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Festival of Politics 2022
11 to 13 August
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Friday, October 22, 2021

Narratives for change: the power of culture to engage us with the climate emergency

Time: 3pm to 4pm

How can the arts help to engage people with the urgent need for climate action and environmental sustainability?


Event information

What is the role of the arts in engaging people, including stakeholders and communities, with the urgent need for climate action and environmental sustainability?

Art and culture can highlight and help to resolve issues of climate justice and sustainability. Artists are uniquely placed to communicate the urgent need for sustainability and change in a way that is engaging, emotional and authentic. As makers and producers themselves, artists and cultural organisations are embracing sustainability in their practice as well as at a conceptual level. Join the panel, chaired by the Presiding Officer, to discover how the arts can help achieve climate action and environmental sustainability.

This event is brought to you in partnership with Edinburgh International Culture Summit Foundation. It is chaired by Alison Johnstone MSP, Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament.

Narratives for Change is hosted on Culture Summit Hub. Access to the event requires membership registration through the applicable link. We recommend registering for the Culture Summit Hub platform well in advance of the event to confirm your attendance, and to ensure you can access the platform on your device on the day of the event.


Christine Borland FRSE, Contemporary Artist and Professor of Art at Northumbria University

Christine Borland is an artist based in Argyll, Scotland. She often develops work in negation with experts in institutions of science and medicine and in museums, collections and archives; making visible practices and uncovering narratives which are not usually publicly accessible. Recent exhibitions include Infinite Sculpture, From the Antique Cast to the 3D Scan at Beaux-Arts de Paris and Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon. Current work with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh and Deveron Projects, Huntly focuses on engendering intimate re-connection with the ecological heritage and future of growing and making practices. Her exhibition In Relation to Linum reflects the relationships nurtured between human and plant communities through the growing and hand-working of flax into linen, one of the most ancient and sustainable forms of textile. Borland has taught and been involved in research at art schools and universities; most consistently at Glasgow School of Art, the Peninsula College of Medicine & Dentistry Truro, where she was a Visiting Professor of Medical Humanities and at Northumbria University where she is a Professor of Fine Art. Borland was a Turner Prize nominee in 1998. In 2016 she was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters (DLitt) from the University of Glasgow.

Emma Nicolson, Head of Creative Programmes, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

Emma Nicolson is Head of Creative Programmes at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh where she leads on the development of a new arts strategy, the creation of innovative exhibitions and interpretative opportunities that engage with art, nature, science and the environment in the unique context of RGBE. In 2020 she launched Climate House and formed a collaboration with the Serpentine Galleries through the formation of the General Ecology Network. Prior to this she was the founding director of the award-winning ATLAS Arts (2010-2018) based on the Isle of Skye. During her tenure with ATLAS she undertook a two year guest curator role with Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Arts Centre in North Usit (2014-16). She has delivered large-scale commissions, exhibitions and music and performance programmes.
Emma is a cultural leader and innovator with a strong track record of creative thinking developing and delivering strategic vision and change. With particular interest in developing programming that helps engender individual and societal change, she is committed to partnership working for and with artists, creative professionals and communities, encouraging creative and critical thinking with local, as well as national and international audiences. Emma has been actively involved in the visual arts for over twenty years and has worked with leading cultural institutions in Scotland, England, Ireland and Australia, including Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney Australia (2007-2010), National Galleries of Scotland (2001-07), and Fife Council.

Katie Mitchell OBE

Katie Mitchell has directed over 100 productions in a career spanning 30 years. She directs text-based theatre, opera, and live cinema productions (a unique combination of video and theatre techniques). In the UK she has directed 9 productions for the Royal Shakespeare Company, 19 for the National Theatre and 12 for The Royal Court, and she has been an Associate Director at all three organisations. In opera she has directed for English National Opera, Glyndebourne Opera, Welsh National Opera, and the Royal Opera House. Recent opera productions include New Dark Age (ROH), Blaubart (Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich), Zauberland (Bouffe du Nord, Paris) Ariadne auf Naxos, Pelléas et Mélisande, Alcina, Trauernacht and The House Taken Over (Aix-en-Provence Festival), Written on Skin (Royal Opera, Aix-en-Provence), Lessons in Love and Violence and Lucia di Lammermoor (Royal Opera), Jenůfa (Dutch National Opera), Miranda (Opera Comique, Paris), Martin’s Le Vin herbé and Feldman’s Neither (Berlin State Opera) and Nono’s Al gran sole carico d’amore (Salzburg Festival, Berlin State Opera).
Her theatre work includes Orlando, Shadows (Eurydice Speaks), Ophelia’s Zimmer, Lungs, The Yellow Wallpaper and Fräulein Julie (Schaubühne, Berlin), Norma Jean Baker of Troy (The Shed, New York), Bluets, Sleeping Men, 4.48 Psychosis, Reisende auf einem Bein, Happy Days, and The Rest Will Be Familiar to you from Cinema (Schauspielhaus, Hamburg), La Maladie de La Mort (Bouffe du Nord, Paris), Anatomy of a Suicide (Royal Court), The Maids (Toneel, Amsterdam) Forbidden Zone (Salzburg Festival), Reise durch die Nacht, Rings of Saturn and Wunchkonzert (Schauspielhaus, Cologne) and When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other, Cleansed, Waves, Women of Troy, Iphigenia at Aulis (National Theatre).
Since 2008 she has split her time between working in the UK and in Europe in countries including Germany, France, Holland, and Scandinavia. She is currently a resident director at the Schaubuhne (Berlin), the Deutsches Schauspielhaus (Hamburg) and she has just finished a seven-year residency at the Aix-en-Provence Festival (France).
Her many awards in the UK include 2 Time Out Awards (1990 & 1991), The Evening Standard Best Director Award (1996) and a Tonic Award for her representations of women (2018). Her awards in Europe and beyond include 3 Theatertreffen prizes (Germany) in 2008 & 2009, an Obie Award (US) in 2009, 2 Golden Mask Awards (Russia) in 2011 & 2019, the Stanislavsky International Prize (Russia) in 2014, Best Director for 2019 at the International Opera Awards. She was presented with the Order of the British Empire (OBE) 2009. Photo by Jan Versweyveld

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