United Kingdom (Coventry)
We live in worrying times. Sometimes it’s hard to see the bright side. Eco-anxiety is on the rise. But a better future is possible with a little imagination. Can a new arts festival be an innovative approach to help us banish these feelings of helplessness and despair?
Taking place at Warwick Arts Centre on 18 – 20 October 2019, CHANGE Festival is a new, not-for-profit arts festival that gathers performers, speakers and audiences from the West Midlands and beyond to imagine, play and explore. The programme offers audiences a huge range of cultural experiences, while they pose the question: “Can you imagine better?”
As Greta Thunberg leads the world in Global Climate Strikes and the UN gathers in America for a defining climate summit, our media is saturated with dire climate coverage, leaving many people overwhelmed and anxious about their futures. And while distress is a wholly appropriate response to this crisis, despair and helplessness need not be. Feelings of helplessness make people less likely to bother with individual eco-friendly actions – and actually leads to an increase in environmentally damaging behaviours.
So how do we combat helplessness? Becky Burchell, the founder of CHANGE Festival, believes that the arts might hold the key: “Much of our current popular culture – TV, movies, news, theatre – paints a picture of a bleak, dystopian future where humanity is tearing itself apart, leading to increased eco-anxiety, negativity and paralysis. It’s time to tell different stories – ones that stretch our dreams and inspires courage and hope. Through CHANGE Festival we will empower visitors to imagine a better way of living – better communities, better food, better homes for us and the generations to come. CHANGE Festival will offer hope to conquer helplessness.”
The independent arts producer and curator was previously producer for Bestival and Camp Bestival, two of the UK’s most successful outdoor festivals. She has created arts experiences that span a wide range of disciplines such as theatre, circus, spoken word, cabaret, dance, talks, workshops, outdoor spectaculars – for the Roundhouse in Camden, Glastonbury Festival and The Nest Collective.
“I passionately believe that arts and culture has a vital role to play in supporting all of us to be innovative, courageous and caring in the ways we create change both within our own lives and collectively. When people are given space and freedom to look at things differently, we will see the future can be bright.”
The first festival will host a diverse line-up of brand new theatre shows, the latest names in stand up comedy, cutting edge spoken word artists, mesmerising family performances, action based workshops and a whole host of fascinating talks and speakers, musicians, exhibitions – trying out some innovative approaches to galvanise hope and action amongst audience members.
It will features a one-off comedy show that asks stand-ups to think about the conversations they will be having with their ancestors in years to come (What Will We Tell Our Grandkids?); an exclusive evening of music, discussion and performance from indigenous activists who will be sharing ancient wisdom about how to be good caretakers of nature (Dash Café, Earthly Wisdom); and a new theatre, told from 2050, that follows five characters across 75 years as they fight, struggle, persevere and triumph in their quest to create a better future (The World We Made).
The stories and performances hope to inspire, activate and energise a social reinvention in well-being, empathy and kindness – motivating creative stewardship of our local communities, our homes and our relationship with the living world.
CHANGE Festival wants bring people together in hope – and in action. The aim is to celebrate, to inspire, to change the way we relate to one another, change our actions, change our preconceptions, our limitations and change our world. “We challenge anyone to leave CHANGE Festival without feeling excited, inspired and more hopeful about our future.”
The festival is experimenting with using the arts as a tool for change; something that Doreen Foster, Director of Warwick Arts Centre, is passionate about: “We are bombarded with the science and data and the evidence that this is no longer a crisis but an emergency is unavoidable. Artists have helped us to wake up to the urgency and the human impact of the climate emergency and now we are awake they have a have a greater role to play in helping us to see that we are not powerless.”
Becky adds: “Our leaders, our communities, our friends and our families are all struggling with the enormity of the environmental crisis as we race against time to try and solve it. Like every other sector, the arts have an important role to play. As artists we have the tools to help people imagine new solutions, new paths and new lives through stories and performance. And as audiences we can choose to turn up and be inspired! So come and give CHANGE Festival a go, and we promise you’ll leave feeling less helpless and more hopeful. Plus you’ll have a whole lot of fun.”
This is the first arts festival of its kind in the UK, inviting a broad, mainstream audience to join the conversation about how we come together to positively address our environmental crisis to create a better future. 2019 is the launch year and another festival will take place in 2021 as part of Coventry’s City of Culture celebrations.
🎫 AtlasAgenda: The CHANGE Festival programme is now on sale here.
Independent arts producer and curator who creates cultural experiences that inspire audiences to imagine a better future; one where the health and well-being of both humanity and our natural world are thriving.
Becky Burchell, Co-founder
This project has been selected as part of CultureFutures, a new storytelling project that maps creative and cultural projects with a social mission – and the artists, collectives and entrepreneurs behind them.
Atlas of the Future is excited to join forces with Goldsmiths Institute of Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship and the British Council Creative Economy.