Roger Griffiths writes about a wander through time and place during a recent “Climate and Creativity shared learning” event in Manchester.
A twenty minute walk along the Ashton Canal from Piccadilly Station takes you past several old mills. These were an important part of the industrial revolution and a contribution of our present plight of global warming. But at the end of this trail is one mill, part of which is dedicated to trying to prevent this crisis.
Bridge 5 Mill, in Ancoats, was converted some years ago into Manchester’s first Centre for Change. It is a haven for green businesses, campaigning groups and charities and forms a meeting point for debates and action concerning sustainability.
In 1996 four people established MERCi (Manchester Environmental Resource Centre Initiative) and over five years managed to raise over three million pounds from various sources, including Europe. With volunteers and trainees the mill was refurbished and opened in 2001.
On Friday evening and all Saturday (8th and 9th Feb) a Creativity Workshop Course was run by ‘Action for Sustainable Living‘ (AfSL) [See comment #2 below for a clarification. Eds]. This is a charity based in Manchester dedicated to help and support people take action towards environmental sustainability. It was lead by Jo Hamilton, from Oxford. The main venue was large, airy and friendly but there were little classrooms as well. Much of the furnishings were probably second hand and it thankfully lacked the corporate style of a 1970’s futuristic film set.
Friday night was mainly given over to getting to know each other. To my knowledge there were groups from the north-east Middlesbrough area, Oxford, Cardiff, Chester, Derbyshire and Manchester. Some of these people were professionals working in the climate change ‘industry’. They gave introductions as to what they would talk about on Saturday or descriptions of their type of art through which they expressed their ideas. The most moving example for me during the weekend was from a Catalonian artist whose main interest concerned waste rather than recycling. It was a short film of a sort of coconut shy. Instead of the coconuts there was a pretty girl, in shorts and bikini top and instead of soft balls there was a pile of rubbish which people were throwing at the girl. In the end she was covered in various fluids and scraps of rubbish and managing to dodge some of the heavier items. It was quite disturbing. I am sure you can work the meaning out for yourself.
On Saturday there was four workshops arranged, two in the morning and two after lunch. In the morning the choice was ‘Visual Arts’ which I chose and down stairs a ‘Creative Writing and Poetry’ workshop.
Lois Muddiman from Low Carbon West Oxford showed us a video of one she had prepared earlier. It was a Flash Mob. Turn to Wikipedia :-
A flash mob (or flashmob)is a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then quickly disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire, and artistic expression. Flash mobs are organized via telecommunications, social media, or viral emails.’
We were asked to criticise it and say how it could be done better. The conclusions were that there were too many distractions and it was too long and complicated. Also that some of the people in it looked embarrassed and this could make their audience feel embarrassed and turn away. It was suggested that an event should be well-rehearsed and also perhaps something like a dance, with a formal structure, would work better. In the afternoon the workshops were ‘Communicating energy and climate change’ and Theatre and Music’ and how it can be used to engage and communicate energy. This included radio plays, bird calls and bike repairing. I must confess to being rather tired at this point and had lost the plot a little. I was also a bit piqued and sulky because someone had criticised opera as being precious.
Walking back along the canal I reflected that this had been a lovely day with some very kind and interesting people. I could not contribute much but if everyone took away as much as I did then we all benefited. I would like to thank AfSL and especially Jo Hamilton.