York Environment Week Hosts a Wider Range of Events Than Ever Before

This year’s York Environment Week (YEW) has engaged the people of York in a wide range of events celebrating and protecting our environment. In its fourth year, YEW has offered a bigger programme than ever before, featuring 60+ environment-focused activities across York – with more still to come.

YEW is an annual city-wide festival aimed at showcasing and celebrating the work of environment groups active in York. It offers groups and organisations the opportunity to work together to promote environmental activity. The programme is for anyone who cares about tackling climate change, increasing biodiversity and making the city more sustainable, offering opportunities to connect and get involved.

This year’s events have ranged from talks to film screenings to hands-on workshops. Highlights included the opportunity to learn about the connections between different parts of the living world in the Biodiversity Collage workshop; nature walks that invited participants to slow down and notice the wildlife on their doorsteps; and a series of interactive educational events run by the University of York. There were also events that made important links between the climate and ecological crisis and other issues, such as linking climate action to the trade union movement and exploring how the environmental movement can be made more inclusive. And the programme went beyond science and politics, exploring how the arts have an equally important role to play.

Many of these themes were brought together on Saturday 30 September at the People’s Assembly. This event, co-organised by Extinction Rebellion York and Yorkshire CND, invited citizens to get involved in participatory democracy. Around 100 people gathered to have their say on how York should respond to the climate and ecological emergency. They came up with suggestions for how to improve the city’s housing, transport and biodiversity, as well as how to hold local politicians to account.

Adam Myers, a member of the YEW 2023 organising team, said: “What has been a joy for me in York Environment Week has been the increase in diversity of events happening under that umbrella. The importance of diversity in healthy ecosystems is mirrored in the need for diversity in approaches to engagement with nature and solutions to the crisis we are living through.”

Even though the central week is over, there are still plenty of events to enjoy. On Tuesday 3 October, York Green Business Forum is providing a space for businesses to learn about how to make their activities more sustainable. And for those who have been inspired by the People’s Assembly, there’s a chance to engage with local politics at Friends of the Earth’s Q&A with Councillors Kent and Ravilious on Wednesday 4 October. The programme closes on 14 October with St Nicks Autumn Fayre, an opportunity for people of all ages to come together and celebrate nature’s harvest.

Theatre’s response to the climate crisis

Alongside York Environment Week, there are a number of other local events dealing with environmental issues, including A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction. York Theatre Royal’s Steve Pratt interviews Mingyu Lin, the director of this new play that tackles the climate crisis head-on and pioneers a new form of low-carbon theatre-making.

Director Mingyu Lin could be excused for feeling a little lonely as she prepares to bring an innovative show to the stage of York Theatre Royal. She has moved from rehearsing a community production company of 100 or more to A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction which has a cast of just one.

While cast numbers may be small, the idea and thoughts behind the project are big, not least the idea of generating power for the production using bicycles on a zero-travel tour. Or as the pre-show publicity puts it: “a bold experiment in eco theatre-making” which sees the play tour across the country while the people and materials do not.

York-based Ming, a resident artist at York Theatre Royal and a regular director of Channel 4’s Hollyoaks continuing drama (that’s soap to me and you), has been involved with the project from the start. She was working as a Creative Associate at Headlong when “the play passed my desk” and recalls that she and the rest of the team loved the play.

A Zoom meeting was set up with the writer Miranda Rose Hall, who lives in America and Katie Mitchell, who’d directed a version of the play in Switzerland, told how a play about sustainability could itself be sustainable. Pedal power, which has a team of cyclists generating electricity during the performance, was a big part of the answer.

Ming says: “I’m quite passionate about touring theatre and Headlong tours outside London so we knew we had to tour the play. And if you have a play that looks at climate change I’m against a play made in London going around the North telling us how to live our lives.

“What the tour does is use local talent and doesn’t all the things that are damaging where you spend lots of energy and resources when you move people from place to place which you don’t actually need to do because where you’re moving to has got those things already.

“What’s been done is find a way to be both sustainable and tour. The concept of the play never changes but the talent working on it changes at each venue. Cyclists are recruited at each venue to power the show. The only thing that’s moved physically is the technology which transforms kinetic energy into electricity – and that all comes in one big box.”

When Headlong was planning the tour, Ming knew she was joining York Theatre Royal as a resident artist so snapped up the chance to direct the production. “I knew I really wanted the people of York to see it. I knew York would love it in a theatre that’s absolutely unique and gorgeous. The play and the concept fits really well within the theatre and York itself is a cycling city.”

A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction is on at York Theatre Royal from 27-30 September. York Theatre Royal is also hosting an event as part of YEW: The Arts response to the climate emergency, on Friday 29 September.

How one week became three

This year, we’ve had more event submissions to York Environment Week than ever before. With a varied programme of 60+ events, we’ve more than doubled the number of activities from last year. The eagle-eyed among you may also have noticed that it’s not just York Environment Week – we actually have over three weeks packed with eco-events across the city.

While the central week of activities runs from Saturday 23 September – Sunday 1 October, there’s lots more to get involved with in the weeks before and after. The programme kicks off on Saturday 9 September with a Pilgrimage for the Planet organised by Christian Climate Action York. This is an opportunity to reflect on the effects of climate change, both locally and across the globe.

Other events in the first week of the festival include Hello Autumn!, a nature-based celebration of the end of summer in Rowntree Park, an online talk on The Story of Planet Southbank, and Wild York Walk, a stroll through the city that promises to reconnect participants with local wildlife. Keen walkers can also enjoy multiple events in York Walking Festival, which runs from 16 – 24 September.

And if you’re keen for more environment-focused events after 1 October, the activities continue into the following week. You can explore the role of Motherhood in a Climate Crisis, attend the first Green Business Forum, or join a nature-themed open mic evening with York Spoken Word. If you want to find out more about what your local representatives are doing on the climate crisis, you can head along to An Audience with the Executive Members for the Environment and Climate Emergency, or approach things from a different angle by exploring the connections between Yoga and Climate Change. Finally, the closing event of our programme this year is the St Nicks Autumn Fayre, taking place on Saturday 14 October.

Despite the name, we have much more than just one week of events on offer. So if you care about protecting local nature, increasing biodiversity and making the city more sustainable, make sure you check out the full programme and get involved.