Emergence 2012: merging art and environment

Sustainability summit calls for artists and environmentalists to create a positive new vision of the future

This year’s Emergence Summit saw artists and environmentalists merging minds and sharing skills during three day-long discussions on creating a more sustainable future.

The event, which consisted of talks and creative workshops, ran between 7-9 September and took place at the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) in mid-Wales.

A collaboration between CAT and Volcano, a theatre company in Wales, the summit’s theme was ‘Creating the Future’, where artists, poets, musicians and film-makers came together with charity workers, researchers and environmentalists to connect and create a more holistic future vision.

Summit facilitator Fern Smith said: “It’s not about crisis, it’s about inspiring people and about seeing what kind of future we want to live in. It’s about creative thinking, and through this summit we’re bringing as many creatively minded people together as possible.”

Talks took place throughout the weekend. Novelist Robert Newman spoke about the need to transform politics in order to create environmental change and called on artists to help tell the environmental movement’s story. Meanwhile, CAT’s external relations director Paul Allen commented on the negativity of our current portrayal of the future, noting that we need to change this view in order to inspire people to work towards the future they want. “If we can’t imagine a positive future, we won’t create it,” he said. “Art and creativity have played an important role in previous times when society has had to change, and it must now do this again.”

Running alongside the talks were a series of creative, participant-led workshops. Songwriter Leon Rosselson held a session on activism and songwriting, where participants learned about campaign songs from past movements before collectively writing a song that described a picture of what life might be like in our own transformed society.

Elsewhere, author Eric Maddern looked at the importance of communicating messages, with a workshop on passionate speaking. Participants were encouraged to communicate through a variety of methods including story, satire, argument and rap. Other workshops focused on sustainable living and addressed topics including food and energy.

The summit’s closing ceremony saw a reading of a selection of messages from young people all over the UK about their hopes for the future. These were presented by the Emergence Summit’s youth delegation and Lil, one young person from Wales, concluded by saying: “Now is the time to decide whether to let the waves come or whether we make a stand and work together to do something about the problems we face.”

Summit participant Gail, who works to help make theatres across Wales more sustainable, said: “It’s been a wonderful event. Meeting so many people who share the same vision but who are all working in different ways has been very inspiring, and the workshops really opened my eyes to things we could be doing better.”