Playing for Time: Making Art as if the World Mattered


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A new book, Playing for Time edited by Lucy Neal and with contributions from over 60 experienced artists and activists included CAT’s Paul Allen will be launched this Thursday in London.  A groundbreaking handbook for  artists, community activists and anyone wishing to reach beyond the facts and figures of science and technology to harness their creativity to make change in the world. This timely book explores the pivotal role artists play in re-thinking the future; re-inventing and re-imagining our world at a time of systemic change and uncertainty. Playing for Time identifies collaborative arts practices emerging in response to planetary challenges, reclaiming a traditional role for artists in the community as truth-tellers and agents of change.

 Don’t let anyone tell you that art can’t change the world because it can and it always has. Artist activist, John9781783191864_1 Jordan

Sixty experienced artists and activists give voice to a new narrative – shifting society’s rules and values away from consumerism and commodity towards community and collaboration with imagination, humour, ingenuity, empathy and skill. Inspired by the grass-roots Transition movement, modelling change in communities worldwide, Playing for Time joins the dots between key drivers of change – in energy, finance, climate change, food and community resilience – and ‘recipes for action’ for readers to take and try.

Paul Allen, CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain project coordinator presents the story of human beings and energy for this week’s launch, at Free Word Centre, of Lucy Neal’s new book, Playing for Time.

March 26th sees the launch of Playing for Time – Making Art As If The World Mattered, a book I’ve very much enjoyed contributing to. As part of launch event I offer my “Extraordinary Story of Humans and Energy” narrative, developed to set the scene for why we have to re-think the future.

Playing for Time joins the dots between the large ‘macro’ stories of climate change, energy depletion and economic collapse and the individual stories of artists and community activists reclaiming ways of living creatively within the limits of a finite planet. In a practical handbook with recipes for action to take up and try, 60 storytellers, activists, makers, craftivists, land journeyers and writers, rethink the future to create a new story to live by.”

Creative practice has shown how we can break through prejudice, apathy, economic pressures and blind spots to catalyse a transformation of culture, attitudes and behaviours. Over just a few decades, creativity has radically transformed entrenched attitudes to gender, race, religion, class, health and safety, exploitation and equity. Once a cultural shift is catalysed, legal, political and administrative frameworks follow suit. We must do this next for attitudes to climate solutions. Integrating our arts and sciences can offer a mirror to help us reflect on that 1950s fossil-fuelled dream, which still seeps out into the global subconscious, and to create new spaces, both real and virtual, where inspiration, optimism and the possibility of positive change can be nurtured and explored.

Such a rapid transition will be the biggest undertaking we have made in generations, and will require a great many to commit to the challenge, but in doing so we can turn our anguish into empowerment and discover the sense of collective purpose and adventure that we have been craving for a very long time.

When the facts and figures of climate change cannot catalyse the shifts needed in our world, the arts can open us to different ways of seeing and feeling, creating emergent space to re-think the future and change the world – collectively. With poetry and metaphor they can explore the language of the heart, the pain of what we’re losing and the deep yearning in us for the restoration and celebration of life.