Dance

Project Proposal: Choreo Cafe

Background

A Climate Emergency Centre (Climate Hub) is an initiative that grew out of grassroots action from community organisations following the Rio Earth Summit. These community spaces, ‘Climate Hubs’, have popped up throughout London and the UK. Currently, the Wandsworth Climate Hub is in the process of being set up by a group of volunteers at the Southlands Shopping Centre. The Climate Hub will help the Wandsworth Council to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 and it will fully involve the community in the process. 

Climate Hub Wandsworth initiative. Source: Eventbrite

The Climate Hub is apolitical and carries the agenda of tackling climate and the environmental crisis. The  Wandsworth Borough is made up of Battersea, Putney, Roehampton, Tooting and Wandsworth, with a total population of 326,470 in 2018. This means that the Climate Hub has the capacity to reach a sizeable population and create networks across London, the UK and internationally. 

Typically Climate Hubs are spaces where the community can come together to engage, collaborate and exchange ideas and information through workshops, events and presentations. The ZERO Climate Hub in Guildford is one such example of a community space that aims to

“help the borough of Guildford reach carbon neutrality by 2030, through the development of a community-led climate action plan”

With its own Climate Cafe, the hub is host to a number of initiatives such as workshops, open mic nights, nature walks, documentary screenings, secondhand clothes sales and scientific blog posts called ‘Pint of Science’. Climate Hubs aim to involve the local community through interesting and useful activities and provide a space for the them to come together. Having a physical space is essential as it helps to ‘materialise’ the often invisible problem of climate change and create opportunities for people to meet thus building strong and resilient communities which are the building blocks of a sustainable society. 

ZERO Climate Hub in Guildford, UK. Source: ZERO Climate Hub Guildford

Kitchen table sustainability

“communities are the heart and hands of the sustainability movement”

This approach to sustainability has been referred to by some as ‘kitchen table sustainability’. It is the idea that “communities are the heart and hands of the sustainability movement” . By taking the concept of sustainability out of the universities and government departments and into people’s homes and community spaces, kitchen table sustainability encourages community engagement and fosters a democratic dialogue where views and opinions can be expressed. The kind of sustainability that we refer to here includes environmental as well as socio-cultural sustainability. It encompasses a wide range of factors such as the health and wellbeing of people and cultural elements like the Intangible Cultural Heritage.

The problem we are currently facing as a society is that facts and figures are not enough to change people’s behaviours. However, if we make it fun, engaging and involve the body in the process we are sure to make a change (and there’s good research to back this up!).  Imagine stopping climate change and building a sustainable society one dance at a time. This is what some call ‘embodied sustainability’ Because it’s in the doing that we create change. Dance is an excellent tool to help achieve sustainability. It has been shown to have a host of benefits from reducing stress to reversing aging. Through mindful movement practices, dance can help people become more embodied. Dance teaches us important skills such as improvisation and community building. These might be of great help when we are dealing with complex problems and when the future is uncertain.  It appears that in order to transition to a sustainable society we need to get our ‘hands dirty’ and dance is an excellent tool to achieve that. 

Concept

The new Climate Hub will be a space for people to share ideas and resources. As part of the Climate Hub we propose a Climate Cafe ‘Choreo Cafe’. A cafe that is dance-themed, likely a world’s first. It will be a relaxed place for people to have a cup of coffee, read a book, take a dance class or watch a performance. It will be a creative space focused on art where a rotating exhibition of artworks will be displayed on the walls, where international guest artists come to give talks and workshops. It will be cosy and bohemian with couches, a little book library, a dance studio for rent with yoga classes, Qi gong and other movement practices and a small stage inside the cafe for performances and workshops. 

Importantly, the concept of the Choreo Cafe is aligned with the Wandsworth Environment and Sustainability Strategy, to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. Climate emergency and sustainability is embedded into the new Arts and Culture Strategy which includes a strong focus on communication, engagement and partnerships. This way, the Choreo Cafe encompasses the policy goals of the Wandsworth Council from art and culture to sustainability and the environment. It will be a space to have serious discussions about the future of our planet and a place to unwind and have fun.

An ‘ideas’ board. Source: Pinterest

Examples 

Another example of a community space that draws inspiration for the Choreo Cafe is LieU’topie in Clermont-Ferrand, France. LieU’topie is a cultural and solidarity student association that provides a meeting place for students and has a number of impressive initiatives including:

  • Workshops and activities (art therapy, dance, mental health, graffiti, theatre, hikes to the surrounding volcanoes), the calendar of events changes monthly
  • Cultural programs (concerts, festivals)
  • Feminist collective Femmes de Mars (books, theatre, regular meetings)
  • Cafe and bar
  • Shop (reusable menstrual pads, bioproducts: toothpaste, deodorant etc, fresh vegetable hampers from local farmers, wholefoods: oats, vinegar, olive oil)
  • Fully equipped kitchen and washing machine 
  • Piano and a book library 
The offerings of LieU’topie in Clermont-Ferrand range from art therapy workshops to feminist theatre plays. Source: LieU’topie

Partnerships

Roehampton University

Within the Roehampton University, there are a number of groups including the Climate Network, the Roehampton Students’ Union (Growhampton), the Roehampton Student Sustainability Officer and the Dance Department. A steady influx of students means that there will always be volunteers available to help out at the cafe. The students from the dance department can host workshops and lectures can be delivered by researchers from the University, for example, Dr Heike Salzer who researches the relationship between dance and sustainability. Roehampton University is also host to the Choremundus ERASMUS MUNDUS program (Dance Anthropology) which receives annually a cohort of 20 to 25 students per year between January and August. The program investigates dance and other movement systems as intangible cultural heritage. Students from the program, many of whom are artists and dancers, hail from all over the world and may assist the Choreo Cafe through volunteering, work placements and regular classes and workshops. As an example, the following workshop was created by Choreomundus students and was funded by the Trondheim municipality in Norway. It sought to create metaphorical bridges between cultures through music and dance.

Kroppsbroer 2021 Trondheim, Norway. Kroppsbroer is a site-specific and engaged cross-cultural community movement experience intertwining music and dance.

Julie’s Bicycle

Julie’s Bicycle is “a pioneering non-profit, mobilising the arts and culture to take action on the climate and ecological crisis”.The Choreo Cafe may provide a physical space for Julie’s Bicycle to host events and act as a meeting point for researchers, artists and change-makers. Julie’s Bicycle is part of a broad network that spans internationally and thus will enable the local Wandsworth community to be part of an international dialogue about climate change and environmental awareness. For example, see a replay of Julie’s Bicycle Climate Justice in Creative Practice webinar. 

Key activities of Choreo Cafe

  • Dance workshops by guest artists
  • Regular ongoing dance classes
  • Climate talks by artists and researchers
  • Outdoor activities (nature walks, community gardening)
  • Secondhand clothes markets
  • Climate trivia nights
  • Live music and dance events 
  • Art exhibitions 

Resources   

Two full-time staff to manage and oversee the development of the Choreo Cafe

Three part-time volunteers (rotating basis)

One part-time marketing and communications officer 

If you are interested in taking part or if you have questions please leave us a message in the contact us section 🙂

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