Culture shapes the ways society evolves

26.04.2017 |

We spent a couple of days with the first cohort of the Creative Climate Leadership (CCL) course in Machynlleth, Wales. During a full week of intensive workshops they learned about the creative tools to tackle climate change with. Here's what they say.

In the CCL consortium, ARS BALTICA represents the Baltic Sea Region and considers it extremely worthwhile to be part of this international project highlighting what the cultural sector can do to fight climate change. Staying up-to-date with international trends and being a part of such a network helps us to bring even more substance to the fight for more sustainability and against climate change, that several cultural players from the BSR have already begun.  

We were right there in the middle of 25 new Creative Climate Leaders, that met at the first Creative Climate Leadership course at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth, Wales. The Creative Climate Leadership course was all about exploring the cultural dimensions of climate change, and taking action with impact, creativity and resilience. While in Wales we talked to 10 participants in short interviews and asked them to reflect upon the course.

The energy and atmosphere at the unique Centre for Alternative Technology really got hold of every single one of them. The participants were excited about the diversity of perspectives and backgrounds that people brought in. That even led so far that Michael Soro, Site Manager and Sustainability Consultant from the Body & Soul Festival in Ireland compared the CCL-Course with the United Nations:

“I would like to see a kind of climate UN scenario coming out of this. It already has that feeling and I think that’s what’s needed in the cultural sector and within many other sectors, the meeting of different perspectives. If there was a way to solidify the council-kind-of-character about this, it would be really valuable. People’s creativity and their different ideas, people from all walks of life, have made understand me what’s wrong with the UN and what’s right with this.“

The fantastic natural environment around the Centre for Alternative Technology 
invited to contemplate and discover. All pictures by Jorge |

Hailing from England and being in charge of the menswear design department at Vivienne Westwood, Carla Knight also was amazed how the crowd and the course just enabled to talk about Climate Change without needing to be an expert on it. It’s all about the passion in addressing this issue:

“It was a real safe space to talk about this issue here. In my industry, it can be quite difficult to start these conversations. Here it was a completely open space, and I was unsure whether the little ideas I had were good enough, but that’s not what it was all about. It’s about caring and the motivation to get started in that field.“

The course organisers put an impressive schedule together with each of the five workshop-days focusing on another issue. In the spotlight: Leadership, Communication and naturally the links between Culture and Climate Change. Asked about the impact of culture on climate change, Gavin Porter, artist and filmmaker from Wales explained:

“Many conversations have reaffirmed some of my thinking; culture quite often shapes ideas and the way that society evolves. So, if we think of the civil rights movement and the role music and musicians like Marvin Gaye or Donny Hathaway or even Aretha Franklin played in it, we can see that throughout recent history, culture has helped shape modern society. That’s the power that culture can have.”

The focus on communication also instantly led to reflecting his own actions. He said:

“If I were to make a film yesterday [about Climate Change] it might have been a disaster movie, if I were to make a film today, the messages would be much subtler.”

25 participants got together to become #CCLeaders

The topic of communicating climate change really stuck with the participants, as it seems so vital and pressing to get the message across. Lyke Poortvliet, Event Manager from the Netherlands summed up:

“A really important thing I learned is the communication and how you address people. You shouldn’t for example adopt a leftish way of communications and then automatically exclude people in the middle or the right, when climate change is of course an issue for everyone.”

Phillip Kusasa, Festival Director of Ndau Festival in Zimbabwe agreed with Lyke and emphasised:

“At times, you need to be patient with your audience. You need to be very open with your audience on what you want to achieve, so that you can start from the same page. Moreover, you really need to consider other people’s feelings in the process of addressing these kinds of concerns.”  

Talking to the participants, it really felt like there was a lot of enthusiasm about going ahead. While some participants already have concrete plans about what should be done next, others are just certain what area they will get active in. Harpreet Kaur, activist, artist, writer from Birmingham identified a gap relating to arts and climate change, that she would like to get involved in.

“So, the art I’ve seen being made relating to climate change is often made by white middle class people or seems a bit highbrow but always talking to the same people. So, I feel there’s a real gap there, an opportunity to do much more from other perspectives such as in Black and Asian arts.”

Carla Knight is convinced that the tools she’s acquired during the course will be a great advantage in her working environment. Having a conviction and certain beliefs can be attached to a product and in the end reach the people, that obtain it:

“The things that we believe in doing in the beginning can really empower everyone that’s involved in the process of our work, from me and the people that talk about it online to the people in the shop and that buy the clothes. It can go as an example and create a story.”

The course both featured intense working sessions as well as plenary sessions discussing with the whole group.

Lyke Poortvliet on the other hand is already involved in planning her own festival. It’ll be a festival unlike the ones she’s been managing so far. While it’s not uncommon that she’s dealing with 60000 visitors, the new one will be much smaller and intimate with just about 200 people.

“The festival is about becoming unplugged. People can bring their phones but not charge them. It will be about storytelling and reconnecting to nature on different levels. All things I have learned here, especially in communications, I can really translate into this little festival.”

Christine Vroom also from the Netherlands and working at the Het Nieuwe Instituut was in the beginning sceptical, whether the course would be right for her, but in the end was convinced, that she should go for it. Now, she doesn’t regret going to Wales at all:

“The course has even exceeded my expectations because the week was very personal. It made me realise that it’s not just one thing you do but it’s connected to your whole life. It doesn’t mean that you can never take a plane any more, which we all do and maybe feel guilty about, but we also know how to balance it, be aware of it and start spreading the word and the experience more and more.”

We’re very happy, that the first Creative Climate Leadership course came off to such a great start. There are now 25 motivated #CCLeaders, who will not only spread the word and share their expertise, but actively support each other in their endeavors to increase awareness about Climate Change and to take resilient action.

Read also our full interviews with Sigrid Pawelke, curator and art historian working in France and Anna-Kaisa Koski, curator and activist from Finland.

Climate Change in Higher Art Education, Sigrid Pawelke talks about her work and its relevance and opportunities for raising awareness about climate change.

Finding the Leader in Yourself, Anna-Kaisa Koski talks about her work with the ‘Coal-Free-Finland’ initiative and about the leader in yourself.

The next Creative Climate Leadership training course will take place in Slovenia in October 2017, facilitated by Julie’s Bicycle and PiNA. Applications will open soon. To register your interest, sign up to our newsletter at

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"Culture includes not only culture and arts, but also the way of life and system of values. In this sense culture becomes the major power for intellectual renewal and human perfection." (European Council Report on European Cultural Policy)