it’s impossible not to draw parallels between the over-exploitation of natural resources and our fragile social support systems.

This week, Spare Tyre formally signed up to the Culture Declares movement. Many organisations have already made this declaration and we’re pleased at last to be able to join them. The Spare Tyre team of Rebecca, Rose and myself, which has been forming over the last 12 months, each already have a background in sustainable creative practice and climate activism. Having built our new team in the teeth of the pandemic, we have now agreed with our Board of Trustees that we’re ready to make the declaration officially and more than that to share here what it means for Spare Tyre and for us personally as creative practitioners.  

We think it means two key things. 

Firstly, it’s about being the greenest, leanest, cleanest theatre company we can be. Spare Tyre has always travelled light, and now we’re doubly committing to greener travel, reusing sets, materials and props, bicycle couriers and all the micro-steps that contribute to reducing our environmental impact on the world. Rebecca is an innovator in sustainable touring, having taken her radical participatory overhaul of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People on a super-green nationwide tour seven years ago. I’m really glad we can build on that experience when we tour our new show, We Will Be Happy Here, next year. 

Our second contribution rests in our values and the stories that we tell. We say in our new mission statement, “In the 2020s, we will work with more people to create theatre exploring the pressing issues of our time, such as the climate crisis, disability rights and social justice.” But that doesn’t mean we’ll explore each issue in isolation.  

From my own activism experience, it’s impossible not to draw parallels between the over-exploitation of natural resources and our fragile social support systems that have been so badly exposed by the pandemic. Much of local government, the care sector and the arts was already an ecosystem on the edge and that meant so many people and organisations, including theatre companies, were immediately exposed to personal and financial hardship.  

In the many online meetings we theatre people have been to over the last nine months, the main questions have been “how do we cope?” and “how do we recover?” When appropriate, I’ve also tried to add, “how do we prevent this from happening again?” I don’t mean preventing a new virus.  I mean that when the next pandemic or major challenge inevitably comes, will we have created a society that is inherently fairer, more able to absorb the shock? I believe we can, and to do it we need to borrow from environmental thinking.  

Similarly, when we think about access and inclusion across the arts, we can learn from the green movement’s values–nurturing not exploiting, collaborating not competing, and working at a speed appropriate to all, not just the person who can go the fastest. 

So at Spare Tyre our Culture Declares commitment isn’t just to work greener and tour greener. It’s to make theatre exploring these issues. It’s to collaborate with participants, such as learning disabled people, whose views aren’t always listened to. And, perhaps most importantly, it’s to embody and advocate for a way of working in the arts that promotes sustainability - environmental, financial and personal.