Bristol Old Vic, Colston Hall and Watershed join forces to pledge climate action

17 Oct 2019

Culture declares a Climate and Ecological Emergency 

Today, three of Bristol’s leading cultural organisations Bristol Old Vic, Colston Hall and Watershed sign up to a growing global community of arts and culture champions declaring a climate and ecological emergency. The declaration will take place during the Festival of Future Cities event held at Watershed today at 9am Fighting the Climate Emergency in the Anthropocene.   They join organisations like We The Curious, Bristol City Council, WECA and the University of Bristol, who have already made this public declaration, and align with Bristol’s ambition to become carbon neutral by 2030.

The aim of this declaration is to commit to taking action and to inspire audiences, partners and collaborators to do the same. 

Clare Reddington, Watershed CEO said: “The unifying power of culture to inspire, educate and inform is an important force in contributing to change. Watershed, alongside Bristol Old Vic and Colston Hall join the Culture Declares network, so we can stand side by side with the sector to advocate for change, and use the networks and resources to support our aspirations.“

Louise Mitchell, Chief Executive of Bristol Music Trust, the charity that runs Colston Hall, said: “We are proud to stand next to our cultural partners in the city and make this declaration. We recently announced our ambition to become carbon neutral by 2030, making us the first UK concert hall to make this pledge. For us this pledge is not just empty words. We’re committing to real change and hope to inspire others to join us.

Bristol Old Vic’s newly appointed Executive Director, Charlotte Geeves said: “Standing alongside our partners in the city is crucial in ensuring not only that we deliver against the targets we have set, but also that we support each other to do so. Over this theatre’s long lifetime, it has been at the forefront of social and cultural change and we could not ignore the current challenges society faces. We are determined to play our part in delivering significant change.

The three organisations have already made significant steps to improve sustainability, including cross-departmental action groups in place to deliver on existing environmental strategies, a focus on encouraging recycling for staff and visitors, increased use of LED lighting and promoting paperless tickets.   Following careful consideration with staff and the boards of trustees, each organisation has acknowledged climate breakdown as the single biggest threat we face today and made a series of pledges which explain the further contributions they will make to tackle the crisis. 


Bristol Old Vic

The historic nature of Bristol Old Vic’s Georgian spaces had presented ongoing challenges in terms of its environmental impact. With completion of the theatre’s front of house redevelopment in Sep 2018, the organisation has created a building with vastly improved environmental credentials and now has the perfect opportunity to place sustainability at its core.

They pledge to:  

• Align with Bristol City Council’s ambition to become carbon neutral by 2030.   

• Attain a BREEAM rating of Very Good by the start of 2020. 

• Collectively work with other cultural organisations in the city to look at green energy and tariffs. 

• Use our programme of work in 2020 to focus on themes which inspire and empower individuals to make change in the world, with strong parallels to the environmental issues of today. 

• Include a budget for carbon offsetting for any international touring we engage in. 

• Urgently work with our catering partners to eradicate single-use plastic from our bar and kitchen. 

• Actively promote environmentally friendly travel options to staff and visitors. 

• Increase the use of paperless tickets and digital and online marketing.

Colston Hall

Alongside its ambition to become carbon neutral by 2030, the transformation of Colston Hall puts the organisation in a strong position to make this commitment now. The new building will be BREEAM Very Good, which is an admirable standard for a historic building, and will be fitted with the latest sustainable technologies.

Together with sustainability partner Willmott Dixon and sustainability advisors Sydney Opera House, the team will build on current sustainable practices, take immediate actions and work to finalise a detailed delivery plan by autumn 2020 to achieve this ambition. 

They pledge to:  

• Create a wide ranging and achievable plan within the next year to reach their carbon neutrality target, looking at aspects such as behaviour change, supply chain and carbon offsetting 

• Ensure the transformed Colston Hall incorporates sustainable elements into the design, including new photovoltaic panels that will make savings of 11 tonnes of Co2 against current energy usage 

• Remove all single use plastics in our buildings 

• Use modern technologies to reduce energy use and prevent waste   

• Play a key role in citywide networks to advocate for change • Incorporate green strands into their programming


Watershed’s declaration ensures that they will keep environmental sustainability as a strategic priority, holding themselves to account with staff and stakeholders around their aims. 

They pledge to:  

• Align with Bristol City Council’s ambition to become carbon neutral by 2030.  

• Ensure our planned new building is BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) standard excellent and represents industry best practice 

• Ensure our cross-department staff working group continues to explore sustainability from every angle, making it a key part of business planning and programme design 

• Allocate a centrally held budget for sustainability going forward 

• Seek to programme and support work which engages in debate and exploration of climate breakdown. Our autumn programme includes programme from the Green Film Festival and three climate breakdown artist residences in partnership with MAYK 

• Participate in city networks and share our learning openly back with the sector.

You can read the full list of each organisations current and pledged activity here. 

Image credit:  Building a Martian House by artists Ella Good and Nicki Kent.   

Photo by: Robert Keller, Satori Photos.

Bristol Old Vic is the longest continuously running theatre in the UK, and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2016. The historic playhouse aims to inspire audiences with its own original productions, both at home and on tour, whilst nurturing the next generation of artists, whether that be through their 350-strong Young Company, their many outreach and education projects or their trailblazing artist development programme, Bristol Ferment.

They use their funding to support experiment and innovation, to allow access to their programme for people who would not otherwise encounter it, or be able to afford it, and to keep their extraordinary heritage alive and animated.

On 24 Sep 2018, Bristol Old Vic completed its 2-year multi-million pound redevelopment project, which transformed its front of house space into a warm and welcoming public building for all of Bristol to enjoy, created a new studio theatre and opened up its unique theatrical heritage to the public for the first time.

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