Emelie Fälton: A Climate Festival that Crossed Borders

Cross borders.

It has almost been three months since I, together with two colleagues, could enjoy the climate festival that we had been planning for almost half a year. It was pure pleasure to finally being able to harvest the fruit of our work. I would lie if I said it was easy to organize a climate festival, but I would also lie if I would say that it was not one of the most inspirational things I have done. Now, with some distance to it – I will share my experiences and invite you to take part of one of my latest projects, The Drivhuset Climate Festival. 

As a Seed Box Ph.D. student, I get the opportunity to spend 20 % of my time on assistant assignments at the university where I am located. It could, for example, be teaching, administrative work, or, as in my case, planning a climate festival. When I got the question if I wanted to be part of the organizing team for a climate festival, my answer was an overwhelming yes! Together with my two colleagues Johan Hedrén and Lars Jonsson, I jumped on a journey that has taught me a lot about organizing, planning, budgeting, and how difficult it is to reach to the so-called general public. I also learned what it is like to be responsible for another major project than my own huge project – writing a dissertation. Drivhuset was arranged during three days and we reached a little more than 500 visitors. A number that I finally can be satisfied with, but I had definitely wished for more.

Festival poster

The overall theme of the festival was climate-related questions and one of our ambitions was to cross borders. Such borders that arise when climate questions are the topic. It could be borders in terms of who has the opportunity to speak about these questions, who gets the chance to tell their story, and what institution is allowed to speak about these questions. As participants from “the research world”, we wanted to invite other types of actors and let them illuminate these types of questions from different perspectives. We invited musicians, artists, local entrepreneurs, poets, students, and non-governmental organizations to participate, and the response was impressive. Altogether, we organized a bit over 35 unique events that were available to the general public. The majority of them had no entrance fee and were open to anyone who wished to participate. This could be an example of “citizen humanities”, which is an important component of The Seed Box. Citizen humanities imply that actors from outside of the research sphere are invited to participate in research activities.

One of the major parts of the climate festival consisted of music events. Music with roots from all over the world was provided by a spectrum of musicians. World music from both Senegal and Sweden, Syrian inspired impro-pop, Swedish folk music, traditional Arabic music, South African music, West African inspired pop, and music that was merged with performance and arts constituted the supply. The musicians had been asked to sing, or raise questions about climate in any way that they like. Several of them did, which was very much appreciated by us and the visitors.

Per Eckerbom Band played Swedish folk music

Maher and Sousou Cissoko played world music with roots from both Sweden and Senegal

Feras Cherastan and George Oro played classic Arabic music

Mbira played West African inspired pop

Besides music, the act of creating was also a major part of the climate festival. Artists created artworks that were shown, poets created and shared poems, and the visitors got the opportunity to create their very own poems as well. We offered them to create black-out-poems out of climate-related texts. The procedure was simple. The visitors got to choose a text (we had everything from governmental documents to a transcript of one of Trump’s speeches), and by using a pen, covered unwanted words. Left were the words that they have saved for their poem. It was interesting to see what poems that emerged out of the words, but it was just as interesting to see the artwork that was created around the words.

Artwork with water collected from 30 places around the Baltic Sea, created by artist Ulla Ridderberg

A local storytelling group created stories about climate together with visitors

One of our volunteers created her own blackout poem

Artwork about the coal mines in Germany. Here the artist Annika Elmqvist is making the last finish.

Sometimes the timing is just right. The Seed Box had two guests visiting Linköping University during the time when the climate festival took place. Jonas Green, poet and journalist, and Erika Sigvardsdotter, cultural geographer, and researcher at the Swedish Red Cross University. They worked on their Seed Box funded project “The Return of Bacteria” and were asked to arrange an event in relation to that during the climate festival. They held a lecture together, which was related to their Seed Box project. Besides that, Jonas held a poetry reading session where he read poems from his books.

Poetry reading by Jonas Gren

Erika Sigvardsdotter and Jonas Gren

Several of our other colleagues participated in the climate festival with research activities. Some participated in a panel discussion after a screening session of Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient sequel: Truth to Power”, others arranged their own panel discussion around the latest Conference of the Parties meeting (COP), held a virtual report/presentation from the COP-meeting in Bonn, arranged lab activities for curious school children, and talked to visitors about climate adaptation.

One colleague, Mattias Hjerpe, arranged a panel about the COP meeting in Bonn

Another colleague, Ingrid Sundgren, welcomed a group of school children into the lab world

Then, of course, some of our students arranged their own events. A group of master students arranged an exhibition about climate change and offered seminars in relation to the exhibition. Another group of bachelor students arranged a so-called “recycling competition” where the visitors could compete in recycling. There were some tricky items to recycle, such as gift laces.

The exhibition arranged by master students


Recycling competition arranged by bachelor’s students

This is only a small selection of all the events that were arranged. The mix of events, that ranged from all different angles in terms of both themes and participants, was what signified the whole festival. A focus within Seed Box is to bring together people from different fields and create interfaces between academia and other parts of society, which I really think we did. We wanted to cross borders, and we did cross borders. Something that I would like do more, but also something that I would encourage others to do more. Try to reach outside of your ordinary contact sphere. Ask that one cool person from another discipline, or branch, if she wants to collaborate with you. Dare to invite people with different expertise to a meeting or an event. It will lead to many unexpected encounters. Do it. Cross borders.

Emelie Fälton
Seed Box Ph.D. Student
Linköping University, Sweden.