Testing Grounds

Episode 5: Cove Park - Young People's Voices on the Climate Crisis

August 25, 2023 Nordic Alliance of Artists' Residencies on Climate Action Season 1 Episode 5
Testing Grounds
Episode 5: Cove Park - Young People's Voices on the Climate Crisis
Show Notes Transcript

What are young people’s views on the climate crisis? And how can artists, and art institutions, help to amplify their voices?

Cove Park is NAARCA’s Scottish partner. It’s perched on a picturesque hillside on the Rosneath Peninsula, on Scotland’s West Coast.

In this episode, Emma Henderson – Cove Park’s Curator of Engagement – introduces us to both the residency and the region, and to NAARCA’s pedagogy work. We then hear from artist Louis Brown and students Frankie O’Connor and Cameron Glendinning, both of whom recently graduated from a local high school. Frankie and Cameron were part of the “Net Zero Youth Voice” project, initiated by Imperial College London and facilitated by Louis – a youth-led film project that highlighted young people’s views on the climate crisis, air pollution, and net zero policies.

Find out more:
Net Zero Youth Voice
Air Quotes Premiere
East London Cable

Emma Henderson, Curator of Engagement, Cove Park
Louis Brown, artist and filmmaker, East London Cable
Frankie O’Connor, student
Cameron Glendinning, student

Credits: Testing Grounds is produced and edited by Katie Revell and includes original music by Loris S. Sarid and artwork by Jagoda Sadowska. With thanks to Alex Marrs and the rest of the NAARCA team.

Contact us: naarca.art/contact-us

Who we are: Art Hub Copenhagen (Denmark), Artica Svalbard (Norway), Baltic Art Center (Sweden), Cove Park (Scotland), Saari Residence (Finland), Skaftfell Art Center (Iceland) and Narsaq International Research Station (Greenland).

Thanks for listening!

00:02 Emma: In the main building, it sits really high up on the hillside and it overlooks Loch Long. So we're really lucky – we've got this amazing view that takes in the immediate landscape of farmlands and native trees, which slopes down to the shores of the loch. And on the other side, we can see the mountains of the Cowal Peninsula rising up with their mixture of forestry and farmland on them.

00:24 To the right, up Loch Long, we're looking up towards the Highlands of Scotland, so you've got the more rugged mountains to the right, and to the left we can see right down towards Arran and Bute, the islands down there. So it's a really picturesque view and uh, definitely something that Cove Park's well-known for.

00:46 Various speakers: Velkommen. Tervetuloa. Välkommen. Fàilte. Bures. Velkommen.

00:52 Narration: Welcome to Testing Grounds, from the Nordic Alliance of Artists' Residencies on Climate Action. Episode five: Cove Park - amplifying young people's voices on the climate crisis.

01:11 The Nordic Alliance of Artists’ Residencies on Climate Action, or NAARCA, is a network of seven artists’ residencies across the Nordic region and Scotland. They've come together to explore what potential artists’ residencies have to be testing grounds – testing grounds for new ways of living and working that are ecologically, socially, mentally, and financially sustainable.

01:37 I'm Katie Revell. In this series, I'm talking to people in and around the NAARCA residencies about the themes, the challenges, and the questions they're grappling with – that we're all grappling with – in the context of the climate crisis. In this episode, we're visiting NAARCA's Scottish partner, Cove Park.

01:57 Emma: My name is Emma Henderson, and I'm a designer and the Curator of Engagement at Cove Park.

02:08 Cove Park is situated on the Rosneath Peninsula, which is on the west coast of Scotland. It's about an hour's travel from Glasgow. Although we feel quite remote, practically, we're not.

02:20 Cove Park's actually on the site of what used to be a conservation park. We still have Highland cows on site, and in fact, the farmer recently just got a new flock of little baby Highland cows, which are unbelievably cute, and there's always some sheep, sometimes even some goats on site. So yeah, lots for the residents to come and see.

02:42 Narration: Despite this really peaceful setting, Cove Park actually sits just up the coast from the Coulport naval base, where the UK’s nuclear warheads are stored. And Faslane, which is also nearby, is the base for the submarines that carry those warheads.

02:58 I remember the first time I went to Cove Park, looking out over the lush green landscape and suddenly seeing a huge nuclear submarine cruising down the loch. It’s a pretty jarring sight.

03:10 The naval bases play a big role in the local community – lots of people work there, or have jobs that are somehow related to the bases. And in this sense, Cove Park shares something with other NAARCA residencies – like Artica, on Svalbard, Baltic Art Center on Gotland, and Narsaq International Research Station, on Greenland. These are all places whose geopolitical significance has an impact on people’s lives.

03:37 Emma: Cove Park was founded by Eileen and Peter Jacobs back in 1999, it was. The year 2000 was our first year, so we've been going now for 23 years. In that time, it's really expanded in what it can offer. I think in our first year we had something like 11 residents, but last year we had over 270. So there's always quite a range of different people on site at any one time, which really creates its own ecosystem, a really good atmosphere of people working at different stages of their career and on different projects and on different art forms.

04:14 Katie: What would you say are Cove Park's sort of main thematic focuses?

04:20 Emma: Traditionally, we've always offered quite a basic "time, space, freedom" model. But in 2021, we launched our inquiry into the environment. So from that point onwards, we were focusing a lot of our projects around themes about the environment.

04:40 So it meant a lot more of our residents were focusing on artworks or projects around sustainability, or climate anxiety, or you know, any kind of theme connected to the environment. Obviously we do still have residents who are maybe working in different ways, and you know, that always provides a really nice, as we were saying before, exchange of ideas. So although we do have that focus, it's not exclusive.

05:10 What I really love to do is I really like to help people explore their own creative voice. So I run the engagement programme at Cove Park where I invite designers, artists, musicians, and other creative thinkers to deliver workshops and experiences for our local community. The aim of that is really to help inspire, we hope, the next generation of artists by introducing them to ideas and giving them the space to try, and sometimes fail, in a supportive and encouraging environment.

05:41 Katie: Why do you think it's important for artists' residencies like Cove Park to be doing that outreach work and that engagement work with local communities, people who live nearby, people who maybe aren't directly engaged with the residency? Why, why is that work important? 

05:57 Emma: Well, for us, certainly, Cove Park sits on a site that used to be a community building. So there's always been this little bit of tension within the community about "what are those artists doing up there on that hill?", which is a phrase I've heard repeated a few times. And I think it's just really important to break down that barrier so the artists aren't seen as some elitist community getting some sort of special treatment.

06:24 I think what an artist residency centre should be doing is sharing that amazing resource with their local community so that the local community really gets to benefit from all these fantastic ideas and wonderful creative thinking that goes on in these places. It's a great way to involve the local community, to empower them, and also it's great for the artists because a lot of the time, they might be working quite a lot in isolation. So to be able to share a part of their work, in a fairly informal way, with local residents can really help to inform their own thinking a lot of the time. So it does become this two-way street.

07:15 Katie: If you think about Cove Park itself and the surrounding area, I mean you live quite locally as well. Can you think of some of the ways that the area is being impacted by the climate crisis? 

07:26 Emma: Yeah, definitely. We've always, especially in the west coast of Scotland, had a really quite changeable weather system. So you know, we get sort of quite a lot of warm summers, wet winters, but what's really happening in the last few years is our summers are getting hotter and drier. We're having much longer spells where the ground is drying up, and in the winter the weather is becoming milder. So we're seeing less snow and frost and more rainfall in the winter.

07:56 I think also one of the things that's quite notable is we're getting much more instances of really heavy rainfall. So what's happening there is that a lot of the landscape's becoming really saturated and we're seeing a lot of flooding events.

08:13 One of the things that impacts a lot of the locals in this area quite a lot is there's a road that connects Glasgow to Oban and to the Highlands and to the rest of Argyll and Bute, the Rest and be Thankful, which has seen, I think it's around 47 landslides since 2007, and in 2020 had two really major landslides, which really washed away huge parts of the road. I think work is probably ongoing, still there to stabilise the land, but it's meant that for people who use that route regularly, their lives have been impacted massively, and this is a direct result of climate change – this saturating of the ground with so much rainfall. Yeah, it's really making people's lives quite impossible sometimes.

08:56 Another thing about Argyll and Bute and about our local landscape here is that we've got a lot of UK's temperate Atlantic rainforests and peatlands. So these long, hot spells of dry weather are really having a massive impact on those areas. They are really rich, obviously in biodiversity, but also what's important about these areas is that they've got this amazing ability to capture and store really large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere.

09:25 So they're hugely important for our environment and, um, these spells of long hot weather are really putting them at risk. And I mean, obviously everybody loves the warm weather when it's here. I love it. We all love it. We all go swimming in the lochs and we have a great time, but it's not normal. It's really unusual. And you can see the impact it's having on the ground, especially when we have those floods when the rain does come.

09:52 Narration: Along with Saari Residence, in Finland, Cove Park is a founding member of NAARCA.

09:59 Emma: There's obviously the shared vision there to work in a more sustainable way, both environmentally and socially. The idea was that coming together to do this work as a collective would amplify their voices, so it's about sharing resources and knowledge and experiences. It also helps to amplify the differences in the different countries and the different environmental contexts, hopefully to inspire other organisations in the future.

10:26 Katie: What would you say is your personal motivation for being engaged with these kind of themes?

10:34 Emma: Um, well, for me, being interested and wanting to do something, to do what I can, is absolutely essential. It's something that affects us all. It affects our children and it'll affect the planet for years to come. So I feel if we're not doing something, if we're not actively taking some responsibility, we're doing something wrong. And I do feel it's everybody's responsibility to do what they can. I'm really lucky in this role and in this position to be able to work on projects like this, but I do feel that even so I would be doing what I can through other ways.

11:15 Katie: In this episode, we'll be exploring NAARCA's pedagogy strand, which is all about creating shared resources for young people, families, students and teachers to learn about and to take action on climate change.

11:29 Emma: And that's the strand that obviously I am heavily involved with. We work with children and young people and introduce them to new ideas, to different artists and to different ways of thinking. It's a really unique privilege and something that arts organisations are really uniquely placed to do.

11:46 We want to introduce them to artists and creatives who think differently. So they might use materials in a different way or they might think about different concepts or ideas and do work that's thought-provoking and engaging. And it's really important to me, and something I love is to be able to inspire this in young people.

12:05 In terms of rolling this into NAARCA and the work that we're doing there, I think it's important to understand that with climate change, we're also seeing documented increases of the mental health impacts of that. So climate anxiety is definitely on the rise, and obviously creativity is a really fantastic outlet for that. So in many ways, I feel like the work that the pedagogy group are doing is vital in, um, sharing our message further.

12:33 Katie: As part of its pedagogy work, NAARCA has commissioned several artists to design and deliver climate-related workshops for children and young people.

12:42 Emma: I think the workshops are a really great way of presenting ideas in a fun and engaging way. In some ways, to me, it's about setting a challenge or asking a question, and then supporting children or young people to find their own ways to answer it. So it's important that everyone in the room feels able to try and possibly fail in a supportive environment. So in a workshop situation, when the conditions are right, it's a really collaborative effort between the participants and the artists.

13:09 What we want to do with the pedagogy group is to offer these workshops to other people, because running a workshop is an art form in itself, and it can be quite daunting if it's something you've not done before. So what we want to do is put together a package or suite of workshops around the topic of climate change and climate anxiety that will allow anybody, anywhere to deliver the same workshop and support their young people in their own creative expression.

13:34 We hope they're gonna be used by schools, by community groups, by artists, even home educators and parents. Hopefully anybody can pick up this toolkit and, um, explore these conversations around climate change with young people and children. 

13:55 Narration: Our contributors for this episode are students Cameron Glendinning and Frankie O’Connor – who've both just finished high school at Hermitage Academy in Helensburgh, near Cove Park – and Louis Brown, who's an artist and filmmaker from London.

14:10 Emma: So, Cameron and Frankie are two young people that we've known for many years. They've attended workshops here at Cove Park since they started secondary school. They're both really enthusiastic and thoughtful people who are super engaged with what we've been doing. After the pandemic, it became really clear that we weren't managing to connect with the same young people as we had been before.

14:31 We really wanted to figure out as quickly as we could why this was happening and what we could do about it. One way we looked to try and rectify this was with a small pot of funding we managed to appoint Frankie and Cameron as our young ambassadors. The aim of this was to have two really engaged young people who might be able to point us in the direction of where we should be focusing our efforts on engaging young people.

14:58 You know, even just to figure out if the timings were right, if what we were saying in our social media sounded right, if we were putting on the interesting-sounding workshops for them. So they became really instrumental to, to me in particular, just as a sounding board for finding out how we could re-engage young people.

15:17 Narration: Frankie, Cameron and Louis are going to be discussing “Net Zero Youth Voice”, which is a youth-led project that Cameron and Frankie took part in, and Louis facilitated. The project was initiated by a team at Imperial College London, who focus on air quality modelling. They wanted to find out what young people think about air pollution, Net Zero, and the policies that might be informed by their research.

15:42 Louis was already working on the project with a group of young people from South Bank University Academy in London’s Elephant and Castle neighbourhood. And he wanted to create a dialogue between these young people in London, and young people in a more rural area.

15:56 Emma: Frankie and Cameron were really instrumental in helping us to promote this project and to recruit a really fantastic group of young people who were keen to have their voices heard, and to help Louis amplify this project. For a week, we hosted both Louis Brown and filmmaker Felix Melia. They did a workshop, first of all in Helensburgh, after school.

16:20 So we managed to get young people to come along straight after school, fed them some great snacks, and uh, got some really interesting observations out of them. And then they all came around and spent the full day, the following Saturday, at Cove Park. It was lovely to see them all working, and the young people were so engaged and involved in it. It's a fantastic project. 

16:44 Narration: The project resulted in a film called Air Quotes, which explores young people's views about air pollution and net zero. Net zero, if you’re not familiar with the term, is a situation where there's a balance between the greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere and the greenhouse gases being removed from the atmosphere.

17:02 So achieving net zero is going to mean drastically reducing our emissions and finding ways of absorbing any emissions that we do still generate. The UK government has a target of achieving net zero by 2050, and here in Scotland, the government's target is for 2045. So what do young people think about these targets, and about the climate crisis more broadly? In Air Quotes, we hear directly from them.

17:33 Louis: I'm Louis Brown. I'm an artist and filmmaker. 

Cameron: Hi, I'm Cameron Glendinning. I'm from Kilcreggan in the West of Scotland, and I'm about to start Glasgow Uni for Geography in September.

Frankie: Hi, my name is Frankie. I live in Helensburgh, and I'm about to go into Props at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. 

17:47 Katie: It'd be good to kind of get a bit of a snapshot of how you guys are feeling about the climate crisis, given that that is the main theme for this series, and obviously it's a big part of the theme of the, the film that you guys made. If you had to summarise the emotions that you feel when you think about the climate crisis, or maybe our relationship with the environment, what are three emotions that spring to mind for you? 

18:26 Louis: My initial feeling whenever sort of the climate crisis is brought up is frustration, and I think that frustration is based in the lack of real action to tackle climate change and sort of the, the slowness of movement.

18:45 Cameron: I would say disbelief is a big one, just at how we've gotten to this stage. It feels, like, incredibly ridiculous and stupid that humanity cares so little about the only source of life that it has.

19:03 Frankie: I'd probably say quite stressed. I feel, yeah, we don't have a lot of time to kind of solve this, and it just feels like it's moving way too slow. 

19:14 Louis: There's almost like a surreal nature to the situation. It's quite surreal that we know so much and we can see so many of the effects, but we're not doing any of the sort of basic, urgent requirements. There's a surreal nature to that, which is, um, quite difficult to square. I think that's, that's another feeling that I'm getting from it.

19:41 Katie: Louis is part of a group called East London Cable. 

19:44 Louis: East London Cable is a collective of artists primarily working with performance and video. We came together in 2018. I joined in 2019 to help them with a project, episode two of the thread of TV Dinners, which is sort of like a curatorial TV show, basically, where we use the concept of like a magazine TV format to display artworks, videos, performances, live music, discussion.

20:19 And through that I've done like a number of projects with the collective and you know, individually as well, where my practice as sort of like a socially-engaged video maker, facilitator of workshops, has sort of allowed me to play with many different subject matters. I think there is a visual language that comes with television that, because most people have watched a lot of television, there is a, an understanding of it.

20:44 So we found it very useful to sort of use the language of television to try and translate more complex or difficult ideas and play with them. And also in the editing and creation of programmes, there's this sort of collective voice that ends up being used to speak with, which is sometimes quite, quite a helpful thing to, to take the temperature of a larger group of people, especially when we've been working with, sort of like young people in projects such as this, or when I've worked in schools on projects previously.

21:14 Katie: Can you tell us briefly then about the Air Quotes film specifically, and I guess more broadly, the Net Zero Youth Voice Project? How did you come up with the idea of making the film in the way that you did? 

21:26 Louis: Well, the brief of the film was always to get opinions from young people, to find out what their opinions on the net zero policy conversations and what they would feel about the policy scenarios that were being put forward for us to reach net zero in the UK. My references are almost things like say like Newsround, for instance, like it's news by young people, for young people. Obviously the age groups are slightly different with the people that we're working with.

21:53 And I mean, you know, we were working with people all the way from 15 up to 17 in this project, so – sorry, 14 to 17 I believe actually. It was quite a broad bracket in terms of where people are at in those years, quite important teenage years. But I felt like if we could make something which was sort of based in the aesthetics of of TV that maybe was considered youth TV or young people's TV, it would make it slightly more believable.

22:21 The idea was to make scenarios on screen that young people felt comfortable in and that they were able to lead the conversation from. My idea was to use things like green screen, to use things like sort of circle time setups and interview scenarios to try and create a conversation between young people, which I could facilitate, but really I wanted to elevate and, and just lift up so people could see it and people could hear it.

22:51 Katie: And that brings us on quite nicely to you guys, Frankie and Cameron. What did you actually do when Louis was at Cove Park?

23:00 Frankie: The first day we met up in the Mack Club in Helensburgh, and the kind of first activity we did is there was big sheets of paper set out and we were asked to draw what we thought the climate crisis was, what climate change was, and then Louis would ask us questions on what we were drawing, and we'd kind of tell everyone in the group what we were drawing. And no, it was really interesting getting to hear other people, what they knew about climate change and what they knew about the climate crisis and net zero. 

23:39 Katie: Do you guys remember what some of the things were that came up in that initial session? 

23:43 Louis: What was very interesting about meeting the group of, of young people in, in Cove Park and Helensburgh was that there's such diverse knowledge of climate issues.

23:54 But we also had a discussion, didn't we, about locality, and like where we were and how we understood our space. So I'll let Frankie and, and Cameron talk about this a little bit more, but we moved on to a conversation of rather than just talking about climate change writ large – which is obviously a huge, huge subject, and actually probably is quite difficult to talk about, it maybe it becomes almost a little bit meaningless in some of the conversations we're having - we spoke about like how we might experience the inputs or the sort of factors of climate change locally, or the things that might build up to climate change.

00:23:39 So we spoke about industry, we spoke about recycling, we spoke about littering, we spoke about the nuclear sub base. And we spoke about ships, we spoke about the Clyde. Lots of different things that sort of came up and we tried to sort of zone in and create a little bit more of a, like a local understanding of, of what this is, scalable understanding of how we talk about it.

24:54 We also had a slight focus really about air quality as well, which was, it's the main thrust of, of the research project, the modelling project at Imperial College. But um, obviously that is something which links very closely to all the other subjects that we sort of landed on as well. I'm just wondering whether Frankie and Cameron remember some of the other, like, drawing tasks that we set and if you wanna talk about those at all? 

25:18 Cameron: As in the characters?

Frankie: Yeah.

Cameron: Okay. So, um, we ended up creating three characters who were supposed to symbolise three different areas within the UK and how they related to climate change. So these were our local area – so Helensburgh and the Rosneath Peninsula – Glasgow and London. So we created three different characters called Sid, Garry and Sebastian. They were the symbol of how each of those places related to environmental issues. 

25:51 Katie: Do you remember what some of the differences were that you guys identified? The differences in character, I suppose, between those, those three people or three figures? 

26:00 Frankie: Um, well I remember like Sebastian, who was the character for Helensburgh, he was kind of more of a kind of sheltered character, 'cause you don't really see the effects of climate change in Helensburgh as much. 

26:15 Louis: It was really heartening to see sort of in the way we were breaking it down to then build up the conversation again. We were able to sort of understand our own positionality within the conversations as well. And we discussed this, because I'd obviously come from London. You were coming from Helensburgh, talking about what you were seeing locally, and yeah, these different things where you also travel into Glasgow and you can see that difference between being in the city, whereas being in a sort of semi-rural environment and just how quickly that changes. And especially when we're talking about like global issues.

26:48 Like for instance, I remember it keeps coming up because I think it must be being taught in school, but about the flooding in Bangladesh specifically, it’s something that comes up, comes up, comes up, comes up again. Whereas that's something that isn't really felt in the UK. But it is still relevant. But just finding those like relevant issues to understand it on a local, local basis is, is really, really helpful. 

27:09 Katie: And coming back to the workshops that you guys did at Cove Park and in Helensburgh with Louis – those conversations that you had during that time, were they different to conversations that you'd had elsewhere about the climate crisis? Conversations at school, for example?

27:29 Cameron: I felt like there was a lot less of, "Oh, I have to say this", or "I have to say that" when it came to these conversations. So for example, at school, these conversations, they had to reflect the school in a sort of positive light. Like, so for example, if I said, "Oh, I wanna go on a climate strike", the school's not involved.

27:48 Whereas with Cove Park and with Louis and stuff like that, it was always, you can say what you like – it's your voice, it's your story. So I felt that there was a lot more freedom to basically just say what I want and to be honest about my opinion and how we're going to respond to this. 

28:05 Louis: Can I ask a question though? What did you enjoy in the workshops? Which bits were you most excited to, to actually be taking part in? 

28:12 Frankie: I really liked it when we got to kind of draw the characters and then I liked the activities where we got to kind of draw. I felt like that kind of... 

28:23 Louis: No, it kind of loosens up, doesn't it? Loosens up. I don't wanna put words in your mouth, but I would say like, it's quite nice to have an activity to, to sort of, to play with. I felt like we were, we were unencumbered because we were able to, to flow. To flow with it.

28:38 Frankie: It helps to kind of get your mind going as you're drawing, 'cause you start talking to other people and you hear what they have to say and then it kind of brings up more in your brain. 

28:53 Louis: Totally. I mean, that's honestly one of the reasons why I chose to work in this way as well. I mean, I was only in Scotland for six days and that included travel, so it was incredibly quick turnaround. I think I had four or five sessions with the young people at Elephant and Castle at South Bank University Academy, and that's a bit more time to, to build up rapport, to build up trust, and to create this sort of space to talk.

29:19 With the young people at Cove Park I had to come and more or less, the second day I was there, we were just asking everyone to share in a really, really sort of like generous way. So drawing wasn't the only thing to loosen up. We also had many snacks.

29:31 Frankie: Yep.

Louis: Which were important I think, always. And yeah, we needed to get to know each other a bit, didn't we? 

29:39 Katie: I think that's such a good point. I think food, and I think play as well, which is not something that is often given space when it comes to these sort of themes, but doing something playful, like “Come up with a character that represents this city”, you know, I think that can be a really, really helpful way to get people thinking and get conversations happening. Whereas if you just go straight in with "Why is air pollution a problem?" Or "What can we do about air pollution?" I think the results that come from that are much more kind of, um, they're maybe less imaginative. 

30:16 Louis: We use culture to talk about the things that we find hard to describe. It's what art's there for. If you could say it in less words or in a different way, you may say it, but I think sometimes it's important to find these ways to communicate something which is through like a feeling, or through a shared experience or you know, an activity. And I think that's something which I think we can all use to create greater understanding.

30:41 Katie: Yeah, I totally agree. I was at an event a little while ago that was also broadly kind of climate, environment related, but it involved a lot of food together, cooking together, eating together, sitting around a fire, playing music, having conversations. And someone made the comment that they wished in, you know, high-level climate talks, there was more opportunity just for people to sit around and have a cup of tea or a glass of beer and sit around a fire and chat.

31:10 You know, that the results of those conversations would be so much more valuable than if you're sitting in a windowless boardroom in a suit, which I thought, yeah, I thought it was a good point. Louis, can you tell us a bit about the finished film, the result of these workshops? 

31:31 Louis: Yeah, so the finished film sort of takes in different sort of, um, ways of exploring the subject matter. So we begin in Elephant and Castle meeting the young people at um, London South Bank Academy.

31:46 We have some core questions that we ask throughout. We ask those to the people in London, and we ask those to the people in Helensburgh too. And we sort of have a moment on green screen with, uh, some of the images that they've created and some of the sort of like, some found footage of climate events happening. And we sort of let people have their say.

32:07 I felt like it was quite important to begin the film with something quite direct, and direct from young people speaking to their audience. So asking about what they know about climate change, how they feel about it, what they think of net zero, what they know about it, if they think it's worthwhile. These are just sort of ways to get into the conversation. I just wanted to make the film strongly feel like it was anchored in the views and opinions of the young people involved, first and foremost. 

32:37 Narration: “Air Quotes” had its Scottish premiere at Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts – this was the first time that Frankie, Cameron and the other participants from Hermitage Academy had seen the finished film.

32:49 Katie: Tell me about the premiere. What was that like?

32:51 Cameron: It was really interesting because you got to see both the London group and our group, and you got to reflect on what you had said. I remember at some point, I think some people probably were judging me and Frankie because, um, we were laughing at what we were saying. So that was quite funny 'cause Louis had made an effort to make it not too serious. He made an effort to make it very entertaining as well. 

33:12 Katie: On that note, how would you say the film is different to other films that you guys have seen, again, maybe at school or elsewhere about net zero or about the climate crisis?

33:25 Frankie: I think it was very good at keeping your attention. I also think it still had a lot of seriousness to it, but it was able to still be kind of, still a bit more lighthearted. I think with, um, a lot of videos that you see about the climate crisis and kind of air pollution is they're all very depressing and it almost has a kind of, there's a lot of nihilism to it, whereas this kind of almost gave a bit more hope.

33:59 Louis: It's funny that you say that Frankie, in that exact way, 'cause I feel like the most honest way of talking about it's that we all are sort of like exist on a spectrum of feeling about how we feel about the crisis, or how we feel in terms of hope, in terms of getting things done, in terms of net zero.

34:14 We're all happy there's something to grasp on to, to talk about, to do. But there are also times when it's really frustrating, and I think that was the thing that I really felt was interesting about yourselves in making the film, is that you shared, over the time, these different feelings, these different moods you had, based on the conversations you were having.

34:34 And I think for me what was really important as well was to use some of those lines and strong statements that you said to sort of act as important punctuation points along the way. So I think the first time we meet you, Cameron, you're speaking off-camera. But the finishing sort of I statement is, is quite a a strong statement.

34:56 It's the first time we meet you where you're saying like, "I don't really have a lot of faith in, in people to do anything". And it's like, "Alright, well, okay!". And it, that in itself is quite funny because, you know, we, we know what we're here to discuss. People will expect young people to be optimistic and, you know, full of the joy and you say straight away, you're like, "I'm not optimistic, and the reason I'm not optimistic is because you older people are taking the mick".

35:25 Louis: So I think that's quite an interesting, like, rhetorical device. And at the end, Frankie, you also say a statement, which I think, you know, we recorded that in April 2022. You only have to look at the last few months of decisions or things that have happened in terms of climate policy and net zero policy, and things that are coming from the major parties, to kind of look at that question again of like, are they gonna do something, or are they gonna just talk... about...

35:52 That, you know, it leaves it in the air, and that's what the politicians tend to be doing. So I think you both through going through the journey of these discussions, you've both really shown, like a very honest depiction of, of what I think a lot of young people are sort of talking about. I, I feel like it was very emblematic of a lot of the conversations that I've been having about this and a lot of my research into this subject area.

36:17 So yeah, that was something that I thought came out really strong. And I do think that's, it comes through your personalities, but I also think your personalities definitely like, represent in a really, really positive way, the spectrum of young people's thoughts on these matters. Can't just be one thing. It's never gonna be monolithic, but, but I think like all of your different inputs really helped form like a, a more whole, cohesive sort of feeling. So, good job you guys. 

36:47 Katie: Yeah, I totally agree and I think that kind of honesty is really positive. You know, I don't think you guys should be expected to be all happy clappy and "it's gonna be okay". There's so much expectation that "Oh, the next generation are gonna sort things out". You know? That shouldn't be on you guys. So yeah, I really appreciated that honesty in the film, definitely just some honest frustration. I think maybe we need a bit more of that.

37:13 Cameron: I would say that I enjoyed seeing regular people getting involved in climate discussions, because a lot of the time, academics are the ones who are at the forefront of climate discussions, and I do think that that is incredibly important for tackling climate change. But it is also important to get a range of people involved.

37:34 Katie: I'm curious to know, specifically Frankie and Cameron, do you feel that your voice is listened to, specifically when it comes to, to conversations about the climate crisis? And maybe we can start thinking about that in a sort of everyday context, so when you were at school, when you're at home, maybe other activities that you do in your everyday life, do you feel that your voice is listened to and taken seriously? 

38:03 Cameron: I would say that when I'm at home, my parents make an effort to encourage me to take environmental action, even in the sort of smaller steps. So, for example, changing my search engine to be more environmentally friendly, and they'll do the same. You know, that is a conversation that we had, and that's one that we implemented.

38:22 But there is also obviously the limits of practicality. You know, like, you can't just go uprooting your entire life for certain things, if it's not going to make a huge difference. But I would say that definitely my parents and my family have made an effort to encourage me to pursue environmentalism, as well as to take it to a career level.

38:44 Katie: And Frankie, is it something either in your home life or at school, for example, that there are opportunities to express how you're feeling or what you think about climate change? 

38:53 Frankie: I'd say at home, they'll listen, but it's almost like, um, almost when I kind of try to have the discussions, yeah, it's a bit more nihilism. It's kind of more "Why should we be making these big changes in our lives when the government is not really doing that?"

39:13 Katie: Yeah. I often think there is too much emphasis on individual action, you know, individual footprint, which I think is important, but sometimes that can be a distraction tactic, I think, from the changes that really are gonna make the most difference. So, no, I think that's a really good point.

39:42 If you're thinking about a wider context, if you're thinking about climate policy, so for example, you know, policy on, on getting us to net zero – do you feel that there are any avenues for your voices to be heard, for you to have any input? 

39:58 Cameron: I feel like when I have been given a voice, so for example, when I got given a voice through my school, I always felt like people would say, you know, "You are a young person, you've not done a master's degree or whatever, you don't have a PhD, so therefore you don't have as much right to speak about this. Not as many people are gonna listen to unless you brand your version into a sort of accessible version for them, and you make it in a way that they're going to like it". You're kind of made to feel grateful for being given the opportunity to just engage with your future. 

40:37 Katie: Whose voices do you think are listened to when it comes to climate change?

40:46 Cameron: So we were actually discussing this the other day, about how the ability to appear educated and to have a general, wide following – so for example, we used David Attenborough as our example in this, and we compared him with Greta Thunberg. So for example, Attenborough, he is clearly a very well-educated man and you know, he's got a massive following.

41:09 But the fact is, that doesn't mean that anyone else doesn't understand what they're talking about. It might just be the fact that he's older and he’s got hundreds of nature documentaries out that make him a sort of trusted resource. Whereas it means that like sort of other people who are maybe younger or who have had less opportunity to become well-educated are not taken as seriously. So like age and the perception of education. As well as basically money and the ability to gather a following. 

41:38 Frankie: Yeah, I think it has a lot to do with kind of money, power, and kind of influence. I think a lot of the time the politicians at the top, they're in the pocket of these oil companies and these companies that are causing these problems.

41:56 Katie: Yeah. I think that's a big reason a lot of people do feel so nihilistic, is that it feels like everything is so corrupt at the top that "What does it matter if I do my composting?".

42:08 Louis: I would say, Frankie, I agree with you first and foremost just on the fact that there is definitely material power that is held by people in positions of, you know, in positions of power in relation to the industry that affects climate in a massive way.

42:26 And politicians who, you know, have relationships with lobbyists who frustrate these efforts to, to curtail pollution. But then I also think there's a rhetorical power, which is kind of what you are talking about, Cameron. And I think it's interesting actually that you were talking about David Attenborough, because I think I would say that it is trusted. But I would also say that the thing that's trusted more than anything is that David Attenborough shows are pure entertainment, and people are very sentimentally attached to this national treasure, kind of not even national treasure but international treasure now, like, you know, I think there's like a global understanding of that voice, of the type of documentary, of the type of show.

43:08 We humanise everything in the show, but I also think this does a double thing. Whereas I do think a lot of people have become very engaged and aware, I, I also think because it's entertainment, sometimes it can be dismissed. I think this is the interesting thing, and it's actually one of the things that we were playing with in the format that we chose to make the film.

43:27 There is definitely a certain understanding about who is a voice that we should trust and who is a voice of authority and who isn't. And I think what we try to do with this film is by putting you guys at the centre of this film, we give you a level of authority which you wouldn't have been able to get on your own.

43:45 And I think this is also why I always try to teach and share filming skills and recording skills with you, and I mean, that's something we haven't really spoken about yet. But you know, trying to get everyone to look at the camera and the sound recordings and all these sorts of things, and taking the GoPros with you to do your own filming, because realistically, if you've got the power to make this kind of material yourself, that's how you give yourself real power.

44:18 We need to create power structures away from the power structures that aren't doing things for us, the things that we want. So it's always about sharing skills and sharing resources to sort of like build resilience, I suppose. Create new opportunities for us to do what we wanna do. So yeah, there's a few things there.

44:46 Basically, I agree with what you're saying both, but I think it's like all of these things, it's complex, it's multi-layered, but I think the most important thing that we do is we engage. We need to be able to stand up and say what we wanna say. We don't want that feeling, like you said, like you go to school, you feel slightly sort of boxed-in, to not be able to speak your mind or to say your exact thing, 'cause it doesn't feel like you're representing yourself; feels like you're representing the school. So we need to build these ways of, you know, having the skills to represent yourself.

45:08 Katie: This is another big question, but what role do you think young people's voices should play when it comes to climate policy, or maybe more broadly shaping how we as a society respond to the climate crisis? 

45:24 Cameron: I think in an ideal world, you could say that young people wouldn't necessarily need a voice because their future is being treated with the respect, in the assumption that when they do get to an age where you know they're going to take over, that they'll have a world that's successful. So in an ideal world, young people wouldn't need to campaign for themselves because someone else will do it for them.

45:50 That is not our world. Um, in our world, you could say that young people, they should get a seat at the table to say, "Right, here's what we believe are reasonable expectations to set for the future". If we were to say, how are we gonna solve the climate crisis? So let's say we're gonna hold a COP. I believe that young people should get a seat at the table and they should be the ones defining what the goals of the COP should look like. And then there would be others, such as academics, saying, "Right, here's how we're gonna implement that".

46:24 Louis: I think you, you nailed it there, didn't you, Cameron! Like, absolutely. I always worry about the line about "getting a seat at the table", because I think the problem with that analogy in all, nearly every setting is that like if you are talking about a seat at the table, then it implies that there's a gatekeeper.

46:44 You've created a dynamic, a hierarchy of power. Like we should be removing the table and reorganising how we do things, right? That's how we should be doing it. But you're totally right. Like, you'd hope that people could work towards mutual benefit.  There's no benefit of burning up the world and causing misery for everyone.

47:02 Katie: Yeah. Thanks a lot for making that point, Cameron. I think again, it comes back to this thing about, it's so tempting to put the burden on young people, you know, as if this is still a future issue, which it's not. It's here and now, and it's not your fault and it shouldn't be on you to be telling us all how to, how to solve things.

47:34 I'm curious to know what you think artists – like Louis, for example – and art institutions like Cove Park, what they can do to help amplify young people's voices. 

47:48 Cameron: We were talking earlier about how art and culture define how we relate to certain issues. So for example, with the climate issue, they play a vital role in making climate change an accessible issue. One that it's not just academics, scientists, politicians, it's everyday people can get involved and can express their opinions, and be active within that issue. So obviously they're very important. The only thing I really think I could say in terms of improvement is they need more of them. So they need more artist residency organisations, and more artists.

48:31 Louis: I fully endorse more artists' residencies. Paid, paid residencies, funded residencies. I, I, I totally, I totally agree. I mean, this is why I do what I do and I really, I really enjoy it. I see great value in, in this, but I think for me it's like, it's more engagement. It's mass engagement. I think an important part of what I do and important part of the sort of films I make is always to do with, um, skills exchange, as well as cultural exchange.

49:59 So I don't want it to be a voyeuristic thing, I don't want it to be something which is transactional. I want to give something as well, rather than just taking for my own work. And I think, yeah, mass engagement, I think the more people that can get their hands on a camera, the more people that can understand the decisions that go into making films or making culture, realising that you can say something, you can, together, collaboratively, come up with an opinion or like have a, something that represents you.

49:27 I think it's really powerful to be able to wield that correctly and to use those as tools and in, in doing so, yeah, more paid residencies, more funded residencies, more opportunities to do longer-term, more engaged work. And I think also like young artists should go and do more work within their communities, as well.

49:45 I think like, It's great to have a studio practice and I, you know, I think everyone should continue to do all those things, but I think, you know, also understand your, your community, engage your community or engage communities that you care about, and like, talk to them, especially young people. It's really important.

50:07 I'm not climate scientist, I've just, we made a film about climate crisis, about air pollution. You know, there are scientists at Imperial College London, and statisticians and people who work on models, and they are incredibly intelligent. They're incredibly smart at what they do in terms of their computing skills and their understanding of the science, but they can't go in and talk to people about it and make it understandable.

50:32 They need someone else to do that. So I think that's the thing, is we all have something to add. We all have different skills to add. And I think especially when it comes to things like politics and policy discussions, we should never, ever, ever cede the ground to think that the policy is being written for academics, politicians.

50:50 It's not, because actually there's businesses and people that are also gonna have a big say in that. So we should always just get involved. We are the people. We should take our space on the stage.

51:12 Narration: Thank you for listening to this episode of Testing Grounds, from the Nordic Alliance of Artists' Residencies on Climate Action.

You can find out more about the project at naarca.art.

If you enjoy the podcast, please tell your colleagues and friends, and leave us a rating and a review. It really helps other people to find the podcast.

51:32 This episode featured Emma Henderson, Louis Brown, Cameron Glendinning and Frankie O’Connor. It was produced by me, Katie Revell. Our series music is by Loris S Sarid, and our artwork is by Jagoda Sadowska.

Thanks also to Alex Marrs, Charlotte Hetherington, Leena Kela, Alexia Holt, Pari Stave, Vibeke Koehler, Jacob Fabricius, Rose Tytgat, Helena Selder, Lise Autogena and Iben Mosbæk.

52:00 The members of NAARCA are Cove Park in Scotland, Saari Residence in Finland, Skaftfell Art Center in Iceland, Art Hub Copenhagen in Denmark, Baltic Art Center in Sweden, Narsaq International Research Station in Greenland, and Artica Svalbard, in Norway.

NAARCA’s initial three-year programme is generously supported by Kone Foundation and Nordic Culture Fund.