Sustainability, Pedagogy, and Environmental Justice in the Performing Arts

A two-day symposium on sustainability to share good practice and foster conversations across higher education and the performing arts

Fri, 9 Jun 2023 09:15 – Sat, 10 Jun 2023 13:00 BST

Katharine Worth Building Department of Drama & Theatre Royal Holloway, University of London Egham TW20 0BQ United Kingdom

Co-organised by Professor Helen Gilbert, Professor Liz Schafer, and Dr David Bullen

Climate change and related ecological crises unfolding across vast parts of the Earth have given environmentally-focused arts new urgency as well as increased resonance in recent years. At the same time, educational and cultural institutions with a stake in the arts are gradually embedding environmental sustainability into their core vision, albeit sometimes more in principle than in practice. Wider imperatives to heed claims to justice among those disproportionately affected by environmental stress are also poised to inflect discourses and practices in the sector. With these developments in mind, this one-day symposium explores sustainability initiatives in the realm of performance practice and in relation to how we teach, train, research, and act on ecological issues, individually and in tandem with stakeholder groups. Motivating questions for the event include:

  • What do we know about the greening of performance-based arts in Britain and how local ecological actions and/or challenges might connect with initiatives elsewhere?
  • What tools are already available in the creative kits of performance makers, teachers, trainers, curators, scholars and publics who want to prioritise sustainability in the arts, and how can their efficacy be assessed in ecological terms? 
  • What new, performance-related tools, technologies and pedagogical practices are being mobilized—or could be mobilized—to spur better care for the environment in particular places or among specific constituencies? 
  • What roles can hitherto marginalised performance practices among Indigenous and Global South activists play in fostering environmental justice and opening windows to alternative futures? 
  • What present and future platforms could be harnessed for the exchange of ideas, practices and teaching approaches that strengthen and energise ecological action in the performing arts sector?

The symposium is designed to showcase existing research and practice as well as generate and further dialogue in, and between, higher education, performance training, and performance industries. As such, panels will feature short provocations rather than papers. All sessions will be accessible remotely via Teams – joining instructions will be sent to those who register via Eventbrite.

Keynotes include:

  • Kate Mitchell, ‘A Journey at the Intersection of Ecology and Anthropocentric Theatre Tradition’
  • Michael Walling and Vou, a contemporary dance company based in Fiji whose work has toured widely in Asia and Europe, ‘Engaging with Indigenous Ecological Knowledge’
  • Roberta Mock, ‘Transitioning to Sustainable Production with The Theatre Green Book’

Full programme to be released in due course.