The Yorkshire festival using storytelling to respond to climate emergency
"If we don’t actually take proper lessons from scientists and meet the [climate] commitments we have set out to make then we’re destroying the world,” she continues, “and not just for ourselves but for our grandchildren, our great grandchildren and future generations.
"We don’t own the world, we have a responsibility to look after the earth and the land we’re living and working on for future generations and I believe that passionately.”
When the Yorkshire Dales festival, organised by charity Settle Stories, returns next month, it will be driven by the question ‘how can we use storytelling to respond to our most urgent threat?’.
“We all understand things better when they’re told to us through story,” Sita says.
“Facts are really important but the world doesn’t change with facts.
"The narrative and the way we look at things is what makes things change.
"The power of story, whether it’s around climate change or anything else, can help us look at the world differently.”
Key for Sita and festival guest director Ben Okri, a writer and cultural activist, was that a range of voices were brought to the table in the festival’s 80-plus free events, held between November 4 and 27.
Take one of three events that Ben is involved in - a panel discussion which brings together ethnologist Dr Martín von Hildebrand, who has led efforts to secure indigenous territorial rights and the protection of the Colombian Amazon tropical forest, and NASA astronaut-come-artist Nicole Stott.
Other headliners include the Yorkshire Shepherdess Amanda Owen, Barnsley author Joanne Harris and young Bangladeshi-British ornithologist Mya-Rose Craig, aka Birdgirl.
“I am hoping people come for intelligent and provocative conversations and to hear the different perspectives people bring,” Ben says.
"I am hoping people can come away with an increased understanding of the state of the world and what they are able to do in it no matter how small.
"I am hoping people come away energised and motivated.”
“This is one of the big issues of our time,” he adds. “And we really do need to draw as much attention to it as possible.
"I think most people have a sense that we are in a difficult stage of our history in relation to climate change but it’s about how to transform that awareness into action on an individual level, corporation level and governmental level.”
The festival will launch with an event with world-renowned storytellers Professor Jack Zipes, Margaret Read MacDonald and Nothando Zulu.
There’s then a roster of storytellers, authors, activists, artists, environmental groups and scientists lined up to bring the climate conversation to life.
As it has in the past, the festival will stream events online to enable global audiences of all backgrounds to access the performances.
It is is also partnering with B-Corp booksellers Bookshop.org to sell books online as well as running their own book stall at live events in partnership with Gardners Books.
“I’m hoping everybody first of all has a good time,” Sita says.
"And I’m hoping that the events, the performances, the conversations, the workshops, make people think.
"I think when we take a pause and reflect on our circumstances and the way in which we are engaging with the world around us, then it can only be a good thing...
“I would like people to stop to think, to be provoked into taking action for themselves and their family.
"If we all take an action, not just personal changes but also things like writing to our MPs and ensuring politicians are acting correctly, we can all work together to make a better place.”
“ Listen online, come in the flesh. Come with questions and come with concerns,” Ben adds.
“These are times when we need to come together more than ever, to share ideas, share passions and share solutions.”
For free tickets, visit yorkshirefestivalofstory.com/