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SSL Creu Cymru

13 Oct 2014 - Case study

Led by Creu Cymru, the development agency for the arts in Wales, and involving partners Cynnal Cymru– Sustain Wales and Julie’s Bicycle, the Creu Cymru Emergence project aimed to identify and remove barriers to creating and embedding carbon friendly behaviours within Wales’ arts venues and theatres. The pilot focused on three main areas; staff and stakeholder engagement, buildings and facilities, and artistic programming and production.

In 2012 Creu Cymru was awarded a Stage 1 Supporting Sustainable Living grant to gather baseline data from the 42-strong Creu Cymru membership and to identify opportunities for carbon and waste reduction and cultural shifts. Realising that many theatres and arts centres did not have sufficient monitoring systems in place, a subsequent exploration of the challenges they faced in being able to develop and deliver their work in a more sustainable way was researched. From this, the Stage 2 pilot project was developed.

Within a difficult economic context, including a variety of funding cuts being felt across arts organisations, it was anticipated the Creu Cymru Emergence project would help participants to find efficiencies and savings.  In terms of the wider legislative context, including the Well-being of Future Generations Bill (Wales), which requires organisations to think differently about their business, there was also the opportunity to help demonstrate the role that arts and culture have to play in creating a more sustainable Wales.

The Project:
The project aimed to engage with 18 theatres and arts centres across Wales to identify the barriers they faced in embedding sustainability into their organisations and, through different approaches, to encourage positive changes in sustainability behaviours. 18 participants created a large, very diverse and geographically-spread, pilot group ranging from the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff to Neuadd Dwyfor in Pwllheli, all with varying degrees of sustainability knowledge, skill and experience.

A variety of approaches were used to deliver the project,  including creating a toolkit, looking at good and best practice,  providing opportunities to share knowledge and resources, and engaging staff through both digital media and face to face activities. Project partners recognised the opportunity to address the attitudes of not just staff at these venues but audiences and wider stakeholders as well.

During the project, a number of challenges were faced. Particular impacts were felt when a key partnership came to an end which effected monitoring and evaluation as well as the scope of skills and expertise available to the project.  The size and diversity of the pilot group also effected a change in the delivery of the project moving to more bespoke support rather than general training and resources. Not all members of the pilot group were as engaged as others and financial pressures and limited resources made it difficult for some venues to make progress. Nonetheless tangible results were seen.


A bilingual toolkit was created including factsheets and support for developing sustainability action plans and policies and creating the business case for behaviour change.

3 key events were held.

Training was delivered through 3 webinars and bespoke 1 to 1 support through Skype, phonecalls and site visits whilst a digital networking space provided peer learning  and support.


Of the 18 venues that were targeted for the project, 70% were actively engaged. 

A significant relationship with The Carbon Trust was developed that brought additional support into the project resulting in 14 venues benefiting from full energy audits. 

All the venues that actively participated made reductions in their carbon footprint and direct financial savings as a result, with some making significant organisational changes developing sustainability action plans and showing a real commitment to behaviour change. Actions undertaken ranged from ticketless booking and spatial heating systems, to encouraging sustainable travel, reduced print runs, composting of food waste, and the use of LED lights.

Lessons learnt:
Sustainability is just one of the many priorities for Welsh theatres and arts centres but having hands on support for organisations to set up systems to cut their energy usage worked well. A key benefit cited by participants was that the Creu Cymru Emergence project acted as a prompt to take action and that regular communication about sustainability was important in helping to push sustainability onto the agenda. The project was able to point participants to online resources to develop their knowledge base whilst the curated web space enabled organisations to share ideas and best practice. It was important that the project had a legacy and these digital resources will be available in the future as a key sector resource.

The diversity of the participant group was a challenge and led project partners to consider if working with a smaller group of similar venues may have enabled a higher impact of shared learning. The project quickly moved from providing general to more targeted support which was more labour intensive from a project management perspective. However although the diversity of the group presented a significant challenge, it also proved valuable in allowing a wider range of experience to be shared across the network.

In setting up any project it is important to identify the risks. The unforeseen closure of the BRASS Centre at Cardiff University impacted on this project and brought an important lesson. A more formal partnership with Cardiff University such as a Memorandum of Understanding could have been useful in this situation although there is no certainty that this would have brought a different end result for the project. Recognising the potential risk to projects as part of the planning phase, taking time to reflect on possible consequences and strengthening partnerships, is learning relevant to any project.

Without the SSL funding the Creu Cymru Emergence project would not have gone ahead and would not have put in place the engagement, resources and information-sharing to bring about change and create lasting impact.

Were doing a lot of thinking about future development and planning. The Emergence Project has given me a new lens to look through. Its a way of seeing things differently. Creu Cymru Emergence participant


Partners in the project:
Creu Cymru – the development agency for the theatre and arts in Wales
Julie’s Bicycle – A not-for-profit organisation aims to make sustainability intrinsic to the business, art and ethics of the creative industries
Cynnal Cymru – Sustain Wales is Wales’ leading networking and membership organisation in sustainable development

Environment Wales and Cynnal Cymru – Sustain Wales provide the Support for Sustainable Living Grant Scheme, in partnership with Welsh Government 


Pathfinder Programme

A Welsh Government funded programme to support communities to take action on climate change.

Community Energy Wales

Bringing together communities acting on renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Support For Sustainable Living

A scheme designed to bring about long-term changes in behaviour and lifestyle to help reduce Wales’ greenhouse gas emissions and help organisations and communities adapt to the impacts of climate change.