University of Exeter: Young people to join forces with science and drama experts to produce musical about climate emergency

The project will allow the group of young people to work with some of the world’s leading authorities on climate change at the University of Exeter and the Met Office.

The project is one of several funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) international summit in Glasgow later this year to help champion voices of communities not usually heard in climate discussion.

The group of 14 to 18 year olds from Doorstep Arts, Torbay and Doorstep’s Youth Theatre will learn how to use the arts and humanities to communicate messages about climate change, as well as developing their performance skills in acting, singing, dance and music. They will devise their own original climate change musical, including scripts, scores and choreography, for a presentation at The Palace Theatre, Paignton in December 2021. Some of this work will also be seen at the Paignton Lantern Procession.

Members of Doorstep Youth Theatre will also create two podcasts. The first will feature the documentation, curation and analysis of arts practices accompanying COP 26. The second podcast will feature conversations with those producing the musical.

The project is led by Dr Evelyn O’Malley, Senior Lecturer in Drama at the University of Exeter. Experts involved in the project are Dr Erin Walcon, Senior Lecturer in Drama at the University of Exeter and Co-Director of Doorstep Arts, Professor Peter Stott a climate science researcher from the University of Exeter and the Met Office’s Hadley Centre, Felicity Liggins, Met Office, Education and Outreach Manager and Doorstep Arts facilitator Ferguson-Carruthers.

The teenagers will also participate in a workshop led by University of Exeter drama undergraduates taking the “Theatre for a Changing Climate” module.

Dr O’Malley said: “We hope to inspire young people to use their own creative skills to address climate change, and carry out their own research into the global emergency ahead of COP 26.”

Polly Ferguson-Carruthers said: “We hope this project will open pathways for the young people we work with. They will meet theatre lecturers, scientists and undergraduate students from the University of Exeter, learn about different approaches to gain a future within the arts and, importantly, understand the impact of climate change that will affect their lives through a subject that interest them and will share the research they learn to then impact others in Torbay.”

Tom Saunders, UKRI Head of Public Engagement, said: “UKRI is keen to support researchers and innovators to engage with young people on crucial issues like climate change.

“These investments will establish a dialogue between the research and innovation community and the public that will bring underrepresented voices into the climate debate and provide valuable insights into young people’s views on climate change.

“They will help to ensure that the future of climate research is informed by a diverse range of people and foster a more inclusive research and innovation system.”