Alison Tickell – Salzburg Global Is “a Very Special Creature, and I Think It Needs Our Thanks”




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Jan 09, 2018
by Oscar Tollast
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Alison Tickell – Salzburg Global Is “a Very Special Creature, and I Think It Needs Our Thanks”

Julie’s Bicycle founder and CEO reflects on Salzburg Global’s impact on her work Alison Tickell in discussion at the Salzburg Global session, The Art of Resilience: Creativity, Courage and Renewal

“I do think Salzburg has been very, very important to my thinking personally,” Alison Tickell says, reflecting on her experiences at Salzburg Global Seminar. “There’s nothing quite like getting out of your comfort zone for a bit… I have hugely appreciated it. I think it’s a very special creature, and I think it needs our thanks.”

Tickell, the founder and chief executive officer of Julie’s Bicycle, first attended Salzburg Global Seminar to help examine the arts’ role in advancing sustainability. She was one of 58 change-makers who convened at Schloss Leopoldskron in February 2016 for Beyond Green: The Arts as a Catalyst for Sustainability. Tickell says, “It was an incredibly exciting opportunity to meet with people who had been working in the same field as us but from completely different perspectives. It was a very compelling invitation.”

The session concluded with Fellows putting forward proposals for new ways in which the arts could advance sustainability. These ideas ranged from organizing a separate workshop to expand new alliances to producing a “Creative Communication Canvas” tool.

“For me, it was very good to see the relationship between culture, climate and social justice very well-exercised,” Tickell says. “We had some great conversations about that, so it widened my perspective very much.” Participants benefited from hearing from others coming at the same set of problems but from different perspectives.”

Tickell says, “It was also quite validating to recognize that actually we were doing some pretty unique work and that might be of value to others just as their work might be and has definitely been of value to us.”

Julie’s Bicycle was established as a non-profit company in 2007 and set about helping the music industry to reduce its environmental impacts. Julie’s Bicycle has since extended its remit to other art forms and has become a leading organization for bridging sustainability with the arts and culture.

In the same year Tickell attended Salzburg Global, she helped launch Julie’s Bicycle’s Creative Climate Leadership Training Program. This program is designed to support and strengthen the emerging cultural movements around climate and the environment. Tickell says, “We’ve run three sessions on it, and it was incredibly useful – Salzburg Global – both for the scale of the ambition, really feeling that there were lots of people out there internationally, but also in terms of format.”

Tickell says she was able to take a few lessons from her first experience in Salzburg and focus on the idea of taking people outside of their comfort zone and pose them with leadership questions. She adds, “All of that has been incredibly useful. [The sessions] get better and better every time.”

At the beginning of 2017, Tickell had the chance to return to Salzburg Global and help convene her own focus group of change-makers for The Art of Resilience: Creativity, Courage and Renewal, which focused on understanding and identifying ways in which artists, cultural workers, and creatives imagine and strengthen the capacities of communities and societies to confront and adapt to the seemingly infinite sources of shock, violence, conflict and disruption.

Among those Tickell invited was Nick Nuttall (pictured below), the director of communications and spokesperson at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). She says, “Although he didn’t attend the whole session, he did attend for enough of it for us to really make the case that climate and the environment needed to have the voice, and the complex and many narratives that culture and the arts provide. His big takeaway promise was to work to promote culture as a key mechanism to communicate climate.”

Nuttall delivered on his promise. Alongside Tickell, he helped coordinate a new #Art4Climate series on the UNFCCC’s website. This weekly series provided a spotlight on arts and cultural responses to climate change and global efforts to take action. The series was launched in the run-up to the UN Climate Conference in Bonn in November, 2017. Among others, there have been features on the world’s first sustainable dance floor, art exhibitions, and comic art. Tickell believes it’s just the “tip of the iceberg” and anticipates further collaboration in the future.

Tickell says she found both sessions at Salzburg Global really interesting and much more challenging than she initially thought they would be. Commenting on The Art of Resilience: Creativity, Courage and Renewal, she says there was a much broader frame which looked at culture through a wider prism. The session covered topics such as sustainable development, immigration and refugees, post-conflict trauma and reconciliation, indigenous rights, and climate justice.

“A lot of my assumptions needed to be prodded and poked and that was one of the great values of Salzburg Global. It’s precisely that. You come away often uncomfortably disturbed and thoughtful, and it takes a while to really process some of that learning and put it into positive practice,” Tickell says.

Looking forward, Julie’s Bicycle is doing policy work with the World Cities Culture Forum and C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group. “A lot of that has had a lot to do with Salzburg Global because when I went [and] because I was able to curate a [focus group], they specifically asked me to bring people who could help the policy work. That’s why [the group] that I [convened] was very much focused on that, and we’ve really been able to build that into some super work.”

Tickell says Julie’s Bicycle is developing some diagnostic tools for global cities to help bring together climate and cultural policies. She adds, “We’ve written the World Cities Cultural Forum Handbook for City Leaders and will be developing that work in at least six pilot cities [in 2018], so that’s quite exciting.”

“We also are publishing this research which is on the seven cultural trends and, again, it’s been hugely informed by [Salzburg Global], which is really identifying what’s going on across the cultural sector globally and how the cultural sector is beginning to drive very positive change. We’ll be publishing that research in early March at an event, but hopefully, that will be the start of another bigger project.”