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Abigail's Blog: Green is my favourite colour

Posted on 17 September 2019

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So said one of my colleagues last week. We were discussing the forthcoming performance season. We use a simple traffic light system for how tickets are selling for each event – green for exceeded target, amber for on track but still to make sales, red for behind target. Saturday’s open concert of Royal Northern Sinfonia’s 61st annual concert series was exceptionally green, with people hanging from the rafters to hear the orchestra, together with their Music Director Lars Vogt, kick off another year of concerts here at The Glasshouse International Centre for Music, across the North of England and around the world.  We love green at The Glasshouse because we love nothing more than a room packed full of people enjoying live music.

This week, we’re loving green in a different way. We are having a dedicated Green Week, in which the 500 of us who work for The Glasshouse are going to focus ourselves on what we can do to increase our environmental sustainability.  That means our building, our food and beverage, our programming, our communications – in sum, how we do business.

And there is much which our sector can do. The Creative Industries sector is the fastest growing sector in the UK – 5.5% of the economy, two million employees, contributing £101bn GVA in 2017. If I pick a single example – music festivals – and two simple elements – flying musicians around the world and creating festival sites with all of their temporary infrastructure and disposable consumption, it’s easy to see how action from the sector is important.  Of course, in the scheme of things,  these examples are minor for a single festival and even cumulatively this is a drop in the ocean, if you pardon the pun. However, they are part of the picture and therefore important. And the sector is taking it very seriously, with support from agencies such as Julie’s Bicycle. Glastonbury made much of its ‘no single-use plastic on site’ policy this summer, which meant two million bottles were avoided. A drop in the ocean, we might say, but an action and a public commitment – both of which had a positive impact.

Our building is quite new – it opened in 2004 –  so The Glasshouse is lucky to have had environmental sustainability in mind as our building was designed and our programme conceived. And we’ve got partners who are committed to innovating, so we have continued to improve our  building sustainability since opening. Our local authority, Gateshead Council, has built Gateshead District Energy Scheme, which provides green energy to the borough.  However, there is more to do and we’re going to continue developing the building in future years. Moreover, we will bring the matter of climate change and sustainability into our programme, as we’ve got a role to play in raising awareness, supporting artists who want to explore the matter through their work and promoting civic debate.

For Green Week we’re focusing on our knowledge, our recycling and changing our habits.  We’re going to visit our recycling service and our energy service in action – so that we can imagine what’s happening as we recycle and as we use energy. We’re going to have demonstrations from our food and beverage team on how we can use leftover food, rather than throw it away. And we’re going to have a fact a day and screen Climate Coalition’s films to raise awareness.  All of our meetings will be paperless.  Tiny steps, but small incremental changes stack up and crucially change outlook and perception.

So as we step in to this week, green will be our favourite colour for two reasons – first because it means we’re enabling lots of people to enjoy and participate in music and second because it represents our commitment to environmental sustainability and the world.

Abigail Pogson, Managing Director at Sage Gateshead