Climate activists are calling on Arts Council England to place the ecological emergency at the heart of its strategy for the next decade, arguing that its current plan does not address the situation’s urgency.
Culture Declares Emergency, a group of more than 600 artists and cultural organisations that have come together to highlight climate change, has written to the Arts Council responding to its draft 10-year strategy.
While the plan, covering 2020 to 2030, is due to be published later this year, the Arts Council has already circulated a draft strategy.
Culture Declares Emergency said that despite referencing environmental degradation as overshadowing all other change, the issue does not shape the vision of the strategy itself.
“If the facts of climate and ecological change overshadows all else, they would surely underpin and be addressed throughout the entire strategy?” the letter reads, criticising the fact that the plans only include the existing requirement for funded organisations to reduce their carbon footprint.
It adds: ”The strategy neither addresses the urgency of the climate and ecological emergency nor grasps the chance to trumpet boldly the pivotal role arts and culture play in bringing about societal changes needed to avert disaster.
“Culture Declares Emergency urges ACE to prioritise the importance it claims to give to the emergency throughout its new 10-year strategy. Without this, there is a real danger ACE will be left behind.”
It argues that 10 years is the maximum window of opportunity available to stop the “dangerous and potentially catastrophic” levels of deterioration caused by climate change.
“Radical change will be led by artists and cultural practitioners whether ACE accompanies them or falls behind,” the letter says.
It has been sent to the Arts Council and was read out at a rally on September 27 in London, the final day of the Global Climate Strike.
Culture Declares Emergency’s Lucy Neal said: “Send this letter to your local Arts Council representatives. Perhaps it can act as a rallying cry to revive the imaginative capabilities of our species: to help us all grapple with the fierce need to imagine new futures while we live in a time of burning forests, polluted air, soil and water, global climate events, melting ice caps and the ongoing death toll of millions of species.”
A spokeswoman for the Arts Council said: “Climate change is one of the most pressing issues that we face. Arts and cultural organisations are uniquely placed to shine a light on these issues, shaping conversations about the environment and advocating for action.
“Environmental sustainability will be a core part of our strategy over the next 10 years, and we are taking into account all the feedback received during the consultation as we finalise this.”
Last week’s Global Climate Strike events saw employees from the National Theatre and the Southbank Centre walk out of work to join the central London youth-led demonstration.
The youth strikes prompted young people from across the UK to write to the Royal Shakespeare Company, threatening to boycott its productions if the theatre does not end its sponsorship arrangement with BP.
The letter, which also called for a meeting with the RSC’s leadership team, said: “If we, as young people, wish to see an affordable play at your theatre we have to help promote a company that is actively destroying our futures by wrecking the climate.
“The RSC needs young people far more than it needs BP.”