Report – ‘Creating Safe Migration Pathways between Arts and Climate’ Workshop

1st February 2024 

Thank you to everyone who attended our workshop at the Creative Carbon Scotland’ local assembly for creative climate action in partnership with Hazel Darwin-Clements on 1st February 2024. 

The event successfully gathered over 100 organizations and creative practitioners, offering a day filled with inspiration for creative climate action. The event facilitated connections, showcasing the transformative power of creativity in envisioning diverse futures, enhancing engagement, and using culture and art to reach beyond conventional audiences. Together, we demonstrated that the cultural sector is committed to taking action on climate. Thank you for everyone’s involvement. We look forward to you and other organisations continuing to draw people into our networks and projects.

In our ‘Creating Safe Migration Pathways Workshop,’ we gathered a diverse mix of climate activists, artists, and individuals in between for an engaging afternoon of creative expression and thoughtful discussions. The insights shared on practical collaborations for a sustainable Edinburgh have been both inspiring and instrumental. ECCAN appreciates these valuable ideas and will incorporate them into our future initiatives. Thank you for contributing to this enriching dialogue. We enjoyed the whole process and made some wonderful discoveries. Here are some thoughts stemming from noteworthy moments during the workshop: 

– There was a question about the difference between Activism and Grass Roots Climate Action. There is a crossover of course, but I feel there are two things here; Activism calls for top down systemic change and Grass Roots Climate Action calls for bottom up community level behaviour change and organising. It might be helpful for some people to connect with one or the other. 

– Most people in the room were motivated by similar things – people, nature, family, community, justice, empathy, love, music, cycling, animals. In fact it is very difficult to make out the two communities as separate – many people identify equally with both or go between. 

– When we tried to move between worlds one of the issues brought up is the attitude from artists’ peers that somehow work that is climate focussed is not cool – you’ll ruin your reputation, never be respected again, nobody will fund it, etc. A bit like some people see Theatre in Education for example. I think that’s changing, and the more of it we see the better we’ll get at it and the more excited people will become about it. But it was interesting when asked for examples of peers who’d combatted this the one example given was Andy Goldworthy. I think there is more, and it will be worth further exploring. 

– And the main hold-back for the Climate organisations side was also put forth wonderfully – why would we waste our limited resources on something useless, expensive and what’s the point? There’s an emergency here and we need to focus on what’s important – not an added luxury! Luckily the artists managed to make their case for getting to the heart of the human condition and opening new possibilities in people’s imagination in a very eloquent and moving way – we’re used to doing that! But there’s something interesting in the explaining of this importance where we want to avoid being utilitarian – artists are not contractors here to fix a problem for a set price – job done – there’s a deeper importance to the questioning, thinking, reflecting, storytelling, joy, connecting, creating, playing and imagining work of an artist.

– there is a tension between wanting to be provided for to do your work financially, from funding bodies, and resenting that it comes top down. But there was a moment where David Sommerville explained the way that ECCAN is the sum of its members, and although the government is funding it so it can feel top down, in fact there is a structure which isn’t hierarchical – and I felt like this could be something quite radical that artists and arts organisations could really learn from climate organisers. Also, I enjoyed Donut Economics getting a shout out with a wonderful, simple explanation. 

– in the end there was a meeting in the middle between the two communities and they sheltered together, the meeting happened in an unexpected way and only came about because they were supported by us all. 

You can also read the written responses from the Open Space discussions are here

We received overwhelmingly positive feedback indicating great enthusiasm for collaboration between culture and climate in Edinburgh, reflecting a strong desire for partnership. Here is a glimpse of the feedback:

  • Loved Hazel’s workshop: she created a space where felt like people engaged in a totally authentic way
  • Couldn’t rest last night for so many exciting ideas going around in my head! Thank you.
  • I’m still enjoying your workshop in my mind several hours on…  Great to have met you.

And here are participants’ suggestions on translating workshop ideas into action:

  • Please help to make sure the web becomes as strong as it can be.
  • Creating a landscape of ideas and seeing how they could be connected.
  • Create some sort of map or network or database with attendees that are willing to share theirs.
  • information so that people can digest what happened today and later on reach out.
  • Invite the same people to a follow up event, open call for project ideas or collaborations from this Event.

Creative Carbon Scotland (CCS) is enthusiastic about advancing this initiative, evident from the feedback indicating a strong desire for continued collaboration among the 100 participants. Many expressed a need for a dedicated space to meet and collaborate further. Considering ECCAN as a significant network, CCS is curious about the steps that could be taken to integrate a diverse range of cultural organisations and artists into ECCAN. 

CCS’s goal for the assemblies they organise throughout Scotland is to underscore the significance of culture in involving more people in climate action. By integrating the creative mindset into local efforts and fostering collaborations, CCS aims to show the vital role of culture in finding solutions and generating ideas.

We take pride in our contribution to this assembly and aim to consistently motivate and connect with the community. ECCAN is committed to supporting the needs of our members, and we look forward to organizing similar activities in the future. A heartfelt thank you to Creative Carbon Scotland, Hazel, and our exceptional volunteers—Isabella, Matthew, and Jasmine!