative and cultural organisations with a performance background, and now focusing on fostering future-orientated skills and capacities within organisations and communities.

Current projects include: The Case for Optimism: Co-convened with Hilary Jennings and Lucy Neal, an experiential learning space for artists and cultural leaders to deepen their creative response to resource and climate challenges.
Sustain Abilities: A programme to help organisations and communities develop skills to respond in partnership with Artists Planet Earth and CidaCo and delivered as part of a resilience programme for 20 Arts organisations in Yorkshire, and as part of University of Sheffield’s Green Impact programme.
Consulting assignments: Resilience and strategic development for Arts Sheffield Consortium, Actions Space Mobile and recently with UK Centre for Carnival Arts and Heads Together.

Teo is an associate with arts/sustainability company Encounters developing a range of creative engagement practices, associate of Cida Co developing innovation practices for organisations, a Fellow of the Clore Leadership Programme (first cohort) fellow of the RSA, non-executive director of the Creative Industry Quarter Agency, and co-convenor of What Next? Sheffield. He was co-founder and CEO of The Circus Space, London, CEO of The Media Centre, Huddersfield, with an early career community arts teacher and clown.

Workshop Leader at Emergence Summit Conference, September 2012

 

Hilary Jennings

Hilary Jennings

Case for Optimism


Rhodri Thomas

Rhodri Thomas

Cynnal Cymru / Sustain Wales

Founder, Emergence


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