Friday 9 September 2022

Bothy Conversations

Kevin Leomo

Kevin Leomo is a PhD candidate in Music at the University of Glasgow and is the Project Coordinator for The Dear Green Bothy.

In July, we hosted Bothy Conversations, an event which brought together artists, students, participants, and researchers from across The Dear Green Bothy, a programme of arts and humanities events and projects responding to COP26 and the climate crisis, organised by the University of Glasgow’s College of Arts.

In holding Bothy Conversations, we aimed to:
– the opportunities and challenges for undertaking collaborative climate research
– showcasing examples of current interdisciplinary or collaborative work
– explore the potential for research community-building and future collaborations

The depth and breadth of The Dear Green Bothy was demonstrated through the variety of speakers and attendees present, all sharing a commitment to addressing the climate crisis through critical, collaborative, and interdisciplinary approaches.

We kicked off the day with introductions from the Bothy’s academic lead, Mark Banks, and myself, before going on to a series of presentations delivered by key contributors to the programme.

Julia McClure, Senior Lecturer in History, shared the work of The Food Sovereignty Network, which she co-founded to examine global challenges to food sovereignty. Julia discussed her recent work examining contemporary challenges to agroecology in Latin America, stressing the importance of working with local communities and learning from indigenous practices in methods of food production. 

We then hosted a roundtable discussion with invited guests, who spoke about collaboration and interdisciplinarity in their capacities as practitioners and curators. Lewis Coenen-Rowe from Creative Carbon Scotland shared lessons learned from working with local organisations and communities to encourage meaningful arts participation in the Climate Beacons project active during COP. Jaime Toney, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Solutions and Professor of Environmental and Climate Science at the University of Glasgow discussed the GALLANT project and the steps being taken to ensure academics and researchers interact with local communities in non-extractive ways, co-creating with them instead. A number of Dear Green Bothy events (‘The Art of Gustav Metzger and Climate Activism’, Flare: Oceania) were organized by Dominic Paterson, Senior Lecturer in History of Art at the University of Glasgow and Hunterian Art Gallery, who shared his experiences in curating these. Maria Sledmere talked about A&E Collective’s work including the Bothy-commissioned BIOSYSTEMS podcast, as well as concepts of poethics and queer ecology.

This was followed by a lively discussion on the challenges of interdisciplinary working as well as how we can demonstrate the value of arts and humanities work in the context of funding applications and outcome-driven processes. Other themes included how we can engage with different cultures in approaches to sustainability and how at times the accessibility of language in the discussion of arts concepts can be elusive. It was great witnessing participants interact, and there were clear overlaps of interest among participants – one of the benefits of the day’s proceedings. These are all issues we face in the arts: being aware of difference, engaging in queer and critical theories, decolonizing our approach to learning and teaching; areas which are crucial and which we can learn about collectively through sharing our knowledge at these moments of coming together that can be facilitated by a programme like The Dear Green Bothy.

Tim Peacock and Lauren Watson from UoG Games and Gaming Lab discussed the Games and Sustainability programme which ran throughout The Dear Green Bothy, hosting a number of events ranging from a sustainability hackathon to a wargame simulation of Glasgow being flooded, showcasing innovative ways to engage students with the climate crisis and using technology to better understand environmental themes in order to convey different stories or situations. For example, the hackathon event demonstrated how games can help deepen understandings of natural environments and the complex human networks affecting them.

Zarina Ahmad discussed the Local Women of the World project, with input from the Climate Sisters artists and some of their University of Glasgow student mentors. We partnered with the Women’s Environmental Network ‘Women as Changemaker’s programme, which funds arts participation for ethnic minority, disadvantaged, and refugee artists in Scotland. The project consisted of a six-month period where the Climate Sisters designed a range of creative works – a podcast, artworks, escape rooms, music videos, jewelry made from recycled materials, photography project highlighting e-waste in Glasgow – to name a few. The Dear Green Bothy recruited undergraduate and postgraduate mentors who were then paired with the women. The students brought their respective skills to help facilitate the creation of the women’s’ work, as well as providing them additional support throughout. This was an extremely beneficial project for all involved – students gained experience in mentoring and developing their skills in a practical and meaningful way, while the artists gained confidence and knowledge in how to realise their individual projects. The Climate Sisters shared their work as well as their individual stories and journeys throughout the project, which was really moving. This project exemplifies how the university can interact with local communities in positive ways – we would love to further develop this model in future, providing opportunities for both our students as well as local community groups. 

Finally, we wrapped up with a blue skies session with Nicole Smith, The Dear Green Bothy’s evaluation lead, where we collectively discussed ways in which we could carry forward the momentum from the day’s event. Going forward, we envisage The Dear Green Bothy to serve as:
– a platform for arts and humanities, and cross and interdisciplinary research partnerships and development in environment, sustainability and climate change research
– a regular academic and public programme of in-person (ARC-hosted) and online research-led seminars and events
– a catalyst for generating research, engagement and impact income, through facilitating new bids arising out of DGB core activities or through amplifying new or existing bids 
– an agile interface for building links and engagements with external partners and organisations working on sustainability issues, including disadvantaged and marginalised communities and groups
– a means to further develop student placements, internships and mentoring opportunities on arts and sustainability topics, within and out with the University
– a resource to support new course and programme development in environmental arts and humanities for cross-University teaching


Seeing so many different Bothy contributors, participants, and partners come together in person was a memorable experience as this was a reminder of the variety of activities which highlighted the successes of designing and delivering such an ambitious programme, considering the majority of occurred in November during COP, consisting of in-person, online, and hybrid events. 

Coming together was important as we were able to share ideas, stories, and importantly, foster new collaborations and links between participants and across disciplines. Networking and discussion events such as these which are open and inclusive – not just for academics, but to participants, and local communities (something we certainly want to develop further) – are vital to showcasing the importance and value of arts and humanities approaches to addressing climate change. Community-building lays the foundation for future collaborative work. The event was hosted in the University of Glasgow’s new Advanced Research Centre, which served as an excellent space to have these discussions and also exhibit some of the work created as part of The Dear Green Bothy programme. We utilsied the ARC’s open atrium space to exhibit works from the Local Women of the World project, ‘Routed//In Green Channels’ interactive audio installation from Sound Thought artist Beth Horseman, as well as films from the Bright Edge Deep research project. 

As project coordinator, it was great having the opportunity to link up like-minded individuals and see the potential for future work and new collaborations. Working on the Bothy has also influenced my personal approach to engaging with the climate crisis, from developing my own creative practice through engaging with notions of acoustic ecology to make a soundscape work, design and lead soundwalks, as well as create an immersive audio installation for Glasgow Science Festival. It’s also made me consider how I can embed critical approaches to the climate crisis in my approach to learning and teaching.

Bothy Conversations was an example of how The Dear Green Bothy can serve a range of communities: students, academics, and local organisations. We hope to continue the discussions and collaborations into the future, embedding the work of The Dear Green Bothy within the university as well as in our communities.

Related Dear Green Bothy events:
Growing Glasgow (Food Sovereignty Network)
Global Environmental History and Climate Change (Food Sovereignty Network)
BIOSYSTEMS (A+E Collective)
Gustav Metzger: Mobbile
Games Sustainability Hackathon
Eco Echoes: Tinderbox Music and Game Jam
Gotta Grow ‘em all
Local Women of the World online exhibition
Bright Edge Deep
Sound Thought Soundwalks

Other Links:
Centre for Sustainable Solutions
GALLANT – Glasgow as a Living Lab Accelerating Novel Transformation
Creative Carbon Scotland