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Nottingham Playhouse chief urges theatres to go green and ‘protect the planet’

Nottingham Playhouse chief executive Stephanie Sirr. Photo: James Allan Nottingham Playhouse chief executive Stephanie Sirr. Photo: James Allan
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Nottingham Playhouse chief executive Stephanie Sirr has argued the importance of making theatres more environmentally sustainable, claiming doing nothing about it was “not an option”.

Sirr also said theatres and local authorities had a “shared responsibility” to become more environmentally sustainable, and added that making venues more environmentally friendly was “a down payment on a guaranteed return”.

Her views were echoed by leading theatre architect Steve Tompkins, who said cultural buildings should be central to the discussion about a more sustainable future for society.

Tompkins and Sirr were speaking at Building Culture, a conference where industry leaders discussed the sourcing, supply and financing of clean energy in cultural buildings. It was organised by charity Julie’s Bicycle, which helps arts organisations act on climate change.

Sirr talked about the importance of collaborating with other organisations to tackle climate change, drawing on her own experience of improving energy efficiency at Nottingham Playhouse. The theatre underwent improvements in 2014 to make it more sustainable.

She said: “The thing about sustainability and environmental upgrading is that it is everyone’s responsibility to improve the carbon footprint and protect the planet.

“Although what we are doing is not always interesting to the public, in terms of statutory bodies and local government, it’s got to be done.

“We have got to improve the carbon footprint of our cities as well as our venues, so it’s a shared responsibility.

“And how do we jointly approach the solution to that issue? Some of that is going to be money, but the the thing about money is that making our venues more sustainable is a down payment on a guaranteed return.”

Sirr argued that “doing nothing is not an option”, adding: “It’s not a case of if, it’s a case of how.”

She said: “I think we need to go to the people we work with and say, ‘We have an issue we need to address, and we need to find a solution’ – not in an aggressive way, but saying, ‘We can’t go on like this and how do we come to a solution?'”.

Tompkins, co-founder of architects Haworth Tompkins, argued that cultural organisations have a responsibility to facilitate conversations about climate change.

He said: “We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t know that cultural buildings aren’t just about putting on performances. For the arts, they are much more important. They are embedded in the crucial conversation we are all going to face up to in the generation to come.

“Cultural buildings are one of the key sites where we can start to talk about a different sort of future for our society as well as for the arts, and sustainability is a huge part of that.

“Part of the problem we’ve had in the last few years is that the definition of sustainability has probably been too narrow, certainly for architects and design teams and people procuring buildings.”

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