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‘Everything Change is a global crisis, and yet countries like Bangladesh are already at the forefront of the consequences’

  • Published at 12:51 pm June 10th, 2021
Sadaf Saaz

In this interview, Dhaka Lit Fest Director Sadaf Saaz sheds light on the 10-day virtual event as well as why DLF has partnered with it.

Why does Dhaka Lit Fest join hands with Taliesin Arts Centre and Swansea University Professor Owen Sheers to organise the ten-day event Everything Change?

Professsor Owen Sheers, Professor of Creativity at Swansea University and Taliesin Arts Centre, along with Dhaka Lit Fest, has been awarded a British Council Creative commissions grant to have a writers’ lab this year to explore climate change and creativity. Six writers from Bangladesh and Wales will generate new works over the coming months, and present original works to be premiered later this year at Dhaka Lit Fest in 2022. The writers’ lab will run alongside the Everything Change programme. Inspired by the words of Margaret Atwood, ‘I think calling it climate change is rather limiting. I would rather call it the everything change,’ Everything Change is an innovative series of discussions and events exploring the roles creativity, adaptive thinking and storytelling can play in overcoming the challenges of the climate crisis. Led by the poet, novelist and playwright Professor Owen Sheers, and Simon Oates, Director, Taliesin Arts Centre, I have been involved in co-curating this fascinating and unique series of interdisciplinary discussions and artist provocations, to ask some of the most urgent questions of our times. The series will feature an incredible line-up of international contributors across the arts and creative industries, as well as science, law, policy, and activism. It's all online, free and accessible with live captioning. As Bangladesh is already facing the effects of climate change, and given the massive scale of the impending crisis, we were interested in exploring why more writers and creative artists are not engaged in this issue from Dhaka Lit Fest. We are extremely excited and invigorated by the Everything Change partnership, which has enabled a truly global and interdisciplinary approach to the issue, putting creativity at its core.  

Also Read: Schedule of Events: Everything Change

The program will begin with a panel in which Booker winner Margaret Atwood will talk to you about how writers and artists can contribute more to address issues regarding ecological crises. Can we get a preview of that conversation?

The conversation with Margaret Atwood is a wonderful exploration of her writing around the issues of Everything Change, and the ecological crises. As you know, she has thought deeply and widely about these issues over many decades, and so the canvas is wide-ranging. Many are familiar with her work related to totalitarian dystopias, but her speculative fiction is extremely exciting, engaging and relevant.  

Would you care to share a few other features that you think are most striking about this event? 

The programme looks at how things will and need to change over seven key areas: food, money, energy, water, justice, stories, and change itself! The wide range of panelists over disciplines and backgrounds, like Stop Ecocide co-Founder Jojo Mehta, and British comedian Marcus Brigstocke, will ensure a really rich exploration into these areas. There will be exciting artists’ provocations at the start of each panel so art and literature can serve as a lens through which each issue is explored. 

Among many other international thinkers and artists, the event will also feature quite a few Bangladeshi thinkers and activists. What are your thoughts on Bangladesh playing a more active role in addressing ecological issues both regionally and globally? 

Everything Change is a global crisis, and yet countries like Bangladesh are already at the forefront of the consequences. Those on the ground are trying innovative approaches to mitigate the situation, and these need to be part of the global conversation. We also can’t confine the conversation to ‘climate change experts’—if we don’t change our relationship to the planet and rethink how we behave and what we consider “progress and growth”, we will have to face unimaginable consequences. We need to be very much the change that we need to see. 

What is your take on creative writers and artists contributing through inventive storytelling in overcoming the climate crises?

Stories and art are a powerful and perhaps the most effective way for us connect with each other and envisage a different way of being. Stories are about people and our struggles and triumphs and relationships and emotions that are reflected within a wider context, from patriarchy to the climate crisis. Stories enable us to see the human side of the challenges ahead that will give us hope, and the urgency to overcome them.