The procession reaches Tate Modern. Image: The Lightscaper

Cultural organisations declare climate emergency

Catherine Kennedy, 03.04.2019
Climate action campaign launches in London
A range of cultural organisations have teamed up to declare a climate and ecological emergency.

The Culture Declares Emergency (CDE) campaign launched on this week with a horse-led procession that stopped traffic across Waterloo Bridge.

A sea of pink flags overtook the Lancaster Gate entrance to Somerset House for the launch – among them, a white horse whose rider wore a living grass coat grown by the visual artist Ackroyd and Harvey.

Made up of concerned individuals and institutions from the arts, culture and creative sectors, the global movement has been set up with the aim of promoting collective action on the climate crisis. 

The launch began with a preview reading of Letters to the Earth, a collection of writing submitted by the public as part of CDE’s first project. It will be read at theatres and arts venues across the country on 12 April.

The procession began with the declaration: “We are alchemists of change. Together we can shape new ways of being human on earth. Be bold, be active players in this great reimagining. This is why culture matters. Let’s move.”

Some participants carried small Bluetooth speakers, playing a newly-composed soundscape by Mira Calix. Others rang silver bells. The group paused at cultural locations along the Thames, with "words and declarations" read at each location. Stops included Waterloo Bridge, the Southbank Centre, the National Theatre, the Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.
Individuals and organisations can join CDE by making a "declaration of emergency", described as “announcing your concerns and acknowledging that these are shared by growing masses of people”. Those in the first wave of declarers include Somerset House, Battersea Arts Centre, writer Jay Griffiths and director Peter Kosminsky.

In making a declaration, an organisation can also state what creative and civic resources they have to contribute – from meeting space to innovative ideas and programmes.
Inspired by Extinction Rebellion and the global School Strike for Climate, the movement sees potential for human responses to “accelerate climate solutions”, identifying culture as having a key role in helping “stir up human response as well as creating new stories and visions for our world”.  

Bridget McKenzie, one of the organisers of CDE and the founder of the Climate Museum UK, said: “Culture Declares Emergency is about revelation of truth and declaration of our intentions. It is coming together in one sound with and for many voices, in solidarity with all those affected by the climate and ecological Emergency.

"It is the first of many waves of artists and cultural organisations announcing their intentions. It begins in London, a place implicated with the extractive and colonial histories that have led us to this emergency but it is also a place rich with culture that can be turned towards the task of reimagining how we relate to one another and the living planet.”

The theme of the Museums Association's annual conference 2019 is Sustainable and Ethical Museums in a Globalised World. Click here to find out more

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