Inspiring young green poets: Cape Farewell launches SWITCH

Inspiring young green poets: Cape Farewell launches SWITCH

January 24th, 2013|

Artwork David Buckland. Text Amy Balkin. © Cape Farewell

24 January 2013

SWITCH: a new poetry programme from Cape Farewell

Cape Farewell, the international not-for-profit climate change programme, launches a new poetry programme this month. SWITCH is aimed at encouraging thousands of students aged 11-18 to explore climate change issues through the creation of poetry. Poet Karen McCarthy Woolf has curated a new website and created a series of weekly challenges to help inspire young people to use poetry as a way of responding to climate science; and a series of workshops will be hosted by performance poet Charlie Dark.

Developed in partnership with the Poetry Society, Apples and Snakes and Rich Mix, the first poetic challenge will launch on the 18th January, and the first workshop on the 5th March. The programme will culminate on the 29th April with a live event at Rich Mix, the east London arts venue, where some of the new work created online and in the London workshops will be performed.

To take part in the programme or to find out more teachers and students can visit 

The SWITCH Inspire site has been designed to help encourage young people to think about their own creative response to climate change. In curating the site McCarthy Woolf has made use of Cape Farewell’s impressive archive of artist collaborations. Visitors to the site can expect to see contributions from the musician KT Tunstall, sculptor Anthony Gormley, writer Yann Martel and poet Lemn Sissay – all of whom have participated in one of Cape Farewell’s expeditions to places affected by climate change, like the Arctic and Peruvian rainforest.

Speaking about SWITCH Karen McCarthy Woolf said: “Cape Farewell has brought an amazing array of artists, musicians, writers and scientists together to help create a cultural response to climate change and I’m very excited to be a part of that conversation. My work explores the interconnections between art, ecology, spirituality and human relationships and I’m interested in how poetry can make people think differently about the way we live in the world. SWITCH is a project that seeks to engage young people in this essential dialogue through poetry. I look forward to the poetic responses to the challenges I’ll set on The Young Poets Network website each week and the thrill of discovering a range of new voices.”

The first SWITCH challenge will appear on the 18th January on the Poetry Society’s Young Poets Network, and is focused on consumerism. With Christmas just behind us, and the January sales taking place, McCarthy Woolf will be asking young poets to think about why we buy things and what it really costs. Artist and photographer David Buckland’s ‘Great White Sale’ ice text projection will be used as inspiration – – created during Cape Farewell’s 2004-2005 expeditions.

A series of after-school workshops will be taking place from the 5 March. Hosted by performance poet Charlie Dark, the sessions will explore themes around climate change through spoken word, and take place at Rich Mix in east London.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is providing funding to Cape Farewell to help develop and run the SWITCH programme as part of its commitment to inspiring young people to connect and value their natural environment. Speaking about the launch of SWITCH Lord de Mauley, Environment Minister, said: “We are delighted to support the SWITCH Poetry Project which encourages young people to engage with issues such as climate change through their own creative talents. It’s projects like SWITCH that really help bring the issue of climate change alive to young people, explaining why we need to act now to adapt the country to a changing climate.”

Cape Farewell is a pioneering arts programme set up by artist and photographer David Buckland in 2001. It works in partnership with scientific and cultural institutions to deliver an innovative programme of public engagement – challenging audiences to think differently about climate change and the natural systems we inhabit. The organisation has worked with over 140 world-renowned artists, including Rachel Whiteread, Jarvis Cocker, Ian McEwan, Yann Martel, Sophie Calle, Marcus Brigstocke and Antony Gormley which has resulted in the creation of a broad range of climate focused art. More information can be found by visiting