Published: 05 June 2024

Arts and science collaboration exploring climate sustainability

In the spring of 2024, Guildford School of Acting (GSA) led on the project Earth Makes No Sound at the University of Surrey. The project facilitators were Senior Lecturer at GSA, Sabina Netherclift and her creative partner Osnat Schmool. Sabina and Osnat lead Filament Theatre Company. Osnat is a composer and musical director and Sabina is a director.

Motivated by the fragility of our planet and how our actions affect its existence, Filament Theatre Company created Earth Makes No Sound (EMNS). Originally created for Chorus festival at the Southbank Centre in 2015, the piece usually combines a core professional company with a large ensemble of community singers. The piece has been performed in many locations, with many different community groups.

The piece is a fusion of dynamic choral singing, voice, movement, body percussion and improvisation inspired by the elements and the environmental changes happening to our planet. Participants on this occasion included staff and students from the University of Surrey as well as people local to the Guildford area who are engaged in tackling the climate crisis.

We invited Sabina and Osnat to work with the University to create Earth Makes No Sound (Guildford). We connected with the Institute for Sustainability and GSA colleague Katy Downton. Katy is a Senior Lecturer in Theatre Production and a Fellow of the Institute. Through Katy and the network of Research Fellows of the Institute, we were able to connect with academic research in sustainability which informed the development of a new section of the work.

Katy put us in touch with Dr Bing Guo, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Engineering and Microbiology at the University of Surrey, whose specialist area of research is water innovation and sustainability. Bing and her Phd students shared their work on environmental biotechnology for waste to energy and wastewater treatment and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the environment with Sabina and Osnat who then worked with the participants to create the piece ‘Effort and Communication’.

Earth Makes No Sound performers

This iteration of Earth Makes No Sound was a collaboration between a specially assembled University of Surrey Choir and Filament Theatre Company. Singers from all backgrounds and experiences came together to contribute new episodes to this constantly evolving work. The project was open to all students and staff at University as well as to people beyond the university. 

We worked with local Guildford organisation Solar Sisters who hosted a taster workshop in order to enable let the wider community know about the project. Some singing experience and a willingness to experiment was essential. We were looking for a people who want to explore voice and movement and interested in challenging themselves to be part of a performance that stretches the traditional notion of “choir” while exploring, discussing and articulating concerns about our environment and the future of the planet. 

Participant Sarah, said of her experience:

“Thank you for having me as part of EMNS. It was unlike anything I have ever done before, and I absolutely loved having a glimpse into the world of performing arts, and being part of such a creative and wonderful company.”

The group performed three times at the University event SurreyFest on Sunday 19 May. A member of audience commented:

“I just wanted to tell you how blown away my daughter and I were by ‘ Earth Makes no Sound’ yesterday. She is 8 and didn’t fully understand the context but we both kept glancing at each other with tears in our eyes. It was one of the most beautiful, moving and poignant things I have seen.

"What a wonderful piece you have created; a living breathing thing that you have manifested into life. May you continue to develop and share this wonderful work, to enrich and deepen our understanding of the plight of Gaia.”

Professor Catherine McNamara, Head of GSA, said: "At GSA we are interested in continuing the collaborative approach that brought science and the creative arts together in this project, and building on the project. We are interested in the potential to contribute to discourses around the climate crisis and the solutions that can be identified and implemented. We see the arts as a powerful medium through which to communicate ideas and innovations that will help improve the potential for a healthy planet."

Related sustainable development goals

Image for Clean Water and Sanitation Sustainable Development Goal Image for Affordable and Clean Energy Sustainable Development Goal Image for Sustainable Cities and Communities Sustainable Development Goal Image for Responsible Consumption and Production Sustainable Development Goal Image for Climate Action Sustainable Development Goal

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