MAC EcoFest 2019: Collaboration, Sustainability & Making a Change

Wed 11 December 2019

Written by Jen, Administrator ‑ MAC Makes Music

Here at MAC we are in a unique position to bring together local organisations to have an important conversation about climate change. Situated between several neighbourhoods and a 250-acre park, MAC has a dedicated team of Green Champions who get together regularly to discuss our sustainability work. In our last few meetings, we’ve really started to feel a responsibility to make use of our position in the community. That’s why we started EcoFest.   

EcoFest began in 2016 as an opportunity for us and others to showcase the work we do that promotes sustainability. This year, we really wanted to make the most of our platform, so we organised a programme of talks in our Hexagon Theatre, hosted by Lizzie our Head of Technical Resources. Lizzie happens to be a bit of an energy-saving guru, and gave a charismatic introduction to the festival with evidence and implications of the energy savings we’ve made.

She also dispelled the myths about our disposable cups; the ones you might have been given on your way from the bar to the cinema. Despite looking like plastic, they’re actually Vegware, which means they’re 100% compostable under the right conditions. Don’t worry, she’s also arranged a special Vegware waste collection so we can ensure it’s disposed of properly.

As Lizzie pointed out, however, the focus is shifting towards changing behaviours, and using your own reusable cup is starting to become quite commonplace. So, this EcoFest we launched our own MAC-branded pint pots. They’re just as effective as reusable coffee cups, but specially made for those of you who’d like an eco-friendlier beer.

We have an active cohort of eco-warriors in the area surrounding our building, so we looked at EcoFest as our chance to bring everyone together under one roof. This year we were pleased to welcome 14 external organisations, with various activities, and it was good to see so many people of all ages from our multicultural neighbourhood getting stuck in.

Following Lizzie’s introduction, some groups also gave a talk about the projects they’re involved with at the moment. EcoBirmingham spoke about their work with the 2020 Commonwealth Games and considered what we can do to make Birmingham a leading Green City. The Wildlife Trust encouraged us to get involved in conservation, not only as a way of protecting natural habitats, but also as a social activity to nurture our own wellbeing. Similarly, Plastic Free Moseley and Kings Heath explained their dedication to reducing plastic pollution. They’ve been coordinating local litter picks, which is a great way to meet your neighbours whilst doing something to combat the harmful plastics in our environment. We’re all doing our bit to help, but it felt even better to be opening up the discussion about what we can do together. As Extinction Rebellion confirmed, we can only really make a difference if we join forces.

Of course, as an arts centre, we can’t ignore the important role creativity has to play in engaging wider audiences with important issues and inspiring change. This was the first year we linked EcoFest with our arts programme. It featured performances of Gulp!, a children’s theatre show about water conservation, Stones Have Laws, a film about how a Surinamese community are coping with climate change. Additionally, two of our artist tutors demonstrated how art and technology can be used creatively to tell us about pollution and hydroponics. A highlight of the afternoon was the drawing walk with our resident artists Matt Shane and Jim Holyoak. This opportunity to meet them and see first-hand how their passion and respect for the natural world informs their work was particularly inspiring.

Thanks to everyone who participated in EcoFest this year. Our aim is continue bringing people together to inspire each other and make lots of noise about the issues that are important to us. Here’s to EcoFest 2020.