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Theatres and sustainable development

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Mhora Samuel

Theatres Trust Director

Mhora Samuel, Director of The Theatres Trust, identifies some of the issues they’ll be covering at the Trust’s conference, Delivering Sustainable Theatres – the challenge of achieving the triple bottom line, and questions what sustainable development now means for theatres.

Sustainable development is a subject that those running theatres cannot afford to ignore. Theatres are increasingly looking at how they balance their use of energy and natural resources, with the creation and delivery of theatre performances whilst developing deeper relationships with their local communities and promoting their well-being. However, how they do this, particularly in relation to how they maintain and develop their buildings is a major challenge – especially for recession-hit theatres in the UK.
For those involved in designing, building and managing theatres, and suppliers in the construction or entertainment industries, embracing the triple bottom line of economic, social and environmental disciplines is now at the heart of how they have to do business. Four years ago at our annual conference Building Sustainable Theatres we focused on environmental sustainability. Today we talk about sustainability much more holistically, and know that is not only defined by how we address environmental issues, but also our economic and social impact – the triple bottom line.
The agenda for our conference this year, Delivering Sustainable Theatres which takes place on 12 June 2012 at Stratford Circus, includes bringing the conversation up to date, looking at what has changed and learning from the examples of our inspiring speakers. We will also have the chance to benefit from the stories of our 48 Ecovenue project participants in the specially commissioned ‘Celebrating Ecovenue’ exhibition.
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Delivering more with less

Theatres now face a number of sustainability challenges. In their design, maintenance and use of technology they are developing business models that are more ‘closed-loop’ or ‘cradle to cradle’. They now need to look at how they comply with even tighter legislation that forces buildings to become more energy and resource efficient. They also need to be designed and equipped to deliver what theatres do best – live artistic and cultural experiences that continue to attract audiences. And they need to find ways of making their buildings deliver more with less.
In 2011 when we made the case for culture in the National Planning Policy Framework in England it was as a fourth pillar of sustainable development. In the published NPPF in March this year culture was included in the social dimension – but we did gain some ground when for the first time in national policy culture was recognised as a core planning principle in delivering sustainable development.
Today our task is to question and develop our understanding of what sustainable development really means for the design, construction and management of theatres so that we can promote the value of theatre buildings in the value chain of sustainable development. If we achieve this we will be better prepared to address the challenges we now face and make the case for our future.
For more information on Delivering Sustainable Theatres and how to book visit www.theatrestrust.org.uk. Follow the Conference live on 12 June via Twitter @TheatresTrust #dstconf12.

Image credit: Theatres Trust

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