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Sage Gateshead Joins Music Declares Emergency

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Here at Sage Gateshead we’re exploring how we can continue to connect worldwide artists with our audiences while taking an active role within the music industry to eliminate emissions and transition to a net-zero society.

At a time when the impacts of the climate crisis are being discussed at the highest level at COP26 in Glasgow and felt throughout the world, we’ve just announced that we have signed up to Music Declares Emergency alongside a programme of actions to reduce emissions across its activities.

Music Declares Emergency is a coalition of musicians, music industry professionals, and organisations who have come together to declare a climate emergency and demand government action to protect all life on Earth. By Joining Music Declares Emergency, our declaration reads:

We understand the climate crisis is a critical threat to our audiences, artists, region and planet. We will continue to put environmental responsibility at the heart of our venue, working with artists and audiences to reduce emissions and make change.

Our first digital mini-festival, Variations, resonates with the immediacy of COP26 and collective attention on climate change. Contemporary artists Anonhi & Yoko Ono, John Grant, Moor Mother, and Tune-Yards each created a new work that expresses love for the world, all species, and the air we breathe. The songs reflect grief and loss when the world we know and love is no longer there, as well as an urgent demand for justice and equality, and an appeal to collaborate, imagine change, and act immediately.

In line with our pledge to the planet, we’ve been focusing on how to further reduce emissions from travel of both audiences and artists. Welcoming 500,000 people through its doors each year, travel traditionally makes up c. 25% of its total annual emissions. To combat this we’ve been encouraging active travel for staff by offering the Bike to Work Scheme, whilst encouraging audiences’ use of public transport by offering free travel on the metro with a Sage Gateshead concert ticket, with thanks to support from Nexus.

Sage Gateshead is no stranger to environmental awareness; we’ve been tracking and reporting its emissions to Julie’s Bicycle every year since 2013. We’re one of 30 venues chosen to be a part of Julie’s Bicycles ‘Spotlight’ programme which delves into energy usage reduction in the building.

We recognise the critical importance of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius and are committed to continue to lower its emissions as rapidly as possible in order to meet this target. We’re also part of the North East England Climate Coalition who aim to make the North East the greenest region, as well as taking part in the award-winning Gateshead District Energy Scheme with plans to make all council run buildings net-zero by 2030.

Wendy Smith, Director of Contemporary Music said “Sage Gateshead is responding to the climate crisis artistically by commissioning new music that reflects the world we live and motivates people to collaborate and make change. We also want to link artists to audiences in ways that have less impact on the planet than the usual models of international touring and travel. Our digital mini-festival Variations is four new songs and films on a theme of climate variations that could tip the Earth’s systems into an uninhabitable state. Every new song is a new beginning, that can contain seeds of change.”

Wendy Smith explains more about the inspiration behind Variations, and why this moment in time is so important for us as an international music venue in her recent blog. Read Wendy’s blog here.

Abigail Pogson, Managing Director said “As COP26 draws to a close, it is clearer than ever that everybody and every organisation will have their part to play in addressing the very greatest of threats.  In joining Music Declares Emergency and in producing festivals such as Variations, we pledge to do all we can to end the climate crisis.”

Variations, the digital mini-festival is available to view on BBC iPlayer. The tracks are also available at https://sagegateshead.com/variations/.