Sustainable AmbITion: project ideas

When people ask me about the Sustainable AmbITion strand of the Make:IT:Happen fund, they are often curious about the sort of projects other arts, cultural and heritage organisations have undertaken where digital technologies are used to assist environmental sustainability. To get your creative juices flowing, here are some of the examples I usually share – please add others as a comment to this post as you spot them!

Regional Screen Scotland is in receipt of the first Sustainable AmbITion grant. Screen Machine is an 80-seat, air conditioned and 3D-ready mobile cinema which brings the latest films to remote and rural areas of Scotland. The Screen Machine delivers an important social role in taking new film releases to some of the most rural Scottish communities. Measuring the emissions of a Screen Machine tour will help to raise understanding of the low carbon agenda and also identify how Regional Screen Scotland can help manage and reduce emissions across its portfolio of activity. Digital technologies were used to gather data from audiences and to create the algorithms and formulas for calculation of the CO2 footprint of audience and Screen Machine journeys. Watch the case study:

Doune The Rabbit Hole festival has built a car share micro-site for their own website with AmbITion Scotland support, to encourage festival goers to use less cars. Aldeburgh Festival’s car share website was set up to encourage the sharing of lifts by audiences to the festival, and a lower CO2 footprint of audiences achieved!

Hi~Arts received funding to develop a web based interactive platform that supports independent and community managed museums and galleries in the Highlands and Islands to identify the best options to reduce resource use costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

Empty Shops Network – a simple online initiative of a network to facilitate projects in empty shops and slack spaces across the UK. The Empty Shops Network is a loose coaltion, an informal collective, a timely coming together of meanwhile art galleries, pop-up shops, short-term community spaces, informal activity hubs, and temporary studios. making use of resources that are otherwise underutilised. Recycling, re-using, renewing.

National Maritime Museum’s Your Ocean project helps teachers and school aged children through a number of activities that raise the importance of looking after the oceans for a more sustainable environment.

NT Live! (Met Opera Live, Glyndebourne, etc.) – simulcasting into cinemas across the country and internationally has changed the face of large scale theatre touring – did you know that Edinburgh-based Traverse theatre experimented with simulcasting, sending out to cinemas live some rehearsed readings of new works during 2011s Fringe Festival? Traverse also offer their casts the use of kindles which contain scripts to reduce the amount of printing on paper.

I had the privilege of helping National Theatre Wales set up as a virtual organisation and national theatre company in 2008 and 2009, and a core value of theirs was to be environmentally sustainable. We starting building an online only community as the company was born, where artistic ideas were rehearsed and incubated, and skills local to the potential co-productions were sourced. The online community remains at the heart of the company, co-developing artistic work, delivering projects (without the NTW core team necessarily having to be involved). People from all over Wales don’t have to travel to Cardiff every week to be closely involved – improving access, reach, connectivity and participation with the CO2!

Building on the NTW model, Battersea Arts Centre have developed an online scratch theatre platform (Scratchr) to enable artists anywhere to collaborate.

I love the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art’s Dashboard – just one page of their website showing energy, waste and water usage: making it clear they care, and they measure – a great message for their stakeholders and audiences.

National Theatre Scotland’s award winning Five Minute Theatre (watch the webinar about the project) – originally co-produced by my other company Envirodigital – was created to show that theatre from anywhere can be shared and participated with anywhere else digitally: increasing reach, scale, and accessibility without emitting the 18 tonnes of CO2e a standard Scotland-wide tour would have created. The NTS show The Last Polar Bears has been toured round Scottish schools this year by bike – NTS have also created an environmental policy.

Glasgow Film Theatre set up a green blog to chart their own greening process through establishing an environmental policy, and to encourage others to learn from their developments.

Set Exchange – recycling and reusing within the theatre sector.

The RSNO’s general policies on travelling by train and car share are well known and established, to the extent that they were sponsored by ScotRail – sending a great message to their audiences. But the RSNO are also considering how digital can increase their accessibility and lower carbon footprint.They used livestreaming technologies to perform a live concert with musicians scattered across the Shetland Islands. Some of the islands had never before had a full orchestral concert, and this was achieved not by all the musicians being in the same place, but by small groups of musicians being in different places, coming together through livestreaming technologies!


Stellar Quines Theatre Company have experimented with livestreaming rehearsed readings, and have recorded one of their shows as a 3D film, so that they can tour their work – digitally into cinemas. Watch their 3D filming case study.

Eigg box encourages the global community to become involved in local making via digital technologies – see the AmbITion Scotland webcast on demand which features Lucy Conway explaining that exciting initiative!

Mull Theatre and Robert Burns Visitor Centre – recently opened, these were designed to be eco buildings, so use smart technologies to manage the building. As does Shetland Arts’ Mareel, but here digital technologies takes that one step further. Mareel has been set up to enable webcasting, live streaming and digital radio broadcasting throughout the building. AmbITion Scotland webcast from Mareel on demand features director Gwilym Gibbons giving an overview of the venue!

And Creative Carbon Scotland are progressing their work assisting venues across Scotland to reduce their footprints and to become greener and more energy efficient through the advice and toolkits offered by their website and apps. They’ve also received Sustainable AmbITion funding to develop an online expenses and Travel Tracking/CO2 footprint generator.