Reflections on TippingPoint

“I was enormously grateful to you for the invitation; it was a great privilege to be part of such an event. I came away inspired, very alarmed, and primed. I suspect the conference will have had much the same effect on everyone there.”

Robert Mcfarlane, Author


“I found the event hugely valuable – I can hardly think about much else yet. I hope my contributions helped others. It was a privilege to be there.”

John Ashton, subsequently the Foreign Secretary’s Special Representative on Climate Change


“Thank you so much for a fine and thought-provoking event. Perfectly handled, I thought.”

Simon Beaufoy, Playwright and Scriptwriter


“A big thank you to you both for a totally brilliant two days in Oxford. I came away really buzzing. There are balls rolling on various projects already and I’m completely determined to see that they don’t stop.”

Susan Elderkin, Novelist


“It was one of the most important exercises I’ve ever taken part in – timely, imaginatively set up, and profoundly necessary.”

Philip Pullman, Author


“I thought it was fantastic – stimulating and challenging – and just the right balance of learning and sharing.”

John Fulljames, Artistic Director, the Opera Group


“For me the two days were a real eye opener – not only to the issues of climate change (my knowledge, preceding the conference, was minimal) – but also to the fact that there was a group of artists already engaged in such a way in such a difficult topic. I began to get a real sense of the power of the arts sector to effect real social and cultural change, and I’m really not sure that I’ve ever felt that before.”

Emma Stenning, then Co-Founder, Schtanhaus


“For me it was a truly significant experience, one that has since caused a profound shift in my perception of the world and the way I engage with it.”

Cornelia Parker, Artist


“In my experience, big meetings and especially writers’ conferences are a complete disaster! The masters of the word fail when it comes to communication or conversation! TippingPoint, however, was the best conference I’ve ever experienced. The vividness, the openness, it was an atmosphere I felt filled with creativity and concern.”

Liane Dirks, Author


“Inspired. Quite simply, a life changing experience.”

David Jubb, Artistic Director, Battersea Arts Centre

Personal Tipping Points

As examples of responses presented after a longer period of time, here are below some statements from individuals who have attended our events and have taken the trouble to describe how they have profoundly influenced their thinking.

The fact that some of these are from scientists has, we believe, real significance. One of the deepest challenges our society faces is its silo-isation: the way communication between different disciplines, and even within them, has become stultified by specialisation. A corollary of the law of unintended consequences – of which anthropogenic climate change must be the prime example – is that we face an urgent imperative to make communication across these complex boundaries of subject, methodology and culture really work.

We see our own approach, of course modest in the global scheme of things, as an exemplar of this type of cross-disciplinary exploration.


Professor Karen O’Brien, University of Oslo

The first climate-art event at Oxford in 2005 was a personal tipping point for me. Until then, I considered climate change to be an important scientific concern that challenged current thinking about the environment. At the TippingPoint event, it became clear that climate change is not just about understanding complex nonlinear systems; it is about relationships and communication among people who experience the environment in different ways. It made me realize that although climate change certainly matters to many people, we have to connect better to people’s emotions and values to inspire change. Artists have a fundamental role to play in creating a sustainable future and my work since then has included collaborations with artists. The TippingPoint events have also led me to pursue a more integral approach to climate change research, with a greater emphasis on culture, values, and worldviews and how they influence behaviour and systems.


Ackroyd & Harvey – Artists

If we were to read one book after another detailing quite how catastrophic the future world picture looks, temperature rise, species loss, ecosystem degradation, mass migration, social turmoil, economic collapse, our dreams would seethe and the will to continue would either disappear or amount to a mad careless cavort at the end of existence as we know it.

The antidote to a prevailing sense of ‘it’s too late, there is nothing we can do about it’, has been faced by the vibrancy, curiosity, passion and stimulation fused into the TippingPoint experience. ‘Shaken and stirred’ was the way we described our first TippingPoint experience, an animated encounter that gave the chance to talk with scientists in the know, artists wanting to know more. It was a grounding experience, an essential point of recognition that no single solution lays before us but a myriad of actions and cooperations.

Personal tangible outcomes have included a working relationship with architect Bill Dunster of ZedFactory for Metal Culture’s Chalkwell Hall building in Southend and Twist, a 20 m high permanent sculpture in Bristol that harnesses energy from a solar array and vertical axis wind turbine to illuminate itself.

A recent conversation mentioned that talk of ‘climate change’ is giving way to talk of ‘system change’, that there is more happening on the ground than can be collated, that a way of seeing humanity as not at the centre of all, but as interconnected and mutually dependant is evolving. TippingPoint captures the spirit of this, a crucible igniting connections between people and place, and forging fresh identities to cope with an unfolding century of unprecedented change.


Dr Dirk Notz, Max Planck Institute for Meteorology

Well, how can one describe the impact of TippingPoint in just a few words? Should one focus on the completely new ways of thinking that open up if one speaks as a scientist to someone who leads a theatre or to someone who performs public art? How to explain the amazingly creative atmosphere of intellectual exchange, where deep moral questions are discussed on a par with the fundamental science of global warming? Can one really explain what it does to ones self-image as a scientist if one has to explain ones findings and its implications to someone who is considering turning both into an art project? And is it possible to outline in just a few words how refreshing it is to step outside the day-to-day discussions of ones profession? I guess not. But at least one lasting effect of TippingPoint is easy to summarize: it really made me question virtually everything I did – and it also provided me with the answers I needed to continue my research with possibly more intensity than ever before.


David Jubb – Artistic Director, Battersea Arts Centre

I attended a TippingPoint weekend in Oxford in 2006. It turned out to be a tipping point in the way I think about my work at Battersea Arts Centre, and also a tipping point in my personal life. Pretty good for one weekend away. Like millions of others, I had spent time reading about human caused global warming and listening to climate models on the news. Somehow the impact of the information passed me by. It took a couple of hours on a Sunday morning at TippingPoint to understand what it meant for my organisation, and what it meant for my daughter and what it might mean for her children.

TippingPoint’s combination of scientists and artists is potent: drawn together to look at the world’s history and future through the filter of climate change but each seeing the story through their own unique lens. The real impact of TippingPoint is yet to be felt as the legacy of all those introductions is played out over the coming years. I returned in 2010 to a TippingPoint weekend, the sense of urgency, for us all, is palpable.


Angharad Wynne-Jones – formerly of LIFT, now TippingPoint Australia

I first attended a TippingPoint event in Oxford in 2008 when I was Artistic Director of LIFT. Through the carefully facilitated process that informs then leads the participant closer and closer to their own core beliefs and understandings of their response-ability in relation to climate change, I experienced a tipping point of my own and emerged after the two days more strongly committed to professional and personal changes of behaviour in this area, with a network of like minded colleagues and emboldened by the collective move to action.

When I returned to Australia in 2008 and curated the Australian Theatre Forum in 2009 I was distressed and disconcerted by the lack of discussion, strategy, policy and action from both artists and funders in the cultural sector. We needed to have the opportunity to reflect more deeply on this subject in order to find the motivation and commitment to individual and collective action.

The three TippingPoints across Australia in 2010 have irrevocably changed and charged the sector’s response- ability to this issue and we will see the immediate outcomes over the next year as over 300 TippingPoint Alumni/climate champions put their ideas into action.

Thank you thank you thank you, for sharing your knowledge and making that possible.


Michael Bird – Director of the British Council, Germany

‘We have organised two TippingPoint events in Germany, both in Potsdam at the Institute for Climate Impact Research which is run by Angela Merkel’s adviser on climate change. Not only has the feedback from the diverse participants been superlative – from artists and scientists alike, but my own colleagues – both British and German – feel that these events have been among the most inspiring things they have ever done with and for the British Council.’