An inspiring collective of environmental and cultural organisations has been working with hundreds of people in the heart of Plymouth to urgently raise awareness of the climate crisis.
For the past six months, the Plymouth Community Climate Centre in the city centre has been hosting workshops, plays, music gigs, film screenings, exhibitions and talks, alongside Plymouth Energy Community (PEC) and the zero waste shop Green Shoots Eco.
There’s also been school visits in the early days, with students coming to hear Antony Jinman talk. Also hosted were free bike repairs, pop-up free stores for refugees and asylum seekers, free curtains handed out, and showcased artwork and presentations around the climate crisis.
The Centre, one of the first of its kind in the UK and part of a larger network of Climate Emergency Centres across the UK, has been based in the former Waterstones building in New George Street. The organisers have been given the opportunity through the Meanwhile Use scheme led by Plymouth Culture to open up unused spaces in the city centre.
The Community Climate Centre has been led by co-ordinators Matilde Zadig and Lucas de Koning, opened at a ceremony in the summer with polar explorer Anthony Jinman – who originally led a campaign and Crowdfunder together with Martin Holland to get the project off the ground.
Between them they’ve organised a busy few months of climate-focused work, working with creatives to put on events including:
- Community Theatre with local company Down Stage Write
- Climate-themed creative writing workshops with Plymouth Write Now
- Sustainable workshops with Plymouth Scrapstore, using recycled materials
- Bringing people together around the question of good food with Food Plymouth
At its heart though, the Centre has been a place where people can meet, discuss and collaborate around climate crisis issues and solutions.
Co-ordinator Matilde Zadig said: “The Centre is a place where people can come together to work towards a possible environmental future and peaceful society and support each other together.
“We’ve been hosting meetings for most of the environmental groups here in Plymouth and we do cinema screenings with films about social change fortnightly too, as well as lots of other events that are free – like workshops and talks.
“We also have a free lending library full of books about nature, climate and what we can do about the crisis we are all facing.
“Being involved with the Meanwhile Use scheme and Plymouth Culture has meant we have had a space to bring people together around environmental issues, where we could do many different things with many people”
The Centre has been partnering with groups such as Plymouth Energy Community, who have been training people to become local leaders on energy.
Fellow co-ordinator Lucas de Koning said: “We’ve also worked with Food Plymouth and the Art and Energy Collective, who’ve used the building to display their different art sessions to communicate their sustainable message and it’s been really beautiful. It’s always very creative and lively and colourful.
“We have a zero waste shop together with Green Shoots Eco. Working with Plymouth Culture has helped us out a lot with making this building safe, so we could use it in a way we really wanted it. It’s just really helpful to have people around, have experience in this.”
The Meanwhile Use scheme aims to work with businesses, landlords and owners to revitalise places not in commercial use, helping showcase creativity and culture while attracting more people to the city centre.
The New George Street building is no longer available for use, but the Community Climate Centre is already in discussions with city partners about other spaces it can occupy in future.
Matilde added: “The long term plan is to buy a building with our community and partners. We want to be independent from landlords and create long term stability. By giving out community shares we will raise the money necessary for a building that we can call our own. In the next months we will share more information on how this will work.
“The short term plan is to organise events and meet-ups in other venues. We will take a short break during December. We need to rest, reflect, listen to the feedback and integrate the learnings of the past months.
“We will start meeting up again in January. There will be crew meet ups and events in different buildings throughout the city.”
Hannah Harris, CEO Plymouth Culture, said: “The Community Climate Centre has experienced extraordinary success in engaging countless groups of people – old and young – in the climate crisis debate in increasingly creative and cultural ways.
“I’d like to thank all the people and organisations involved over the past six months and we’re now supporting Matilde and Lucas as they look to secure new premises with partners in the city.
“The Meanwhile Use scheme was brought to Plymouth to give creatives access to spaces where they can showcase their work and engage with diverse groups of people, and provide a launchpad for their projects. That has been achieved many times over with the Community Climate Centre and I’m excited to see what the future holds for it.”
The Meanwhile Use scheme is spearheaded by Plymouth Culture, Plymouth City Council, Plymouth City Centre Company and Vacancy Atlas – specialists in unlocking the potential of empty spaces.
It is funded through Historic England (Heritage Action Zone Culture Programme), Interreg (C-Care), Plymouth City Council and City Centre Company.