As I write this piece, much of southern and eastern Europe, and the United States, is experiencing temperatures in the mid to high 40s Celsius. China meanwhile has exceeded 50 degrees. Flooding has also hit the US and dozens of people have died in severe floods in South Korea. At home, it has been unseasonably windy and wet with several stormy days.
This might seem a strange way to introduce an article about a stunning new show that is premiering at the BD: Festival (Bradford) at the end of the month. In fact, it could not be more relevant. The acclaimed Balbir Singh Dance Company’s (BSDC) new work Cricket Green narrates in a unique combination of music, theatre, and dance, the story of Team Earth and Team Climate as they play the greatest test match in history.
Cricket: particularly susceptible to climate change impacts
There is a growing global consensus that of all the major outdoor sports that rely on fields, or pitches, cricket will be the hardest hit by climate change. The sport is truly global and widely embraced in many countries including India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and South Africa. These are among the places most vulnerable to the intense heat, rain, flooding, drought, hurricanes, and sea level rise linked to human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases. Many cricket-playing countries also have elevated levels of poverty. These are nations where the burden of measures to alleviate the effects of climate change is often unfairly felt both economically and socially.
The Game Changer report published by the Climate Coalition in 2018 noted: “Of all the major pitch sports, cricket will be the hardest hit by climate change.” Therefore, climate change should appear high on the risk register of cricket bodies. But climate change is a problem that sport can help overcome, and cricket is well placed to take the lead.
Balbir Singh’s basis for Cricket Green
Cricket Green was first conceptualised over a year ago when Balbir Singh (artistic director/CEO of BSDC) read the report Hit for Six – The Impact of Climate Change on Cricket. This document made it very clear that climate change was already impacting the game worldwide, with players struggling to play in changing weather conditions.
The graceful stroke play of the batter, the rhythmical run-up of the bowler and even the signals of the umpire make cricket the ideal sport to combine with the athleticism and aesthetics of dance, music, and theatre. Although this is a work about cricket, the environment and climate change, it is also about the fact that throughout the world cricket brings people together both in support of their national teams and also at a grassroots level where it can still bind communities together.
A threat to the game from climate change could have far reaching consequences, reducing social cohesion and loosening the ties that bind a community together. It is hoped that through the performances and a series of workshops and other events BSDC can initiate a series of conversations and connections ranging from the local community through to those at the highest levels of sport and environmental and climate science.
Connecting sport and nature through art
Cricket Green obviously means a lot to Singh. One of the country’s leading intercultural companies, BSDC draws on diverse influences to create work that can be pure dance, cross-art-form collaborations as well as non-arts innovative partnerships. Sport and nature have been recurring themes in the company’s repertoire since 2012, when BSDC was commissioned to create a piece for the London Cultural Olympiad. Synchronised, a water-based work performed in a swimming pool, featured synchronised swimmers alongside the company’s dancers and musicians. It was an instant success.
Singh explained to me:
“Cricket Green for me is a personal work allowing me to delve deeply into what it means to be human through our bond and connection with nature. It asks how through a creative process can we develop increased sensitivity to the natural world and collaborate with it to find aesthetic resonance for our senses?
“Through the work we hope to allow audiences new ways of thinking about how they can value and connect with nature and at the same time understand the impact of the climate crisis through a creative lens, which may lead to small individual changes that together can lead to larger initiatives.”
Young people are key
Central to these ambitions are young people. They are the ones who will inherit today’s climate problems, so they should be part of today’s solutions. Yet, far too often we hear them calling for more of a voice on this and other global issues.
The British Council backs Singh’s comments, saying: “Key to the climate connection is its cultural relations approach – that is, connecting young people through arts and culture, education, and a shared language to find innovative solutions.
“In this way, it empowers young people to respond to the climate crisis and to come together in a global cultural exchange about their vision for the future.”
The show is definitely not gloomy. It is a stunning, optimistic celebration of cricket and nature combining live music, theatre, and dance performance. The game in England and Wales is currently firmly under the spotlight. This follows the release of a report by the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) which found evidence of racism, sexism, and class-based discrimination across the sport. BSDC, through Cricket Green, is proving that cricket can, and indeed must, be a force for good if Team Earth and the game itself is to win this most important of all matches.
Don’t be caught out if you want to see this important show. Cricket Green is a free outdoor event and there is no need to book for these performances. Whatever the climate-change-affected weather may bring, the performances will take place on Friday 28 July 2023 at 6pm and Saturday 29 July at 12pm and 3pm, City Park, Channing Way, Bradford, BD1 1HY.