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Small World Theatre's aim to build a centre of excellence in Arts and Culture for Development began by working with local architect Olly Llewelyn. It was a joint aim to make the building sustainable.
To describe a building as sustainable, we have taken it to mean:
Within a fixed budget it was impossible to achieve all of these aims simultaneously, but work is ongoing and we continually look for ways for improving the efficiency and productivity of Small World Centre.
What has, in practice been achieved is as follows:
We arrange bespoke tours of Small World Centre and have accommodated colleges, architectural students, construction trades, environmental groups, local societies and community organisations in the past. Please get in touch for more information and to discuss your requirements. Contact Julie 01239 615 952 email@example.com
Towards a Zero Carbon Theatre
So is Small World Theatre’s work and the new building interconnected? Is it sustainable?
Well yes, says Bill Hamblett Artistic Director. Sustainable? Of course, our new building has many sustainable features. The Air source heat pump feeds the under floor heating, We have a Solar thermal unit supplying hot water to the taps and shower as well as solar voltaic panels that supply just under 4 kilowatts of electricity. 30% of the roof is growing, 70% recycled slate, 60% of the water from the roof is harvested into the toilets, showers and washing up water. The bricks in the lobby were fired about 100 years ago just a few hundred yards away from clay dug from this site. Very low embedded energy for this wall. Six great Douglas Firs from a local managed woodland hold up the building and the big oak beams are from Ceredigion. The sand for concrete comes from a couple of miles away and local willow laths form the curving outside lime/clay walls. Recycled paper insulation features in this attempt at a carbon free theatre. Experimenting with some of these newer technologies enables compliance with new rigid regulations. The local architects and contractors are compelled to come up with imaginative solutions and cost savings. Choosing them to do the work also keeps the money in the local economy.
It is not just the building that is forging a carbon free future. Many projects are linked to other aspects of environmental awareness, food and culture. The space and the work are interconnected. The dynamic mix of projects and performances reflect the belief that to negotiate a world environment that is changing an economic world that is transforming in crisis, a cultural world that is becoming more self- aware a political world that is desperately seeking a new paradigm we need flexible yet robust tools. This seems to be pointing towards something that is tried and tested but that absorbs and adapts as fast as the human brain. Yes lets go against Professor Lovelocks asserting that culture is the first thing to go in a global environmental crisis and realise that culture is the first tool to pick up that will not only mend, heal and path up the world it will promote change and acceptance, progress and creativity.
In great and small ways we can make a difference. The bicycle-powered smoothie-making machine is a giant strawberry attached to a bike trailer is one way in which we are also looking at healthy lifestyles. The recent community feast was based on produce from our allotment and 200 mackerel that we caught from Cardigan Bay. Environmental art projects continue in schools too. As for performances, Cot Myrddin / Merlin’s Coat tours schools featuring Merlin’s “new” global warming prophecies, accompanied by a workshop looking at the complexities of transition towns. Another show Coedauewydd, commissioned by the forestry commission looks at how trees act as a carbon sink. Not every subject we deal with will be environmentally focused but the majority of materials in productions and workshops will be recycled.
30 years ago Ann Shrosbree was asked by The Centre for Alternative Technology to make a show about Ecology (as it was then termed) since then our focus has been on shows highlighting environmental issues. Our touring puppet theatre was the educational component in a community forestry project in Sudan where over a million trees were planted in more than 56 villages. A forest stands where once there was a desert. An international strand of work with Arts, Culture and Theatre for Development projects now exists in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. We have evolved participatory methods that help communities to have a say in their own development, negotiating behavioural change and raising awareness of rights and responsibilities. Bringing stories home and being more Wales focused we needed this building not only as a dry working space but a place reflecting our green credentials and participatory processes.
Small World Centre is a place with no corridors it is flexible, accessible, inspiring and inexpensive to run. A place to pass on skills to a successor generation. It is in short a creative space for a creative community. Canolfan Byd Bychan | Small World Centre is a place to share our experience in Arts and Culture into a Carbon Neutral future. It is a hive of activity with many opportunities opening up. Although not yet revenue or core funded maybe after 2012 there will be sense at the end of the tunnel. Small World Theatre’s participatory and collaborative approach will continue to feature in work with communities seeking artistic, cultural and environmentally low impact solutions and a growing awareness that the future is NOW.
A version of this article first appeared in Arts Professional October 2008.