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Guest blog: Communicating COP26

Communicating COP26 livestreamed from Bristol, Monday 15th November (credit: Alicia Hayden/Wildscreen)

Whilst COP26 took place in Glasgow last month, Bristol’s award-winning wildlife conservation charity Wildscreen delivered a hybrid event communicating climate science and sustainability for a diverse worldwide audience reaching beyond the natural history industry. Event & Communications Manager Gabriella Carr explains the significance of the day, which covered everything from green finance, to climate crisis and conservation storytelling and ensuring productions themselves don’t create a negative impact on the planet.

Wildscreen is best known for convening the natural history industry in Bristol every two years at Wildscreen Festival to celebrate the various crafts involved with natural history storytelling. We work closely with the natural world storytelling community which thrives in Bristol due to giants of the industry such as BBC Studios Natural History Unit, Icon Films, Silverback Films, and Plimsoll Productions being based here. Outside of our biennial festival, we are continuously working to inspire the public to protect nature through the power of visual storytelling.

As the UN’s 26th edition of the Conference of Parties (COP26) was taking place in Glasgow this year, we decided to produce a hybrid event communicating climate science and sustainability in an inclusive way for a diverse worldwide audience that expanded beyond our industry. Empowering storytellers with accessible language and actions which anyone can take to make a positive impact was at the core of our Communicating COP26 event.

Over the past 5 years, Wildscreen has been working to extend our reach outside of Bristol, supporting international aspiring talent and established industry members through our Wildscreen Outreach and Wildscreen Network respectively. Due to the pandemic, never before had it been as vital for our global industry to create connections internationally and collaborate across borders.

When the Wildscreen Festival moved online for 2020, we saw the most diverse and largest audience our festival had ever reached. Our virtual event welcomed filmmakers, conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts across 42 countries to watch our film library, Q&As and panel sessions. New digital series were commissioned and smaller scale filmmakers and in-country talent were enthusiastic about the new opportunities which remote working presented.

As with our festival, we welcomed a range of speakers to Communicating COP26, from emerging talent filmmakers to indigenous leaders and corporate giants. Studio Silverback, a branch of the award-winning Silverback Films, were a close collaborator throughout our event preparation. Their work producing the films for Prince William’s EarthShot Prize ceremony and COP26 itself, not to forget our patron Sir David Attenborough’s landmark speech, helped to ensure our event covered the latest climate science developments.

Executive Director Colin Butfield took to our stage to interview world renowned climate scientist Dr. Johan Rockstrom, while Creative Director Jonnie Hughes sat alongside representatives from non-profit Conservation Optimism, streaming network WaterBear and indigenous artists on our final panel discussing the future of storytelling.

One of the most unexpected yet impactful sessions was focusing on green finance. Bristol-based leader in the sustainable finance sector Triodos Bank UK joined the conversation to share actions that individuals and organisations in the film industry can take to reduce the likelihood of their money contributing to funds that negatively impact the planet. Whether that’s switching to a greener bank or checking where your pension is being invested.

Alongside promoting open and diverse storytelling about the climate crisis and conserving our natural world, it is also important to ensure that the productions themselves are not creating a negative impact on the planet. Our close relationship with grassroots organisations such as Filmmakers for Future: Wildlife and Bristol-based organisations such as Ecolibrium and CanCan allowed us to share facts for reducing their footprint as filmmakers and delegates. By partnering with CanCan, we saved 4.34kg in disposable waste and showcased an innovative closed-circuit reusable cup system with our delegates.

Our Communicating COP26 event utilised the hybrid format to welcome a diverse audience to participate in the conversations around climate science and storytelling and place Bristol on the world’s stage in November 2021. We welcomed delegates from 21 countries to join us in Bristol in person or via livestream, with almost half (44%) of ticket holders being 30 or younger and female (72%). 

Looking forward, we are working to produce a hybrid Festival for the first time ever on 10-14 October 2022 to welcome a diverse group of delegates to Bristol to celebrate the past two years of natural world storytelling. Wildscreen will be collaborating with organisations and storytellers across Bristol to produce an event with low environmental impact that highlights vital films and photographs through screenings and exhibitions.

Make sure to follow us on social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram) to hear the latest announcements around Wildscreen Festival 2022 and our event programme.