In December 2015, thousands of civilian activists, climate based foundations and NGO’s will descend on Paris for COP21 – the 21st United Nations conference on climate change. To coincide with the conference and related events we are screening ‘The Gluts Go To Copenhagen’, a short documentary made during the previous major climate change summit, COP15, which took place in Copenhagen in December 2009.
This film is about ‘The Gluts’, an environmentally crusading girl-band comprising Gina Birch, Kaffe Matthews and Hayley Newman. The Gluts formed in 2009 to write ‘Café Carbon’, sixteen songs about food and climate, which they took to the Copenhagen Climate summit (COP15) in December 2009, adding their voices to other concerned citizens urging governments around the world to take action on climate change.
A Text by The Gluts
The Gluts are an environmentally crusading girl band comprising Gina Birch, Kaffe Matthews and Hayley Newman. We formed in 2009 to write Café Carbon, sixteen songs about food and climate, which we took to the Copenhagen Climate summit (COP15) in December 2009, adding our voices to other concerned citizens urging governments around the world to take action on climate change.
In Café Carbon we sang about global food production, growing our own food, food waste, water shortage and excess, famine, modernity, green capitalism, carbon trading and extinction. We warbled about freegans, supermarkets flying their food around the world, the Arctic and Arctic Roll (remember it from the seventies?). Our songs were ludic, passionate, loving, absurd, sweet and deadly serious ballads of climate, ecology and conscience. Through Café Carbon we wanted to construct a dialogue of awareness around food security, food imperialism, supermarkets and oil, vibrantly illustrating the current disenchanted global image of food production by championing the fact that food is not a luxury but a basic requirement for human life. We also sang about wider issues like greenwashing and carbon trading, which was seen at the time as a market solution to limit carbon emissions.
While on the train and at the march we provided audiences with a menu of songs, from which they were encouraged to choose a starter, main course, dessert and drink. Once the meal had been selected, we would sing it. Our starters were short and pithy, our mains more substantial and filling, while the desserts were incredibly sweet. The only drinks available on our menu were tap or sparkling water.
In Café Carbon we asked questions about how artists might take creative action to contribute to political change. More specifically, we asked how the female voice might manifest itself in this realm and how humor in music can work as protest by subverting or undermining power.
We worked together as musicians, researchers, writers, performers and film-makers, harnessing our collective skills and creative talents. We wrote lyrics and music, we sang and danced, shot pop videos and made the musical documentary film The Gluts Go To Copenhagen in 2013. In the documentary, we are seen rehearsing, travelling to Copenhagen and at the march; a mix of song, laughter and defiance performed in an atmosphere of latent police repression. Back home and disappointed at the summit’s outcome, which bore no legally binding agreement on carbon emissions, we filmed ourselves letting our passionate anger loose on a Tube train.
Now, six years on, COP21 is happening in Paris from the 30th November to the 11th December 2015. What has changed? In 2015 governments around the world continue to be dominated by the fossil fuel industry. Work focused on getting Big Oil out of the arts has been gathering momentum globally. Groups such as Platform, Liberate Tate, BP or not BP? and Shell Out Sounds united in 2013 to form the Art Not Oil Coalition, a cross section of people – artists, cultural organisers and gallery goers, environmentalists, human rights activists – who believe that our cultural institutions are giving Big Oil a ‘social licence to operate’ and contributing to the veneer of respectability that enables these companies to keep expanding in a time of climate crisis, while stifling human rights abuses and the struggles of communities living on the front line of their destructive and polluting activities.
Over the past eleven years groups forming the Art Not Oil coalition have made uninvited artworks, performances and protests in London galleries and museums (including the British Museum, Tate galleries, Southbank Centre, National Portrait Gallery and Royal Opera House).
This year a different coalition of organisations started Fossil Funds Free, a commitment through which artists, performers and cultural organisations can publicly promise not to take any oil, coal or gas corporate sponsorship and can call on peers and institutional partners to also refuse fossil fuel funding. So far over 300 artists and institutions have signed up (including The Gluts and LADA). If you would like to add your name to this list please sign up here: http://fossilfundsfree.org/
The cultural divestment movement is continuing to grow, the Southbank Centre recently dropped their sponsor Shell and there is a large-scale protest planned against oil sponsors Total and Eni, at the Louvre in Paris on the 9th December. The struggle is by no means over and we are incredibly sad not to physically be going to Paris for COP21 although our songs and music will be played from sonic bikes pedaled from London through France to the streets of Paris by the Bicrophonic Research Institute (BRI). The major public protests planned in Paris have been altered. We will be taking part in local, London based events during the summit to draw attention to the aims of COP21, joining a global groundswell of people exerting pressure on governments to act on climate change and calling for climate justice. Meanwhile in Paris, civil society and the front line voices of communities most impacted by climate change will be marginalised at a crucial time when our governments are failing to act on the behalf of all life on Earth.
The Gluts comprises Gina Birch, Kaffe Matthews and Hayley Newman. Gina Birch is a musician, filmmaker and founder member of legendary feminist bands The Raincoats and Red Crayola, who work with Art & Language. Kaffe Matthews is a sound artist, composer and founder of the Bicrophonic Research Institute (BRI) a group that makes sound and music to be triggered and played by you the cyclist. Hayley Newman is an artist, member of Liberate Tate and author of Common, a novella written in her role as self-appointed artist-in-residence in the City of London.
About LADA Screens
LADA Screens is a series of free, online screenings of seminal performance documentation, works to camera, short films/video and archival footage. It is part of Live Online, LADA’s dedicated space where you can watch short videos and films drawn from LADA’s Study Room or generated through our programmes and initiatives.
Each screening will be available to view for a limited time only, and selected screenings will be launched with a live event at the White Building in Hackney Wick, London. Online art magazine, thisistomorrow will also feature the films on their website for the duration of the screenings.