Climate Emergency: how can we make a difference?

Climate Emergency: how can we make a difference?
By Sarah
7th October 2021

“My nine-year-old daughter was completely taken in by the performance. I could tell her about what’s going on with the planet again and again and it would just go over her head. What you’ve gone and done there, will stay with her forever.”

Audience comments at Urban Astronaut 


It is a widely acknowledged fact that we are facing a climate and ecological crisis. Today, Highly Sprung are joining a broader, green movement within arts and culture, coming together for Culture Declares Emergency. We pledge to work with and support our community and local government in tackling the Climate & Ecological Emergency, and we call on others to do the same.


So… what actions are we taking? And how do we reflect this declaration through our work? Read on to learn more about our pledge and to gain an insight into the environmental themes core to our work.  


A man who looks in pain is dressed in a brown space suit. He is stood looking at a woman who points up in the air and holds a green plant.

Urban Astronaut by Highly Sprung


Why Are We Declaring An Emergency?


The Climate Emergency is the most pervasive threat to our work. We seek to inspire better futures for young people, a pursuit made impossibly difficult where little change is being seen in tackling the emergency. The following statements highlight the impacts of the Emergency that affect the future of the young people we work with and emphasise our decision to declare emergency:


  • We have 12 years to make urgent and unprecedented changes. *
  • If we want people who are under the age of 20 to live a full life, we must stop burning fossil fuels now.
  • We agree that to preserve a livable planet, humanity must act immediately. Failure to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will make the extraordinary heat, storms, wildfires, and ice melt of 2020 routine and could “render a significant portion of the Earth uninhabitable.” *


* October 2018, International Panel on Climate Change 

* January 2021, United Nations Survey


How Our Current Work Reflects this Emergency: The Changing Climates Festival


“‘I think I’m viewing climate change as more of a serious issue and I’m now more aware and more open to doing my part to reduce climate change” 

Participant comment at the Changing Climates Festival


A dark stage, with a blue-lit backdrop and an image of the sun. On stage are 2 young people reaching their arms up towards the sun.

Winter Rites, credit Andrew Moore

A teenage girl in glasses and a stripy top stands on stage, against a blue background. She is talking and looking up.

Highly Sprung, Winter Rites rehearsals


Through Highly Sprung’s touring productions and our work with children and young people, we always advocate for change and for the power of possibility. There is no stronger example of this than the Changing Climates Festival this summer, working with nearly 400 students in Coventry. The festival was developed alongside our new touring production CastAway, ensuring those young voices and experiences are engrained in everything we do.


“Very good, moving performance. Honest, dramatic & heartfelt. Challenging, overall excellent.” 

Audience feedback at the Changing Climates Festival


The Changing Climates project was our ambition to use our art form, physical theatre, to engage, build capacity for action and provide opportunities to develop and galvanise young voices around this pressing issue.  Building on the success we experienced touring our first environmentally themed piece, Urban Astronaut, we were driven to create a new piece to build awareness and encourage debate. A new partnership with the Canal and River Trust gave us an opportunity to use our practice to explore the issue of water pollution, benefitting from their knowledge and expertise to better understand the complex environmental issues threatening our waterways. This research period led to the vision for CastAway.


“A strong message and an outstanding performance…Reduce, Reuse, Recycle…Save our waterways.”

Audience comments at CastAway 


A woman in a dark blue tattered dress flies in the air, suspended from an aerial rig. She looks troubled and is holding a string of rubbish and paste waste.

CastAway by Highly Sprung, credit Andrew Moore


We were not satisfied to simply make a new piece of environmentally charged work; it was important that this opportunity did more than encourage conversation in our audiences.  The Changing Climates project was developed to embed the opinions and perspectives of the young audiences we serve and to develop and give platform to their voices. It was important that we started a process to inspire young people, particularly those experiencing disadvantage and those most likely to miss out on rich cultural opportunities.


To provide an opportunity for young people to understand the processes involved in making work and the vital role of culture and the arts in understanding, accelerating, and nurturing societal change at a time of climate and ecological emergency. The Coventry Young Producers Collective (CYPC) was established to provide a space to grow these voices, to test and shape new ideas.


A cork board covered in blue pieces of paper. There is a banner at the top reading 'Make a Pledge' and each piece of paper has a different Pledge on, such as 'Eat More Plants' and 'Monitor you carbon footprint.'

Audience pledges of climate action, taken after speaking to our young producers about the Changing Climates Festival and CastAway


“I’ve been proud before but this feeling is unlike anything else.” 

Participant comment from the Coventry Young Producers Programme


A large sculpture of a globe, with a pair of hands reaching towards it on a stage. It is made of clear plastic and is lit in blue and green.

The World Is In Your Hands at the Changing Climates Festival, credit Andrew Moore


The realisation of CastAway and CYPC worked symbiotically, one process inspiring the other. Participants of CYPC were invited to attend rehearsals of CastAway, to shape its narrative and message. At the same time professionals involved in the creation of CastAway extended their professional experience to CYPC through skill sharing sessions and in-depth Q&As. The project resulted in the creation of CastAway, as a tour ready, accessible, environmentally themed work and simultaneously CYPC produced their own week-long festival for 400 of their peers.


During the festival week, performances devised young people in schools and youth groups across Coventry looked at issues of deforestation, water pollution, fast fashion, plastic, consumerism, global warming and much more. Set Designer Phil Eddols co-created a sculpture with students made entirely from plastic waste entitled ‘The World Is In Your Hands.’ The week was an incredible, transformative opportunity for all involved to really have a voice on these complex issues.


What Are Our Intentions?

Our pledge of climate action and emergency is founded on 3 key principles – to tell the truth, take action, and ensure we are committed to justice. Learn more about the pledge of action here.



Interested in our work on climate action? Read another blog here from Sprung Advance member Holly, reflecting on how she finds theatre can be used to start working towards change.