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Green Leaders Q&A #4: Kaye Dunnings, Creative Director of Glastonbury’s Shangri-La

Kaye Dunnings is co-founder and Creative Director of Glastonbury’s world renowned Shangri-La, an artist, event producer and pioneer of art with purpose, re-using materials in art and set design and giving a platform for climate crisis and truth messaging.

In 2020, Shangri-La responded to the restrictions imposed on events by the covid pandemic by transforming into Lost Horizon, a virtual festival created in record time that aimed to bring people from around the world together in real time when a physical festival was impossible – the event attracted a global audience of 4.2million. 

1. What is the proudest [sustainability] achievement or moment of your career

 Creating the Shangri-La Show at Glastonbury in 2018 and 2019 without buying any new materials. 

2. What was your worst ever decision, project or initiative and why? 

London Pleasure Gardens 2012 – not having a full insight into the financial management of the project and losing everything when it folded. 

3. What are you (or were you) excited about implementing this year/in the future? 

 Exploring VR further, pushing the art form as far as possible through theatre, visual art, education and more live event projects.

4. Which environmental issue(s) do you most care about? 

 Climate, pollution, re-use.

5. What change have made in your personal life that you are most proud of? 

Leaving London in 2014 to pursue a more sustainable lifestyle in a caravan, living as part of a community at Rockaway Park in Temple Cloud. 

6. What do you read to stay in touch with green issues? 

 National Geographic, Guardian.

7. What is the most memorable live performance in your life?

 I was fortunate to be amongst 10,000 in New Orleans in 2017 at Fats Domino’s funeral Second-line March.

8. Was there a moment you committed to taking action on climate change? 

Standing in festival fields year after year and deciding to take direct action by challenging myself and my team to build the sets and installations with minimal resources.

9. What is most important issue to tackle at your event(s)? 

 Inclusivity and diversity is everything right now.

10. What do you think is the most significant challenge for the events industry becoming more sustainable? 

Choosing sustainability over profit.

 11. Can you share something about/from another event or company that inspired you to make a change? 

 Waste Artworks by Luz Interruptus and Guerra De La Paz. 

12. What is the secret to your sustainable success? 

 Being honest and asking the audience to participate rather than spectate.

13. Tell us something you feel positive about right now 

 The uprising BLM movement involving whole communities, especially younger generation.

14. Tell us a book, film or recent article you feel others should watch/read and why? 

Everyone should watch Queer Eye!  What those 5 men do is so powerful, especially enabling men to be emotional in a world where it’s still a taboo to be so. I’ve just started reading Three Women by Lisa Taddeo. It’s extraordinary, and will become a classic.

15. Can you give people new to sustainability in event a top tip? 

 Design the show, then find all the materials required second hand – its possible.

16. What is the favourite festival moment of your career!? 

 The annual crew stage invasion that closes Shangri-La’s main stage.

17. What habit or practice has helped you most in your personal journey in life? 

Asking questions and not pretending to know things I don’t! 

18. Is there anything new you are planning for the future that you can tell us about? Even a hint! 

Virtual Reality with interactive theatrical experiences – watch this space.

19. Will we save the world? 

 Who knows, but we can bloody well try! 

20. What would your sustainable super power be

Teleportation, for everyone – fossil fuel free transport!

 Read previous Industry Leaders Q&A: #2 with Jenny Hamada, Director of Events for European Festivals at AEG Presents and #3 with Doug Francisco, Director of Narrative at Boomtown Festival and creator of XR’s Red Rebel Brigade.

This Q&A originally appeared in our August 2020 newsletter. Sign up receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your inbox using the form below.