1.5 Degrees Live! @ Edinburgh Festival Fringe
“Hearing this report will change your world. There is hope if we act.” (Dr Naomi Wolf, author)
What we planned:
1.5 Degrees Live! was born of a fear that the people in power were not listening to the science of climate change. In the face of government inaction: we wanted to get to grips with the science and the scientific and policy recommendations as ordinary people; we wanted to create a big conversation as a community about what we need to do; and we wanted to shine a spotlight on the importance of the 1.5°C target. We also wanted to do these things in a creative context, one in which a reading of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on 1.5 Degrees Global Warming would be a challenging and unique experience.
Each August, our home town of Edinburgh hosts the biggest arts festival in the world. It is both the most environmentally damaging and creatively optimistic event in Edinburgh. We planned to use the media attention on the arts to create an event in which the people of the Festival and the public could engage with the science of the IPCC. We hoped that the uniqueness of the event would give us the opportunity to talk to people about the importance of the report. The report tells us that pathways to a future below 1.5 degrees global warming require ‘intentional societal transformation’ (IPCC SR15, Section 1.4.3) and we wanted the public and the creative people of the world to join us in conversation about what that transformation could look like.
We are two ordinary people living in Scotland working in small charities. We have no previous experience of performance, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (other than in the audience), events or science communication. In April, we halved our work commitments and income to allow us to make this event possible. We found some extremely helpful volunteers to pull together the cheapest event possible whilst aiming for the highest levels of understanding and engagement we could. We spent 8 months getting our heads around the report and formatting it for reading aloud until we were able to talk confidently about the report to audiences and the media.
“Your project has been on my mind as one of the most engaging in Edinburgh.” (Christie Anthoney, CEO Festivals Adelaide)
What we did:
1.5 Degrees Live! was a 50 hour reading of the full 2018 IPCC Special Report on 1.5 degrees of Global Warming. It was read by 141 performers, authors, directors, acrobats, scientists, politicians, comedians, and members of the public for 20-30 minutes each. Spread over 5 days we gave each person the opportunity to share what climate change meant to them as well as some time for discussion amongst the audience.
The event was staged in a shipping container (which we named CO2ntainer), as part of the Greenside Infirmary Street venue. We decorated it with quotes and graphs from the report. Outside, we created a garden with resources and a conversation space for people to talk about their experience of the report and their thoughts around the climate. On the side of the container, we hung an 8ftx20ft banner showing the entire bibliography of the report to help convey to people the depth of the scientific research. From a distance, subtle colour changes in the text spell out 1.5°C ACT NOW.
We were committed to changing as little of the report as possible. Following a trial reading, we decided on 3 key modifications to allow the report to be read aloud:
- In-text scientific references and bracketed references to other chapters were removed to enable smooth reading.
- Acronyms were replaced with the full form, so that people could more easily grasp the meaning.
- Before each section we added some context – making it clear to everyone that these were our own words not the IPCC’s. We used these sections to explain simply what people were about to hear and what its place was within the report.
Making these changes took a team of 9 people approximately 400 hours.
Graphics from the report were displayed on the walls, and all figures were printed for audiences to examine as they wished
“By far the most important thing I’ve done this fringe.” (Sukh Ojla, Comedian)
- 678,750 twitter followers (of our readers) who had the potential to engage with this event on social media
- 231,591 words
- 1567 hours of volunteering
- 1064 pages of the reading document
- 375 audience members approx (of 500 total capacity)
- 141 readers, of whom 43 male 67 female, 2 non-binary
- 50 hours of reading
- 21 volunteers
- 17 comedians
- 9 theatre companies, producers or directors
- 5 young school strike activists
- At least 5 national printed newspaper appearances
- 5 days
- 5 scientists working in climate or carbon fields
- 3 International Book Festival Authors
- 3 national radio news appearances
- 3 members of the Scottish Parliament
- 3 Executives or Deputy Chief Executives of significant international festivals
- 2 acrobats
- 1 poet
- 1 vicar
- 1 baby
- 1 puppet theatre company
- 1 dog
- 1 20ft by 8ft banner
- 1 national TV appearance
Funding the event:
- Crowdfunder from friends and family – £1641
- Ticket sales and donations – £1090
- Printing and PR donation from Extinction Rebellion Scotland – £920
- Printing from Friends of the Earth – £40
- Fringe registration – £393.60
- Venue registration and associated costs – £1582
- PR – £500
- Printing – £478.80
- Small expenses (power chords, volunteer lunches, etc.) – £175
- Insurance – £225
- Removal van for set up and pack down – £137
- Website and technical support to share documents, photos and videos from the event for others to replicate – TBC
- TOTAL = £3541.40 + website and tech costs
All our spending was up-front which required fundraising and the support of Extinction Rebellion and Friends of the Earth. We are a non-profit event. Our surplus will be returned to charity.
- Formatting and understanding the text – approx 400 hours
- Organising the venue, publicity and readers – approx 720 hours (lost income of 18 weeks’ work)
- Developing graphics, banners, posters and logos – approximately 75 hours
- Setting up and packing down: 9 people for 8 hours – 72 hours
- Running the event: 4 people for 60 hours – 240 hours
- Filming, editing & photography, before, during and after the event – 60 hours
- Donation of a space from Greenside Venues, where two other organisations had quoted us £4000.
- Tablet computers, furniture, decorations etc. borrowed.
Jay Lafferty reading in the CO2ntainer, looking for the correct graph
Key quotes were designed by Jo Schaab and displayed around the venue
Key themes from the week:
Understanding and democratising the science – We were extremely pleased that many people found the report much more accessible than they expected. Some people told us that they would go and read some of the report following their experience of hearing it. Involving scientists, professional actors, performers and storytellers was a real advantage in the presentation of the report and we were lucky to have many readers who really supported audiences to understand the content. We were able to create a supportive space. Many people commented on the empowering feeling of working together to understand and come to terms with the content.
Reading this, it feels a bit like storytelling. It feels like a really important story, and even though there are numbers and statistics, the listening in the room means that this is a shared experience and it is an experience that needs to be shared wider than this building because the decisions that we’re going to make now are going to make all the difference. (Paul Levy, magazine editor)
This whole thing – look at how much research has gone into this. It’s incredible. And it is the most important thing on the planet right now that we need to be discussing and we’re not discussing it enough. So if it must be big words and not being able to pronounce them then I think we need to embrace that head on. (Jamie Firth, comedian)
It was an amazing experience. I was really excited about the idea of democratising this report and reading it in front of people who, you know that might not be their vernacular or … way of reading. It’s a very heavy document, and sometimes difficult to get through, but the fact that we were all there together meant that it was very… empowering as well. (Harry Clayton-Wright, actor)
If you have space in your EdFringe calendar head to @Greenside to sit, discuss, demystify, and comfort one another as @1point5degrees1 enlists artists across the fringe to make the IPCC report accessible & digestible. (Iskandar Sharazuddin, writer, actor and director)
“This is how you communicate with people when governments and the media let you down.” (Lorna Slater, Member of the Scottish Parliament, quoted in The National newspaper)
Reaching out – Organising an unusual event at the Edinburgh Fringe also enabled us to be interviewed on national breakfast news (BBC Radio Scotland) and national radio (TALK Radio), local radio (Forth Radio), appear in national TV news (BBC Scotland), as well as appearing in 3 national newspapers at least 4 times plus online publications and blogs. The message we shared was of the IPCC’s emphasis on ‘rapid and unprecedented social transformation’ (IPCC SR15 Section 1.7) and the need for people to demand change from their leaders in every sphere. We wanted the event to be accessible to as wide a range of people and communities as possible. To this end we were very happy to have 6 hours of BSL Interpretation available on one of the days of the event.
Greens gear up for Fringe climate show … Katie Smith, one of the organisers of the event, said: “We are bringing the IPCC report to the Fringe because it challenges us to take on ‘rapid and unprecedented societal transformation’ by 2030 in the face of ‘an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet.’ This is too big to leave to government and corporations. This is something for every single one of us to have our say in.” (The National, 14th August)
Performers to read climate report A UN special report of the impacts of global warming will be read aloud this week as part of efforts to increase public engagement… “We really want the public to be engaging with this report and understanding what it means and talking about it,” said one of the event organisers, Katie Smith, speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme. “We need to make some vast changes to the way we live.” (The Scotsman, 13th August)
Going to the source – The event empowered ordinary people to engage with the science of the IPCC in a way which was not mediated by journalism or politicians. Most people were familiar with the idea of “12 years to save the world” but were unaware of the consequences, the temperature thresholds, the solutions or the importance of considering our options in combination with poverty reduction and sustainable development strategies. People left with a deeper understanding of the content and comprehensiveness of the report, despite joining us for a short section. The conversations we created around the show, and the graphics and quotes on display, gave people a broader idea of the report. Many people commented that they would never have sat down to read the report but that they were happy to have participated in the event. Of our 141 readers and 350 audience members, only around 15 had read any of the report prior to the event.
Sitting in that small space, listening to how devastating the effect of climate change is on our world now and how increasingly devastating it’s going to become, is quite a… it’s a strong experience. It’s quite harrowing. But it’s also quite unifying to be in there with other people, and to be able to break out of the report and just go “Hey, did anyone else just hear that? What did you feel about that? What does that mean?” You can question it, discuss it. It’s a really valuable experience. (Kyra Pollitt, BSL interpreter)
I’m an environmental campaigner and I’ve just been reading from one of the chapters in the IPCC report. It meant an awful lot to me because I’m someone who is involved in climate activism pretty much every day and yet I actually never read that report myself. And it sets out so clearly the challenges we face but it also gives us the solutions. (John Hardy, Green party activist)
“It was so good coming to the show. The conversations we’ve had at home about climate change in the evenings since have been amazing.” (Issy, audience member)
The role of performance in creating emotional connections to the science – Many conversations were had around our event in relation to the role of artists of all kinds in creating emotional connections to the scientific content, as well as in re-imagining our future. We had a number of readers who had themselves created comedy or theatre around the themes of the report and people suggested that more work was needed in this area. Many people commented on how the storytelling nature of the show and the people reading and listening helped create an emotional connection to the science which might otherwise be lacking.
It’s been quite an emotional experience, more than I was expecting, to actually say out loud some of the things that the report has to say. It’s hard hearing the truth out loud and I think it’s hard to listen to it and not take action. So I really hope that more and more people will be exposed to this and really think about it. I think there’s great work being done here. (Shelley Connon, Physiotherapist)
It was a sobering and very moving experience, actually, and a very intimate experience as well, that really drove home the need to campaign – for our local governments, for our national governments, or to make changes at the tiniest level. But also to stop getting distracted by the plastic straws campaign and start lobbying for real change. (Sukh Olja, comedian)
@1point5degrees1 has definitely inspired and spurred me on to create more art and action to tackle climate change and bring awareness to the issue! (Beth Pollard, audience member)
“This report changed my life” – Many of the people who participated in the readings shared how the IPCC report had changed their lives when it came out – either through the joy and hope of the world finally taking notice, or the devastation of realising how bad things had become. People shared their stories of career changes and radical lifestyle changes, school striking and non-violent direct action arrests. The reading this week sparked tears, anger, hope and a desire for further action. It has helped the people who value this report so highly to share with others why it is so important.
I’m here today to be part of this wonderful event, looking at the most important, I think, scientific report in our history, on 1.5 degrees. Looking at just how important it is that we limit global temperatures to just 1.5 degrees of warming and avoid the impacts that come above that for ecosystems, for the food we eat, for our very lives. (Professor Dave Reay, Climate Scientist and 1.5 Degrees Live! reader)
Bec Hill reads on Monday evening
We are extremely keen to continue to develop engagement with the IPCC report in the run up to the COP26 international climate talks in Glasgow next year.
Spreading the word: We have created a series of documents and graphics for the IPCC report which we want to make freely available to anyone who wants to use them.
We are already in conversation with Festivals Adelaide, Edinburgh Science Festival, community activists in Christchurch NZ, Extinction Rebellion UK, and environmental lawyers in Montana USA about repeating the event. We hope to make 1.5 Degrees Live! something that people can repeat everywhere around the English speaking world (and ideally further should translation become possible).
Your project has been on my mind as one of the most engaging in Edinburgh. I think it’s absolutely brilliant that you’ve so cleverly worked a way to connect people to the very important IPCC report…. I’m up for trialing an international version directly.
(Christie Anthoney, CEO Festivals Adelaide)
We are looking for funding to allow us to develop the website, add to the resources, seek out other potential performers, cultivate relationships and provide support in repeating this event worldwide during this crucial few months/years for action.
Art supporting science: Many of the people who participated in the event approached us about the possibility of artists and authors taking sections of the report as the basis for art works, or of communicating the content in a way which is accessible to different groups of people. We would like to develop this area and work to encourage an artistic response to help people understand and connect to the work of the IPCC as well as in envisioning a positive future in which ‘transformative change’ has happened.
We are looking for financial support to develop these connections and prompt responses to the report across a wide variety of literary and performance art forms in order to broaden and enrich access to the report and help people connect emotionally and communally to the scientific content.
Documentary: We have a vast amount of film footage of readers and participants talking about their experiences of reading the IPCC report and we are keen to develop this into a documentary in order to help other people repeat the event and to spread it to a different audience. We are working on a trailer for funding applications for this project.
IPBES: We are keen to also develop people’s understanding of the recent International Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) report in order to democratise the science around the other pillar of our current crisis – biodiversity loss. We would love to develop all of the above themes in relation to the IPBES report and will be seeking financial support to allow us to allocate time and resources to this. (Sadly UN funding is not available to us).
Congratulations on a very successful and engaging event. We were able to keep an eye on 1.5 Degrees Live! via social media and this is absolutely a much needed space which you and your collective are helping to fill, and in such a wonderfully creative way.
We would also love to further explore the possibility of a similar reading for IPBES.
(Patrick Tonissen, communications officer IPBES)
Watch this space… or contact us to collaborate!
“Intimate, salutary, devastating, galvanising.”
(Dr Kyra Pollitt, BSL interpreter)
School striker Kenneth with the complete, shipping container-sized bibliography
The official 1.5 Degrees Live! Edinburgh Festival Fringe Poster. Artwork by Naomi Scott
This event would not have been possible without Katie Smith, Fiona Whyte, Jo Schaab, Naomi Scott, Kat Kane and Patrick Dunne.
Judith Chivers, Mim Black, Jim Walker, Iain Thom, Liam Withnail, Darren, Tara and Callum, Alice Boyd, Kate Amann, Kate Whitaker, Matt Toynbee, Mary Smith, Will George, Aurelie Tartaud, Joanna O’Loan, Jaime Robertson, Maxine O’Neil, Ali Jeffrey-Thom, Ann Simpson, Sha Heiyantuduwa, Allen Simpson, Anita Oberstar, Spela Oberstar, Helga Schram, Justin Kenrick, Leslie Hill, Lauren Keating, John Simpson, Sylvia Simpson, Ariella Simpson, Ewan Hastings, Jan Mauritz, Nicole Mathie, Lauren Kelly, Josephine Petersson, Caro, Lukasc Kulec, Jo Venables, John Harding, Jenny Smith, Beth Godfrey, Barry, Amy Russell, Mary Smith, Andy Smith, Freya Farr, Sue Fuller, Teresa Ikbe, Isabelle Wolf, Lucy Everett, Jess C, Prof Dave Reay, Dr Naomi Wolf, Sam Knights, Tamaryn Payne, Matt Winning, Diana Hall, Jay Lafferty, Amanda and Anna, Hardeep Singh Kohli, Samantha Hannah, Olivia Fischer, Leo, Kenneth, Kelli Fox, Bec Hill, James Duncan, Jenna Watt, Vicky Allan, Claudia Beamish, Eliana & Xander, Iskandar R. Sharazuddin, Rhys Morgan, Harry Clayton-Wright, Patrick Harvie, Chigozie Obioma, Martha & Anna, Lizzie & Michelle, Pheobe Carlson, Juliette Burton, Shelley Connon, Nathaniel Hall, Sukh Ojla, Steve Allen, Njambi McGrath, Anna Vanosi, Paul Levy, Jamie Firth, Lucy Roslyn, Kirsteen Shields, Val McDermid, Beth Godfrey, Dr Kyra Pollitt, Daisy Hale, Simon Gage, Andy Saunders, Mary Capdeville, Lorna Street, Ida Thomson, Esther Silvertone, Emma Boyd, Daniel and Arthur Bye, Matt Stellingwerf, Heidi Regan, Lyndsey Jackson, Harriet Braine, William Jackson, Marian Yukawa, Lorna Slater, Craig Campbell, Alex, Bea & Lee, Stephanie Barnett, Margo Derbyser, Adam Francis, Christie Anthoney, Sage Nokomis Wright, Ben Twist, Tom #Vigil, Ellie Harris, Aislin Mulligan, Mary Kathryn Kopp, Robert Alcock, Ameera Conrad, Toni Freitas, Alanna Mitchell, RJ Arkhipov, Lauren Booth, Claire Mulholland, Harry & Chris, Leslie Hill, Arthur Smith, Sarah Cleary, Old Dog Theatre.
We would also like to thank Greenside Venues, Staging Change, Storytelling PR, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Extinction Rebellion Scotland.
Special thanks to the authors and contributors to the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 Degrees.