Fields of Green: Addressing Sustainability and Climate Change through Music Festival Communities

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Edinburgh College of Art

Abstract

In his opening remarks at the September 2014 United Nations Climate Change Summit in New York, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated unequivocally: "climate change is the defining issue of our time. It is not a distant threat. It is coming and approaching much, much faster than we may think ... All of us have a stake in this fight and all of us can make a difference. Every action counts, large and small." Ban stresses the importance of tackling a global problem with local action, and this project takes up that challenge by addressing climate change through music festival communities.

In a study by Julie's Bicycle, the British cultural sector's leading environmental consultancy (who also sit on the advisory board for this project), the sale of music products and live music performances to UK consumers was said to create at least approximately 540,000 tonnes CO2 equivalent per year. The live music sector together with audience travel accounted for three-quarters (~75%) of the UK music industry's greenhouse gas emissions, with large music festivals accounting for the highest level of emissions. These figures stand in stark contrast to the branding of music festivals as sites where alternative ideas of community are performed, from hedonistic and carnivalesque escapes (e.g. BangFace Weekender, Beermageddon) to transient socially conscious utopian cities (e.g. Eden Festival, Glastonbury, the latter of which donates most of its profits to charities). This project uses four distinct disciplinary approaches (sociology of music, sustainable development, urban planning and environmental management, and songwriting as practice-based research) to investigate this tension and work with music festival communities - made up of artists, audiences, and organizers - to address climate change and sustainability, one of the most urgent problems facing the wider global community.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh, University of the West of Scotland, and Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts have co-designed this project with our community co-investigator, Creative Carbon Scotland (CCS), the key organization in Scotland for advising the cultural sector on matters of environmental sustainability, and an active partner throughout the project's duration. CCS has traditionally worked with arts organizations funded by Creative Scotland, but this project supports them to extend their reach to engage with the wider music festival sector in Scotland.

We will organize roundtables with festival organizers to determine what actions can enable and encourage audiences to engage with and enact sustainable behaviours themselves within the temporary communities formed during such events. We will also research two Scottish case study festivals - Go North Festival in Inverness and Solas Festival in Perthshire - and collect data from audiences on their engagement with sustainability issues through surveys and interviews. We will engage musicians in a practice-based research component which includes the creation of a digital mini-album with five internationally recognized Scottish musicians (including academic investigator Jo Collinson-Scott, who records and performs under the name Jo Mango) tackling the theme of travel and movement, as well as getting the musicians to reflect on and map the impact of their travel on the festival touring circuit. The work will also be performed and discussed at a workshop at the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow.

CCS, as a key partner in the project, will ensure the research from the project reaches not only the academic community but also festival organizers, the music industry, funders and policymakers, musicians, and audiences. We expect a range of outputs relevant to academics (conference paper and peer-reviewed article), (new links between CCS and music festival communities, 'next steps' document produced by CCS), and music audiences (digital music album released by Olive Grove Records).

Planned Impact

In the short term, one of the key impacts of this project is the building of new relationships and understanding of what support Scotland's MUSIC FESTIVAL ORGANIZERS require now and in future to make environmental sustainability an intrinsic part of their business. The users of the research outputs will include our music festival partners and the wider live music industry through the creation of a network of festivals engaged in environmental sustainability, instigated through the pre- and post-festival workshop round-table sessions organised by CCS.

In the longer term, this project will fill a significant knowledge gap by establishing a baseline of current levels of engagement with and action towards environmental sustainability in Scotland's music festival organisers, thus providing a solid foundation upon which to base future CCS work and research. In particular music festivals could see a reduction in carbon emissions (and associated financial costs) stemming from key areas of environmental impact including energy, water, waste and travel. Outputs such as CCS's 'next steps' guide will be used to engage and support more music festivals in their environment work and will identify the key challenges and opportunities in reducing their environmental impact and engaging artists and audiences in their contribution towards this. CCS has experience in delivering training for standards such as ISO20121 International Standard for Sustainable Event Management which may be recommended as a useful longer term course of action for a number of the festivals involved in this initial project.

Through the team's links with Scotland's MUSIC INDUSTRY, FUNDERS AND POLICYMAKERS, the project will aim to generate positive practice-based and policy-based change that could have considerable impact on the overall carbon emissions of the live music sector (which makes up 45% of the UK's music industry's greenhouse gas emissions). These longer term ambitions will be aided by the best practice guide, in addition to the securing of attendance of key players in Scotland's music industry at the proposed workshops. CCS's already strong relationship with Creative Scotland - Scotland's primary arts funding body - and agreement to require environmental reporting for all Regularly Funded Organisations from 2015/16 provides a solid foundation for future discussions with funders and policy makers.

There are several anticipated impacts stemming from the involvement of 5 internationally recognised Scottish MUSICIANS (including Co-I Collinson-Scott) in this project. The process of exploring sustainability via songwriting (and travel mapping activities) will impact on artist practices related to sustainability via art and mindfulness of their own relationships with travel and other environmentally impactful behaviours. The outcomes of this research could in turn contribute to CCS's programme of artistic projects which include an artist residency. There is scope for international interest in the outcomes of this aspect of the project via organisations including Cape Farewell and the Clipperton Project.

A key outcome of this project is the identification of what actions are being taken by festivals to engage and support AUDIENCES in issues of sustainability and climate change. It will contribute towards a baseline from which to identify future actions for audience engagement and measurement of their success. The performance of the practice-based research at one of the partner festivals and engagement with the festival-going public in a workshop will raise awareness amongst the general public of sustainability issues related to live music attendance, paving the way for broader attitude-change. Finally, audiences internationally will have access to the digital mini-album via Olive Grove Records (who will promote it through their digital distribution channels and combined social media reach of >50,000) and can become engaged in the discussion as a result.
 
Title Jo Mango & Friends 'Wrack Lines' EP launch at Celtic Connections 
Description This songwriter's circle performance was a launch for the Fields of Green 'Wrack Lines' music EP. It featured all of the artists involved in the writing and recording of the Wrack Lines EP. 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact The concert was well attended (c.200 people) and was themed around a discussion of the environmental impact of live music touring. 
URL http://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/news/14206839.Celtic_Connections_for_Jo_Mango/
 
Title Jo Mango & Friends : 'Wrack Lines' Music EP 
Description Back in 2007, while on a tour with cult singer-songwriter Vashti Bunyan, sitting on her third aeroplane of the day in a holding pattern above an American city, Jo Mango had a revelation about the potential impact of her itinerant job on the world and on herself. That moment led to some serious decisions about her lifestyle and an ongoing fascination with exploring the sustainability (or un-sustainability) of the musical life. Her new EP, Wrack Lines, is an extension of those thoughts into a research project for which Jo enlisted the help of leading Scottish singer-songwriters Rachel Sermanni, RM Hubbert, Louis Abbott (Admiral Fallow) and The Pictish Trail. The songs they have written together explore a gamut of emotions related to travel, the environment and music. The title "Wrack Lines" refers to the name given to the waving line of detritus that is left on the beach once the tide goes out. It calls to mind images of travelling across the ocean, but also the unmistakable residue of waste that is left behind us when we do. It is also an image of the creation of music (which itself is made from waves). There are songs that are an expression of the need to keep moving and to keep finding new audiences to gain the kind of catharsis that makes life worth living. Others explore the off-kilter rhythms of living on the road. There is the tension between the material and the ephemeral: loneliness and exhaustion of constant travelling versus the uplifting glories of the nature of musical performance; the concrete and objective nature of the resources that we use up in order to reach audiences versus the un-measurable and immaterial aspects of the music that is given back in return. Each songwriter was tracked across the life of the project as they travelled across the 2015 festival season. Maps of their movement were used as the basis for the artwork (created by illustrator and designer Helen Kellock). 
Type Of Art Composition/Score 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact This collaborative work saw Co-I Jo Collinson-Scott (aka Jo Mango) working with professional touring musicians to and encouraging them to engage with the environmental impacts of music touring through songwriting. 
URL https://olivegrove.bandcamp.com/album/wrack-lines-2
 
Description Based on the outcomes of the initial Fields of Green project, we recommend five avenues through which to develop this work further. First, the existence of a support network for small to medium independent music festivals to build capacity in successfully addressing environmental sustainability is crucial. In the case of Scotland, we found through our interviews and focus groups that the lack of a pre-established network hindered the development of a community of practice among music festival organizers to share ideas, skills and expertise concerning environmental sustainability. Festival organizers may wish to improve the sustainability of their event, but many of them, particularly at the grassroots level, are limited by their capacity to resource staff time and additional costs associated with equipment. Both technical expertise required in certain areas (e.g. efficient generator practices, alternative energy supply options) and leverage to bid for low carbon equipment procurement (via collective organization when negotiating with suppliers) are areas for attention.
Second, engagement with local authorities and planners (which have historically tended to focus on the noise produced by festivals rather than their environmental impact) could potentially drive action. Scotland has relatively progressive policies on both planning for climate change and reducing waste, and these could be deployed more comprehensively with productive dialogue between organizers and local authorities.
Third, there is an important role for the creation and dissemination of music within festival communities that makes audible the tensions between economic or cultural sustainability, and environmental sustainability. Work such as this can mediate complex meanings and engage diverse audiences on an affective level in difficult dialogues. There is excellent potential to expand the work of artist-led creative practice to engage not only musicians themselves but also audiences and organizers - work that could be achieved through our fourth recommendation: to connect the Fields of Green with wider initiatives exploring the relationship of culture and environmental sustainability (in the case of Scotland this would include the culture/SHIFT programme run by Creative Carbon Scotland and the Climate Conversations programme endorsed by Scottish Government, but there are likely to be analogous initiatives in other regions and nations as well). Music festivals, if not fully fledged communities in and of themselves, nevertheless act as hubs to connect otherwise disparate communities, and as such can be used to foreground, link, and progress sustainability-related issues between individuals (artists and audiences), organizations (festival organizers, production suppliers, local authorities), and infrastructure (driven by policymakers and investors).
Finally, our research showed that when it comes to music festivals and environmental sustainability, onsite waste - because of its visibility in media and at a festival itself - tends to be a focal point despite the fact that energy and travel are far greater contributors to a festival's overall carbon emissions. More research needs to be conducted in this area, particularly around the issue of encouraging behavioural change in energy use and travel among organizers and suppliers, musicians, and audiences.
Work on the role of popular music might serve in addressing issues of climate change inevitably also raises questions pertaining to debates about the intrinsic versus instrumental value of popular music: does such research belong in the field of popular music studies, ecomusicology, or event management? As ever with environmental sustainability research, the case of music festivals illustrates the need for the co-production of research and interdisciplinary approaches to fully understand, and then address, the complexity of the challenges humanity faces in order to move towards an environmentally sustainable culture.
Exploitation Route Our findings may be of use to the music festival sector and live music industry, particularly in Scotland.
Sectors Environment,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism
 
Description We are currently making progress towards building a community of practice in Scotland with the aim of improving the environmental sustainability of music festivals. We have engaged festival organizers through roundtables and focus groups, musicians through the 'Wrack Lines' EP creative practice component, and audiences through surveys and the songwriter's circle at Celtic Connections. At the time of writing, the research team are in the final stages of co-authoring an article detailing the research and findings, and plan to submit it to a journal for peer review in March 2017.
Sector Creative Economy,Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal
 
Description Connected Communities Expression of Interest Award
Amount £14,981 (GBP)
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 03/2016 
End 06/2016
 
Description Fields of Green project collaborations 
Organisation Creative Carbon Scotland
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The research team worked throughout the project in close partnership with Creative Carbon Scotland, with CCS Projects Officer Gemma Lawrence as a community partner Co-I. We conducted audience surveys, interviews and hosted a roundtable discussion at the XpoNorth Festival in Inverness, and conducted additional audience surveys and interviews at the Solas Festival. Co-I Collinson-Scott produced a mini-album of music with musical collaborators that formed the creative practice as research component of the project, and this was released by Olive Grove Records album.
Collaborator Contribution Creative Carbon Scotland provided a Meeting Room at Edinburgh Council and overheads of secondment staff. Olive Grove Records provided staff time to promote and distribute the mini-album. XpoNorth provided the venue and refreshments for our June roundtable, and staff time for interviews. Solas Festival provided weekend passes to the festival for four researchers and staff time for interviews. Julie's Bicycle provided staff time to participate on the advisory board.
Impact So far the project has organized two roundtables, collected data from two festivals, produced a practice as research mini-album and launch concert at the Celtic Connections festival. We are currently midway through the project with more outputs to come.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Fields of Green project collaborations 
Organisation Julie's Bicycle
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The research team worked throughout the project in close partnership with Creative Carbon Scotland, with CCS Projects Officer Gemma Lawrence as a community partner Co-I. We conducted audience surveys, interviews and hosted a roundtable discussion at the XpoNorth Festival in Inverness, and conducted additional audience surveys and interviews at the Solas Festival. Co-I Collinson-Scott produced a mini-album of music with musical collaborators that formed the creative practice as research component of the project, and this was released by Olive Grove Records album.
Collaborator Contribution Creative Carbon Scotland provided a Meeting Room at Edinburgh Council and overheads of secondment staff. Olive Grove Records provided staff time to promote and distribute the mini-album. XpoNorth provided the venue and refreshments for our June roundtable, and staff time for interviews. Solas Festival provided weekend passes to the festival for four researchers and staff time for interviews. Julie's Bicycle provided staff time to participate on the advisory board.
Impact So far the project has organized two roundtables, collected data from two festivals, produced a practice as research mini-album and launch concert at the Celtic Connections festival. We are currently midway through the project with more outputs to come.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Fields of Green project collaborations 
Organisation Olive Grove Records
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The research team worked throughout the project in close partnership with Creative Carbon Scotland, with CCS Projects Officer Gemma Lawrence as a community partner Co-I. We conducted audience surveys, interviews and hosted a roundtable discussion at the XpoNorth Festival in Inverness, and conducted additional audience surveys and interviews at the Solas Festival. Co-I Collinson-Scott produced a mini-album of music with musical collaborators that formed the creative practice as research component of the project, and this was released by Olive Grove Records album.
Collaborator Contribution Creative Carbon Scotland provided a Meeting Room at Edinburgh Council and overheads of secondment staff. Olive Grove Records provided staff time to promote and distribute the mini-album. XpoNorth provided the venue and refreshments for our June roundtable, and staff time for interviews. Solas Festival provided weekend passes to the festival for four researchers and staff time for interviews. Julie's Bicycle provided staff time to participate on the advisory board.
Impact So far the project has organized two roundtables, collected data from two festivals, produced a practice as research mini-album and launch concert at the Celtic Connections festival. We are currently midway through the project with more outputs to come.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Fields of Green project collaborations 
Organisation Solas Festival
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The research team worked throughout the project in close partnership with Creative Carbon Scotland, with CCS Projects Officer Gemma Lawrence as a community partner Co-I. We conducted audience surveys, interviews and hosted a roundtable discussion at the XpoNorth Festival in Inverness, and conducted additional audience surveys and interviews at the Solas Festival. Co-I Collinson-Scott produced a mini-album of music with musical collaborators that formed the creative practice as research component of the project, and this was released by Olive Grove Records album.
Collaborator Contribution Creative Carbon Scotland provided a Meeting Room at Edinburgh Council and overheads of secondment staff. Olive Grove Records provided staff time to promote and distribute the mini-album. XpoNorth provided the venue and refreshments for our June roundtable, and staff time for interviews. Solas Festival provided weekend passes to the festival for four researchers and staff time for interviews. Julie's Bicycle provided staff time to participate on the advisory board.
Impact So far the project has organized two roundtables, collected data from two festivals, produced a practice as research mini-album and launch concert at the Celtic Connections festival. We are currently midway through the project with more outputs to come.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Fields of Green project collaborations 
Organisation XpoNorth Festival
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The research team worked throughout the project in close partnership with Creative Carbon Scotland, with CCS Projects Officer Gemma Lawrence as a community partner Co-I. We conducted audience surveys, interviews and hosted a roundtable discussion at the XpoNorth Festival in Inverness, and conducted additional audience surveys and interviews at the Solas Festival. Co-I Collinson-Scott produced a mini-album of music with musical collaborators that formed the creative practice as research component of the project, and this was released by Olive Grove Records album.
Collaborator Contribution Creative Carbon Scotland provided a Meeting Room at Edinburgh Council and overheads of secondment staff. Olive Grove Records provided staff time to promote and distribute the mini-album. XpoNorth provided the venue and refreshments for our June roundtable, and staff time for interviews. Solas Festival provided weekend passes to the festival for four researchers and staff time for interviews. Julie's Bicycle provided staff time to participate on the advisory board.
Impact So far the project has organized two roundtables, collected data from two festivals, produced a practice as research mini-album and launch concert at the Celtic Connections festival. We are currently midway through the project with more outputs to come.
Start Year 2015
 
Description XpoNorth Fields of Green roundtable 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 10 music industry professionals attended a roundtable to discuss the topic of music festivals and environmental sustainability in Scotland. Links were made between attendees at the roundtable, marking a first step towards building a community of practice among Scottish popular music festivals with the aim of improving their environmental sustainability.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015