Staff and actors at the National Theatre will walk out of work tomorrow and join a major environmental strike, calling for more urgent action to tackle the climate emergency.
Beginning at 10.30am on September 20, they will leave the NT’s South Bank home and will join workers from the Southbank Centre, Tate Modern and Tate Britain in the planned Global Climate Strike in central London.
Ahead of the event, an online petition has been set up by NT staff, calling for support and asks to begin a dialogue with the organisation about the need for “transformational social change” to address the climate emergency.
The action is being backed by actors including Mark Rylance, David Threlfall and Freddie Fox, and has received support from the National Theatre’s director and joint chief executive Rufus Norris, who described climate change as “the biggest single issue facing our planet”.
The petition, which has been signed by more than 70 staff, artists and supporters, reads: “It is extremely easy to feel small in the face of climate breakdown – through fear of not making rent, balancing mental health and falling sick or losing shifts. It is easy to feel powerless to affect change in our workplace. This prevents many of us from contributing meaningfully to the climate movement.
“We see this as the beginning of a dialogue between staff and management about the role the National and its workers can play in the global climate movement.”
It is not yet known how many workers will walk out as part of the strike.
Staff member Katherine Hearst said: “National Theatre staff will be staging a solidarity action with the climate strikers, to initiate a dialogue with management in which we will be demanding more agency in our workplace and a say in how the theatre can contribute to the climate movement. The insecurity of our contracts is a barrier to many of us participating in the climate movement in our workplace. This will be the beginning of a discussion in which we will push for our theatre to divest from big oil sponsorship and sign the Culture Declares Emergency declaration.”
The National Theatre is one of several major arts organisations to receive sponsorship from a fossil fuel company. It lists Shell among its corporate partners.
Norris added: “The National Theatre will be represented at Friday’s action by staff and company members, including representatives from our environmental working groups. Our programme for 2020 will include productions that address climate change, and we are actively working to reduce our impact on the environment including substantial reductions to our building’s energy, waste and water carbon impacts and increases in recycling rates. Alongside this, we’re collaborating with theatre practitioners to explore how to embed sustainability at the heart of our theatremaking practice.”
Elsewhere, the Royal Court has collaborated with the Financial Times on a new short film about the climate crisis.
Written by Chris Thorpe, directed by Juliet Riddell and performed by Nicola Walker, Climate Change: What Do You Want Me to Say? asks “why it is taking so long to deal with [the climate emergency] in the serious and urgent manner that is needed”.
Why has it taken us so long to take the issue of climate change as seriously and as urgently as we need to?
— Financial Times (@FinancialTimes) September 19, 2019