Where was climate change at the leaders debate?

A response from the Centre for Alternative Technology regarding the political leaders debate held on the 2nd of April 2015.

The future of the planet was not on the agenda at last night’s leaders debate.  Climate change is a very real and serious threat and the transition to a green, clean economy is the debate we urgently need to be having.  Many of the solutions to environmental issues we face, such as investing  in renewable energy can provide thousands of new jobs and help build a resilient economy.  It is vital that tackling the climate crisis is put on the agenda for this general election- and stays there. manifestometer

Adrian Ramsay, CEO of CAT said ” 2015 is election year and, with so many election promises, we need to know which political parties’ candidates will deliver the changes needed for a safe climate, it is unthinkable that this crucial issue was barely mentioned at last night’s leaders debate”

The Centre for Alternative Technology is Europe’s leading eco-centre, we will be following political parties closely during the general election using our manifestometer to analyse party manifestos and their potential in the difficult but essential task of cutting greenhouse gases. The CAT manifestometer asks a series of questions around the issue of climate change to determine whether election pledges are rooted in the scientific evidence.

#SeeMeJoinMe Women in sustainable construction – a week with the Architecture Part II’s

Gemma Temlett is a student on the Professional Diploma in Architecture (Part II) programme at the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT). Here she reports on the March module, gives a flavour of why studying at CAT is so special. She also talks about what the group is doing to support the #SeeMeJoinMe campaign to promote gender equality in the construction industry. 

We started the March week a couple of days early with a trip to Wolves, the context of our current design project. The aim was to get to grips with the city and Claire our heroic driver was first up, put to the test of navigating off Wolverhampton’s formidable ring road on the way to our first stop, a local Passivhaus school by Architype. While we had various visits planned in and around the city, we booked out a national trust bunk house in the surrounding countryside and set to work making giant pizzas and working on our presentations to be made on Monday. We turned the bunk house into our studio, Andy working away on his 1:200 models and the rest of us working on our laptops, in an industrious buzz around the big dining table.

Architecture students spinning pizza
Mario and Luigi spinning the pizza bases at the bunkhouse

Over the weekend we explored the house at Whitewick Manor, a fully furnished example of the Arts and Crafts Movement, and inspected it’s Victorian heat recovering ventilation system while taking in the Pre-Raphaelite art collection. It was a soggy Sunday measuring up the amended site boundary and a chat with the client before we headed to CAT.

It being International Women’s Day, another task for our Sunday on site had been to take a picture representing Women in Construction. Fellow student Kirsty Cassels had raised earlier the RIBA campaign to drive out gender inequality in the industry #SeeMeJoinMe. Immediately keen to partake, with my recent memories of taking my CV into offices and choking on the aftershave, we planned to complete the task in the week. CAT actively encourages women to work in male dominated trades and buildings scattered around the site were built by Cindy Harris, CAT’s builder for 17 years.

Monday was a day split into two groups for catching up on our project progress and marked presentations to hone our communication skills. Many an exCAT student that has come to lecture has renewed our confidence in the grooming process. Our group was tutored for the day by course tutors Trish Andrews and Pat Borer.

Trish in her Part 1 in the late 1980s at Strathclyde University had her own inspiring female tutor, Krystyna Johnson. One of the founders of the Scottish Ecological Design Association, Krystyna Johnson had been involved in Glasgow in the tenement improvement program, public participation in the 70s and pioneering architectural services within a community based housing association in Glasgow. James Irvine’s post from the October week talks about community participation and Ceinws where Trish was instrumental in forming a Community Land Trust.

After the last presentation of the day was given we breathed a sigh of satisfaction mixed with relief and caught up with the Masters students in the bar.

Lectures kicked off on Tuesday with a brilliant start. Lucy Jones talking on energy flows and thermal mass, former director of Earth building UK with a wealth of practical knowledge.

Dr. Lucy Jones at CAT
Dr. Lucy Jones in the rammed earth lecture theatre (image: Paulo Santos)

The next day was an air-tightness and thermal imaging marathon with Diane Hubbard, a former CAT student. This was a hands on session, checking the WISE building for thermal bridges. We moved to the self build accommodation to de-pressurise the whole building and watched as the cold air poured in the leaks! Diane helped us make sense of small signs that could be misinterpreted.

Dianne Hubbard Thermal Image
Thermal image of Diane Hubbard, demonstrating the deceptive effect of a sheet of glass (image: James Nolan)

This week there were Masters students weaving in and out of our days doing thesis tutorials and presentations from past modules. A few of them courageously chose to do their presentations in the main lecture theatre and invited us along. This is the enjoyable flexibility that is CAT. Another MSC student and untapped source of PV expertise, Corneila Peike, shared with us a short talk on design opportunities with PVs, on her last module at CAT.

Duncan Clarke Explains Timber Frame Principles
Planning for Thursday in the courtyard (image: Andy Hales)

Thursday had arrived, finally! We started on our timber frame building that brought with it the satisfaction of learning by doing, getting grubby and the feeling of real hunger at the end of the day. Our team is working on the sandwich frame, using OSB sheathing to stiffen the two 95 x 50 timbers, creating a stronger box shaped beam. From the relative comfort of the Pole barn we watched the tenacious team building the Segal method frame in the rain. They quietly finished in a few hours and dispersed while others chiselled away into the night.

Timber Frame construction stop frame animation by James Irvine

Architecture part II timber frame
Flipping of the sandwich frame (image: Andy Hales)

The guest lecturer in the evening was Pippa Goldfinger from the Frome independent council, ifF. Pippa’s inspirational presentation was on the fun-loving council’s people-lead processes and achieving sustainable solutions for the town.

Pippa Goldfinger from ifF
Pippa Goldfinger from ifF at CAT (image: Paulo Santos)

CAT brings together amazing people, gathered round the dining tables or coffee in-between lectures. We get to pick their brains and the practical, experimental nature of the people involved creates such a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere for sharing.

Fellow student Catrin organised the Friday night. Traditional Welsh cuisine from our much loved kitchen, music and fun was thrown together in our own mini CAT Eistedfodd, a Welsh celebration of the arts.

At the end of the week I jumped at the chance to get to know North Wales a little more with some classmates, partners and friends. Our trip ended in Felin Uchaf, an educational centre for young people, community, natural heritage and more that had brought some of our classmates together to build, years before the course at CAT.

Fellow student Kirsty Cassels at Felin Uchaf, Llyn peninsula
Fellow student Kirsty Cassels to the right of the crown post at Felin Uchaf, Llyn peninsula (image: www.felinuchaf.org)

Spot the Women in Construction photos?

–> See more blogs from Part II Architecture students at CAT 

Traditional childhood activities becoming a thing of the past

Simple things like making a daisy chain, splashing in puddles, building sandcastles and playing pooh sticks in decline

 The Centre for Alternative Technology is part of the UK wide Eco Attractions group an alliance of leading British visitor attractions with a strong environmental theme. Members share a common goal of helping to connect people with the natural world and create a more sustainable future.

The group consists of: Centre of Alternative Technology, Eden Project, Garden Organic’s Ryton Gardens, Kew Gardens, Living Rainforest, National Botanic Garden of Wales, National Wildflower Centre, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, The Deep.

Recent research commissioned by the group has shown that a generation of children are growing up without experiencing simple pleasures such as splashing in puddles or mud, building a sandcastle – or even making daisy chains, a study has revealed. Researchers found a whole range of traditional nature activities could soon become a thing of the past as children spend their spare time playing computer games, watching TV or just hanging out with friends instead.Motisfont - Christopher Robin and Pooh playing poohsticks, -® The E.H. Shepard Trust, reproduced by permission of Curtis Brown Group

Playing in open spaces and woodland, planting their own seeds and climbing trees are also among the activities a large number of today’s youngsters have never tried.  It emerged the average child spends just under five hours a week playing outside – almost half the 11 hours a week their parents did.

 David Hardy, spokesperson for the Eco Attractions Group, which commissioned the research, said: “For many people, these activities made up a huge chunk of our childhood, and left us with the memories and experience of our natural world to go with it.

But today’s children seem to be struggling to experience a large number of them for themselves.

Nowadays, children have much more to keep them amused – computers, a host of TV channels and smart phones – something older generations didn’t have.

As a result, youngsters are missing out on getting dirty in the mud and puddles or simply spending time in the fresh air.

These traditional activities can be a great way of encouraging children to spend more time outdoors, get more exercise and create more memories than they will get from simply sitting in front of a computer or TV screen.

EAG attractions offer safe environments for families to explore and learn about nature, many of them in or very close to cities, so they are an easy way for children to get access to and find out more about the natural world.”

The study, of 2,000 parents, revealed 35 per cent of modern children haven’t splashed in puddles to the point where they end up soaked, while another 44 per cent haven’t had the experience of walking through squelchy mud.Less than half have built sandcastles at the beach, 53 per cent haven’t had a picnic outside of their own back garden and just 44 per cent go on bike rides with their family.Only four in ten children have planted their own seeds to grow plants or flowers from scratch, while just over a third have helped to grow fruit and vegetables.

Animal spotting is also becoming less popular, with two thirds of children saying they have never looked for birds, only 35 per cent have gone searching for insects and just 22 per cent trying pond dipping. Even everyday activities are in decline with just under two thirds saying they have never had a go at flying a kite, 66 per cent claiming to have never made a daisy chain and seven in ten never going blackberry picking.


But while more than three quarters of parents would like their children to spend more time outside than they currently do, one in ten say their offspring simply don’t enjoy spending time in the great outdoors.Instead, given the choice, only 28 per cent of parents say their children would choose to play outside. A quarter of parents say their youngsters would rather stay at home playing computer games or watching TV with friends, with another 13 per cent choosing to watch TV or play on their computer alone.

As a result, two thirds of parents worry about whether their children are experiencing enough of the traditional childhood activities, but eight in ten admit they probably need to make more effort, or find more time, to play with their children outdoors. It emerged that while 58 per cent of parents put the reluctance of today’s children to go outside down to there being more for them indoors thanks to computers and TVs, 48 per cent think parents are more concerned about letting children play outdoors than they were in the past.

But worryingly, one in four parents says they don’t live near a green space or somewhere with outdoor activities for their children.

Tony Jones, from Eco Attractions Group, added: “The Easter holidays are just around the corner and we encourage all parents to try and get their kids closer to nature.

There are some amazing and exciting activities out there and kids get a huge amount from experiencing the natural world. As well as the pure joy of nature, there is plenty of evidence that shows that kids exposed to nature perform better at school, so it really is worthwhile making the effort.

Try visiting an attraction that’s near you, they will have special Easter activities for the kids. Many are in or close to cities and easy to get to.

Just get the family out of the house and enjoying what nature has to offer!”

Eco Attractions Group is an alliance of leading British visitor attractions with a strong environmental theme. They bring adventure and education to life in inspirational environments. Members share a common goal of helping to connect people with the natural world and create a more sustainable future.

The group consists of: Centre of Alternative Technology, Eden Project, Garden Organic’s Ryton Gardens, Kew Gardens, Living Rainforest, National Botanic Garden of Wales, National Wildflower Centre, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, The Deep.

For further information go to www.ecoattractions.com

Top 30 childhood activities children are most likely to have done:

  1. Splashed in puddles and got wet
  2. Built a snowman
  3. Walked through squelchy mud
  4. Played in a forest/woodland
  5. Had a snowball fight
  6. Played in a local park or playing field
  7. Built a sandcastle
  8. Had a picnic somewhere other than your own garden
  9. Gone on bike rides
  10. Played in the rain
  11. Planted their own seeds
  12. Climbed a tree
  13. Paddled in the sea/stream/river
  14. Skimmed stones across a river/lake
  15. Gone plant/animal spotting
  16. Searched for bugs and insects
  17. Helped to grow fruit and vegetables
  18. Flown a kite
  19. Made a daisy chain
  20. Looked for birds
  21. Knocked conkers off a tree
  22. Gone blackberry picking
  23. Had a conker fight
  24. Camped outside
  25. Pond dipping
  26. Played ‘pooh sticks’
  27. Hunted for animals in rock pools
  28. Built a den from sticks and branches
  29. Gone crabbing
  30. Found frogspawn



Reduce your business water bills with FREE TRAINING – Wales

Ideal for building facilities managers, hotel managers, caretakers, housing associations, holiday site owners and anyone responsible for reducing the cost of water bills. This one-day course on Designing and Delivering a Water Efficiency Strategy focuses on cost effective solutions for reducing your busines’ water bills and environmental impact.

To book onto this training please call one 01654 704 952.

Click here for more information on eligability and course details.

CAT also offers a range of other courses in renewable energy, sustainable building, woodland management, ecology and sustainable living.

Click here for a full list of courses offered this year.

Download the PDF file .



cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Steven Depolo

Getting to grips with thermal comfort

John Butler reports from the latest module of the MSc Sustainability and Adaptation courses at CAT. John is a student on the MSc Sustainability and Adaptation in the Built Environment course. He normally blogs on his site http://thewoodlouse.blogspot.com/ and you can follow him on Twitter @the_woodlouse.

The March module of CATs Sustainability and Adaptation MSc was part B of Energy Flows in Buildings. Part A (in February) introduced us to ideas of thermal comfort and its relation to heat transfers from the human body to its surroundings. This was tied to the implications of maintaining that thermal comfort, and the impact on energy use. We learnt about calculating U-Values (used as a standard measure of the thermal efficiency of a building element), and daylighting: making best use of natural daylight in a building and calculating the resulting energy savings.

educational building
The view from a bedroom in the WISE building, home of the MSc and Part II Architecture students

Part B expanded on this getting into more detail about limiting the flows of energy through a building, whilst addressing issues around ventilation and movement of moisture. A sustainable building should maintain a comfortable environment – comfortably warm in winter, comfortably cool in summer, ideal humidity levels, good air quality – with minimal energy input, and without moisture ingress causing degradation of the building fabric. Throughout the week different elements of possible means to achieve this were discussed.

A recurring theme throughout the week was retrofit – upgrading the thermal efficiency of existing buildings to reduce their energy use and related CO2 emissions. The most commonly stated best-estimate is that around 80% of existing houses will still be in use by 2050; the potential contribution to reduced energy use and emissions from such a large number of buildings is huge, but presents a challenge. There are advantages and disadvantages to various approaches, from aesthetic considerations (eg: changing the appearance of a building when externally insulating it), to practical (eg: loss of space when internally insulating), to technical (eg: the risk of condensation forming at the meeting of new insulation and existing structure if it is not carefully considered). Planning and conservation concerns can also influence or restrict choices for retrofit.

viewing insulation retrofit
MSc students examine mockups of internal and external insulation, for solid-wall retrofit

There are also issues and trade-offs surrounding choice of insulation materials – the most highly efficient materials may have a greater overall environmental impact than some less efficient materials. Some are more breathable (open to passage of moisture vapour) than others, which can have both positive and negative implications, depending on application.

Another recurring theme was the need to account for future changes to our climate in both retrofit and new build. In particular, too much emphasis on designing to conserve heat could lead to overheating further down the line when atmospheric temperatures increase. Careful attention to placement of glazing and shading to control solar gain can help address this, allowing direct sunlight in to provide warmth in winter when the sun’s path is lower, and sheltering the building from the most intense direct sunlight in summer when the sun is higher.

The role of thermal mass in regulating internal temperatures was discussed in a number of lectures. Depending on climate and design, thermal mass may hang on to winter day-time heat, releasing it within the building through the night – or assist cooling by absorbing excess heat in summer, if combined with effective ventilation to purge that heat at night. Used inappropriately thermal mass may add to overheating, so its use must be considered carefully.

thermal image
Thermal imaging shows hot heating pipes (bright) and cold area where air is coming in around cables (dark areas)

A practical in the second half of the week provided a demonstration of heat loss through unplanned ventilation (ie: draughts). This was linked to the need to provide controlled ventilation (whether through opening windows or via mechanical ventilation), and highlighted the difficulties of achieving airtightness (eliminating draughts) in some existing buildings. The practical involved carrying out an air-pressure test to establish the air-permeability of the timber-framed selfbuild house on the CAT site (ie: how much air moved through the fabric of the building at a certain pressure). In groups we surveyed the building with thermal imaging cameras, before and during the test. The resulting images clearly showed how the cold incoming air cooled surrounding surfaces, demonstrating the impact of air infiltration on energy use. A scheme to retrofit the selfbuild house at CAT would have to include a means to reduce this.

air pressure test
The door-fan, used to de-pressurise a building to identify air-ingress

The end of the week saw us discussing Passivhaus and visiting the Hyddgen Passivhaus office/community building in Machynlleth, with the building’s designer John Williamson. Some myths about Passivhaus were busted (for instance: you can open windows), and the physics-based fabric-first approach was explained. The standard is based around high comfort levels combined with incredibly low energy input. While on site we investigated the MVHR unit (Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery), which removes stale air from the building, and uses it to heat fresh incoming air. These are a common feature of passivhaus, as they allow the removal of moist air and other airborne contaminants and it’s replacement with fresh air, whilst minimising heat loss. This system has been the subject of some heated debates with fellow students at CAT, due to questions about the amount of energy needed to run the system and how user-friendly it is or isn’t. We were shown that when installed correctly, the system recovers more energy than is needed to run it.

Hyddgen Passivhaus in Machynlleth

As ever, throughout this course connections were constantly drawn between all the different areas covered (the inescapable interconnectedness of all things!). Nothing stands in isolation; each decision in one area can have repercussions in another. The different elements of building physics and materials must be balanced with each other and with the effect of any action on the wider environment.

temperature recording
Measuring the air temperature in MVHR heating ducts at Hyddgen, prior to calculating the overall efficiency and heatloss/recovery of the the system

The immersive learning environment during module weeks at CAT is highly effective, and very intense. It’s a wonderfully stimulating and supportive place to be, but at the end of the week that intensity needs a release in order for us all to return to our normal lives without winding up our friends and family when we get there. That takes the form of the vitally essential Friday night social, which this month was themed around a Cyfarfod Bach, a laid back Welsh social. We had beautiful music and singing, comedy, artwork, silliness, a rousing rendition of the Welsh National Anthem (not too shabby, considering only a handful of people were Welsh speakers or had any idea how the tune went in advance) and finally a leg-shattering amount of dancing, ensuring we could all go home in physical pain but happily and calmly buzzing.

See more blogs about the MSc Sustainability and Adaptation course. 

Llangynfelyn pupils visit CAT for British Science Week

Photos on Flickr.

Pupils at Llangynfelyn Primary School have been on a trip to the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) as part of activities going on nationwide for British Science Week. During the visit they had a tour of the centre and took part in a wind power workshop, in which they designed and tested model wind turbines.

turbine spins
Testing model wind turbines in a wind power workshop

The trip was organised by the school for pupils from years three to six. Miss Cerys, a teaching assistant who accompanied the group alongside class teacher Miss Siwan, said:

“It has been a wonderful, out of the box, learning experience. I’ve learned about things I didn’t even think were possible, like using straw bales in walls. I have also been impressed by how much the children already knew, and it has given them a chance to express that too.”

Toni, a year six pupil said the day had been a lot of fun:

“I like how everyone has worked together. I like how we got to make our own wind turbine because it teaches you how energy works. I have also learned about solar energy and hydro energy. I think it would be good for people to look out and see their energy being produced.”

hydro kids
Understanding the hydro turbine

Ben and Harvey, also in year six, said:

“It has been fun and exciting and we have learned a lot about heating and buildings, and better ways to keep them warm. Doing things like this encourages you to do more science because it is fun and you do it with your friends.”

CAT tour
John Urry gives a tour

Gabi Ashton from the education department at CAT said:

“The focus of the trip was to give the children a hands-on experience of the sustainable technologies they’ve been learning about in the classroom. They were a wonderful group to have here up here as they seemed to really engage with with CAT’s practical approach to learning and enjoyed the challenge of using science in a constructive way to solve problems”

Other schools wishing to visit the centre for tours, workshops and activities should contact the Education Department on 01654 705983 or email: education@cat.org.uk. CAT will also be open from Monday and throughout the Easter holidays with daily children’s activities.

worm slide
There was also time to just have some fun

2015: A crucial year for our changing planet

We have launched a new fundraising campaign this week in order to support our vital work in building momentum throughout 2015 in  keeping climate change on the agenda in the run-up to the general election, and support the growing network of organisations calling for a net zero agreement, ahead of December’s crucial UN Climate Summit in Paris.

Support our work by donating here

“2015 is going to be one big year for everyone involved in the climate change debate. CAT’s work on its Zero Carbon Britain project, and on ‘deep decarbonisation’ in general, provides a formidable resource in combatting the dark forces that are holding back real change, inspirationally signposting exactly the kind of transition strategies we now so urgently need.”Jonathon Porritt Jan 2015

Something is shifting, we recently interviewed Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything. for our Clean Slate magazine  One of her phrases that  really struck us was : “We need a convergence of existing movements to turn this tanker around.” We at CAT couldn’t agree more, which is why we need you to support the work we do.

2015_outreachappealbanner (1)

Climate science shows that the UK needs to rapidly move to net zero carbon emissions if we are to play our part in averting dangerous climate change. CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain team has shown that we have the technical ability to get to net zero. We know that a bright, positive, zero carbon future is possible – the only barrier is the will to change. And yet government action in the UK and elsewhere has been pitifully inadequate.

CAT’s pioneering, practical methods have inspired a generation by mapping the changes required at every level in society: the education of our schoolchildren, the way we construct our buildings and design our energy systems, the way we organise our economies and influence public behaviour. We believe that 2015 is an exceptional opportunity to create the impetus needed for these changes – and to do that we need your help. We are going to be:

Getting ‘net zero’ on the agenda – building on CAT’s acclaimed Zero Carbon Britain research, we are joining up with other organisations, scientists and academics across the globe to call for a net zero agreement in Paris.

Digging below the climate rhetoric – as we approach the general election we will be using our new Manifestometer to help people to dig below policy makers’ rhetoric. This penetrating set of questions helps you check whether manifesto promises match up to the practical steps needed to build a zero carbon Britain.

Equipping civil society groups – we will be running workshops and seminars for those concerned about climate change at conferences, festivals and other events.

Keeping climate solutions in the media spotlight – CAT’s media team is stepping up its activity: researching stories, creating press releases and using social media to spread our message of positive solutions as far and wide as possible.

Bringing a positive vision to Paris – working with climate scientists, NGOs and policy makers we will ensure that our voice is heard loud and clear in the build-up to, during and after the UN Climate Summit.

We are aiming to raise £34,000 to enable us to build a strong, collective voice of concerned citizens in time for the UK election and before the Paris Summit. For 40 years CAT has been able to offer an alternative to the vested interests that are destroying our planet. So many people have come on this journey with us – members, volunteers, supporters, academics – everyone who is part of the CAT community has helped make this possible. We would be so grateful if you could support us  at this highly significant time for people and the environment. Together, we can turn this tanker around!

Support our work by donating here

Playing for Time: Making Art as if the World Mattered

A new book, Playing for Time edited by Lucy Neal and with contributions from over 60 experienced artists and activists included CAT’s Paul Allen will be launched this Thursday in London.  A groundbreaking handbook for  artists, community activists and anyone wishing to reach beyond the facts and figures of science and technology to harness their creativity to make change in the world. This timely book explores the pivotal role artists play in re-thinking the future; re-inventing and re-imagining our world at a time of systemic change and uncertainty. Playing for Time identifies collaborative arts practices emerging in response to planetary challenges, reclaiming a traditional role for artists in the community as truth-tellers and agents of change.

 Don’t let anyone tell you that art can’t change the world because it can and it always has. Artist activist, John9781783191864_1 Jordan

Sixty experienced artists and activists give voice to a new narrative – shifting society’s rules and values away from consumerism and commodity towards community and collaboration with imagination, humour, ingenuity, empathy and skill. Inspired by the grass-roots Transition movement, modelling change in communities worldwide, Playing for Time joins the dots between key drivers of change – in energy, finance, climate change, food and community resilience – and ‘recipes for action’ for readers to take and try.

Paul Allen, CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain project coordinator presents the story of human beings and energy for this week’s launch, at Free Word Centre, of Lucy Neal’s new book, Playing for Time.

March 26th sees the launch of Playing for Time – Making Art As If The World Mattered, a book I’ve very much enjoyed contributing to. As part of launch event I offer my “Extraordinary Story of Humans and Energy” narrative, developed to set the scene for why we have to re-think the future.

Playing for Time joins the dots between the large ‘macro’ stories of climate change, energy depletion and economic collapse and the individual stories of artists and community activists reclaiming ways of living creatively within the limits of a finite planet. In a practical handbook with recipes for action to take up and try, 60 storytellers, activists, makers, craftivists, land journeyers and writers, rethink the future to create a new story to live by.”

Creative practice has shown how we can break through prejudice, apathy, economic pressures and blind spots to catalyse a transformation of culture, attitudes and behaviours. Over just a few decades, creativity has radically transformed entrenched attitudes to gender, race, religion, class, health and safety, exploitation and equity. Once a cultural shift is catalysed, legal, political and administrative frameworks follow suit. We must do this next for attitudes to climate solutions. Integrating our arts and sciences can offer a mirror to help us reflect on that 1950s fossil-fuelled dream, which still seeps out into the global subconscious, and to create new spaces, both real and virtual, where inspiration, optimism and the possibility of positive change can be nurtured and explored.

Such a rapid transition will be the biggest undertaking we have made in generations, and will require a great many to commit to the challenge, but in doing so we can turn our anguish into empowerment and discover the sense of collective purpose and adventure that we have been craving for a very long time.

When the facts and figures of climate change cannot catalyse the shifts needed in our world, the arts can open us to different ways of seeing and feeling, creating emergent space to re-think the future and change the world – collectively. With poetry and metaphor they can explore the language of the heart, the pain of what we’re losing and the deep yearning in us for the restoration and celebration of life.

Easter Eco Events At the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales

pond dippingCome and join us for an action packed Easter holiday for all the family, events will be running from the 30th of March through till the 10th of April. From daily guided tours to eco activities for children, talks, workshops, music and exhibitions there is something for all ages. There will be a daily guided tour of the CAT visitor centre exploring some of CAT’s history, renewable energies, organic gardening and sustainable architecture. Our straw bale theatre will be open for children’s eco activities from 11-3 pm everyday including Easter treasure hunts, crazy inventors, bug hunting, eco games,  storytelling and our specially designed zero carbon tours.

Specialised tours of CAT’s unique and sustainable gardens and renewable energy systems will take place throughout the week, check the visit CAT website for tour specifics

Our woodlands team will be demonstrating and teaching visitors simple woodland crafts using traditional woodworking tools.  Paul Allen and members of our zero carbon Britain team will be giving talks around current environmental issues and our zero carbon britain project.

For up to date information on our Easter events please check out visit.cat.org.uk

CAT is the UK’s leading eco centre and runs a 7 acre visitor centre, courses, graduate school and information department. We are open throughout the year for day visitors and groups.

Receive + Return in Gwyl Gerdd Bangor, Bangor Music Festival

Receive + Return in Gwyl Gerdd Bangor, Bangor Music Festival

IMG_4048Receive + Return, an art work created by CAT artists in residence Christine Mills and Carlos Pinatti, was shown for two days in the Deilniol Shopping Centre in Bangor as part of the programme for the Bangor Music Festival, Gwyl Gerdd Bangor, running over four days in early March.

An empty shop was transformed into a temporary art gallery. Through the large glass windows a 1970s television unit showed a film of an hourglass keeping time passing, around and around again, suggesting the question, is there an end of time? Or to put it another way is time a renewable resource?

A ping-pong table occupied most of the room, inviting shoppers and passers-by into a game. There is certainly always an end to the game. The question is do you play to win or to keep the game going? A soundscape of dissonant rhythmic balls ping-ponging frames the four corners of the table, overlaying present and past, keeping the clock ticking. Have we ever been here before?

IMG_4580The opening event on a Friday lunchtime included musical performances by primary school age children, interpreting the story of endangered animals, and Bangor University students of Composition, who had been invited to respond to the piece and its themes of ecology, sustainability and giving something back. The inspired compositions ranged from traditional classical quartet arrangements to a call-response improvisation between oboe and singing bowl, to a full ensemble, including ping pong table gamers being conducted by the composer whose piece unravelled in tandem with the progress of the game, responding to the tone and tactic of the gamers.

This is how an installation work becomes a social sculpture, the three dimensions of objects in space expanded by the dimensions of IMG_4527imagination, memory and association. This was also how the work started, one year ago in the WISE building at CAT, asking CAT students and staff to represent the world through their values, their vision of the global dynamics of relationships and resources. The resulting digital global imagery became the subtlety of the table, the meaning making marks split in half by the net into northern and southern hemispheres. Suddenly patterns of historical colonial relationships of trade, religion, resources, power and privilege emerge, and watching a game being played on top becomes simultaneously pathetic and disturbing. 

It’s the layers of complexity unfolding in the personal experience and the collective understanding that give the piece gravitas, and to experience it in such a popular localised context was moving indeed. As we watched and listened we began to get a sense of what the pathos of artworks emerging from CAT might be, and how re-contextualising them in other settings is affirming.