The Work of Many Hands

1st Feb 2023
19:30  - 20:30
Doors 19:15
Suitable for all ages

Terracotta-coloured hand prints on a rock face

Image © Pablo A. Gimenez, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.


This three-act performance seeks to imagine the possibilities of a better Earth future, born of mutualism, generosity and ingenuity. It has been co-created by composer Heloise Tunstall-Behrens, UCL climate scientists Professor Ilan Kelman and Dr Peter Irvine, and writer Robert Macfarlane. Across its three parts, the piece musically tracks a hopeful CO2 emissions profile first of rise, then plateau, then fall.

The Work of Many Hands gives voice to the humans of this possible, positive future (in the form of the Fleet Primary School choir) as well as to the (often silenced) non-human voices and forces of ‘River’, ‘Forest’, ‘Ocean’ and ‘Ice’. It interweaves perspectives across deep time and deep space in order to inspire its present-day audiences to be ‘good ancestors’.  

Grief and doom abound in contemporary responses to climate change –– and hope can feel hard to find. There is good cause for this: biodiversity collapse, sea-level rise, extreme weather and widespread immiseration are all already happening, falling most forcefully on the most vulnerable.

But apathy feeds on despair and doomerism can be its own form of denialism. We must strive for positive change. We have to find hope in the dark, to light the way towards a better future for the Earth. Science is clear that many of the tools already exist first to level off pollutants, and then to reduce them. The history of disasters including the COVID-19 pandemic shows us that extraordinary outcomes are possible when people and organisations work together.

It is not too late to plant the seeds that will flourish and change the landscape in decades to come. There is still hope in the dark.

Please note that filming and photography will be taking place at this event.

This event is part of Performing Planet Activism, a series of interactions, performances and dialogues at UCL that bring together artists, activists, researchers and communities engaged in climate activism.

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