Tag Archive | Activism

Keep it Clean -Interactive art installation showed support for clean energy in Manchester

Green Alliance is an influential environmental think tank working to ensure UK political leaders deliver ambitious solutions to global environmental issues.

“On Wednesday 9 March, we lit up Piccadilly Gardens in central Manchester with our interactive art installation to show support for renewable energy in the North. One metre high letters spelling out ‘keep it clean’ came to life

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There’s been a lot of talk about the Northern Powerhouse, and what it really means for the North still isn’t clear. New industry, new transport links, new jobs…

But one big question is “what will power this powerhouse?”

Renewables are the most popular energy source in the UK. According to government statistics, 78 per cent of the public support them, with only four per cent against.

In November, countries across the world committed to take action on climate change, and to do that they must go low carbon.

The North of England led the Industrial Revolution, and it should be at the forefront of this new, global, cleantech transformation.

To spread that message, Green Alliance teamed up with 10:10 and commissioned an interactive art installation in Piccadilly Gardens for an evening. It spelt out ‘Keep it clean’ in one-metre-high letters, which light up when people hold hands to connect the electric current. When more people hold hands, the lights change colour. They invited passers-by to interact with the sculpture by holding hands and making the bulbs light up, and they had leaflets to explain what it’s all about – i.e. making sure that whatever comes of the Northern Powerhouse idea, it has clean energy and the wishes of northern people at its heart.

The installation created a fantastic visual, and lots of people interacted with it to show support for the message and make it light up nice and bright.

The North tells Osborne: clean energy must power the Powerhouse

Friday 11 March 2016

Amy Mount
Amy Mount Senior policy adviser amount@green-alliance.org.uk

More than 80 organisations from across northern England have called on the Chancellor ahead of the Budget to ‘Keep it Clean’ and back renewable energy for their region.The North of England led the Industrial Revolution, and they say it should be at the forefront of this new, global, clean energy transformation.The signatories include the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, communities investing in their own small-scale renewable projects, business groups, faith groups, and nature conservation organisations. In a declaration sent to the Chancellor, George Osborne, they say:

“The future we want is one with clean air, healthy people and resilient communities … To make this vision real, the 2016 Budget must enable us to develop and grow renewables for our region into the 2020s. The UK government should be celebrating clean energy as core to its economic plan. To cherish what we love about our region and reassert our place in the forefront of the world’s economy, we ask the Chancellor to back clean energy for the North.”

The declaration also reflects concern over the extreme wet weather that badly affected parts of the North this winter linking this with the need to shift to renewable energy to reduce the risk of extreme weather from climate change. In December, countries across the world committed to take action on climate change, signing the historic Paris Agreement. Yet in the UK, this is a very uncertain time for renewable energy, with an influential committee of MPs warning last week that the government needs to restore investor confidence in the sector.

So far negotiations about the Northern Powerhouse have ignored the need for new energy infrastructure.  The groups backing the declaration are clear that this should be clean, renewable energy combined with the benefits of smart energy technologies and reducing energy waste.  The call follows a recent report from industry body Energy UK calling for a ‘smart energy future’ and stating that the UK’s energy sector is ready to deliver affordable, reliable and clean energy.

Renewables are the most popular energy source in the UK. According to government statistics, 78 per cent of the public support them, with only four per cent against. Already, the North of England has enough solar PV to power half a million homes, enough onshore wind capacity to power one million homes, and enough offshore wind capacity to power 1.5 million homes.

Councillor Kate Chappell, Executive Member for the Environment at Manchester City Council, said:“Manchester is proud to sign the Clean Energy Declaration. As a city which was integral to the Industrial Revolution, we now see ourselves as being ideally placed to help lead the Clean Energy Revolution we need to see in the 21st century. Along with other great Northern cities, we have signed a pledge to move towards being exclusively powered by clean energy by 2050. And we will continue to develop the emerging Manchester Strategy, which explains our commitment to reducing the city’s carbon footprint, including through the use of clean energy. We’re also working with other Greater Manchester authorities and partners to improve our collective understanding of low carbon energy, as we seek to discover innovative, locally generated renewable energy sources for the city.”

Jeremy Garside, chief executive of Tees Valley Wildlife Trust, said: “As an organisation concerned with protecting wildlife and important natural environments in the Tees Valley, we know climate change is a big threat and that we need to transition quickly to a low carbon economy to make sure people and wildlife can thrive in this area.”

Phil Davies, director at Community Energy Cumbria Ltd, said: “With Cumbria experiencing three major flood events in the last decade and with the rural economy struggling, it has been heartening to witness so many Cumbrian residents willing to invest their money and passion in community renewable energy projects. Whilst local procurement has undoubtedly benefitted Cumbrian businesses, the distribution of profits back into communities has begun a renaissance in true sustainability. We really need the Government to acknowledge that supporting community renewable energy represents the perfect vehicle for job creation, social well-being and environmental common sense. Surely this is what we all want a northern powerhouse to deliver.”

Gordon Watts, sustainability manager at the South Yorkshire Housing Association, said: “South Yorkshire Housing Association is committed to improving the environmental sustainability of our housing stock. The use of renewables such as solar PV and solar thermal in some of our existing housing schemes helps to keep our customers’ energy bills down and to tackle fuel poverty. But, like all other stock investments, financial viability is a key consideration and as such SYHA would strongly back continued Government support for clean renewable energy in the North and across the UK until the renewables sector is fully mature”.

Radical Renewable Art + Activism Fund – Kickstarter

RRAAF (Radical Renewable Art + Activism Fund) will use a wind turbine to generate renewable energy to fund a ‘no strings attached’ grant scheme for art-activist projects.

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My name is Ellie Harrison and I’m an artist based in Glasgow (UK). I’m fundraising for “phase 1” of an ambitious new project called the Radical Renewable Art + Activism Fund (RRAAF), which, once set up, will be a new and autonomous alternative funding scheme for art-activist projects in the UK.

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By supporting this Kickstarter, you will become a RRAAF Founder – helping to raise awareness for the project and fund the initial scoping work being carried out by Georgy Davis fromCommunity Energy Scotland. This will be completed ready to be presented at our Launch Event at CCA Glasgow on 17 December 2015 (6:30pm), where we will outline plans for how we can make RRAAF a reality in the coming years (phase 2). Once “phase 1” is complete, RRAAF Founders will be invited to become actively involved in shaping and developing the project in “phase 2” – as future advisors, board members (or similar).
About me + how the idea developed

Since the start of the global financial crisis in 2008, my work has focussed on researching, exposing and challenging the workings of our economic system. This has led me to develop an expanded practice that now encompasses both art projects / performances (see Anti-Capitalist Aerobics and The Other Forecast), and direct political campaigning (see Bring Back British Rail, the campaign for the public ownership of our railways I have been running since 2009).

In 2013-4, I took part in Campaign Lab – a nine-month ‘economic justice’ campaigning course coordinated by the New Economics Foundation in London. Since then, and in the wake of continued cuts to public funding for the arts, I have become interested in developing a new model for an alternative funding system, which offers a real working alternative, as well as a critique of the status quo: highlighting how current funding sources for art (from commercial sponsorship to state investment) can influence its content, sometimes to the detriment.

And so the idea for the Radical Renewable Art + Activism Fund (RRAAF) was born! Once set up, RRAAF will use a wind turbine to generate renewable energy to fund a ‘no strings attached’ grant scheme for art-activist projects.

This summer, I have been developing the RRAAF project identity with Glasgow-based designerNeil McGuire with the support of Beaconsfield London and CCA Glasgow, with a view to launching the RRAAF concept and this Kickstarter in autumn – winter 2015, through a series of publicity stunts and public events in London and Glasgow as part of ArtCOP21, The Only Way is Ethics and ArtCOP Scotland. These will culminate in the Launch Event at CCA Glasgow on 17 December 2015 (6:30pm), where I will present the outcomes of the scoping work funded through this Kickstarter together with Georgy Davis from Community Energy Scotland.

Budget / Timescale

RRAAF “phase 1” October – December 2015

• £1,200 – Community Energy Scotland Fee
• £225 – RRAAF Founder Rewards
• £75 – Kickstarter Fees
• £1,500 – TOTAL

If we exceed our Kickstarter goal, additional funds will go towards RRAAF “phase 2” – making the project a reality, which may cost up to £1m. So please give generously even if our goal has been met!

Risks and challenges

Backers must be aware that this Kickstarter will only fund the initial scoping work for the Radical Renewable Art + Activism Fund project (phase 1) and not the setting up of the wind turbine itself (phase 2), which may cost up to £1m and take many years to realise. The scoping work is relatively risk free and will be completed ready to be presented at our Launch Event at CCA Glasgow on 17 December 2015 (6:30pm). It will then also be published on the RRAAF website. The RRAAF Founder Rewards will be produced and posted out in December – January (once the Kickstarter funds have been received), arriving by the end of January 2016 at the latest.

RRAAF “phase 2” will commence in January 2016, with an invitation to all RRAAF Founders to become actively involved in shaping and developing the project – as future advisors, board members (or similar). Phase 2 will require another significant fundraising campaign, the scale of which will be determined in the initial scoping work. I am committed to taking the project as far as possible to attempt to make it a reality and I am using this Kickstarter and the RRAAF Founder scheme to build the supportive community of people around the UK, which will be necessary to make it happen.

The art of knitting, chemistry, and gentle protest

The original “Particulart” exhibition was a collaboration between artist Clare Bryden and Diana Moore.

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“We wanted to encourage Devon County Council to ensure that the Exeter Incinerator is operated properly to minimise the risk of harmful emissions, and to develop a coherent and transparent waste strategy. Particulart is about knitting, and the environment, and health, and visual impact, and chemistry. It was exhibited in the Exeter Real Food café during autumn 2014. Clare is now developing Particulart further to encompass further issues and more chemistry. “A Stitch in Time” was on the subject of climate change, and exhibited in Bristol Cathedral during Lent 2015. Next up is “Up in the Air” in Exeter during 11-24 July 2015.”

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“It took me 44 years to learn to follow the energy in my own life. Even though I have had a wide-ranging portfolio ‘career’ and moved in dramatically different directions at certain points. And even though I had found out seven years earlier about the Transition Movement and its practice of following the group energy. But it’s never too late to learn how to live your life, and it’s never too late to learn about stuff in general.

Particulart sparked in March 2013 with a cup of tea in the Real Food Store in Exeter, itself an example of Transition people following the energy. I needed a chat with someone with common interests. Diana was concerned about the Exeter Incinerator.”

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“The Incinerator is officially known as the ‘Marsh Barton Energy Recovery Facility’, which gives it a positive spin: we can generate electricity and heat from all that waste, which would otherwise just go to waste. In reality, it has a capacity less than one offshore wind turbine, will displace lower-carbon electricity when operating, and encourages waste production… and I think there are better alternatives for dealing with waste.

Construction was well under way, and it was then due to begin operation in the spring of 2014, but Diana wanted to raise awareness and put pressure on Devon County Council and the contractor Viridor. Her concerns covered pollution and public health, waste strategy, and value for money for the taxpayer. She is a keen knitter, and floated the idea of knitting molecules to leave around town. I’m more of a scientist and data geek, and went away from the meeting enthused by finding out about the emissions from incineration plants and the concept of knitting chemistry.

So I hit the internet, found a long list of pollutants, and started to learn about the ball and stick model and the CPK colour scheme used to represent chemistry. I found patterns for the balls representing atoms, and learned about i-cord for knitting the bonds between atoms. I discovered a use for those plastic bags that charities keep dropping through the letterbox and never collecting.”

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And then I got knitting. I knew the basics of casting on and off, knitting and purling. A friend taught me how to increase the number of stitches in a row by knitting front and back, and how to decrease by slip, knit and passing over. Over the next six months, I went in fits and starts – following the energy – and gradually produced carbon dioxide and most of the much more complicated 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-para-dioxin.

Diana and I met again, and the idea morphed into a gallery exhibition. I got back to my knitting, and Diana did the politics. In October 2014, we hung Particulart on the walls of the Real Food café, and launched the exhibition the evening before the official inauguration of the Incinerator.

What next? The knitted particles and the material on our website particulart.org.uk are available to any groups wishing to protest against an incinerator or air pollution in their area.

The complicated dioxin, and Particulart generally, grabbed the attention of Matt Harvey, who has written a knitting character into the SWIMBY musical.

As for me, at the end of the exhibition my creative energy made me continue knitting. I had two greenhouse gases already, and climate change is the Most Important Thing, so I knitted more greenhouse gases. I had no idea what I would do with them. But then a friend at Bristol Cathedral told me they were observing a Carbon Fast during Lent, and could I exhibit there? And the opportunity to experiment with ‘Up in the Air’, a 3D installation, came up in Exeter in July 2015, with support from the City Council and Exeter Diocese.

I have also been speaking and writing about Particulart, and thinking about where next to take it: possibly a pop-up verison of ‘Up in the Air’, and the many other issues that knitting and chemistry

The original “Particulart” exhibition was a collaboration between Clare Bryden and Diana Moore. We wanted to encourage Devon County Council to ensure that the Exeter Incinerator is operated properly to minimise the risk of harmful emissions, and to develop a coherent and transparent waste strategy. Particulart is about knitting, and the environment, and health, and visual impact, and chemistry. It was exhibited in the Exeter Real Food café during autumn 2014. Clare is now developing Particulart further to encompass further issues and more chemistry. “A Stitch in Time” was on the subject of climate change, and exhibited in Bristol Cathedral during Lent 2015. Next up is “Up in the Air” in Exeter during 11-24 July 2015.

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Photographs by Clive Chilvers