Ethical, environmentally friendly, sustainable theatre touring

After having to explain to Singapore audiences that we don’t waste paper, we reuse and recycle it as part of our show ‘Atishoo!’ currently touring Singapore and Malaysia, I thought I’d better post our latest environmental and ethical company statement for those who may be interested.

Adam Bennett – DNA

biodiesel droplet

biodiesel droplet

Anyone who has worked in touring performances knows the hardship of being on the road. The long hours, the poor quality of food eaten at the wrong time of day, the mix of accommodation from digs in people’s homes to impersonal hotels. These days there is a new factor to consider, the ethical dilemma. Is it worth burning these amounts of fossil fuels, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions all for putting a show on a long way away?

We at DNA have long been as ethical as possible in our work – promoting the re-using and recycling of materials in the creation of sets, props, costumes and puppets for performances and in our education work with children, young people and professionals. We work closely with the Greater Manchester Play Resources Unit which sources discarded materials from commercial businesses and offers them to educational and community organisations.

In our current business practices, we obsessively recycle scrap paper, old publicity materials, plastic bottles, ink cartridges and batteries. This means that nowadays a five hundred mile round trip to deliver a performance is bringing us to an ethical dilemma.

One solution we have found and implemented successfully – we now source biodiesel made from waste oil and use it for touring. A local company called Ecotec Resources not only produces and sells biodiesel processors and reactors, but also supplies ready-made fuel. We have ditched our dependence on fossil fuels for touring.

However, we are planning on going much further than that. We are committed to reducing in the short term the number of miles of travel we travel each year. That means that we are actively seeking to increase our local activity. In our region of the North West of England, this is not an easy thing to do. The majority of our national touring circuit is still in the South of England, and there a fewer venues and less well developed networks and consortia in this region as well. We spend a lot of time with our local arts centres encouraging them to use local artists to work with local communities as an environmental as well as artistic and social benefit.

We have attended ‘Devoted and Disgruntled: What are we going to do about Theatre?’ Open Space Networking Events – the brainchild of Phelim McDermott of Improbable Theatre– and consulted with professional colleagues about environmental sustainability, and whether it’s possible to tour performance without vans, articulated lorries or the production of greenhouse gases. Also whether venues can put on productions without using so much energy. One idea proposed was that audiences power the performances themselves using gym equipment hooked up to generators. This gave audiences the power to kill the lights and amplifiers simply by stopping generation. Venues would not require heating as the audiences would be generating their own heat by exercising. A radical proposal was for companies to devise and rehearse performances, then to travel to the venues by train, using local resources (staging, larger props, and community volunteers) to complete preparations to perform. Venues become hothouses of creation.

DNA’s venture in this area is this – we intend to create a performance that is not only transportable by train (trains are the only mode of transport that can easily transform from burning fuels by changing the engine carriages), but also can be performed on a train. Our performance will be about traveling, being in transit, moving from one place to another – the liminal spaces of the platform, the carriage, the moving world. We are currently inviting expressions of support and interest for this project and are pleased to already have the support of George Harris of Lanternhouse International in Cumbria

DNA are a not-for-profit organisation which is not revenue funded and has no regular core funding, however we gratefully acknowledge business development support from these organisations and individuals

DNA also would like to thank the regular support received from

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