Changing the world of East Street Arts

Sable Radio at Convention House

– Words by Jon Wakeman

It can feel like I’ve done nothing after the Accelerator programme days in Stroud.

Nothing seems to have changed, and I’ve made no particular special effort to engage further with the environmental issues.

Life has continued, I go to the allotment, grow veg and compost everything possible.

And at work, well East Street Arts does what it has always done, tries to survive and do good things.

Hmmm…. That’s what it feels like.

But what really happens?

Things drip feed… over time, because change takes time, even slower than turning one of those giant oil tankers.

What has been going on if we haven’t been changing the world?

Well, changing our East Street Arts shaped world.

East Street Arts is turning, very, very slowly. We are 25 years old and we, the directors, feel we are again discovering what’s next, what’s the direction, how do we remain relevant and useful, what are the issues we are tackling now? And now have only just discovered what direction we want the organisation to go in, and in turning things are changing. But the thing is, we have never stopped changing, reviewing, growing, developing, challenging… after all, this is our practice.

Right let’s get down to brass tacks.

We are talking to Julies Bicycle about:

  • We have completed the capital build and are delivering a slow building, Convention House
  • The Art Hostel is in the process of getting a new home (an unwanted slow!)
  • Have presented on our environmental credentials to peers in the city
  • Are working (slowly, there’s a theme) with Jamie Sayer on SAIL
  • Evaluating our utility accounts with a view to moving as many as possible to Good Energy. We hold approx 70 accounts.

In a splurge of enthusiasm at the Accelerator event I professed East Street Arts would make all its programme environmentally focused, big shout!

What we have done:

  • Started some rigorous organisational and team discussions about what environmental issues mean to us, what do we want to focus on and we have made a decision from this to be a green organisation. We are just unpicking what this means.
  • Started to bring environmental issues into the public programme – contributed to Season for Change EOI and making sure it’s part of all projects discussion even if not changing much yet….
  • Put the environment alongside diversity as the two overarching themes of concern within our new business planning and business models
  • Are part of other city and region wide networks that have environment as key deliverable – Pilot Cities for example
  • Started pulling out of our discussions and business planning the items that will start to form our environmental policy and plan. Its slow but it’s very us.
  • Have developed a business canvas model incorporating environmental and social cost / benefit built sections

Well there we go, OK there’s no environmental policy on our website, if fact there’s barely a website, so what, the sky’s not going to come crashing down.

Evolution is a slow process and we are reshaping with diversity and the environment being built in from the centre outwards or from the ground up or imprinted on our organisational DNA… whatever way, it’s interesting, a challenge and what the hell else would we do?!

Image: Sable Radio at Convention House, courtesy of East Street Arts