The area outside the foyer of stage@leeds has been designated as a ‘Sustainable Theatre Creative Lab’ (STCL) to encourage research, engagement and participation in methods of creating sustainable, low carbon performance environments.
The STCL was launched at Leeds Light Night 2017 with the interactive installation ‘Green Light’. A converted bicycle was located in the stage@leeds foyer, with participants encouraged to pedal to generate clean energy that illuminated the trees outside – the more efficient the cyclist, the more trees became illuminated. The installation served as a vehicle to explain the aim of the STCL and the challenges associated with energy consumption in theatre production. ‘Green Light’ will be restaged at ‘Creative Reactions’, an event that looks at the mix of science and art.
The STCL was a imagined as a discreet project concentrating on the green space between stage@leeds and the School of Earth and Environment, but it soon became clear that a genuine commitment to clean energy and sustainability could not ignore the theatre building itself. As a result the project has developed into a much wider reaching strategy for the theatre as a whole.
One of the key motivators for the STCL is to create an outdoor space for performance that preserves the green space for casual users. We are currently working closely with the University Estates Services to ensure that new planting and landscaping in the area promotes biodiversity whilst maintaining key landscape features that may be valuable to theatre makers and artists.
On the face of it little has changed in the area outside stage@leeds and, whilst this makes promoting the idea quite difficult, it is as it should be. The STCL is not about creating a physical edifice or radically changing a landscape, it is about working with the space as it is, rather than turning it into something else.
The space is licensed for performance and going forward we will see more performances and installations. More significantly, the ideas at the heart of the STCL now inform and underpin how the theatre and wider School operate – sustainability is now a key theme for the theatres activities. Examples include:
- We encourage re-use in all our productions.
- We purchase set/props from charitable organisations and pay for items used to be returned for resale
- We try to use only water based paint
- We fix, maintain and re-purpose equipment where appropriate and possible
- We re-use equipment from other departments
- Our students have created two separate pieces of work in 2018 that looked at the issues of global waste and sustainability
Our aspiration is to develop the venues within stage@leeds as exemplars of sustainable practice, moving from tungsten lighting to LED, attempting to create waste free theatre productions, developing the stage@leeds PCI building to be more energy efficient and creating a forward looking environment that can be a platform for research.
The stage@leeds bar started to move away from single-use plastic in early 2018, so when the University made the #2023PlasticFree pledge later that year it was well placed to play a leading role. The bar has now been free of single-use plastic since December 2018.
The move has proved popular with visitors as well as students who are also being encouraged to use refillable bottles whilst using theatre studio spaces. stage@leeds is currently working with University Catering Services to procure STCL branded reusable cups and bottles.
Don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers: In October 2018 a new performance ‘Don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers’ was created by Cultural Fellow Kat Austen, Dr Scott Mclaughlin from the School of music and stage@leeds Artistic Director Steve Ansell that typified this respect for the space and it’s values. Funded by CePRA, this work uses Image Theatre techniques as a mode of exploring and observing non-human agency of green space. These observational methods formed a basis for two scored musical improvisation performances, where musicians created a dynamic soundscape in response to the interplay they observed between humans and non-humans, to highlight the importance of ‘green space’. https://katausten.wordpress.com/portfolio/dont-forget-to-stop-and-smell-the-flowers/
What a Waste: In April 2019 the stage@leeds young company (our youth theatre) will present ‘What a Waste’ – a play in a week holiday project looking at the effects of over consumption, the throw away society and why sustainability is so vital for our futures.