Green Arts Day 2020

by Hazel Darwin-Clements


I am accepting that due to COVID-19 the rest of 2020 will pan out quite differently to how I imagined. I'm getting my head around what the scientists are saying and working out who I trust, and trying to make predictions so I can feel prepared. 

Is it wrong to make the comparison I'm about to make? I don't want to use an emotive 'click-bait' type hook to get people's attention, then soapbox about something else. But it does feel similar to something that happened last year when I faced up to the Climate Emergency. I journeyed through despair, fear, feeling overwhelmed and filled with rage, into acceptance and peace. I finally landed in a place that is hopeful. That hope is rooted in my belief that I can be part of an exciting, creative and radical change in how we tread on Earth.

I have been thinking and writing a lot about devastation lately. These are scary times. And here's something I reckon: we (writers, theatre makers, artists, musicians, etc.) are the dreamers and the imaginers of society. Imagination has been an undervalued skill, in comparison to literacy or numeracy for example, and is now going to prove vital. We're adaptable, resourceful and resilient. There's some searching to do.

It begins with asking questions. I have some:

What are the stories which are important to tell?

Exceptional times lead to compelling stories. We need them urgently.

Last year I created CliMates, a podcast I made out of 100 intimate, surprising and unguarded conversations about willingness to change in a Climate Emergency. I spoke with an oil rig engineer who told me about the day he noticed, "where have all the fish gone?" I spoke with an Extinction Rebellion activist who hadn't told anyone at work about it because he needed one more pay-cheque before his court case. I spoke with a beef farmer who thinks we should cut down our meat consumption. As well as providing me with lots of great inspiration for the play I'm writing, the project helped me go from being paralysed by fear into feeling carbon-literate. Conversations are key.

Why do I aspire to frequently travel?

I've been wondering - is there another way of experiencing genuine connection, curiosity and cultural exchange whilst minimising carbon usage? We might be about to find out as travel is restricted. Can I be as inspired by a neighbouring artist as a show in Belgium? What if we replaced 'go and see' opportunities with 'stay and share' opportunities?

What if we start thinking about the carbon cost of audience travel to see a show? That opens a whole heap of festival-eating worms. Do we really want to go there? I love festivals.

What if I made STRIKE, the script I'm writing inspired by the school climate strikes, available for anyone, anywhere to perform? If the staging was simple and the ideas clear - would that work? Could I make a rule that the performer (and audience?) had to walk/ run/ bike/ use public transport when possible? With the important exception of when that would create a barrier to inclusivity. Some disabled people have to use cars and shouldn't feel guilty. Lately I've been examining which car/van journeys are necessary and which are habit. I'm finding other (slower) ways to get around.

Can we make better use of technology to maintain meaningful relationships?Can we get better at livestreamed shows? How about meetings?

I was recently directed via Skype - and the verdict? Not too bad. We did short, spread out slots instead of full days which was good for energy and script development. Though we definitely needed to be in a room together for a while at the end. I can't see it completely replacing face to face collaborating, but I would love to keep this approach of openness and creative enquiry.

Will we be able to share resources better?

Good ideas, good information as well as things.

Lewis Hetherington, my mentor on the Playwrights' Studio Mentoring Programme, suggested some plays to read. As I now try and see the world through 'globe-tinted goggles' I am boycotting Amazon - but my library doesn't have them - what do I do? Amy from Playwrights' Studio kindly set me up with a Queen Margaret University library card. As I set out by bike to return books with storm Dennis pelting hail at my face, I did think, maybe I should have just clicked 'Prime next-day delivery' or at least taken the car… but I am committed to this! It turns out there is something quite exhilarating about cycling on a mission in crazy weather - or is it just the thrill of overcoming challenging obstacles and finding a new way of doing things?

Lewis wisely said, "you can't write a play that solves climate change" and I can't write a blog that does more than scratch the surface. But I am feeling my way into the conversation. I am creating spaces to ask radical questions. Everything is changing. Let's ask, "why do we do what we do?" and, "what we are going to do next?"


Written by Hazel Darwin-Clements at 14:00




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