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  • Global Leeds

How culture can be a force for tackling climate change

Updated: Mar 7

Yvonne Hardman, Head of Collections and Programmes at Leeds Museums and Galleries was one of four representatives from Leeds who took part in the recent Eurocities Culture Forum in Lille.

Here, she tells us about how cities across Europe are working to tackle climate change, and how culture can help.

Leeds has been doing some great work with our partner city Lille to help make our public culture and our culture organisations become more environmentally friendly and help tackle climate change.

At this year’s Eurocities Culture Forum in Lille, we had a great opportunity to share what we have been doing.

Eurocities is the network of more than 200 European cities in 38 countries, representing 130 million people. We work together to ensure a good quality of life for all and Leeds is proud to be part of it.

The annual Culture Forum brings together politicians and council officers from around Europe. This year, it was hosted by our twin city of Lille. The theme was the response of cultural organisations to the climate and ecological crises.

Culture can be a powerful resource in addressing climate change and many cultural organisations are rising to the challenge by producing work on environmental themes, raising awareness with audiences and reducing the environmental impact of their own activities.

Cultural organisations from both Leeds and Lille have built on the long-term partnership between both cities in a great project to exchange best practice around the topic of cultural sustainability.

The Sustainable Culture in Leeds and Lille (SCILL) project was funded through the British Embassy in Paris. It provided an opportunity for a range of partners to explore different aspects of sustainable culture, exchange ideas with peers and importantly, to build new relationships reaching out across international borders.

Through online meetings and two study visits, the SCILL project has collated examples of the great work to make culture more sustainable taking place in Lille and Leeds. Three types of cultural organisations took part: museums and galleries, local government culture services and large-scale events and festivals.

You can download a booklet about the SCILL project, in English or French here.

We were very proud to have the opportunity to share what we have learned at the Culture Forum:

Councillor Jess Lennox spoke at the political roundtable on the city’s progress towards the achieving the carbon net-zero target by 2030.

Lisa Broadest, Head of Operations & Enterprise for Leeds Museums and Galleries (LMG) also presented more fully about how the service is working to respond to the climate crisis, in a session with other museum leaders.

Lisa, together with Yvonne and Milena Dabetić, Project Manager in the Sustainable Culture Department at Ville de Lille, presented a session on the SCILL project.

Leeds was also represented by Emma Beverley, Director of Programmes at Leeds2023. Emma spoke in a session focused on sustainability and cultural festivals together with colleagues from Lille 3000 and Arcadia in Friesland, Netherlands.

As a twin city, Leeds had worked with Lille and its other twin cities on a new charter for ecological responsibility. Marie-Pierre Bresson, Deputy Mayor of Lille encouraged all Eurocities members to become signatories of the charter and re-state their commitment to taking action to address the climate emergency.

It was also a great opportunity to see the work of our cultural partners in Lille at first hand:

Romy by Xavier Veilhan outside Gare de Lille-Flandres railway station.

If you’re interested in visiting, Lille and the nearby cities of Roubaix are readily accessible by Eurostar and well worth visiting. Find out more here.

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