Can touring be environmentally responsible?

As an international festival that brings performances from around the world to London, touring art and artists is what we do. We're part of a necessary ecosystem that thrives on this practice, but we're living through a climate emergency. How can we embrace sustainability whilst sharing art from around the world?

Internationalism is essential. In a world where inequality, racism and discrimination are more present than ever, sharing art across borders can help to build much needed awareness, empathy and cultural respect. If we want to build a fairer society, it’s essential to present different viewpoints and experiences, encourage expansive conversations, and come together for joyful shared experiences.

We believe that what we do – bringing art and artists from around the world to London, and connecting them to local artists and audiences – is necessary. This makes some travel necessary. So we’ve made it a priority to discover how to tour work and share exciting, important performances in the best possible way, considering equity alongside sustainability.

In 2021, we launched a commission called Concept Touring to connect artists with mentors. Together, they explored how art can travel without people travelling. Two of the projects – Գիշեր | gisher and Radio Ghost – were part of our 2022 festival.

Since autumn 2022, we’ve been working with Danish festival CPH STAGE on a research project investigating how performing arts professionals can tour, collaborate and co-produce sustainably.

To be specific, we’re exploring how to build environmental planning into budgets. We’ve been meeting regularly to discuss carbon budgeting, sustainable production methods, funding, partnerships, ethical policies, staffing needs and training. Whenever we can we bring independent experts, artists and activists into those spaces to expand our approach and help us to work through some key provocations. And alongside these conversations, we’re each conducting independent research. Along the way we are comparing our findings, opinions and approaches.

We’re still early in the process, generating a lot of questions and opening many different avenues for exploration, so we don’t have anything to share yet. But our goal is to form a set of best practices that we can embed into our work and share with colleagues around the world. We hope to help transform cross-sector practices and improve our collective sustainability.

"It's exciting exploring new ways to boost our environmental responsibility, especially around touring and international work. We have a great partner in CPH STAGE, who like us are curious about non-traditional actions that theatre and touring organisations can take to tackle climate change. So often as a sector we start thinking about climate action as production challenges, when in fact they can be about budgets and organisational culture, so the research we are undertaking is vital. In time, we will have something valuable to share with colleagues. There may just be more questions, but they will be essential and may lead to greater, quicker collective change."
— Stella Kanu, Executive Director, LIFT
"This research-collaboration is a crucial part of our journey as a festival organisation to manifest a sustainable mindset. It nurtures the awareness in the organisation and supports an integrated practice in our work and organisation. This project assists the gap between the dream of bringing performing arts to people in sustainable ways and the actual sustainable practice to continuously grow smaller and smaller. The reflection space between LIFT and CPH STAGE unfolds a highly valuable consciousness about many different perspectives – that inspires us to build on and develop."
— Festival Producer Sarah Sarina Rommedahl and Head of International Programming and Productions Karen Toftegaard, CPH STAGE

The Programme

LIFT and CPH STAGE are two of seven organisations who have received funding from Arts Council England, the Danish Arts Foundation and Julie’s Bicycle to develop sustainable approaches to touring internationally. CPH STAGE is one of the newer theatre festivals in Europe and has similar tastes and goals to LIFT. And like LIFT, CPH STAGE are committed to sustainability.

The other five participating organisations, collaborating across two projects, are:

  • Helsingør Teater (Elsinore) and In Between Time (Bristol), who are collaborating with three artist-led companies to develop a workshop programme that places artists at the centre of organisational change.
  • Wildtopia (Copenhagen), Mind the Gap (Bradford) and Fast Familiar (Reading), who are delivering an action learning programme focused on inclusive and environmentally responsible practices in the delivery of hybrid (live and digital) activity.

Julie’s Bicycle kicked-off the programme with a set of workshops introducing environmentally responsible practices. Coming together we got to get to know each other and form new partnerships, as well as come up with meaningful areas to focus our projects.

The programme is now in its second phase and all of the funded organisations including LIFT and CPH STAGE are working on our projects with support from Julie’s Bicycle.

About our partner, CPH STAGE

CPH STAGE is the national festival of Denmark – celebrating it’s 10-year anniversary in 2023. CPH STAGE programme one to four international shows every year, and their focus is increasingly on how to support and manifest sustainable touring practices in their programming.


The image is I Am From Reykjavik by Sonia Hughes, performed as part of LIFT’s summer season LIFT LOVES LONDON in 2021. Photographed by Paul Cochrane.