Once upon a time in the east end of a great metropolis known as London, there stood a dilapidated former paint factory. In the late 1990s, an engineer by the name of Ben Todd got together with a local artistic director, Mehmet Ergen, and an executive producer named Leyla Nazli. The trio hatched a plan of enormous significance to the worlds of theatre and green energy. The plan: to build the world's first carbon neutral theater. And thus began the birth of the Arcola Theatre.
Making the project a reality
In 2010 the paint factory was secured. Using the donations of hundreds of generous supporters and the financial help of Bloomberg, the new theatre was opened in January 2011. The challenges included making an intended industrial building fit for human habitation both in the summer and winter months.
This was achieved with a flourish of water-saving toilets and low-energy lights; double-glazing and a wood burning heating system that runs on off cuts. The project has used tons of recycled materials in order to create a completely unique, though hopefully trend-setting, theatrical building.
In 2012, after monitoring energy usage in the new theatre for a year, the green theatre company generated software that would accurately measure its carbon consumption. After all, no matter how energy efficient a company is, there is always more it can strive to achieve.
Green technologies are integral to the Arcola Theatre.
What better place to start the green revolution than the arts?
The driving force behind Arcola Theatre is in making green technologies an integral part of the way they deliver the arts to their audience. It isn't about putting on a play on climate change and then moving on, it is to do with establishing a green ethos in the institution of theatre; setting the standards for others to rise to.
In 2008 Arcola lit a production of The Living Unknown Soldier with LED-tungsten mix, technology that uses 10 percent of the energy of standard production lighting. Since then, over 25 theatre companies have followed Arcola Theatre's lead in taking the first steps towards greener theatre. They call this "driving a cultural shift."
Edgy Scripts and Daring Narratives
What theatre-goers want to see on stage relates directly to the economic situation the country is in at any given moment. In times of wealth and plenty, audiences welcome adventurous script writing and unconventional narratives. When people have a bit more cash to spend, theatres always benefit.
In times of economic depression, though, everything changes. Trips to the theatre are one of the first expenditures to be struck from the monthly budget. When people do venture out to the theatre, it is more likely to be to shows that are well established and popular. New script writing suffers.
Treading a sustainable path into the future
Bearing in mind the current sluggish economic climate, building the Colourworks Theatre is both a risky move and an inspiration. Despite the gloom, this project has moved ahead, and what better way forward than a green path, thus acknowledging that we can't drill our way out of this hole and making steps to change our ways?
Is that it?
So is that all you've got? Well, no actually; the theatre company's sister company, Arcola Energy, is, as we speak, improving and supplying hydrogen fuel cell systems to replace their existing rundown carbon spluttering counterparts. It is also working to educate children about the importance of making renewable energy a key part of our future.
Published by:Alfie Venner Woodcock