Green Guardians: Artists and activists
The Green Guardians Guide, spearheaded by the Green Events and Innovations Conference (GEI) and IQ Magazine, is a new yearly initiative boosting the profiles of those working at the forefront of sustainability, in the hope that it might also inspire others.
The 2021 list, which originally ran in IQ 103, includes 40 entries across eight categories, highlighting some of the organisations and individuals who are working so tirelessly to reduce the carbon footprint of the live entertainment business.
This year’s winners have been chosen by a judging panel that includes experts from A Greener Festival, Greener Events, Julie’s Bicycle, the Sustainability in Production Alliance, the Sustainable Event Council and the Tour Production Group.
IQ will publish entries across all categories over the coming weeks. Catch up on the previous instalment of the Green Guardians Guide which looks at activation, communication and marketing.
During the pandemic, Paula Birtwistle’s work life switched from travelling across the country to large gigs, to creating hyper-local experiences in her hometown. Working with local partners Culture Weston, Loves music venue, and Music Declares Emergency, she has been able to produce a series of live gigs with low environmental impact but huge social impact.
Birtwistle attended online training with Walk The Plank/Green Production Lab, a course designed to empower production managers to make better environmental choices in their work. “It’s interesting how people accept my advice on health and safety matters, but my advice on environmental impact should be taken just as seriously – and I am starting to see this happen,” she reports.
“For my latest series of gigs, I used a solar system to power them, backed up with investment in some very efficient lighting and sound kit. Even with Kosheen rocking the tent of 120 people we only pulled about 1,100W, or less than half [the amount of power required to boil] a domestic kettle!”
In addition to thinking about power, Birtwistle made sure everything was sourced locally, even down to beer brewed in the town and locally made vegan food. “I’ve also been thinking more about how to start important conversations,” she adds. “For example, I worked with Music Declares Emergency on a really cool inclusive gig that used the pull of free, quality live music to talk about local climate issues and small changes people could make. We hope to take this bandstand model around the country.”
“The UK live events industry is made up of people with exactly the skills needed to find new sustainable solutions”
Code Red for Humanity – that was the stark warning on 9 August from UN secretary general António Guterres. A brutal but realistic assessment highlighting just how important it is that we all join forces to avert a rapidly approaching climate catastrophe.
Organisers at Greenbelt have always advocated that there is strength in unity, in working together and learning from others, and that has been no different during the pandemic. Throughout this tricky time of cancelled festivals and plans A, B, C and D for any interim events, Greenbelt’s Green Guardians have persisted with their desire to find new and sustainable ways of doing things.
The organisation has talked regularly with the A Greener Festival community, shared knowledge with others in training sessions, and envisioned how the festival might be improved in 2022.
They’ve continued to support Vision:2025 and helped to set up a sustainability steering group for the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF).
“One thing we know for certain is that, battered and bruised as it is, the UK live events industry is made up of incredibly talented, problem-solving individuals – people with exactly the skills needed to find new sustainable solutions, new ways of powering things, of avoiding waste and inspiring audiences to make changes,” says Greenbelt’s Mary Corfield. “We can do this, if we all work together – we look forward to working alongside you.”
Openstage is seeking to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50,000 tons of CO2e per annum from the UK music market
After 32 years of being the first global concierge service to actively offer green and ethical options and support to rock stars and events, and with a history of working with global superstar vegans and activists, lockdown changed everything for Alison Hussey – as it did for so many.
Finding a silver lining in the situation allowed her to work towards the Vision:2025 aim of building the industry back greener (#BuildBackGreener) and to continue concentrating on promoting green lifestyles, holistic living and sustainability behind the scenes via social media, with her own company VIPZeronauts. She was also able to devote more time to her advisory roles with Openstage and NOQ, helping to empower companies that are making a difference in sustainability.
Openstage – with its capacity to use fan data to quantify and reduce emissions associated with live events, analysing location clusters of ticket purchasers and offering lower-emission travel alternatives to attendees – is seeking to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50,000 tons of CO2e per annum from the UK music market, and by 10% in any other country they operate meaningfully within.
NOQ, meanwhile, is revolutionising food and drink ordering at events and venues, solving problems around queue management whilst enhancing customer experience and providing a covid-safe solution. The NOQ app is an all-round more sustainable solution for events and venues, increasing sales whilst reducing food wastage, manpower and cash transactions through pre-ordering, and working with NCASS, AIF and NOEA.
“Shambala is becoming a disposables-free event, embracing new energy technologies, and working on a radical new food strategy”
In 2019, Chris Johnson spent around six months on furlough – his first break from festival organising in 20 years. As well as giving him the time and space to learn how to relax, it also provided him with the opportunity to get involved with various sustainability projects.
Johnson recently joined the Climate Live Advisory Board and is proud to have played a small role in getting singer-songwriter and political activist Declan McKenna onto a boat outside the UK Houses of Parliament with the message “Can you hear us yet?”
Meanwhile, at Vision:2025, which Johnson chairs, efforts were refocussed on communication and resources to support climate action. A monthly industry newsletter was launched, and a new ‘knowledge hub’ website constructed. The organisation also gained EU funding to develop a European knowledge hub and e-learning course for event professionals, which is under development.
In his role as CEO of UK music industry sustainable travel charity ecolibrium, Johnson was able to support a rebrand and strategic review, giving the organisation stronger foundations.
Last year, he also launched Chris Johnson Consulting, which has been working with marketing agencies, events companies and industry bodies on sustainability strategy.
And if all that wasn’t enough, his festival, Shambala, has also been busy on the sustainability front, including becoming a disposables-free event, embracing new energy technologies, and working on diversity and a radical new food strategy. “I can’t wait to get my teeth back into this in 2022,” says Johnson.
“Amplify gives 25 musicians a three-day immersion into nature connection and environmental awareness training”
In addition to being a working artist, Sam Lee keeps himself busy through multiple projects. He is a co-founder of Music Declares Emergency, hosting their monthly radio show, supporting their No Music on a Dead Planet campaign, and sits on the Live Green working group focusing on creating a greener Live Music Charter.
Informing IQ how he has spent the pandemic, Lee says, “I released my first book, The Nightingale, a biography of this red-list endangered bird and its cultural importance. “Through my arts and environment organisation, The Nest Collective, I have been running many ecological awareness projects including my six-week concert series, Singing with Nightingales, both in-person and hosting the online broadcast series for Earth Day and International Dawn Chorus Day.”
Lee is also leading a series of the ecologically unique chalk stream awareness nature walks for audiences around the southeast of the UK. He continues, “I produced and led an artists’ development programme called Amplify, giving 25 musicians a three-day immersion into nature connection and environmental awareness training. I’ve also been holding numerous lectures and panels at conferences and events online on the importance of arts and creativity in the campaign for climate justice and sustainability.”
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