The foggiest idea: bringing green issues to life

Named as ‘Britain’s coolest art installation’ by The Telegraph, Bristol’s Pero’s Bridge will be shrouded in fog to highlight how climate change will affect our day-to-day lives. We interviewed Dr Anna Rutherford (PhD 2007), Executive Director of the In Between Time festival (IBT), who brought the IBT art installation, Bristol’s Cabot Institute and the Bristol 2015 European Green Capital together to make a dramatic and powerful impact.

Every two years, audiences and artists travel from all over the world to visit Bristol as it’s taken over by the In Between Time festival (IBT). Art spills onto the streets, onto docksides and into homes of the city. I started with IBT at the beginning of 2012. Our bold imaginative approach is becoming increasingly recognised worldwide and during every festival we try to place a large piece of art in the public domain. Last time we put a fake moon on College Green, but this year we worked with Bristol 2015 European Green Capital to bring a Japanese artist, Fujiko Nakaya, to the city.

We were inspired by what Fujiko calls her ‘collaboration with nature’, which focuses on man’s connection to the environment, and so it felt very apt given that it falls in the year when Bristol is the European Green Capital. Seeing a clear link with uncertain climates, we got in touch with Bristol University’s Cabot Institute early on.

They have a fantastic reputation, and Professor Richard Pancost helped us to contextualise the art work and give a talk around the subject. He has a knack for translating and interpreting art and science, and so a great collaboration began. Richard’s reflection was that ‘Fog Bridge’ ‘prompts us to think about the dynamic character of weather and how it affects our day-to-day lives – and by extension how that might change in the future. But it is also a powerful metaphor for how human activity is making the environment of our world more uncertain and making our future more challenging to navigate.’  I couldn’t say it better myself.

Each festival we also work with the Bristol’s Wickham Theatre as a venue to showcase some of the best national talent. We work closely with Bristol’s Department of Drama, their staff and students. The skilled and inspiring University community always feed into the organisation, with many students working with us as interns, production staff or volunteers.

I’ve always loved Bristol. When it came to choosing to do a PhD, I only made two applications, to Cambridge and Bristol. I was offered both places. But when I visited Bristol it felt so alive as a city in comparison to Cambridge. I thought I’d be happy here and Bristol definitely helped me to flourish. But I began to feel that my career in science wasn’t making enough use of my range of skills, and that I wasn’t achieving as much as I wanted to in life.

I founded the Pride festival in Bristol in my spare time and that’s how I started to get involved in the Bristol festival scene. It was incredibly important for the city, not just for LGBT people, but for their friends and families too, who often feel very isolated. It was three times as exhausting as a PhD, but when I watched thousands of rainbow people stop traffic on their way to Castle Park, when I saw people with tears of joy running down their faces, and when I had a quiet thank you from a parent who had been so worried about what to do with their son – all the strife quickly faded away!

Now in my spare time I’ve got a big project on with Bristol Festivals to look out for. In Between Time has a beautiful tour of our commission ‘Night Songs’ with various National Trust properties during February and March. But right now, we need to get through IBT15 unscathed!

You can see Fog Bridge, part of the In Between Time festival, from 13 – 22 February 2015.

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