4 final year students from the School of Geography at the University of Leeds will be undertaking virtual placement projects exploring sustainability with Opera North and SAIL (Sustainable Arts in Leeds) this academic year 2020/21.

The project with Opera North will explore how the organisation can build back in a more sustainable way post Covid-19. The project will look at a number of things, including how we can encourage audiences to come to performances when the guidance is currently telling people to avoid public transport, how we can enable and encourage working from home for staff, how we can ensure that any PPE we need to provide meets the correct standard but also isn’t damaging the planet and the effect that different cleaning chemicals we may need to use has with regards to the environment. The aim of the project would be to produce a series of ideas about what Opera North could do, and how these could be effectively communicated to our staff and audiences. The student working on this project is Clare Sach.

There are 3 projects with SAIL.

The first is to calculate the baseline carbon footprint of the creative and cultural sector of Leeds. SAIL are currently trying to develop a roadmap to deliver net zero by 2030 for the creative and cultural sector, but a major missing piece of the puzzle is where we are at the moment as a sector. Many organisations use simple carbon footprinting tools to try and work out what their carbon footprint is, but this information is often incomplete or miscalculated. This project aims to define the creative and cultural sector of Leeds as it currently stands, work out who the organisations are at present who are a part of that sector and work out what their carbon footprint is in 2020 (and define whether these are scope 1, 2 or 3 emissions). This project will be undertaken by Anna Middleton.

The second project SAIL is running is around carbon offsetting for creative and cultural organisations. Many creative and cultural organisations want to be sustainable in their actions, and a lot of work has been undertaken to get organisations to be lower carbon. However, in the short term there is bound to be some carbon that remains which needs to be offset. The project would research into existing carbon offsetting schemes and identify their strengths and weaknesses, advise on what a model for the creative and cultural sector may look like, and potential costs associated with it and advise on how a scheme may be marketed to our audiences. This project will be undertaken by Joseph Davies.

Finally, the third SAIL project is to research into a better method of carbon footprint data collection and calculation. A lot of arts and cultural organisations are required to report on their carbon footprints, either using the “Creative Green” calculator for arts council England funded organisations, or Albert for the TV and film sector. Whilst these calculators do work to an extent, there are still huge gaps in their functionality and their usefulness is limited. This project aims to research what tools are already available that the creative and cultural sector may be able to take advantage of to better calculate their carbon footprints, report on what a better carbon footprint calculator for the creative and cultural sector would look like and a route to how it could be delivered and finally advise on how best to standardise data collection and capture for SAIL organisations. This project will be undertaken by Gabrielle Campbell.


All placement students will be managed by Jamie Saye, Opera North’s Howard Assembly Room Senior Technician and Sustainability Champion, and Director of SAIL.

“This is the second year that we’ve had students placed with us from the University of Leeds, and obviously it is under slightly different and more challenging circumstances this year. However, these 4 projects that we have asked for student placements on are real problems that require real solutions, and each project provides a unique challenge for the students that undertake them. It’s my hope that they will provide a valuable learning opportunity for the students, and the experience they gain will stand them in good stead when they are entering the job market.

The outputs of the projects will of course be of great importance to not just Opera North, but to the creative and cultural sector of the city as we will be sharing everything we’ve learned through the SAIL network with our other partner organisations. The collaboration between Opera North and the University of Leeds through the DARE partnership made these placements possible, and goes to show just how valuable cross sector collaboration between arts organisations and higher education institutions can be.”



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