CCL Alumni in Focus: Feimatta Conteh

Feimatta Conteh (right) speaking at We Make Tomorrow 2022. Photo by toastandpost

Julie’s Bicycle’s Creative Climate Leadership (CCL) programme aims to build an international network of diverse and influential cultural climate leaders who will work with their communities to make change happen.

Feimatta Conteh took part in the CCL UK 2023 programme. She is currently the Senior Manager in Environmental Responsibility at Arts Council England.

How has your journey unfolded since CCL, and what creative climate projects are you currently working on?

Since doing CCL nearly a year ago, I have continued to build networks and connections – for example, stretching myself in a collaboration with Dublin Dance Festival, curating a series of essays and a roundtable discussion. I worked with colleagues at Factory International as we opened Aviva Studios and delivered MIF23. A favourite project during the festival was using e-cargo bikes to transport some materials and equipment, rather than relying on fossil fuelled vehicles.

I’ve recently taken up the position of Senior Manager, Environmental Responsibility with Arts Council England. I’m fascinated to explore being at a different seat around the table of how the arts and culture sector navigate the climate and ecological crisis, and to collectively work towards a more regenerative, and just, future

What is a key piece of learning or inspiration you took away from CCL that you’d like to share with others?

It was so rejuvenating and enriching to build new connections with the amazing change makers I met at Hawkwood.

A significant thing that the CCL course reminded me of is that we are only as strong as our networks and connections; I sometimes like to say, “no-one wins unless we all win”. Coming through the climate and biodiversity crisis needs us to share, to address each of our needs with respect and care. I also had the realisation that it’s not always about springing into action to tackle an issue, but taking a moment to think about different approaches, underlying contexts and how connected things are.

Feimatta Conteh (top left) at CCL UK 2023. Photo by Ruth Davey
Feimatta Conteh (top left) at CCL UK 2023. Photo by Ruth Davey

What does Creative Climate Leadership mean to you? What is most exciting about working in the arts/creative community on climate transformations?

When I talk about climate action in the cultural sector (Creative Climate Leadership, I guess) I often use an image I call “both ends of the rainbow” – one end is what I think of as the data, the numbers, the strategies to lessen our impacts and the other end of the rainbow I think of as the world we want to create; what’s it all for?

A rainbow can’t stand on one end; you need both sides of the rainbow to reach the ground for effective climate action. If you focus on only one end of the rainbow, you miss the beauty of the whole picture. I think the arts/creative community is uniquely placed to express both sides of the rainbow.

What is your project looking to achieve and your ambitions for it? What transformations or visions of a liveable future are you working towards in your community or organisation?

This is a challenging one to answer for me right now as I’m not working on a particular project, more trying to understand the landscape from a different position. In terms of the Arts Council as an organisation, I’m looking forward to getting cracking on our carbon reduction plan, working with colleagues who are already well-engaged.

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone working on climate-related projects right now?

Make sure to rest; you don’t have your best ideas when you’re tired….

Any upcoming programmes / webinars / events to mention?

I’m looking forward to participating in a panel on 27 February at the Green Events and Innovations conference, discussing how to make disabled people’s access to live events environmentally sustainable. I’ll be referencing my previous role at Factory International, and reflecting on the importance of considering intersectionality (no-one wins unless we all win, right?)

Please recommend one song, one book, one film that brings you hope and joy?

A song – Pa’lante by Hurray for the Riff Raff.

I copied out some sentences from Rachel Solnit’s great book “Hope in the Dark” and have them in the pocket of my notebook.

“Hope means another world might be possible; not promised, not guaranteed. Hope calls for action; action isn’t possible without hope.”


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