Making PoliNations sustainable with Fenella Dawnay

Fenella Dawnay Website

Fenella Dawnay, Senior Producer 

Tell us a bit about your role in PoliNations. 

I lead the brilliant Trigger producing team. We work to make sure we're on track to deliver the festival. I manage the overall budget, oversee artists engagement, work closely with the production and design teams, liaise with our key partners and work to ensure the best possible experience for our audiences across the festival. All in all, the producing team are here to help the creatives and designers realise their vision! 

How does sustainability fit into your role? 

A big part of this project is the importance of biodiversity. We knew from the start that we wanted to go on an honest and educational journey with sustainability to see exactly how sustainable we could be when developing this event from scratch, and share our findings with the industry. One of our first actions was to engage a sustainability consultant who would act as a critical friend and guide our decision making from the start - pushing us to find the most sustainable solutions we could to the challenges of putting on an epic festival in Birmingham. It has been a really eye opening experience and an illuminating and educational process for many of our creative team on this project. 

What has been the biggest sustainability related surprise for you since starting on PoliNations? 

That biodegradable glitter isn't really biodegradable! And that there's always a better way. Just by asking the question, "how can we make this more sustainable?", you can identify solutions and understand more about the carbon footprint left by our industry. 

What has been the most challenging aspect of trying to be sustainable? 

The fact that the most sustainable thing you can do is not to put on the project. So if you start there and then work backwards, you're just trying to make the lowest impact on the planet while still delivering something awe-inspiring, long-lasting and extraordinary for the audience. It can feel like an uphill battle. And in many cases it's impossible to make something legitimately low carbon, let alone carbon free. 

What advice would you give to other members of your profession who also want to put sustainability at the heart of what they do? 

Engage a sustainability consultant - right from the off! Always ask - "can we do this better?". Have a materials policy! 

What sustainability initiative are you most excited about for PoliNations? 

I'm excited about some of the wins we've made by changing tack to pursue a more low carbon solution - but the audience might not see all of those - so I'll say donating our plants back to the city and seeing the results of the biodiversity assessment. I'm looking forward to seeing how bringing this green space into the centre of Birmingham, even for a short while, might impact the insects and air of the city. 

When I need a boost, where can I get inspired about sustainability? 

Read Jonathan Drori's "Around the World in 80 Plants" to get you excited about the extraordinary diversity of plants and their importance to human life, through medicine, folklore and our cultural history. 

If you had a sustainable super power what would it be? 

Ohhhh - probably cleaning water of impurities and pollution - we need clean seas/rivers! 

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PoliNations and Trigger
Trigger, Unit 1.1 Streamline Building, Paintworks, Bristol BS4 3AS
Funded by
HM Government
Northern Ireland Executive
Scottish Government Riaghaltas na h-Alba
Llywodraeth Cymru Welsh Government
Belfast City Council
Cymru Greadigol Creative Wales
Branding and website by Peter & Paul