On Wednesday, 20 January, thirteen theatres and theatrical companies from Rotterdam, and Rik Grashoff, Alderman responsible for participation, culture and the environment for the City of Rotterdam, signed an agreement stating their intent to collaborate to enhance the ‘green’ quality of theatrical practice. The theatre sector in Rotterdam is the first group of performing arts institutions in the world to enter into a concrete agreement concerning the definition and achievement of climate objectives.
A large number of theatres from Rotterdam, including the ‘Rotterdamse Schouwburg’, Luxor Theatre and the WATT music hall, will join hands in the next two years to enhance the sustainability of their institutions and raise the awareness among theatre audiences in Rotterdam. Their own cutbacks in combination with the effect their efforts will have on the public will enable the participating institutions to contribute towards the achievement of the ambitions of the Rotterdam Climate Initiative, as Rotterdam has the ambition to realize a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2025, compared with the level of 1990.
Leading position in decisive action
Following their initial acquaintance with the Rotterdam Climate Initiative in March 2009, the Rotterdam-based theatres and theatrical companies immediately set out to reach concrete agreements. ‘Rotterdam is ahead in decisiveness; we needed only a short while to get thirteen institutions to agree,’ says Bert Determann of the ‘Rotterdamse Schouwburg’. ‘The project was intended not only to form an opinion on environmental pollution and global warming, but actually to do something about it. And we wanted to address the issue internally as well as in the communication with our audience.’ Determann mentions ideas such as a parking service for bikes, price reductions for people who come to the theatre by public transport, and special shows on climate change to initiate a public debate on the subject. ‘All this is currently in motion. The “Rotterdamse Schouwburg” now receives European grants to produce shows on the subject.’
‘Important role for the sector’
Alderman Grashoff has wondered sometimes what he was supposed to do with the combination of culture and the environment in his portfolio. ‘They seem two different worlds at times. Moreover, there are times when I get the impression that the sector of performing arts and the cultural world are from a different planet altogether, whereas in the real world, we still have a few problems to solve.’
Grashoff is pleased to notice that the involvement and interest expressed by the cultural sector is so much greater than expected. ‘If we ever really want to realize a fundamental change in our climate, we need to bring about a revolution in our attitude. This involves a process of gradual change in the way we feel, the way we perceive the issue and our views on how to solve it. Arts and culture have an important role to play in this change of attitude.’