Girl looking into the air through a device

Between 1 November and 7 December 2021, three locations across London will give visitors the chance to explore a collection of collaborative projects, Creative Commissions, all working to address climate change in unique and creative ways.

  • 1 to 11 November: Paternoster Square, next to St Paul’s Cathedral, London EC4M 7BP
  • 12 to 29 November: Aldgate Square, Aldgate High St, London EC3N 1AF
  • 30 November to 7 December: Guildhall Yard, off Gresham Street, London, EC2V 5AE

Organised by the British Council in partnership with the City of London Corporation, as part of their Outdoor Arts programme A Thing of Beauty, the exhibition will showcase the work of nine Creative Commissions – global actions developed to provide creative responses and solutions to the climate challenge through art, science and digital technology.

These collaborations are part of the British Council’s Climate Connection programme, which is supporting a total of 17 Creative Commissions, bringing together partners in the UK and other countries to work on projects prior to the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November, in Glasgow.

Rosanna Lewis, Creative Commissions Lead at the British Council, says: ‘the Creative Commissions are an impressive set of unique and bespoke projects addressing climate-related challenges. Each project explores our relationship to ourselves, to one another, and to our environment. We are 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.’

In the lead-up to the City of London exhibition, we look at how the Creative Commissions are supporting innovative, inclusive climate action and look at some of the projects currently being delivered to bring about real change.

Supporting diverse and inclusive climate action

When the British Council put out an open call for creative responses to the climate challenge in 2020, it received more than 430 applications from all over the world. Of these, 17 Creative Commissions were selected for funding, and, since March 2021, they have involved more than 70 partners in over 30 countries, working to make their visions a reality. 

While each Creative Commission is unique, the thread that links them is a collaborative and inclusive approach to climate action. They bring together indigenous, rural and urban communities, artists, technologists, city planners, engineers, thought leaders, activists, scientists, and focus on giving underrepresented groups a voice, including different genders, ethnicities, sexualities, abilities and ages.

The following projects are just a taster of the amazing initiatives currently being delivered. You can find out more about all 17 Creative Commissions on the British Council website.

Doing Zero

One of 12 winners of the WWF’s Just Imagine exhibition competition, Doing Zero is a great example of two diverse communities working to find solutions to climate challenges.

The project brings together two inner-city neighbourhoods in Nairobi, Kenya, and Manchester, England to look at how the climate emergency is affected by what we grow and eat. In Kenya, extreme weather events and droughts present grave threats to food security in the future, while in Manchester, there are communities with some of the worst life expectancies in the UK and pockets of extreme fuel poverty.

 People in both communities are exploring the impact of their eating habits, food waste, shopping, packaging, droughts and the use of open spaces, to learn how they can each approach the global climate challenge.

Through the project, scientists are developing a baseline of knowledge about people’s lifestyles, while community volunteers are attending climate and creative workshops to identify how people can bring about positive change in their own communities.

The project ran a series of workshops as part of Design Manchester Festival in September, and will be showcasing the results at an exhibition in November, to coincide with COP26.

Connecting the Climate Challenge

By uniting communities in Nepal and Scotland, Connecting the Climate Challenge is supporting local people to solve climate-related challenges and become role models for environmental awareness and climate action.

While both countries have diverse experiences in relation to climate change and green solutions, the project partners – the University of Edinburgh and Midlothian Council, in Scotland, Tribhuvan University and Teach for Nepal, in Nepal – are building bridges by connecting communities through school partnerships.

These partnerships are helping students, teachers and community members connect digitally as they undertake activities such as setting up eco-committees, collecting and comparing local environmental data and, with the help of community elders, considering how their environments have changed.

Students are sharing their experiences through video pen pal exchanges, and these are being used to inspire Nepalese and Scottish artists to create sustainable artworks.

10 Years to Save the World

Can comics change the world? 10 Years to Save the World is aiming to find out, by engaging ten artists from the UK and the Philippines to develop new artworks in response to the climate crisis.

Working to a creative brief developed from consultations with young people in both countries, the artists are showcasing their work at two leading comic art festivals – Lakes International Comic Art Festival, in the UK (15-17 October), and Komiket, in the Philippines (see highlights from the event on Facebook).

Chris Dessent, Managing Director of project partner Creative Concern, says: ‘the project has an urgent message: we have ten years to make the big changes required to save our planet.’

‘Pictures, short-form storytelling and graphic novels can make us see the world in new ways and from new perspectives. Comics can bring alternative voices to the forefront and reach new audiences in a way that is both relevant and authentic.’ Read more of Chris' thoughts published on our blog.

The artworks will be showcased at an upcoming public exhibition in Kendal, Manchester, and are now available on the project website.

Trees for Life

Trees for Life, a collaboration between Ethiopia, Scotland and Canada, draws on indigenous knowledge to respond to challenges around biodiversity and climate mitigation through tree planting, art and digital spaces.

The project is engaging young people and women in Kofele, Ethiopia, to establish a tree sapling nursery and explore how land management techniques can be used for positive change. The nursery is currently providing 10,000 tree saplings to animal and food crop producers, and there are plans to expand this to 300,000 trees, annually.

In conjunction, participants are working with artists on the world’s first climate satellite observation artwork, and community members are being inspired to make their own ‘plant graffiti’, by arranging native flora into patterns in public spaces that can be observed through aerial or satellite imagery.

Elementary and middle school pupils are also recording traditional indigenous knowledge on the climate from local elders, through digital storytelling.

Project partners include the Rural Organization for Betterment of Agro-pastoralists, IN Ethiopia, Dundee City Council, climate artists Sylvia Grace Borda and J.Keith Donnelly, and the Institute of Sustainable Horticulture at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Vancouver, Canada.

If you’re in or visiting the UK, you can explore the three City of London exhibition locations from 1 November, and get the latest updates on the A Thing Of Beauty website. If you’re outside of the UK, you can find out more about the Creative Commissions and using art for change on the BBC website. Stay informed on all Climate Connection activities by using the hashtags #TheClimateConnection and #COP26.

A comic graphic. A skeleton in a cloak holds a briefcase of money, which a man is being tempted by. Text reads: You can't take it with you.
An image from You Can't Take it With You, one of the comics that is part of the 10 Years to Save the World anthology. ©

Jack Teagle

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