The art of storytelling set to be discussed at public events in Exeter during COP27 conference

Reading for Change

Reading for Change at Maketank

The art of storytelling and the challenge of translating stories across languages and between artforms will be the focus of two climate-focused public events this week.

Led by the University of Exeter in partnership with cultural lab Maketank, the events will bring together language experts, students, artists, scientists and audiences to reflect upon the tales at the heart of the international project, We Still Have a Chance: 12 Climate Stories for the 12 Days of COP27.

The first, taking place over the course of two days across the 8th and 9th November, will see artist Steve McCracken working in public as he develops a piece of artistic graffiti using wood and inspired by the themes of We Still Have a Chance.

This will be followed on the 9th November by Reading for Change, which will feature renditions of the stories in both English and Arabic, before experts from the University, the Met Office and Exeter Culture join Steve on stage to discuss how the stories converge and diverge across the languages, and how they translate to different media.

“Storytelling is a powerful method of communicating complex issues such as climate change,” said Dr Eliana Maestri, Senior Lecturer in Translation Studies, and lead for Reading for Change. “It can also help us to unlock our imagination, share experiences and inspire change. What these two public events are seeking to achieve is explore the role of translation – whether literal between languages or figuratively between media – and how audiences are part of that ‘translation journey’.”

Both events will be held at Maketank in the city and are supported using public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England. They are part of a broader project called 12 Stories for 12 Days of COP27, which is led by Dr Maestri.

Reading for Change will feature Dr Maestri introducing the event and explaining why reading can inspire change – a theme explored in Gill Rye’s book from which the event takes its name and concept. Professor Hugh Roberts, from the Department of Languages, Culture and Visual Studies at Exeter, will orate some of the stories from the We Still Have a Chance anthology. Each will be followed by the Arabic version, with PhD students at the University explaining how they set about translating the text and how they overcame the cultural challenges they encountered.

Professor Rosa Barciela, the Met Office’s Principal Scientific Consultant and Strategic Head of Health Science Integration (Weather and Climate), will discuss the science underpinning the stories, and there will also be an audience Q&A hosted by Dom Jinks of Exeter Culture.

The finished graffiti artwork of Steve’s will be unveiled on the night, and he will discuss the inspirations he took from the stories to reproduce in his art, as well as his experiences over the two days. This piece will then be displayed in Exeter Library for the next six months.

We Still Have a Chance: 12 Stories for 12 Days of COP27 has been co-created by 150 scientists, health professionals, activists and artists in the UK and Egypt, drawn together in a series of virtual writing workshops. Orchestrated by the University, the Met Office, the British Council and numerous other partners, it has also encompassed a range of artistic outputs and events, including drama productions, murals and digital artwork.

For more information, please visit the University’s Green Futures website.