Climate change catastrophe!

Schools Director, Ree Collins, with children from Hotspur Primary

Climate Change Catastrophe!

May 12th is a red-letter day; children of the North East need you to mark it in your diary.  It is the day when a new free-access six-part show made by 8- and 9-year-old children for grown-ups, will begin and be shown on YouTube.  It is the day we can see ‘Climate Change Catastrophe!’, a work made by children who want us to pay close attention and think about the consequences of our actions.  

Primary school children, in a masterpiece of collaboration with Cap-a-Pie theatre company, singer and song-writer Katie Doherty, climate scientists and engineers from Newcastle University, and Funders (Royal Academy of Engineering Ingenious Awards; Arts Council England; Ray Wind Fund; Newcastle Culture Investment Fund; Newcastle University) have together made ‘Climate Change Catastrophe!’.  The title chosen by children to stress the urgency underlying their theatre pieces, which are the product of sophisticated collective thinking.

Cap-a-Pie Artistic Director Brad McCormick explained:

“For some time now, we’ve wanted to do a project around climate change … [it] will affect us all, but it’s the younger generation who will bear the brunt so we felt it would be interesting and useful to get their perspectives and to broaden their understanding of climate science and engineering solutions from people with real expertise.  Another reason we wanted to work with school children was to tap into their imagination and sense of logic – their input was invaluable and has really brought the show to life, as well as helping them to learn more about climate change and how they can make a difference.”

Climate Change Catastrophe bt Cap-a-Pie Theatre
Hannah Goudie-Hunter and Liam Scarth on Climate Change Catastrophe

Brad and his team of professional actors, designers and lighting engineers, Katie Doherty and academics from Newcastle University worked with hundreds of children and teachers across the North East before and during the pandemic to create the show.  He went on to outline the wide scope of the pieces, each is an approximately ten-minute episode and a journey into the minds of 8- and 9-year-olds which will really make you think.  They are as follows:

1. Climate change

2. Carbon capture

3. Heat

4. Microbes

5. Extreme rainfall

6. Hopes and fears for the future; what could and might happen.

On the Engineering front, Dr Alistair Ford of Newcastle University School of Engineering has researched climate change for over a decade.  He spoke with infectious enthusiasm about this project and his co-participants:

“Cap-a-Pie are brilliant at finding a way to communicate the complexity of the real world …  The children are insightful and already know much …  we asked them a question about heat waves and extreme weather changes and in response their freedom of imagination came up with cooling solutions for our cities such as ‘a bike spraying water as you ride’, ‘a giant crying’ and ‘a canal system’.  [This is] completely different from to my day job and working with 8-year-olds [is] a complete contrast to writing computer models for local and national governments.  Thinking about making a complex subject like climate change accessible to school kids is a great experience, making me think differently about the work I do”.  

A crying giant is perhaps less fanciful than one might think; standing close a cooling fountain on a hot day in the city affords welcome respite from the heat.  In their quest to address the adverse changes in our climate, children can see the potential for urban spaces to be as beautiful as those in nature.

If there is one uniting factor among all of us, surely it is the need to understand and act responsibly in the face of climate change.  Individual action is important; two neighbours can agree to strengthen a wall to prevent flooding and share the cost.  But a town or city of thousands needs wider collective good government to find solutions to problems of today, and those we may yet encounter.

When you’ve watched ‘Climate Change Catastrophe!’ on 12 May, please send a link for the episode to your MP.  Then email each subsequent episode to them, for it will help them step up to their responsibility and be active in government to find solutions to our forthcoming difficulties.  We can each do our bit, but we cannot solve all problems by individual action alone. More information about ‘Climate Change Catastrophe!’, and a link to join the mailing list and be among the first to watch it can be found here.

Hayley Fowler, Professor of Climate Change Impacts at Newcastle University said of this project:

“Hopefully the next generation will inspire us to reach for Net Zero, to make changes to our lifestyles to benefit us all, and leave a better world for them to inherit.”

Her words are an important echo of polymath and naturalist John Ruskin in 1850:

[The earth has been lent to us] “for our life; it is a great entail.  It belongs as much to those who follow us as it does to us, and we have no right by anything we do, to involve them in any unnecessary penalties, or to deprive them of the benefit we have in our power to bequeath.”

With thanks to Helen, Alistair and Brad who are generous with their time.

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