Theatre’s green initiative with Swan Lake

As Matthew Bourne’s iconic Swan Lake ballet is busy making a splash with audiences this week, behind the scenes there is a green initiative going on which aims to encourage environmentally-friendly thinking within the UK’s touring theatre industry.

Green Adventures Champion Andrew Ashton (left) and fellow dancer Isaac Peter Bowry who are encouraging eco-friendly initiatives during Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake UK tour.  

The theatre has worked with Julie’s Bicycle, the environmental body which promotes action on climate change and environmental sustainability within the creative industries, for eight years. It has gained Four Star certification from the charity for green initiatives, which include turning off unnecessary lighting and stage equipment when not in use, using reusable cups and cutlery in its restaurants and bars, and keeping the wastage of theatre programmes to a minimum.

Now it has partnered with New Adventures, Matthew Bourne’s award-winning dance theatre company, and Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London to go one step further.

New Adventures has received a Creative Green Pioneer Award from Julie’s Bicycle and Swan Lake is its first Creative Green Certified Tour. During the week the production is in the city, it will be taking a lot of environmentally-friendly measures including promoting green achievements in its show programme, measuring energy readings during shows to achieve a reduction, conducting an audience travel survey with a view to promoting change, giving instructions for dancers and crew on environmentally friendly waste disposal, water and energy use, and using reusable hot and cold gel packs for any injuries. The company is also launching its own branded reusable water bottles, keep cups and tote bags.

Helen Tully, one of the front-of-house managers who is steering the venue’s in-house green team, said: “Working with New Adventures on the new touring certification means we can encourage others within the industry who are touring and coming to our venues to think about the environment and being more sustainable, and together we can reduce our environmental impact.”

Dancer Andrew Ashton, who is a Green Champion for Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, said: “It’s definitely hard when we are touring to try to be eco-friendly and green, but I feel we’ve made a lot of positive changes already and it’s nice to see them being implemented by different theatres. In Norwich, they have recycling bins behind each seat and have got recycling bins around back- stage which a lot of the theatres we have been to so far didn’t have. Now that they do, it’s nice to see those changes being made as we tour around.”

Fellow cast-member Isaac Peter Bowry said many of the dancers had taken small changes into their lives away from the stage, such as bags for life when shopping. “Little changes like that have a massive positive effect in the long term, so it’s not just what we are doing at work or in the theatre. It is taking those changes into our personal life.”

Andrew added: “The more we can educate our audiences, as we are doing through our programmes this week, means that with all those thousands of people we get to perform to, we can try to send a message about trying to be eco-friendly, which I think is very important.”