Longborough Festival Opera’s setting presents obstacles to maintaining an environmentally sustainable operation, with agricultural buildings repurposed for backstage facilities.
Theatre making can be very wasteful. Sets can have short lifespans, and hosting thousands of picnicking audience members throughout the summer can lead to full skips of unsorted rubbish.
The theatre itself, whilst having capacity for 500 audience members and 60 players in the orchestra pit, has little to no wing space for stage set and props. The remaining backstage area has no storage space for scenic elements, which means we have limits to what can be presented on stage, and what can be stored.
These limitations have inspired great designs for our stage. Lack of storage encourages us to turn to sustainable theatre making, using resources including the Theatre Green Book to help overcome these challenges.
The Cotswolds provides a stunning backdrop and location for our audiences and staff but can be difficult to get to. The village of Longborough is located a ten-minute drive away from the nearest station, which provides access to a limited train service. Our rural location has limited public transport, so most audience and staff have little option but to drive.
To continue to reduce our carbon emissions, and achieve the Theatre Green Book Baseline by 2025
To continue the application of the baseline principles of the Theatre Green Book on all newly commissioned shows
To educate, support and coordinate a Sustainability team at Longborough, and to reach out to the wider forum on sustainability in theatre making
To encourage staff to work from home where possible, and schedule meetings accordingly
To conduct an evaluation of our buildings, and research how best to transition into more sustainable practices
To develop ways to reduce energy consumption where possible, including LED lighting, automatic light switches and power saving policies; and to sourcing our power from a Green Energy provider
To have sustainability at the forefront of all our productions from the early design process to final production and forward life – across departments for Set & Scenery, Furniture & Props, Costumes, and Technical
To continue using and developing the in-house Materials Inventory, accessible to all those working within the company; and to responsibly source external goods and services
To encourage and manage recycling on site throughout the year; to increase recycling and encourage reduction in overall waste created during the season; and to introduce a yearly audit of these processes
To offer an easy-to-use paperless Box Office
To produce a restaurant menu including sustainably sourced local meats, vegetarian, and vegan options, with recyclable containers, and re-fillable water containers
To encourage public transport usage, including a pilot scheme of a shuttle bus service from the nearest train station for our audience members
To encourage a car sharing scheme for artists, players, and backstage staff
To switch to environmentally friendly cleaning products
To continue to use suppliers with an environmental focus for all our printed materials
To engage with local communities accessing local ‘green’ suppliers, products, and accommodation where possible; and to bring the wider community together to share resources and help to develop more sustainable approaches in the area
Progress and work
Staff to undertake Carbon Training
Pilot of a bus scheme for audiences between Moreton-in-Marsh train station and the site
Officially registered with the Theatre Green Book.
Production Coordinator role created to lead on and track our green plans.
Sustainability within our work becomes a core part of the 2023 season.
Data collection, audits, measures, inventories, and learning begin in earnest.
Regular meetings with key staff are implemented throughout the year and season to discuss and monitor progress.
Auditorium front of house lighting is replaced with LED.
We began working with new local caterers, who offer 40% plant-based items on their menu.
Seasonal site waste streams were improved, with the recycling rate rising from 47.9% in 2022 to 61.1% in 2023.
Designs for the 2023 productions were devised with Theatre Green Book baseline requirements in mind. Successes included:
Götterdämmerung has a modular set, conceived in 2018, that is reused for all four Ring cycle productions.
L’elisir d’amore used a set made from sustainable recycled wood and recycled plastic print.
The L’Orfeo set was created using a steel structure from 2021’s temporary Big Top venue.
The Fairy Queen’s silver ‘slash’ curtains were sourced from English National Opera.
Green Card Meetings were implemented for all new productions. A strong line of communication was upheld throughout the season to encourage designs to share resources. Props, costumes, and pieces of set/furniture were shared where possible – the L'elisir “jigsaw” set became splat box pieces and standalone boards/pickets in The Fairy Queen.
The onward lives of costumes is now considered. Most pieces are hired, and new pieces are offered to cast to buy or donated to costume providers for reuse.
Props are sourced second-hand where possible or hired. A majority are donated to prop stores and prop supervisors.
Discussions and work begins on improving our production sustainability. Plans for future staffing are discussed and goals set.
Longborough begins gifting singers, players, creative, music and production staff with reusable metal water bottles to reduce single-use plastics
E-tickets were introduced for the 2021 season.
During renovations of the Royal Opera House, Martin Graham acquires seats for the Longborough auditorium, giving them a new life in our theatre.