20 inspiring women leading in art and climate

Person in a canoe paddling down a river full of plastic bottles

Published on 7th March 2019
Written by Yingbi Lee

There’s a slew of remarkable women bringing about change in the environmental sector. An impressive 64% of full-time staffers in a sample of US-based environmental NGOs surveyed by Green 2.0 in 2018 are women. Closer to home, at Julie’s Bicycle we’re proud to be a team comprised of and led by some amazing women, from our founder and director Alison to the nine other women in our team of twelve: Laura, Catherine, Claire, Chiara, Lucy, Farah, Ruby, Sue and Yingbi.

Yet, while the percentage of women working full-time in the environmental non-profit sector increased by 5% from 2017 to 2018, the same cannot be said for women in senior leadership – where senior staff rose by only 2% to 52%, and board members actually declined by 3%. [1] While the environmental sector is doing better than the non-profit sector as a whole, [2] this by no means indicates that we should rest on our laurels. The disparity reminds us that although there is plenty of progress to celebrate, there is also a way to go before women and non-binary people are proportionately represented in senior leadership across the environmental sector.

That’s why this International Women’s Day, we’re drumming up noise around the incredible women working at the intersection of culture and climate who have supported and inspired us over the past year. We asked what change they want to see in the environmental movement and received some powerful responses. We’d like the great number of women who are currently driving change in the environmental movement to be a source of optimism and potential for well-represented leadership. Here’s to yet another year of galvanising climate leadership, for, from, and by women.

March 2018

Alison Tickell at the launch of the Creative Climate Trends. Photo © James Allan

1. Alison Tickell

In March, Julie’s Bicycle Director Alison Tickell spoke at Women of The World Festival 2018. Alongside Rubbina Karruna, Nicola Baird, Liz Hutchins and Maria Adebowale-Schwarte, the panel celebrated women at the forefront of sustainability and environmental policy. Founding JB in 2007, Alison is the driving force behind the organisation, powering environmental action across the spectrum of performing and visual arts industries.

April 2018

Gaja Mežnarić Osole and Jessica Sim are alumni of our Creative Europe co-funded Creative Climate Leadership Programme. Both spoke at our Creative Climate Leadership at COP24 event in Krakow, Poland, co-organised with EXIT Festival and Green Culture Montenegro.

Gaja Mežnarić Osole speaking at the Creative Climate Leadership at COP24 event. Photo © Julie’s Bicycle

2. Gaja Mežnarić Osole

Gaja Mežnarić Osole is a Ljubljana-based designer working in the intersection of design, ecology and participation. In 2017, she founded eco-social NGO Trajna with designer Andrej Koruza, exploring and enacting symbiotic multi-species collaborations within urban environments. In April, Trajna celebrated their first birthday.

“Today I received a flower in respect to my gender. The wonderful white rose was wrapped in a shiny plastic foil. As much as I appreciate the gesture, I also welcome it with a wish to look for new rituals that celebrate our womanhood. How many pesticides were used to grow this flower, how many miles did it travel to reach me, where will this piece of plastic end and who made the profit? I wish in the future, we will find new ways to celebrate life with shaping up opportunities that nurture, instead of exploit our precious nature.” – Gaja Mežnarić Osole

3. Jessica Sim

Jessica Sim is a co-founder and co-director of NADAS. Founded in April 2018 by Jessica and Ahu Kopan, NADAS is a creative house in Istanbul supporting projects that value the diversity of urban life and relationships between people and their environments. Previously, Jessica co-founded CIRCUIT and was co-director from 2016 to 2018, and has worked as a curator and artist.

“In the next year, I hope the environmental movement will become even more a part of our daily conversation; loosing some of its confrontation, elitism, and greenwashing, and making more space for community action. I would also like to see more collaboration between sectors, so that we can grow from one another’s experiential knowledge; competing less and listening more.” – Jessica Sim

May 2018

Zena Edwards performing at the launch of the Creative Climate Trends. Photo © James Allan

4. Zena Edwards

Poet and performer Zena Edwards is a seasoned climate activist who has worked with Voices That Shake! and has spoken on panels for climate change and creative campaigning for equality and equitable rights. In 2009, the human rights NGO ‘Remember Saro-Wiwa’ commissioned Edwards to perform a new poem to reflect on the controversial role of oil companies in the current conflict ravaging the deteriorating Niger Delta. In May, Zena performed at the launch of the Seven Creative Climate Trends, seven key communities of practice driving climate action in the creative industries identified based on the Creative Climate Census research. Zena also spoke at a What Next? Climate Change session, on the imperative of hearing from people of colour. She showed a film she made on the subject and wrote a poem during the discussion.

June 2018

5. Christiana Figueres

Swaha Pattanaik with Christiana Figueres at Under Her Eye 2018, photo credit Angela Dennis, courtesy of Invisible Dust

Christiana Figueres is the Former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and a Founding Partner of Global Optimism. She currently convenes Mission 2020. Whilst at UNFCCC, she was the leading force behind the historic Paris Agreement in 2015. In June 2018, Christiana inspired us with a discussion on optimism as power for Invisible Dust’s Under Her Eye: Women and Climate Change programme, part of Season for Change. She also gave rousing testimony to the effectiveness of culture in driving transformation to accompany the release of the Arts Council England Environmental Report 2017/18.

“It’s wonderful to see the collaboration between Julie’s Bicycle, the Arts Council and the creative sector succeeding in bringing together so many different cultural organisations to transform the public conversation on climate change, while tackling their own impact as well. Thank you for all your commitments so far and let’s keep blazing the trail, this work has never been more important.”

– Christiana Figueres

July 2018

6. Baroness Lola Young

In July, Baroness Lola Young delivered an inspiring speech at the Creative Green Awards 2018, celebrating the creative sector’s leadership in climate action. Lola was previously Head of Culture at the Greater London Authority, a board member of several national cultural bodies, and was instrumental in developing the Black Cultural Archive. As Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion, and an Ambassador for the Ethical Fashion Forum, Lola is an outspoken advocate for ethical fashion. Her leadership in the fields of culture, human rights, and sustainability reminds us to consider the intersections at play in the fight against climate change. She now leads Julie’s Bicycle’s thinking on diversity, and is at the core of our new podcast exploring links between climate change, environmentalism and social justice.

August 2018

7 and 8. Mary Robinson and Maeve Higgins

Former Irish President Mary Robinson and comedian Maeve Higgins are the voices behind Mothers of Invention. Launched last August, the podcast celebrates those driving climate action, climate innovation and climate justice around the world, and explores feminist solutions to climate change. It brings a much-needed social dimension to this issue intersecting with many others, including gender, race, and socio-economic class. The extraordinary women behind it – including the production team – and those who are featured on each episode, are endless sources of inspiration in our quest to generate more compassionate, people-centred solutions to climate change.

September 2018

In September, we were privileged to attend the Global Climate Action Summit 2018 in San Francisco. There, we spoke at the Climate Heritage Mobilization led by Julianne Polanco, and hosted a Creative Climate Roundtable to discuss the opportunities and responsibilities for arts and culture in the climate movement.

9. Julianne Polanco

Julianne Polanco is on the International Steering Committee behind Climate Heritage Network, a mutual support network of heritage organisations tackling climate change and achieving the targets of the Paris Agreement. The network launched at their Climate Heritage Mobilization event. Julianne serves as the Co-Chair of the California Office of Historic Preservation. We’re inspired by her and the network’s leadership in bringing together organisations from across the world to catalyse the positive impact heritage can have in climate adaptation and mitigation, whilst shifting conversations around climate change.

Lucy Latham presenting ROCK at COP24. Photo © ECO4CLIM

10. Lucy Latham

Lucy Latham is a Project Manager at Julie’s Bicycle, leading many international programmes around cities and policy, including our collaborations with World Cities Culture Forum and the EU Horizon 2020 ROCK project around the revitalisation of historic city centres. She’s been instrumental in bringing many of our international advocacy and partnership programmes to fruition, and in organising our Creative Climate Roundtable at GCAS. In September, she also spoke to ENCATC to share in-depth work connecting culture and sustainability. Lucy also leads Green Heritage Futures, a podcast on heritage and climate produced by Julies Bicycle, which launched this week.

October 2018

11. Louise Allen

Louise Allen is the General Manager of New Adventures, where she has been developing strategy, projects and audience engagement since 2015. In October, she made a valuable guest at our webinar on Green Touring, a field in which they are pioneering numerous new initiatives. They have been working with Julie’s Bicycle to spearhead a new approach to sustainable touring and to co-develop the new Creative Green Touring certification. This work was piloted at their UK tour of Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake beginning September 2018, which became the first Creative Green Certified Tour. Louise is also participating in the Accelerator Programme, where New Adventures is part of two new consortiums developing green touring models.

November 2018

Farhana Yamin

12. Farhana Yamin

Farhana Yamin is a Chatham House Associate Fellow and former Climate Adviser to the Marshall Islands. An internationally recognised environmental lawyer, climate change and development policy expert, Farhana has advised leaders and countries for 20 years and was lead author for three assessment reports for the IPCC on adaptation and mitigation issues. In November, Farhana shared her expertise at our Season For Change Briefing on COP24 for the creative industry. Firm in her conviction that the arts are irreplaceable in the fight against climate change, she provided much-needed context setting on the global climate negotiations and their key objectives.

“All around the world, women are detoxifying age old concepts of leadership to reflect a more cooperative, caring and creative approach. They are leading the way towards a radically inclusive world where everyone can flourish.” – Farhana Yamin

December 2018

Jayda G in conversation with Dr Lily Zeng for JMG Talks. Photo © Nim Brimah-John

13. Jayda G

In December, Canadian music producer and DJ Jayda G was one of many artists who generously donated a previously unreleased track to the Stamp The Wax Charity Advent Calendar to support Julie’s Bicycle’s Green Riders campaign. It’s fitting that her tune was chosen to open the calendar, as she has been doing amazing work in bridging the gap between electronic music and environmental activism. Completing a master’s degree in Resource and Environmental Management last year, Jayda has been weaving her academic focus on environmental toxicology and Salish Sea orcas into her music – including sampling the voice of Rainforest Conservation Foundation biologist Misty MacDuffee. Recently, she also launched JMG Talks, a London-based talk series platforming young scientists’ academic work and personal journeys, that aims to make these critical conversations more accessible.

Lucy Neal gifting a seed to artist Cecylia Malik at COP24. Image courtesy of Lucy Neal

14 and 15. Lucy Neal and Shelley Castle

Elsewhere in December, Lucy Neal and Shelley Castle travelled by train to Katowice, Poland for COP24. A theatre maker and visual artist respectively, the two are Associates at Encounters Arts and made the journey for Encounters’ Walking Forest project. There, they gifted seeds to people of an Austrian Pine planted over 100 years ago by Suffragette Rose Lamartine Yates. This pine is now the last standing tree at the Suffragette Arboretum Eagle House, where suffragettes planted trees as a symbol of their hopes for political equality. Lucy details the trip in a blog for Season For Change, inviting us to experience the expansive international negotiations from an artist’s perspective, and to sense the impact art and a tiny seed can spark at such a massive affair.

January 2019

This January, Accelerator Programme participants Jennifer Pattison, Tilly Hogrebe and Hannah Hartley shared their experience and progress in the programme.

16. Jennifer Pattison

Jennifer Pattison is Philharmonia Orchestra’s Head of Business Plan Implementation and Head of Trusts and Foundations. Writing about what the Accelerator Programme means for the Orchestra, Jennifer raises key questions around the various challenges and priorities Philharmonia Orchestra and the sector at large must balance as they strive to develop their environmental practice. While pointedly aware of the difficulty and complexity of addressing these issues, Jennifer’s piece inspires hope in us through her firm determination to take vital action on the environment.

“I’d like to see an environmental narrative emerge that’s so strong, that it makes it socially unacceptable to use single-use plastics and, for those of us who can afford to, to consume so conspicuously. We don’t have the luxury of putting ourselves, our needs and our consumerist impulses first anymore. Our way of life has become functionally extinct, and if we accept that and what it means for us, we can then open ourselves up to a way of living that’s sustainable, that connects us back to our roots in nature, and that ultimately makes us happier. The arts are in a strong position to hold a mirror up to these issues, and I’d hope that the environmental movement harnesses that rich potential.” – Jennifer Pattison

17. Tilly Hogrebe

Tilly Hogrebe is Senior Studios Administrator at Bow Arts. Collaborating with Alex Brown from Artsadmin, Tilly

Tilly Hogrebe with the first beetroot harvested from the Bow Arts herb and veg patch in 2018. Image courtesy of Bow Arts

is exploring environmental sustainability within artist studios and in connection to artist practices under the Accelerator Programme. She shares the thinking behind their research and the focus on sustainable arts practices and the circular economy, in a blog post that asks questions around how practices centred around the boldness of art-making allow us to navigate a collective future of environmental justice.


“Now more than ever before, environmental sustainability is something each and every one of us must think about, both individually and as part of our networks, in our private as well as our professional lives. This thinking needs to become second nature and inform all our actions. In 2019, through the establishment of our Green Pledge artists, we will be enabled to consider sustainability as an integral part of the entire creative process from conception to creation of the artwork.” – Tilly Hogrebe

Hannah Hartley with other Accelerator Programme participants at Hawkwood College. Photo © James Allan

18. Hannah Hartley

Hannah Hartley is the Operations Manager at the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA). CFCCA is an active member of the Manchester Arts Sustainability Team (MAST), represented by Hannah for the Accelerator Programme. For the programme, MAST is imagining what a zero-carbon city looks like and mapping their journey there. Hannah shares her takeaways from the three-day residential session at Hawkwood College and urges us to seek and make space for optimism in the movement.

February 2019

Last month, Judith Knight and Chiara Badiali each wrote rousing pieces for ArtsProfessional.

19. Judith Knight

Judith Knight. Photo © Hugo Glendinning

Judith Knight is Artsadmin’s Founding Director, establishing it in 1979 with Seonaid Stewart. Under her helm, Artsadmin has demonstrated a strong commitment to taking action on sustainability issues, embedded in both operations and creative practice, including being founding members of Imagine2020. Judith writes about developing and running Season for Change – a programme of events celebrating the environment through culture and inspiring urgent action on climate change led by Artsadmin and Julie’s Bicycle – remaining steadfast in her belief that artists have the power to help us imagine and achieve a better future.



“What was climate anxiety is now a climate emergency. While school children take to the streets and the Extinction Rebellion movement stops traffic, only a handful of MP’s turn up to hear the amazing Caroline Lucas lead the discussion on the most crucial issue of our time – of all time. I’d like to see the environmental movement become as visible as the school children, for all of us to join together, to speak with one voice, to shout with all our voices, and refuse to be silenced. And I’d like to see artists and arts organisations find creative and imaginative ways to put this issue right at the forefront of what they do, so we put the climate emergency into the hearts and minds of each and every one of us. And quickly, because we’re running out of time.” – Judith Knight

20. Chiara Badiali

Chiara Badiali, Project Manager at Julie’s Bicycle, has been with Julie’s Bicycle since 2012 working across our programmes and events as a curator, speaker, researcher, and facilitator. She has been instrumental in our work with the music industry to embed environmental sustainability and best practice in their activities. Her article celebrates the growing collective knowledge and will to act on climate change in the creative sector, but stresses the urgency of the issue and calls us on us all to take up action.

[1] Green 2.0, NGO Diversity Data 2018

[2] 41% of senior positions in the top 100 UK Charities are held by women, female representation in the Top 3 roles of Chair, CEO and CFO is significantly less at just 27.5%. Green Park, Third Sector Leadership 2,000” report, 2018

Banner image: 6 Rivers by Cecylia Malik