‘Emergence has worked from the ground up…it has been a creative catalyst’. Louise Wright, British Council Wales
Emergence launches a legacy document after three conferences in Wales.
September 21st 2011
The original intention after the conferences in Cardiff, Swansea and Caernarfon was to finish with a similar event at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth. As many organisations were facing an uncertain future in the light of new policies and investment reviews from Welsh Government, Cynnal Cymru included, the timing was difficult to commit to the intended event. Originally this seemed a blow as the energy behind and interest in the project was becoming more palpable. We decided therefore with the support of our funders to redirect our grant not into another event but into creating a publication. In retrospect this seems like we were trusting in emergent design rather than allowing a prescriptive plan to lead us! The talks at the conferences were such a valuable resource it felt an important step in the process to make these as widely available as possible. We had already filmed each of the talks and began to put them online, however it seemed essential to collect these extraordinary presentations together in one place. This meant that the whole story of the three conferences as it had unfolded – from context, through interconnectivity to resilience – could be told.
Fern met many people since the beginning of Emergence who voiced that storytellers have a great role to play in the transition to a more sustainable society. Transition Town’s project ‘Tales to Sustain’ and Dark Mountain’s work are two examples of the power of story at this uncertain time. The story of industrial progress of continual growth and the creation of wealth through increased commodity consumption is just that – a story. This story however has become the dominant paradigm and has shaped the world in which we live and is the reason we find ourselves in our current global predicament. There are other stories and it is high time to hear them.
The power that drives Emergence is the story that it is hearing, collecting and re-telling. The Emergence document became the next piece of work – the next project, a homage to the storyteller.
With the help of the original speakers, we began the work of editing the talks into a distilled, readable version that retained the power, accessibility and immediacy of the spoken word. This was a more complex undertaking than we had originally thought. We wanted to keep the talks fresh, the use of language personal to each speaker whilst at the same time create a coherent document which would make sense to those not at the live event.
Hearing the right words at the right moment in our life is a crucial precursor of change. Sometime we hear but do not listen – or is it that we listen and do not hear? The spoken word can move us in a way that the written cannot. Perhaps the vibrations enter our bodies and literally ‘move us’ to act. How to retain this power in the literary form?
The publication of the document became another marker in the unfolding story of emergence. We decided to shine a spotlight on it by using its launch as another opportunity to gather people together and continue the conversation.
The Wales Millennium Centre offered us their venue in return for the opportunity of sharing with guests how sustainability is being incorporated as a core organising principle into the management and practices of this iconic building. This created a focus for the event and encouraged us to organise a low-carbon infrastructure seminar. After the speeches and supportive words of encouragement from John Griffiths (Minister for Environment and Sustainability at the Welsh Government), Louise Wright (British Council Wales), and Nick Capaldi (Chief Exec Arts Council Wales) this is what we got our collective teeth into.
The example of what was happening at WMC (and how it had significantly reduced emissions and running costs) and a presentation from Catherine Langabeer at Julies Bicycle galvanized those present into action. Representatives from some of the major companies, arts organisations and venues in Wales were present in the room. This was clearly one of those eureka moments when people begin to see exactly what difference can be made by a small committed group of individuals. The power of information sharing and collective action was at the heart of the discussions. Deborah Keyser from the Welsh venue network Creu Cymru and Lori Frater from BRASS (Centre for Business Relationships, Accountability, Sustainability and Society) were also in the room and were the inspiration behind what was to become one of successful early project outcomes of this first phase of the Emergence project – Emergence Creu Cymru.
“Emergence is a crucial vehicle for connected action. Keep it going”
“Emergence has worked from the ground up…it has been a creative catalyst.”
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
Cynnal Cymru / Sustain Wales
CEO, Arts Council of Wales
Nick Capaldi has been Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Wales since September 2008. The Arts Council is Wales’s national public body responsible for developing and funding the arts. Prior to his appointment in Wales, he was Executive Director of Arts Council England South West, and before that Chief Executive of South West Arts. Nick Capaldi has been a Board member of Culture South West, Chair of the Bristol Cultural Development Partnership (a pioneering public/private initiative). He was also the Chair of Arts 2000, a nationwide organisation that promoted a year long celebration of the individual artist through the commissioning of projects, performances and exhibitions. Arts 2000 supported over 1,000 artists in 1,000 locations across England.
A graduate of Manchester’s Chethams Music School, Nick Capaldi went on to study Piano at the Royal College of Music (where he was awarded the Hopkinson Gold Medal) and City University. Nick Capaldi’s career in the arts started as a professional musician. This included a diverse array of activities from playing in bars and restaurants, to teaching to formal concert performances. He made numerous broadcasts on radio and television and was a prizewinner in the first BBC Young Musician of the Year competition in 1978. Nick Capaldi is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
BRASS, Cardiff University
In January 2013 BRASS completed 11 years as an ESRC-funded Research Centre, and it is now the BRASS Research Unit within Cardiff University’s Sustainable Places Research Institute.
Lori Frater and Ria Dunkley were involved in a research and advisory capacity on the Summit and Creu Cymru Emergence. BRASS were financial supporters of the Summit.
Catherine is one of the partners on Creu Cymru Emergence, representing Julie’s Bicycle on the project. She was also on the initial advisory group of Emergence.