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Culture Declares Emergency London protest
Culture Declares Emergency protesters gather on London’s Waterloo Bridgevia Twitter (@culturedeclaresemergency)

Arts and culture institutions in the UK declare a climate change emergency

‘Culture can help stir up human response, as well as creating new stories and visions for our world’

Galleries, museums, and creative institutions and individuals across the UK have today declared a ‘climate and ecological emergency’, calling for immediate action to combat the climate crisis.

Launching today (April 3), more than 180 organisations and people in the creative industries announced their participation as part of ‘Culture Declares Emergency’. This includes arts and environment organisation Invisible Dust, The Royal Court, actor Tamaryn Payne, Brighton’s ONCA, and The Happy Museum Project. The movement was launched with an artist-led procession from London’s Somerset House, which moved across Waterloo Bridge to precede past the Southbank Centre, National Theatre, Tate Modern, and Shakespeare’s Globe. Activists led the group on horses, and wore living grass coats made by artists Ackroyd and Harvey. A ceremony included speeches about the urgency of the climate crisis, as well as readings from the ‘Letters to the Earth’ series, which includes writing submitted by the general public calling for action on the environment.

Each arts and culture organisation and individual who has pledged their involvement has promised to take action where possible to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025, and work towards “regenerating the planet’s resources”. “We are committed to justice supporting demands for more democracy within our civic institutions and government,” the pledge reads. Organisations and practitioners with creative or civic resources – such as meeting space, skilled people, or innovative ideas – will individually explain the contributions they can make to combat climate change.

“Humanity faces the combined catastrophes of climate change, a mass extinction of vital biodiversity and a degradation of ecosystems health everywhere,” Lucy Neal, spokesperson for Culture Declares Emergency, said in a statement. “This has now become an emergency situation because governments and industry have not shown the necessary leadership, and, so far, have not acted fast enough.

“Fortunately, humans are capable of responding in a remarkable variety of ways to accelerate climate solutions and adaptations, and culture can help stir up human response as well as creating new stories and visions for our world.”

Culture Declares Emergency has been inspired by the work of activists at Extinction Rebellion and the global School Strike For Climate. Events are in the works that will be in the run up to and coincide with the International Rebellion – a demonstration planned to shut down central London and elsewhere – from April 15.

On Monday, Extinction Rebellion activists stormed the House of Commons galleries and stripped naked in protest of the British government’s inaction on climate change. The group is leading the call for International Rebellion. XR previously organised a demonstration that drew thousands to shut down five of central London’s busiest bridges, demanding the government reverses environmentally damaging policies, works with the media to raise climate awareness, brings in policy that reduces carbon emissions and consumption levels, and implements a national Citizens’ Assembly to oversee such changes.

You can read more about the Culture Declares Emergency cause here, and sign up as an organisation or individual here.