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Creative Climate Leadership Q&A

“The only way we can change the world, is to have more fun than the people who aren’t.”

– Ed Gillespie, Co-Founder of Futerra Sustainability


The Blue Room Theatre’s executive director Kerry O’Sullivan went all the way to Wales in the final week of March to attend Creative Climate Leadership, a training course to help maximise action on climate change within the creative and cultural sector. The course was presented by Julie’s Bicycle, a London based charity that believes the creative community is uniquely placed to transform the conversation around climate change, and seeks to support it in translating this into action.

While there, Kerry caught up with creative leaders Anna Koski (Coal Free Finland), Carla Knight (Vivienne Westwood) and Chris Johnson (Shambala UK) about what makes them tick, and what they got out of the course.


What puts a fire in your belly about climate change and environmental activism?

Anna – I find it difficult to remember the exact moment when I became concerned about the world and climate change – I was quite young but I didn’t know what to do back then apart from stop drinking Coca Cola and become a vegetarian. Lately I have come to the realisation that stopping climate change is the way to stop all inequalities whether social, gender or economic. Climate change it is related to all the systematic inequalities in the world. And I had the realisation that no one is going to do it for me. This came through reading the book by Naomi Klein This Changes Everything.

Carla – I believe at the heart of it everybody really cares about our planet, the future of it and what it does for us. Sustainability can be a difficult subject in the industry especially if you are just working it out rather than singing about your green credentials. I believe we should all feel free to talk about this no matter where we are at.

What creates the fire is that I think the reasons we can’t connect with, or fight for saving the planet is because of the world that’s developed around us. I want to make the things that we love and the things that we think are priorities come together.

Chris – It’s a very personal thing that I feel that I want to be a positive force in the world. What puts my fire in the belly is that festivals provided me with a unique and significant opportunity to influence people. They are a perfect vehicle for having conversation with large numbers of people and inspiring people to think about things differently.

What have you enjoyed most about your time at the Creative Climate Leaders course?

Anna – It’s been really inspiring to meet these people all around the world who are doing things to stop climate change and I’ve had great conversations and been inspired by the projects people have told me about. It’s also been a journey inwards that has been eye opening to me to understand that anyone can be a leader and we are all leaders. You just need to take the first step and invite others to join the movement.

Carla – Sharing an open and non-judgemental space with some really inspiring and like-minded people.

Chris – I always find it inspiring to be in a space with so many people who are passionate about sustainability and keen to share ideas. I went on a course a couple of years ago that really profoundly beautifully changed me – what I took from it was how rewarding being listened to without judgement is. It’s kind of a medicine for human beings. There’s something beautiful about the fact that it’s an open space and there’s so much similarity on our journeys. It’s intrinsically part of our journey to share things.

If you could ask everyone in the world to take on one thing to try and help combat climate change, what would it be?

Carla – To be kind to themselves.

Chris – I wouldn’t start anywhere near climate change. I’d start with a kindness. The root of the problem I feel is materialism and consumerism is trying to plug the happiness hole in the human experience that can only be replaced with community and compassion. I think all the solutions would naturally follow


Anna Koski – Communications at Coal Free Finland

Anna works as part of the Communications team for Coal Free Finland, lobbying politicians to close down the coal- and peat-burning power plant in Espoo near Helsinki so that Finland can reach the Paris 1.5 degree target.

Carla Knight – Menswear Design Manager for Vivienne Westwood

Carla Knight is passionate about developing collections that are as sustainable as possible. She is also working towards opening a discussion about this struggle for ethically and sustainably responsible garments within the fashion industry.

Chris Johnson – Co-founder and Director of Shambala (UK)

Shambala is a five-day camping festival with live music stages, performance including theatre and dance, sculpture and good food – basically every art form. Their tag line: “adventures in Utopia” speaks to their core ethos of partying like there’s no tomorrow while keeping a positive future firmly in focus. Truly diverse, pioneering an intimate festival.

In 2016 Shambala festival went meat and fish free. Johnson says that this initially caused some backlash from about 10% of their audience but overall everyone accepted the change positively. Ticket sales were not affected and of the 75% of surveyed festival goers who identified as meat and fish eaters, at least half of them said that the festival had made them rethink and change their eating habits.


Image by Kerry O’Sullivan, featuring (L-R) Anna Koski, Chris Johnson and Carla Knight.