University of Hull partners with National Youth Theatre ahead of COP26 performance

A production co-created by the University of Hull and National Youth Theatre will be performed live at the global climate summit, COP26.

The piece, titled ‘On the Edge,’ will explore young peoples’ eco-anxiety in the face of climate uncertainty through the power of spoken word, poetry, music, and short film.

The collaboration between the University of Hull and the National Youth Theatre will allow the powerful voices of young people from marginalised communities facing sea level rise and increased flood risk to be heard on an international stage.

National Youth Theatre production of The Last Harvest as part of MELT photo by Helen Murray

COP26, organised by the United Nations, is being hosted this November in Glasgow. It will bring global leaders and parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“In recent years, we have seen young people become increasingly engaged in the climate discussion – they understand the threat of climate change, and the impact it will have on their lives. ’On the Edge’ puts young people’s experiences in front of world leaders, giving them a platform to voice their feelings about climate uncertainty. The climate crisis is already impacting lives around the world – there is great value in combining the arts and heritage to build awareness of and resilience to these impacts on our communities. We hope that this thought-provoking production will show future generations that their concerns and experiences are valued by those who have the power to act on climate change.”

Briony McDonagh, Professor of Environmental Humanities at University of Hull

It forms part of MELT – National Youth Theatre’s major three year programme launched in 2020 to provide a platform for the voices of young people on climate change.

National Youth Theatre production of The Last Harvest as part of MELT photo by Helen Murray

“The pressure is on for all of us to actively respond in reducing C02 emissions, but no one feels that pressure more than ‘Gen Z’, who are tasked with mopping up the mess of previous generations. Post-pandemic the mental fall out mixed with increased climate anxiety is all too critical for our young talent, who are keen to explore the reality of art and activism in a youth-led event at the heart of COP26. Their response will be as surprising as it will be enlightening and it’s vital that National Youth Theatre talent from across the UK has this platform to effect real change, including progression routes to new green jobs. MELT, our multi-year creative response in partnerships with sustainability industry experts alongside scientists from University of Hull, is designed to deliver exactly that.”

Paul Roseby OBE, CEO and Artistic Director of National Youth Theatre of Great Britain

On the Edge’ will be performed live at COP26 next month by 15 young performers aged 18-26 who are members of National Youth Theatre’s network of young creative people.

It will include a new commission, created by Adeola Yemitan who recently graduated from the NYT’s award-winning REP Company and a climate cabaret curated by NYT Associate Artist Tatty Hennessy.

Funding has been provided by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the UK Climate Resilience Programme.

“At the University of Hull, we have gained a world-renowned reputation for our commitments towards sustainability and combating climate change. Being involved in creating ‘On the Edge’ is a powerful way to apply our research and expertise to an artistic intervention which we hope will have a huge impact on all of those who see it.”

Briony McDonagh

Colleagues from the Energy and Environment Institute and AHRC-funded project ‘Risky Cities’ are involved in the University of Hull led research and development workshops as part of the co-creative process. They will attend rehearsals as well as contribute to the final performance in Glasgow.