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Adventure's in Climate Leadership- a guest Blog by Tash Lay

There's something about gathering together to talk about climate justice that I've always found intimidating. Like most people (I think), I've always taken it upon myself to do better - reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible, keeping in mind what I buy and where I spend my money, walk or take public transport where I can - but the idea of being a 'climate leader' is new territory for me. It's hard not to feel like an imposter, especially when you're in a room full of people who confidently identify as one, even if it's a virtual meeting room.

I'm part of this year's cohort of Julie's Bicycle Creative Climate Leadership programme, a programme which aims to empower artists and cultural professionals to take action on the climate and ecological crisis in their communities with impact, creativity, and resilience. It's a big cohort of roughly 24, from various corners of the country and in various roles - independent artists, venues, companies - and  in various stages of their journey too. Over the course of the programme, each participant will work on a project and put at an action plan together with the help of the Julie's Bicycle team and the other participants in the programme - mine being to create a guide for working more sustainably aimed at independent artists and smaller companies, created in collaboration with them.

One of the very first things we did was an anonymous poll with various questions, including how many of us were confident in our knowledge of climate science and our ability as leaders, to work with people towards their goal. It was a bit of a surprise and a huge relief to see that the average response was right where I was - somewhere in the middle, with people relatively confident in their knowledge but less so in their leadership skills. It wasn't quite a confidence boost, but I did definitely felt a little bit more relaxed and at home.

Our second session had a focus on climate justice, and although it's a topic I feel I have more knowledge and training on, there was something different about the approach taken. There were the usual slides on major sources of greenhouse gases, the worrying trajectory of where things are headed, the knock-on effects . But there's also the emphasis on keeping up hope, and that things aren't completely irreversible, which is key when talking to people about such a heavy topic. This, and other suggestions on how to communicate the subject, was something I felt like I've never been told before in similar training, and was a real turning point in the programme so far for me.

The most valuable part of it all so far has been connecting and discussing with peers - which came as a surprise to me. It was exciting to hear from lots of different perspectives, as the cohort came from various backgrounds and it was just as valuable to hear about the anxieties and issues that seem impossible to solve as it was to talk about our genuine belief in the power of arts & culture to create real change. It felt real, and human. For every conversation about how difficult it can be to create art sustainably - there's a photographer in the group who'd been researching alternatives to chemicals for developing film to no avail - there were four more about how their venue's community garden has sparked unexpected conversations about the environment, the hope they feel when working with young people, and how they feel trusted by their local community - perhaps more so than they trust their local councillors.

The uniting factor was the real potential of the arts to affect real change through storytelling - that there is an advantage to be able to communicate with emotion and not just cold, hard science, and through 'narrativising' & expressing what is happening in the real world in a way that feels human.

These are incredibly excited, invigorating conversations to be a part of, and considering that the the ball's just started rolling, I can't wait to see where it goes next.

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