Welcome to the UTSf team Rich!

We are so excited to welcome a familiar face onto our production team to fulfil a hugely crucial role as our Sustainability Coordinator.

Richard Claxton is a regular volunteer at folk festivals and has many years’ experience as an activist within the environmental movement. As soon as we received an email from him showing his interest, we knew he would be the perfect person to support the sustainability initiatives we wanted to put in place.

His role helps drive and support our festival’s ambitions by providing co-ordination and expertise on key sustainability issues. We have made headway already, sourcing, designing and supporting collaborative opportunities around environmental sustainability.

We wanted to understand his journey a bit more, so we put a few questions to him…

 

– Where did you hear about UTSf?

I can’t remember exactly when and where, but… I’ve been an admirer of Kate’s work since a fellow folkie tipped me off about her in the late 90s and I first saw her live; I’ve been a volunteer on the folk festival scene since 2012; and I’m from Yorkshire! So it’s inconceivable I didn’t hear about UTSf from the very start in 2014. However, circumstances prevented me from getting along to the festival until 2018. But I’ve not missed one since – and my daughter now loves the festival too.

 

– What impressed you about the festival?

When I evangelize to friends about how good UTSf is, I usually sum it up as “a weekend of total loveliness.” It is hard to imagine a more friendly and, indeed, family-friendly festival or a festival with a better atmosphere. From outstanding line-ups to the gorgeous location at Cawthorne, everything feels just right. To me, it’s a Goldilocks festival – not too big, not too small – and yet the range of the music and arts on offer is magnificent; I often think that UTSf feels like a mini-WOMAD.

 

– Where did you see you could add value with your skills?

When I was first a Star Helper at UTSf in 2018, I had 6 years’ experience as festival volunteer and over 15 years’ experience as a volunteer and activist within the environmental movement. My roles have required skills in public relations and communications; event management and logistics; and team leadership. Oh, and pulling a good pint – which some would say is the most important skill of all! So with that background, it makes so much sense to volunteer. And I absolutely love the work: getting together with like-minded people to build a festival from scratch in a big field. It’s a wonderful feeling. I think it’s about 10 years since I went to a festival as a paying punter – if I did so now, I think I’d be looking for a job to do!

 

– How did you get involved?

When I volunteered in 2018 as a newbie, I offered to perform a variety of roles. I was assigned to the traffic team, a role I repeated in 2019 and 2021. Last winter, a fellow Star Helper and environmentalist noticed UTSf’s advert for a Sustainability Coordinator – I’d missed it – and told me she thought it was a role made for me. So I applied, detailing my experiences over the years. I’m not a scientist or an expert in a particular field of sustainability – but I do have about 20 years’ experience of being involved in campaigns which all centre around sustainability and eco-friendly initiatives: climate; renewable energy; ancient forests; oceans; plastic pollution; food, farming and biodiversity. Signing up to A Greener Festival is a big challenge because the initiative will assess every single aspect of the festival’s ecological footprint. Collectively, UTS festival leaders have the mother of all spreadsheets to complete before July!

 

– Why is it so important for events to become greener and reduce their environmental impact?

I’ve always felt that we can’t leave it to other parts of the country, other parts of the world or future generations to make the difficult systemic, cultural and lifestyle changes that are needed to deal with the climate and ecological emergency. As Gandhi said, we must be the change we wish to see in the world. If we really love live music and our summer festivals, we need to find ways of keeping the lights and the show on without trashing the planet. UTSf is a signatory to Music Declares Emergency. This is a group of artists, music industry professionals and organisations that stand together to declare a climate and ecological emergency and call for an immediate governmental response to protect all life on Earth. As the group’s t-shirts proclaim, there’s no music on a dead planet.

 

– In an ideal world, how would you like UTSf to operate in 10 years.

This year UTSf will develop a plan for net zero greenhouse gas emissions. Ideally, we will achieve this in significantly less than 10 years. To me, a vision for green music festivals in this decade includes:

– 100% power from renewable energy sources.

– Audience, artist and crew journeys to festivals by public transport or by electric vehicles (EVs) and vehicles powered by biodiesel – on-site renewable energy and battery technology will also charge EVs.

– Food and drink provision from 100% plant-based sources – not just because it’s what the science demands (a rapid global move towards plant-based diets) but also because audiences want delicious and sustainable food that’s good for our health and good for the planet.

– Zero waste – all unused resources will be recycled, re-used, repurposed or composted, including cooked food waste which can be diverted to anaerobic digestion plants to create renewable energy; ideally, nothing goes to landfill or incinerators.

– Regeneration – festivals will be at the heart of regeneration projects, locally and elsewhere (e.g. UTSf’s involvement in the Festival Wood tree planting project).

– Inspiration – green festivals will inspire audiences, artists and crew to go away from the festival and become advocates and activists for positive change in their own communities and workplaces.

 

How lucky are we to have Rich on board! We cannot wait to see everything develop with his guidance and support. There is so much to think about and more importantly action.

Oh and he is the most friendliest person!  So if you see Rich around site, please do say hello! If you have any comments or ideas of how we can become a greener festival, please let us know by contacting info@underthestarsfest.co.uk.

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