Art in Liverpool Magazine, issue #14: April 2019 editorial (Culture Declares)

As Extinction Rebellion causes chaos throughout London, something really significant is happening in tandem. Culture Declares is a new initiative led by the UK’s cultural bodies, asking others to join, and declare a climate emergency.

We are using this editorial to clarify and declare Art in Liverpool’s voice within this moment of creative power, but also, our joy in seeing others do the same. Culture can be such a powerful thing when it’s put to the test. Art bridges gaps between communities, and strives to lead the way on inclusion and representation, it gives power to public opinion, and listens for answers from other industries. In this case science has provided the world with unavoidable truths, and art has listened. Art in Liverpool will be part of the voice that passes that message on.

It’s probably important to give context to this declaration too, and that of the other institutions declaring. From Art in Liverpool’s perspective at least, we do not demand that those who don’t have the means to take action, take action, we want this declaration to be taken as a pledge to engage with our peers, and to plan how cultural spaces and events can help create change.

And from my perspective having written this, nobody’s perfect. Even the protesters hitting the headlines are wearing huge coats made of plastic fibre, and likely travelled to the protests on diesel trains. It is up to individuals to make changes where they can, but up to government to make it possible to do so.

Our Declaration:

We, Art in Liverpool, declare a Climate and Ecological Emergency

We pledge to work with and support our community and local government in tackling this Emergency, and we call on others to do the same.

These are our intentions, and the intentions shared by all cultural groups making this declaration as part of Culture Declares. They match those outlined by the mass protests in London: 1. We will tell the Truth; 2. We will take Action; 3. We are committed to justice.

Art in Liverpool, and our directors have never been, and likely will never be, described as radical, or disruptive. Our aim is to connect people who want and deserve to be connected to culture, to culture. It always has been. We have always been aware of the effects of climate change, and have longed for a movement like this, which encourages cultural groups to take a strong and unified position on preserving our planet.

In recent years it has been more and more apparent that climate change is no longer just an issue worth considering, but an emergency we need to tackle immediately.

The first part of the declaration, from a text shared with many, many, organisations around the country, is that we will tell the truth. In doing so, galleries, theatres, producers and artists take responsibility for communicating with citizens, and supporting them to discover the truth about the Emergency and the changes that are needed.

Art in Liverpool will remain committed to sharing the actions of all of our peers, and our own, and celebrating the positive changes that result from that. The hope of Culture Declares is that this is targeted at Governments, their broadcasters and cultural agencies.

Art in Liverpool will strive to support that.

The second part of this declaration, a promise to take action, ensures that Art in Liverpool, and all institutions sharing the declaration will reduce emissions to net zero by 2025. Now, for Art in Liverpool, this has many implications. Our office is already supplied with energy from renewable sources, but the pledge extends to our employees, and our distribution, who at present travel by road. We will take action to work towards systems for our employees and distribution that meet our target of net zero.

At present, this is our main challenge, but we also produce a biennial festival, Independents Biennial, which relies on meanwhile spaces, support from local governments, and extensive transportation of artists and their work. We will actively work to ensure that this work meets our pledge by 2025.

We are committed to Justice, the third pledge being taken by the UK’s cultural institutions is one of collaboration, communication and co-working. This year is the Liverpool City Region’s Year of the environment, it is intended to kick-start efforts in the right direction. Our part in this connects to telling the truth, and ensuring that information about action on climate change within the cultural sector is passed on to the public.

End of Declaration