Ark Sheffield and artists explore climate change questions at Migration Matters Festival

It is an age-old concept and one which creatives in Sheffield are using to humanise the climate crisis: when the floods are coming, we need an ark. Now the idea for a project which took place last year in the South Yorkshire city returns next week as part of the Migration Matters Festival.

Ark Sheffield is working with organisers to bring the show Rapid Response to Sheffield Hallam University’s Performance Lab from 6pm on Wednesday, June 21.

Dr Tom Payne, a senior lecturer in acting and performance at the university, who is a lead creative on the project alongside Julia Udall and Alex De Little, says that it began last year.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

They invited communities across the city to imagine an “ark for the 21st century” – reflecting on what the ‘flood’ means for them and to answer what they would take with them or leave behind if there was one.

Dr Tom Payne, Senior Lectuerer at Sheffield Hallam University and co-creator of Ark Sheffield, in front of a display in December. Picture: James Hardisty.Dr Tom Payne, Senior Lectuerer at Sheffield Hallam University and co-creator of Ark Sheffield, in front of a display in December. Picture: James Hardisty.
Dr Tom Payne, Senior Lectuerer at Sheffield Hallam University and co-creator of Ark Sheffield, in front of a display in December. Picture: James Hardisty.

"The intention behind the work is just to shift that discourse around the climate crisis in such a way that it makes it accessible to people in their everyday lives, but also to recognise that it’s about multiple things,” says Dr Payne.

"It’s not about some abstract thing happening over there, it’s about something that’s happening to people right now in terms of fuel and food poverty, insecurity, economic uncertainty, those kinds of geopolotical instabilities across the world, movement of people – all of these things precipitated by the significant changes that are taking place and are going to take place even more so in the future.”

He adds: "For different people, the flood’s very different. For some people it’s already come and it’s caused them to move from one place to another. For other people it’s happening right now. For some people it’s water, sea level rise, or it’s economic uncertainty or people’s struggles with gender identity, etcetera.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"They’re all diferent kinds of ‘floods’ people are facing, and if the floods are multiple then the arks need to be multiple as well.”

Salome Martha Hakunandaba.Salome Martha Hakunandaba.
Salome Martha Hakunandaba.

Working with Sheffield Theatres, they invited people from across the city to take part in meals, workshops, and activities, with the call-out leading to exhibitions and an event at The Crucible where recorded conversations were heard.

This time, Rapid Response brings the themes the climate crisis and migration together.

Organisers have invited three emerging artists – Salome Martha Hakunandaba, Jeff Denya and Freya Maclean – to share pieces answering those questions of ‘what would you take?’ and ‘what would you leave behind?’.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Dr Payne, who is also co-director of UK/Australian performance company Doppelgangster, said: "These are questions which are intended to facilitate conversations about the climate crisis but we’re very deliberately coming in from the side. So if you say to somebody ‘tell me about the climate crisis’, you may well put them on the back foot because they might have a degree of uncertainty about their expertise, or they might not feel that sense of enthusiasm that comes with being a climate activist and so on, so this is about creating a space for people to find their own place and voice within this conversation.”

Jeff Denya.Jeff Denya.
Jeff Denya.

The artists are working with industry mentors - including Mojisola Kareem-Elufowoju, artistic director of Utopia Theatre, Terry O’Conner from Forced Entertainment and John Rwothomack, artistic director of Roots Mbili Theatre – to present their ‘in progess’ pieces at the Performance Lab.

The event will be hosted by Tommi Bryson, who works in talent development at Sheffield Theatres.

Salome Martha Hakunandaba’s work Murindi will explore the roles of African women who “forget that they too can have a say and so hide in the shadows”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Freya Maclean’s piece, The Last Act, starkly looks at the whether “humanity has the right to live”, interweaving a human stories with “abuse of the planet”.

Freya Maclean.Freya Maclean.
Freya Maclean.

Jeff Denya’s Letters from the End is about the world ending and six people deciding to write letters tabout “all the things they loved and lost”.

Speaking about the show, Dr Payne said: "It’s really about trying to create a really generous platform that supports the development of these artists and also fosters these really important conversations, and sets up a platform for future collaboration as well.”

For more information about Migration Matters Festival, visit