Reorientating and Rethinking
Once again, we are rethinking our work, after another change has hit us – the loss of our main civil society hub venue for COP26. However in this forced reorientation, there is hope – and also perhaps a better way of doing things.
Update from Kat Jones, COP26 Project Manager, SCCS.
A week ago, I heard the news that, due to construction delays, the Kinning Park Complex would not be ready for COP26.
It was due to be our main venue for our civil society hub for COP26, housing a café and socialising space, hotdesks, bookable meeting rooms and event space, the volunteer hub and the media hub.
Since then, it has become clear that we cannot replace this like-for-like. The Kinning Park Complex was perfect: with its position so close to the official COP venues; newly refurbished; and able to open for two months ahead of COP so we could start building capacity locally, train volunteers and host visiting activists coming to Glasgow for a recce
An extraordinary response
In the last week, we’ve had an extraordinary response to our plea for help from community venues and churches. I’ve visited loads of places to see whether we could create something that would ‘fill the boots’ of the Kinning Park Complex.
But at this late stage, though, so many spaces have bookings and plans in place already, and it would have meant piecing together a complicated jigsaw with only weeks to go until the start of COP.
Rather than be disappointed by this, I’m really encouraged. Little did we know, when we started planning for COP26 two years ago, that Glasgow would take the hosting and welcoming of global civil society coming to COP entirely to her heart.
There are civil society-organised hubs and facilities springing up all over the place. More and more community venues are coming forward to be part of our ‘Spaces for Change’ network, offering bookable space directly to civil society organisations coming to Glasgow.
A change in vision
Two years ago, we envisaged one central and huge location for our civil society hub – the Strathclyde students’ union building – with rooms and venues for everything in one place, a team of volunteers to welcome and orientate people, and all coordination being done from there.
Our plans were uprooted the first time by the delay to COP26, as the Union moved to smart new (smaller) premises and the original building was closed.
At that point, we switched to a few smaller venues, with the Kinning Park Complex as the main hub, starting the transition to where we know we need to be now.
One of our key aims, when we started planning our work for COP, was to build the climate movement in Scotland and in Glasgow.
We saw this happening via making connections between local and international activists during COP, and using this website (Climatefringe.org), to amplify and encourage the work going on across the movement – whether from tiny grassroots groups, well established organisations, or from those new to climate campaigning.
We envisaged a narrative of Glasgow as a place of welcome during COP, where civil society gives COP a clear sense of place and sense of direction.
What I found, when I stepped back a little, was that, actually, all this work has been bearing fruit:
- Climate Fringe Week is this week and has seen nearly 200 events being run across Scotland, largely from community groups and from so many groups new to climate work too.
- Our crowd-sourced Glasgow Green Map now has at least 120 locations (as far as I could count…) showing where visitors to COP can find food and refreshment (from locally-run and community cafes and restaurants), and visit community gardens and parks.
- 17 community venues are on our Spaces for Change network offering space directly to civil society organisations coming to COP26.
- and hundreds of people, across the Central Belt are offering their spare rooms and couches for activists via the COP26 Homestay Network, in the face of a dire lack of affordable accommodation in the city.
None of this work has happened top-down. It has been a groundswell of enthusiasm from the people of Glasgow and Scotland and we have been able to capture that energy and bring it together in one place.
It made me rethink what we need for a Civil Society hub for Glasgow. And how we should replace the loss of the Kinning Park Complex.
A change of plan
There are some things we need to replace and run – particularly our volunteer hub. Combined with the COP26 Coalition volunteers for the march on the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice (6 Nov) and the People’s Summit (7-10 Nov), we will coordinate around 800 volunteers and ensure that they are refreshed, briefed and safe.
But there are some functions of our work that create a far better legacy if we point those coming to COP26 to community organisations directly.
Space for meetings and events
While we plan to still have a few bookable meeting and large spaces available at our other hubs, but we will step up our work on Spaces for Change, seeking even more community venues who will be able to let their space direct to activists.
That way, international connections are not mediated through us, but made directly with Glasgow organisations allowing relationships to grow, and also bringing money into local community venues hit hard by the pandemic.
Space for socialising, rest – and charging devices!
We will point people to community food hubs and cafés where COP visitors can have a coffee and work on a laptop.
Glasgow has many of those places, and some are already on our COP26 Civil Society Hubs and Venues map.
We can offer community cafés some training on what to expect, and information packs, so they are equipped to help anyone asking questions about where things are happening, or other advice.
We’ll offer these places extra extension cables for charging, so there are more plug sockets available to charge devices.
We want to ensure that everyone feels supported and can find the information and orientation they need.
Adelaide Place, located near Sauchiehall Street (on the junction of Pitt Street and Bath Street), is one of the venues for the People’s Summit and evening events, but it will now be open during the daytime too:
- From 8am, Adelaides will be a drop-in location for hotdesking, charging phones and laptops, informal meetings and getting advice and orientation on what is going on in the city.
- Each day at 5pm, we will host the COP26 Coalition movement assemblies.
- From 7:30pm we will host a nightly open mic ceilidh where we invite anyone to take part.
- From from 7-10 November, it will be one of the People’s Summit venues.
There are other civil society hubs across the city of Glasgow. We will direct people towards these, and the support that people can find there, for example:
- After the Pandemic
- The Landing Hub
- Centre for Human Ecology at the Pearce Institute.
Finding the information and linking it all up
We already have this website, climatefringe.org, to provide info about as many civil society-led events that we can find – taking place both inside the Blue Zone and outside the official COP venues.
Our Venues Map will become even more important for directing visitors to all the hubs set up to support civil society at COP. We want to help, if you’re looking for an oatmilk latte and a charging station, or where to book a room for a meeting, or find space to make a banner for the march. We will populate the map on a daily basis with new places that we are finding out about all the time!
Until mid-October, we will focus on making the Climate Fringe events website easy to use, so that people can find their way around what is going on around the city. We already have extra volunteers recruited who will be specifically looking to ensure that all events run by civil society, whether in the Blue Zone or in the city itself, are there.
Do you know of something taking place that isn’t already listed on our Climate Fringe Events Calendar? You can submit an event here.
Over the past week I have found both perspective in the loss of our main civil society hub space, and huge hope for the legacy that COP will bring to our city.
Because, of course, COP26 is only for two weeks, but the connections we make, and the movement we build will be here long after the show leaves town.
Kat Jones, Glasgow, 24 September 2021