Our friends at house theatre network asked us what we’re doing about the climate crisis. Here’s what our Alex, our Head of Creativity & Communications, had to say:

How do you talk about the climate emergency?

At the Old Fire Station, Oxford, we’ve been trying to work it out. Doing things is a slow process, but one we’re actively working on. Talking about doing things is…trickier. 

We joined the movement Culture Declares An Emergency. We’ve started using the Theatre Green Book for all our in-house productions. We’re working with Julie’s Bicycle on measuring our emissions. We’re making changes to our building (e.g. lighting) to improve its carbon footprint. We recycle, we re-use, we try and dispose of things responsibly. Our café is vegetarian, and as low-waste as possible. There’s barely any single-use plastic in the OFS, these days. And we’re programming as much visual art and performance as we can, about climate change. 

How does that sound? Holier-than-thou? Defensive? Like we know exactly what we’re doing, and have nothing left to learn? 

Communicating with audiences is hard, at the best of times. When it comes to climate change, it’s harder still. At the box office last week, a member of the public stopped to tell me that the whole thing is a myth, made up by the media. How can we tell people a) that climate change exists, b) that we’re trying to do stuff to help, and c) that they should, too? 

Here’s what we’re working on, so far. We’re not experts, and we’re still learning.  

Think about what you can control. 

We can’t control what people think, feel and do about the climate crisis. We can control what we do, in our own building. And we can ask people to bridge that gap by focusing on small, meaningful things. 

We advise audiences to use public transport, if they can. They receive drinks in re-usable cups. They’re clearly directed to recycling bins. They’re invited to attend work about our relationship with the natural world. 

We’ve just started asking artists to make one green promise for their show. This could be to source all costume second-hand, or to ban single-use plastic from the rehearsal room. 

We ask our staff to be eco-conscious when they’re at work. We use an eco-friendly printer for our what’s on guide, and we buy pre-used office furniture. 

Even writing the above feels weird. There’s always a voice in the back of my head, saying what right do you have to ask people to change their behaviour? Or so you’ve done a few things, do you think that makes you special? 

If we believe that there is a climate emergency, then we have to do something about it. The OFS believes that there is. So we’re doing everything we can. We’re not forcing anyone to do anything. We’re not going to scold someone who arrives by car, or tell off an artist who buys their costumes from Primark. We’re just letting people know that there’s another way. 

This isn’t the OFS pretending that we’re leaders of the pack. This is me, spreading my hands and saying “here’s what we do, what do you do?” Please let me know. We’d love to start more conversations about how to do this.  

None of us are doing this alone. 

We’re working with amazing partners across the city, to make things happen. We’re proud to be part of the Green Arts Oxfordshire Network. We share our building with the charity Crisis, and have been working together with them to swap out lightbulbs, change waste disposal methods, and make the OFS a greener place.

Art projects, building changes, new ways of working – we’re all trying to get to the same goal. We’re not by ourselves. 

I’m Alex, and you can reach me at alexandra.coke@oldfirestation.org.uk. I’d love to hear from you.