EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Climate change communication through live theatre and drama workshops

Roberta Wilkinson, Matthew Kemp, and Helen Johnson
Roberta Wilkinson et al.
  • Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom

We present the outcomes and lessons from our 2022 Public Engagement with Research (PER) project, ‘Climate Change: Science, Research and Performance’. We combined science, theatre and music to explore climate change with children and young people through a series of workshops and live performances in Oxford, United Kingdom. These shows and workshops were funded by the University of Oxford PER Seed Fund and the EGU Public Engagement grant.

Climate change communication for children often focuses on a limited set of approaches to tackling the climate crisis which emphasise the responsibilities of individuals, such as cycling to school, recycling, or turning off the lights. While these actions are important, they can struggle to match the scale of the problem that children see on the news or in their real lives, and may do little to address the climate anxiety that many young people experience. Additionally, much of the formal climate education in the UK addresses climate change through science or geography, with little opportunity to discuss its wider implications for our lives and mental health.

As both scientists and writers, we aimed to address these gaps with our storytelling musical for ages 8+. We (Roberta Wilkinson and Matthew Kemp) have been writing and performing shows themed around science as Geologise Theatre since 2016. In 2022, we created ‘Chrissie & the Skiddle Witch: A climate change musical’, inspired by interviews with climate researchers at the University of Oxford. Rather than shying away from the realities of climate change, the show aims to be emotionally truthful and scientifically accurate about the nature and scale of the problem and the required solutions, taking the concerns of young people seriously. Through the emotional journeys of the characters, songs and comedic moments, the show allows the audience to explore the possible responses to these issues from the safety of their seats.

For the second strand of the project, we ran drama workshops which connected local young people with climate researchers from a range of disciplines – from oceanography to solar panel physics. In these workshops, the teenagers interviewed the climate researchers about their work and then devised their own dramatic scenes based on their discussions. This allowed the young people to learn about climate research and provided an immediate creative outlet through which they could process the information and its implications, and experiment with their own ideas.

We created bespoke evaluation tools, including feedback forms and interactive activities to suit our young audience. Average enjoyment scores were 4.9/5 (36 responses) for the shows and 4.5/5 (20 responses) for the workshops. The feedback suggested the show was impactful: the word ‘action’ cropped up multiple times in the responses to our evaluation questions on how the show left the audience feeling about climate change. One of the children who attended also told us the show inspired them to write a letter to their local council asking them to put solar panels on the streetlights.

How to cite: Wilkinson, R., Kemp, M., and Johnson, H.: Climate change communication through live theatre and drama workshops, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-2635,, 2023.