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How culture can inspire Leeds to achieve climate goals

Credit: Arc by Greenaway and Greenaway, part of Light Night Leeds 2021: Back to Nature. Image credit: Hannah Poklad

Our Executive Producer, Emma Beverley, explains how cultural organisations like LEEDS 2023 are combatting the climate crisis.

I’m packing my bags to go to COP26 in Glasgow today. I’m really excited about it, and whilst it’s going to be challenging and perhaps overwhelming, I know I’m going to come back feeling inspired. 

I’m an Executive Producer at LEEDS 2023. You might think that a year of culture has little to do with climate change, but I believe that the arts has an incredible ability to communicate big subjects that are hard to comprehend, and a responsibility to inspire people to take action for the better. 

Art gives us an emotional and tangible connection to things, and when we use art and culture to tell stories about worldwide challenges such as climate change, I think we can make a huge difference. Culture can capture our imaginations and help us feel confident rather than helpless and scared by what can feel like a doomsday narrative. 

Some amazing examples of this are happening right here in Leeds. East Street Arts put on an incredible programme of experimental and fun events earlier this year called The Space Between, aiming to inspire action on climate change. As part of it they invited artist Nicolas Henninger to build a sustainable cabin in the city which you could stay in overnight, and it was powered by a wind turbine created by artist Jake Krushell, addressing the sustainability of art production and energy.  

There are lots of arts organisations taking positive action together too. One of those is a group called SAIL, a collective of organisations and individuals from the cultural sectors of Leeds, including us at LEEDS 2023, who are working together to make a real difference in our city.  

Climate change can feel so far away that it’s easy to put to the back of your mind. We’re used to seeing catastrophic landscapes on the news that feel a million miles from home; polar bears swimming through warming seas, wildfires ripping through distant forests. But of course, we all know that the climate crisis is having a real impact on us here in the UK, and it’s happening right here in Leeds. We’ve experienced flash flooding in the city and region and we have high levels of air pollution in the city centre; in some parts of Leeds it’s safer for our children to play indoors than outdoors because of the air quality.  

Leeds City Council’s ambition is for the city to be net zero carbon by 2030, and it’s our job at LEEDS 2023 to help Leeds reach that target. A year of culture is an incredible opportunity to highlight positive solutions to climate change. Through culture and creativity we hope to inspire and involve the people of Leeds in making our city a healthy and sustainable place for the future. 

To find out more about our commitment to sustainability at LEEDS 2023, follow us @leeds_2023.  

This article was first published by the Yorkshire Evening Post on 31st October.