- Posted on April 5th, 2022
Beyond Carbon : Liverpool Arab Arts Festival
Embedding climate change into strategic development
Like many organisations, the pandemic has impacted how Liverpool Arab Arts Festival (LAAF) operates. However, our work in reducing our environmental impact has been underway for several years. A key change has been LAAF’s internal policy and operational practice. We have been working to achieve an equal balance between improving our internal operations and increasing our artistic work whilst raising awareness of the climate crisis.
Previously LAAF tended to focus on organisational change. While important, the team felt that we could do more to generate a greater awareness of the climate crisis, especially within the Arab region. The climate crisis is an important part of LAAF’s ongoing strategic development. Our board and staff team are firmly committed to improving our climate impact, with the organisation’s environmental impact a longstanding agenda item in board meetings.
Our creative team have been speaking to artists, organisations and partners from across the world for several years about the impact of the climate crisis in the Middle East and North Africa region. We commissioned or supported 66 unique projects for the festival, featuring 113 artists from across the world. These conversations crystallised how the region has already been disproportionately impacted by the changing climate in recent years. This impact varies from country to country, and is compounded by a myriad of interconnected issues, ranging from the social to the political.
Our 2020 digital festival introduced our first event focused on the climate crisis: Artists Ideas Now – Conflict, Colonialism and the Climate Crisis. This panel discussion signalled our intention to extend the festival to the run up to COP 26 in Glasgow in November 2021. We were keen to explore and debate how LAAF could reach underrepresented audiences and bring artists to the forefront. One of our core projects last year was ‘22’, which asked Arab artists and activists to creatively respond to COP26 and the climate crisis. Together these pieces comprised a creative anthology that serves as a time capsule of this crucial moment in history, providing insight into the perceptions and preoccupations of those living or with heritage in the Arab world.
Following the conclusion of the festival catalogue of online resources accessible for artistic and education purposes. The climate crisis will continue to play a prominent role in our future programming and education activities. The climate crisis has been at the heart of our recent artistic work. Our 2021 festival invited artists from the UK and internationally to highlight the complexities and disproportionate impacts that the climate crisis is having on the countries and communities in the Middle East and North Africa region.
Taking place online and in Liverpool, the festival provided a platform to express the lived experiences of those often excluded from climate conversations, while addressing interconnected issues such as imperialism, climate justice and capitalism. Alongside our 2021 festival we released our environmental guidance. This statement will guide our work in the future as we strive to keep improving our work in the future. While these changes have been vital for LAAF, we are committed to ensuring that the climate crisis isn’t a transient theme for us. It’s imperative that we maintain and develop our long-term approach to reducing our impact and raising awareness of the ongoing impact of the climate crisis in the Arab region.
Reducing environmental impact
We have taken steps to practically reduce our environmental impact. Before the pandemic we had slowly shifted towards digital meetings where possible as a way of reducing travel. We hold many Zoom meetings. While acknowledging the carbon footprint of digital working, we have vastly limited physical meetings –and travel -over the past 18 months. We have also emphasised reusing materials for exhibitions, performances and office supplies where possible, or exploring cleaner alternatives.
A key motivation for our programming in the past 18 months has been to generate an array of creative and accessible learning resources for a variety of audiences. From talks to commissioned films to performances, these projects aimed to engage, inform, question, and creatively reimagine our future direction. It asks what we can learn from those already stepping up to respond? How can we do more? How do we collectively deal with the challenges that communities are already experiencing? We will continue to ask these questions collaboratively.
We are grateful to the numerous people who have supported us in making these changes in a variety of ways. A special mention goes to the artists who have allowed us to platform their work and lived experiences over the past two years. Our audiences in the UK and internationally have been hugely supportive in their engagement. Our staff team and dedicated volunteers continue to drive forward our work.
LAAF’s Young Producer Hilan Gully undertook action research into the lack of representation in the climate movement in Liverpool. The results of this were displayed at OUTPUT Gallery during our 2021 festival. This was in partnership with Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Metro Mayor Liverpool City Region, Curious Minds, Liverpool World Centre, and OUTPUT Gallery. The support of our core funders including Arts Council England and Liverpool City Council has been invaluable during these turbulent few years.
image credit: Liverpool Arab Arts Festival, Daraa Tribes