Girl looking into the air through a device

The British Council is pleased to announce the launch of 17 Creative Commissions exploring climate change through art, science and digital technology.

The Creative Commissions have been awarded through a competitive open call process and over 480 proposals were received from all over the world. The British Council funded commissions will be developed by individuals and organisations in the UK working with partners in 33 countries.  

The aspiration for these commissions is to stimulate global conversations about climate change and to inspire transformational change.

The Creative Commissions form part of the British Council’s global platform The Climate Connection, uniting people around the world to meet the climate challenge through arts, education and the English language. Taking place in the run up to the United Nations climate conference, COP26, it’s about sharing ideas and taking positive action together.

Working together to tackle climate change

The Creative Commissions are bringing together indigenous communities, people from rural areas and city dwellers to understand each other’s perspectives and collaborate on creative responses and solutions towards climate change. Projects will be tackling difficult issues head-on, push boundaries and become a catalyst for real change to challenge issues such as climate migration, plastic pollution, coastal erosion, deforestation, biodiversity and the effects of climate change on our environment. 

As part of our commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, we are actively supporting groups and communities that are underrepresented in climate change discussions, and we will engage with individuals and organisations of different genders, ethnicities, sexualities, abilities and ages. The majority of selected projects have a youth focus or are youth-led. 

About the Creative Commissions

The Creative Commissions are being developed as part of the British Council’s new programme – The Climate Connection  – which is taking place in the run-up to the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), The Climate Connection brings people around the world together to meet the challenges of climate change. 

The Creative Commissions actively involve young people and groups and communities who are underrepresented in climate change discussions. The projects are cross-disciplinary, bringing together communities, artists, technologists, city planners, engineers, thought leaders, activists, scientists and others.

The 17 commissions will receive a total share of between £750,000 - £850,000 and will be developed between March and November 2021. Throughout the year, the selected projects will share their outcomes through a range of digital approaches – from web-based digital storytelling, digital comics, animation to virtual reality experiences. We will be showcasing the latest news on the projects on our channels and using hashtags #TheClimateConnection, #COP26 and #TogetherForOurPlanet.

The selected projects

Read more about the projects that have been selected for the Creative Commissions.

Climate Portals

  • Collaborators: HarrisonParrott (UK), Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (Scotland), Scottish Ballet (Scotland), Gaza Sky Geeks (Occupied Palestinian Territories), Promise Hub (Uganda)
  • Climate change theme: General 

Synopsis

Creativity is at the centre of this arts and digital exchange. Centred around a Shared Studios 'Portal' shipping container (in residence at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland), it enables immersive, life-sized and life-like connections creating the sensation of being in the same room – allowing people across the world to talk, dance, play and collaborate. The portal will connect the UK-based portal with several countries around the world, physically and/or digitally (Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iraq, Occupied Palestinian Territories, Mexico, Rwanda, Nigeria, Uganda and others).

Each country has international partner curators – from refugee camps to tech hubs  – who will engage their audiences in immersive portal-to-portal collaborations. These curators will each identify participants, organise events, facilitate dialogues and provide live language interpretation, resulting in up to 12 hours of content over a period of 4 months leading up to and during the COP 26 conference. Climate Portals will also engage conservatoire students and the Glasgow community more broadly. All around the theme of climate change, this could include new artistic commissions, masterclasses, and knowledge exchange in collaboration with the international partners.

Visit the HarrisonParrot website to find out more.

Doing Zero

  • Collaborators: Design Manchester (England), Nairobi Design Week (Kenya), Standard Practice Studio (England), S!CK Festival (England)
  • Climate change theme: Food

Synopsis

Doing Zero is a prototype collaboration project between two urban communities with different climate change profiles and experiences: Dagoretti Corner in western Nairobi, Kenya, and Moston and Harpurhey inner-city area in Manchester, England. Doing Zero explores the intersection between mental health, poverty and climate change in the context of food.

The project will hold discussion sessions with communities and commission local artists/designers to work alongside residents to co-design locally-relevant interventions. A "green library” pop up space will be present in Manchester connecting virtually with a digital library in Nairobi for collaboration, workshops and storytelling. Scientists and other specialists will create a baseline of information about current lifestyles, local carbon budgets and resources for the local groups. These will be reviewed alongside existing plans and policies of local and national governments of each respective area, with the aim of developing a fine grain understanding of the priorities and choices relevant to individuals, households, small businesses and community organisations.

The outcomes of Doing Zero include public art interventions, information resources, communication design and behaviour data launching during Nairobi Design Week in March 2021 and developed for an exhibition at Design Manchester's DM21 festival in November 2021.

Visit the Doing Zero website to find out more.

  • Part of British Council and WWF Collaboration
  • The British Council is working in partnership with WWF UK and it’s Just Imagine competition, which invited creative networks, institutions and individuals throughout the UK to reimagine a new world, inspired by the themes of the David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet film. As part of our partnership, WWF UK were a guest judge on our creative commissions shortlisting panel and selected Doing Zero to also feature as a winning project in the Just Imagine competition. Doing Zero will be part of a collection of 12 other selections which will feature in an exhibition, showcased in open air locations throughout the UK.

Find more on the British Council and WWF Collaboration

Everything Change

  • Collaborators: Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea University (Wales), Dhaka Literature Festival (Bangladesh)
  • Climate change theme: General

Synopsis

Everything Change is a programme of discussions, online screenings and live performance events taking place in Swansea, Wales and Dhaka, Bangladesh. The focus will be creative and adaptive thinking across a spectrum of sectors and disciplines in overcoming the challenges of the climate and ecological crises to create a better future, featuring the perspectives of artists, academics, writers, scientists and crucially and communities in shared global dialogue.

Everything Change will have an action-focused approach that is interactive and addresses complex social issues and the programme will include six mini commissions through film, drama, plays and VR storytelling which consider how we can mainstream climate consciousness in our respective cultures. Showcases of the project will contribute towards the October sessions of Everything Change in Swansea and Dhaka at the Literature Festival in January 2022.

Visit the Taliesin Art Centre website to find out more.

Listening to Ice - Learning from Glaciers and Glacial Communities

  • Collaborators: Goldsmiths University of London (England), Indian Institute of Technology Indore Simrol (India)
  • Climate change theme: Melting glaciers

Synopsis

The material transformations of Himalayan glaciers due to climate change are impacting directly upon mountain communities through flood events, rainfall patterns, and temperature rise but also climate systems globally. This creative commission builds upon multi-year research exploring the many different knowledge practices that are mediated by "ice" from scientific expertise to local knowledge and indigenous traditions. 

Listening to Ice – Learning from Glaciers and Glacial Communities will be organised by five primary activities each with different acoustic approaches and audio/visual outputs: 1) Himalayan Experiment in Acoustic Research (HEAR) 2) Deep Listening to Glaciers 3) Public Hearing 4) Aural/Oral Histories of Glacial Change and 5) Listening & Learning. 

Major outcomes from Listening to Ice include a documentary film that will shown in public galleries and at film festivals, an online digital project platform with functionality for hosting a live data transmission from Drang-Drung Glacier, as well as a series of interviews and podcasts.

Living-Language-Land

  • Collaborators: Neville Gabie, Independent Artist and Philippa Ruth Bayley, Creative Producer (England), Matthias Brenzinger, Researcher in Linguistics (South Africa), Cesar Augusto Sánchez León (Colombia)
  • Climate change theme: Landscape; Nature

Synopsis

Living-Language-Land is a journey through endangered and minority languages that reveal different ways of relating to land and nature. In the run up to COP26, the project will be sharing 26 words to give a global audience fresh inspiration for tackling our environmental crisis. It will form a living lexicon – a word bank – drawn from minority and disappearing languages in relation to land and nature. Like plant and animal species, hundreds of languages are rapidly vanishing and with them genuine conceptual and practical strategies for sustainable livelihood. Living-Language-Land aims to animate world views that lie outside the English and Western dominated conversation about climate breakdown and its market-led solutions.

Working across social media, initially in English and Spanish, the project will release 26 words leading up to COP26 through written, video, audio and photographic stories. Each word will connect audiences to the specific land-language associations, as well as to the environmental challenges they face. Words will also evolve into creative actions people might take in their own lives, with the opportunity to contribute and discuss new ideas.

Visit the Living-Language-Land website to find out more.

Listen to The Climate Connection podcast episode 7 on Natural language.

Watch the Season for Ex-Change event on Tackling Climate Change Together.

Millipede

  • Collaborators: National Theatre of Scotland (Scotland), Think Arts (India)
  • Climate change theme: Carbon footprint

Synopsis

"One shoe can change your life" – Cinderella, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" – Neil Armstrong. Everyone has a carbon footprint and Millipede questions what does yours look like? 

Millipede is a virtual shoe shop created in the face of climate change to generate ideas and shape artistic responses to our carbon footprint. Fantasy cobblers (participants) from all walks of life will create exhibits for our online interactive shopping experience. Working with artists and leading scientists our aim is to stimulate engagement and creation within our participant groups to communicate big and difficult factual concepts through a playful lens.

NTS and Think Arts will work in partnership with leading Scottish and Indian artists, scientists and climate change organisations to create a programme of workshops for seven different community groups across Scotland and India to generate artistic responses, that will ultimately be realised as Millipede's collection of digital exhibits. Millipede will stimulate global conversation between people from different cultures and lived experiences in Scotland and India.

The project will create an interactive website where visitors navigate their way through shoe boxes on virtual shelves. Each digital artwork exhibit will be created by professional artists working with intergenerational participants from community groups based in Scotland and India. Millipede's exhibits will engage visitors to reflect on their own carbon footprint and those of other people around the world, providing scientific information and offering tangible solutions for how we can each reduce our contribution to climate change.

“Millipede” the digital shoe shop goes live on 1 November.

Museum of Plastic

  • Collaborators: Cooperative Innovations (England) Eden Festival of Action (led by Greenpop, South Africa)
  • Climate change theme: Plastic

Synopsis

The online Museum of Plastic will be set in 2121, to tell a new story about plastics, one which helps us meaningfully frame our actions today as a vital part of a century-long story. We want to imagine the best-case-scenario for the future. We want to motivate ourselves into a positive self-fulfilling prophecy.

The online exhibition (available through VR and smartphones) will create new ways of sharing existing knowledge and research about plastics. There will be 6 rooms in the museum, covering the past, the present and the future of plastics. This will be punctuated with newly commissioned mixed-reality art from young South African mural-artists, led by Greenpop. The project will facilitate young South African artists to create 3D digital murals about our relation to plastics in order to advocate for steps to be taken to reduce our consumption and reimagine possibilities.

Visit the Museum of Plastic website to find out more.

Nine Earths

  • Collaborators: D-Fuse (England), Metal (England), RMIT University (Vietnam), Maya Chami, Digital and Visual Artist, Sembilan Matahari (Indonesia), AguaForte (Brazil), Multiplicidade (Brazil)
  • Climate change theme: Consumption

Synopsis

Nine Earths is a new collaborative and interdisciplinary project that explores the relationship between our carbon footprint, the global consumption of day-to-day life and the differences within global cities and cultures. The project brings together independent artists, climate activists and local communities in the UK, Indonesia, Lebanon, Brazil and Vietnam to explore and document their daily lives. Video, audio, imagery and conversations around climate change will be gathered to create an innovative and unique broadcast, that will run 24 hours a day for an initial 4-week period.

This broadcast will amalgamate video and imagery taken by young participants (18-24), interwoven with an original soundscape. With this collection of visual lived experience, the project aims to create a rolling digital interactive exhibition to change and elevate understanding of how our daily routines impact our climate. The project is framed around 'Earth Overshoot Day' - the month by which each country uses a year's worth of resources (for example, February 11 in Qatar, and May 17 in the UK) and will be underpinned by scientific rationale and data.

Phone Call to the World

  • Collaborators: Scottish Youth Theatre (Scotland), ARROWSA (South Africa), University of Aberdeen (Scotland), Al-Harah Theater (Occupied Palestinian Territories), Touchstones (England), Study Hall Educational Foundation (India)
  • Climate change theme: Renewable energy; Biodiversity; Contested land ownership

Synopsis

This project is built around the premise that 'mother earth has stopped breathing', resulting in a 'phone call to the world'. Young people from three continents will engage with climate change issues that impact them at a local level, coming together to consider the wider global climate challenge. Using the simple framework of a 'phone call to the world', young people will create a digital performance that will inform, question, confront and make demands of its audiences.

Performances will be short and impactful in their messaging, designed to be consumed via social media and other digital platforms with mass reach. This will be accompanied by longer art projects taking the form of podcasts, film, and live performances. Each location will focus on a locally pertinent theme, for example, in Scotland the focus will be on oil and gas (Shetland/East coast/Fife); forestry and rewilding (Dumfries & Galloway/Highlands) and in South Africa: young people from Durban and Cape Flats will explore climate change contextualised within historical issues related to contested land; advocating for indigenous peoples as guardians of the land.

The project will create its own central website that will host young people's creations in the form of sound files, film or podcasts layered into Google Earth maps and connected to YouTube and social media channels of all partners.

Visit the Phone Call to the World website to find out more.

Project arCc

  • Collaborators: Middlesex University (England), Khazar University (Azerbeijan), Oracle TES, European University of Tirana (Albania), Dzemal Bijedic, University of Mostar (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Arab Academy for Science & Technology (Egypt), Ivane Javakhishvili, Tbilisi State University (Georgia), Mutah University (Jordan), Innovative University of Eurasia (Kazakhstan), Universum College (Kosovo) and University of Jos (Nigeria), Oracle TES (England)
  • Climate change theme: General

Synopsis

Project arCc (assuming responsibility for climate change) was inspired by a realisation during Covid-19, that institutions and organisations from almost twenty different countries were lacking in the platform and infrastructure to share knowledge of the crisis. The same challenge exists for creative and innovative responses to climate change. In collaboration with Oracle TES, a UK-based organisation with expertise in educational services, Middlesex University will coordinate institutions from twelve different countries to increase awareness of climate change at an international level.

Emphasis will be given to trigger empathy at national level by educating a critical mass of students and citizens about their share of accountability and responsibility towards climate change. This project is intended to be the first step towards establishing a network of partners who are capable to scale up the project outputs with subsequent actions.

School Exchange – Scotland and Nepal

  • Collaborators: University of Edinburgh (Scotland), Tribhuvan University (Nepal), Teach for Nepal, Midlothian Council (Scotland)
  • Climate change theme: Biodiversity; Air pollution

Synopsis

This project is partnering school children from Nepal – a country truly impacted by climate change but not as developed in terms of green behaviours – with communities in Scotland – a country dedicated to taking measures but not as obviously affected. Through the collaboration, school children from ten schools in each country will perform parallel environmental measurement experiments and share stories, actions and findings. The children will share experiences through video pen pal exchanges to explore which of their interventions are most successful and to learn more about each other's climates.

Experiments and pupil-led field research will include testing air and water pollution levels, litter analysis and measuring CO2 levels, temperature and rainfall – working with older pupils to assemble and programme weather stations. The findings of their experiments will be used as the foundation for school and wider community level eco-committees to take action specific to the environmental issues most prevalent in their area.

The eco-communities across Scotland and Nepal will share their successes and challenges with the ultimate aim of finding the most innovative solutions - supported through the establishment of an annual prize. Pupils will also create artworks promoting sustainable messages and will work alongside comic artists, produce blogs and journalistic reports.

Songs of the Earth

  • Collaborators: Soumik Datta Arts (England), Earth Day network (India)
  • Climate change theme: Various – climate migration, extreme weather, energy efficiency, plastic pollution, air pollution, coastal erosion, deforestation, and wildfires

Synopsis

Songs of the Earth aims to disrupt, provoke and challenge the unacceptable wreckage of our planet's environmental health through a digital, animated music series. Acknowledging new stories, fresh voices, multiple languages, electronica, classical fusion, illustration and FX technology, the project aims to create a short animation film and several extracts, each carrying a seminal message of climate change based on issues equally critical to India and UK. These include climate migration, extreme weather, energy efficiency, plastic pollution, air pollution, coastal erosion, deforestation and wildfires.

The creative team will facilitate workshops with scientists to compose, record and animate the film that engages audiences in urgent climate conversations. through original music and visuals to encourage impactful behaviour. 

Street Art Opera

  • Collaborators: Dumbworld (Northern Ireland), The Art of Music Foundation (Kenya), White Rhino Films (Kenya)
  • Climate change theme: General

Synopsis

Street Art Opera is an active programme inviting young participants to write, develop and perform an opera in response to climate change from a human and social perspective. The opera will be recorded, animated and projected as an audio-visual public space installation performed for three hours, over three days in Kenya and in Glasgow to complement COP26. This will launch as part of a larger global programme of innovative opera artworks in the run up to 2030, contributing to raising awareness for the UN SDGs and capturing the voices, concerns and vision of youth on climate change and its impact on people and the environment.

This project seeks to platform the voices of young people through creative expression, based on their lived experiences, concerns, and hopes and vision for their future.

Tales of Care and Repair

  • Collaborators: Repair Acts, University of the West of England (England), Toxic Links (India), Gambiologia (Brazil)
  • Climate change theme: Repair; Consumption

Synopsis

Tales of Care and Repair brings together artists, designers, academics and environmental non-governmental organizations from India, Brazil and the UK to create a digital repository of repair related stories alongside resources on how citizens can maintain their city, village or town. Positioning repair as a radical act that transforms our relationship with the material world, this project links the UN SDG on responsible consumption and production to climate change. Stories will be collected through a call to action aimed at young people (18-24), individuals, families and the older generation (68-80) who will be invited to submit objects they have repaired and the stories behind them.

The programme will run 'call to action' events, with the aim to collect objects and stories from three locations – Delhi (India), Belo Horizonte (Brazil) and Bristol (UK). Expert workshops will also be held with city policy makers, manufacturing and sustainability experts, youth groups and senior citizens, who together will co-devise a 'Care and Repair Declaration' for each city. In highlighting stories of repair, this project aims to reveal the complex set of dynamics that include, for example, issues relating to resource efficiencies, cradle-to-grave economics and the effect of waste pollution on earth systems.

Visit the Tales of Care and Repair website to find out more.

The Green Spaces Atlas

  • Collaborators: Studio Future (England), Studio Future (England), Climate Exploration Hub (Botswana), TNT Media Production (South Africa)
  • Climate change theme: Planning; Biodiversity

Synopsis

The Green Spaces Atlas will work with young people (18-24 years) to conceptualise, visualise and develop urban green space models for abandoned and neglected spaces in urban neighbourhoods. Initially, the concept will target Gaborone, Botswana, and will bring together five teams of three young people from different disciplines to develop their vision of an urban green space.

The teams will be paired with an experienced green architect who will assist with project design, a climate change expert who will monitor and mentor the process and a graphic designer who will bring their vision to life. The teams will document their journey and creative process and upon completion, the team's models will be uploaded to a dedicated website (as the first entries of the Green Spaces Atlas) and will be presented to city planners in Gaborone to instigate action and change.

Trees for Life

  • Collaborators: Sylvia Grace Borda, Climate Artist and Strategist and J Keith Donnelly, Creative Climate Artist, Dundee City Council (Scotland), Rural Organization for Betterment of Agro-pastoralists (Ethiopia) and Institute for Sustainable Horticulture (Canada)
  • Climate change theme: Biodiversity

Synopsis

Trees for Life brings together the experience of Ethiopian youth and communities (Kofele, Oromia region) with indigenous knowledge to respond to challenges around biodiversity and climate mitigation through tree planting and through harnessing satellite mapping to create narratives about climate resilience. 

In Ethiopia, the project is helping establish a tree sapling nursery with local young people and women on how they are using land management techniques for positive change. With the artists, participants are working on delivering the world’s first climate satellite earth observation artwork. Alongside this outcome the project is inspiring a platform for global communities to start their own immersive online climate art biodiversity land improvement projects. 

There are also opportunities for the public to participate in creating their own living artworks.Through the simple use of ‘plant graffiti’- planting native flora in shape patterns (e.g. a circle or outline of a flower or bird) in local and public spaces – these shapes can be observed through aerial or satellite imagery. In this way, anyone can create impactful and aesthetic environmental spaces that can become a pivot for eco-restoration and for wider dialogues about climate change.

Dundee City Council, a UNESCO City of Design, is launching the project as part its digital Neon Festival in order to create civic awareness about climate challenges and mitigation. This project is acting as a prototype for future partnerships, working to create meaningful action around the world. 

10 Years to Save the World

  • Collaborators: Lakes Arts Festivals (England), Komiket (Philippines); Creative Concern (England)
  • Climate change theme: General

Synopsis

‘Ten Years to Save the World’ is one of the creative commissions supported by the British Council exploring climate change through art, science and digital technology. The project has an urgent message, we have ten years to make the big changes required to save our planet, it’s as simple as that. 

The commission will demonstrate the power of the comics medium to stimulate climate change action through the creation of a comic art digital anthology. Aimed at 18 to 24 year olds, the project brings together two comic art festivals – The Lakes International Comic Art Festival in the UK and Komiket in the Philippines, working alongside climate change communications specialists Creative Concern.

Ten leading comic artists, with a diverse range of styles and approached are developing new creative work in response to the climate crisis. Their work has been informed and shaped by young people from both countries who took part in online discussions to develop the brief for the artists.

The comic art anthology will be launched in the Philippines on 25 September and in the UK at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival in Kendal on 15-17 October. A public exhibition of the work is also being planned in Kendal, Manchester and other venues to be confirmed.

Visit 10 Years to Save the World to find out more.

The Creative Commissions are an impressive set of unique and bespoke projects addressing climate-related challenges from around the world. Each project explores our relationship to ourselves, to one another, and to our environment. Through arts, science and digital technology, stories are brought to life and action is being taken by indigenous communities, young people, artists, researchers, and many more. The British Council is honoured to work with such talented and passionate partners to raise awareness of climate change and the role of arts and culture to address shared global challenges. 

Rosanna Lewis, Creative Commissions Lead, British Council

These Creative Commission projects shine a light on climate ideas and action around the world and the desire for greater collaboration around these shared challenges. We have been amazed by the quality and breadth of ideas through this open call – it was an incredibly tough decision, but we are delighted with the diverse and rich selection of final projects that have come through this commission. They are proof that climate action isn’t only possible, it’s innovative, it’s exciting and it makes a difference. 

Tania Mahmoud, Cities Programmes Lead, British Council

Follow the creative journeyFollow the creative journey

The successful applicants will be running their projects between March and November 2021 and will start a process of learning, sharing and developing ideas with partners around the world in the spirit of mutuality. We will be showcasing the latest news on the projects using hashtags #TheClimateConnection, #COP26 and #TogetherForOurPlanet.

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For any questions about the project, please email creativecommissions@britishcouncil.org.

See also

External links