Evan Parker Takes the Green Train

“I believe the planet is in jeopardy, that our future generations are counting on us to do something about changing carbon emissions. It really is urgent at this point. The polar ice caps are melting, 10 species disappear a day… how much bigger do the signs have to be before the people start to take an interest in the environment?" 
 - Evan Parker in conversation with TTGT, April 2016
Renowned avant-garde English tenor and soprano saxophonist Evan Parker toured Europe in February and April 2016 in the framework of the Take the Green Train project run by the Europe Jazz Network and Julie’s Bicycle and supported by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union. 
This pilot green tour involved train travel between dates where possible, a "green" rider, and each venue testing more sustainable approaches to organising concerts. Topics examined include energy efficiency, waste production and recycling, public transportation to venues, locally sourced and sustainable catering for the artist and the public, and "greener" approaches to marketing and publicity. The lessons learned from this tour were documented and shared with the aim of scaling up some of these actions to the whole jazz community.
Download a copy of the Green Rider that was distributed to participating venues and events. Please feel free to adapt and use this document for your own tours and events [link to PDF file of TTGT Green Rider]

Take the Green Train - Evan Parker Green Tour 2016 debrief from Europe Jazz Network on Vimeo.

The dates of the tour were:
17 February 2016:  DalVerme Club, Rome, Italy
18 February 2016: Pisa Jazz, Teatro S. Andrea, Pisa, Italy
19 February 2016: SET UP, Punta della Dogana, Venice, Italy
20 February 2016: Pinacoteca Civica, Palazzo Priori, Fermo, Italy
15 April 2016: Gateshead International Jazz Festival, Sage Gateshead, UK
19 April 2016: Turner Sims Concert Hall, Southampton, UK
20 April 2016: jazzahead! 2016 expo, Sendesaal, Bremen, DE
Evan Parker travelled together with Graham McKenzie from Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival ( hcmf// ) for the duration of the tour. They used their time travelling by train for a series of conversations that will be published as a book by Graham. In this way, the journey itself turned into its own artistic project.
“There are so many people who have to come together to make this possible. The whole industry really has to come together and join up to look at how you make this possible.”
- Graham McKenzie in conversation with EJN, April 2016
Actions taken and outcomes:
  • The estimated carbon impact of Graham and Evan’s travel for the Italian tour by train was 1 T CO2e . Due to time constraints, they still needed to fly from the UK to Rome, and return by air travel at the end of the tour. Their flights accounted for almost 90% of their total travel impact. 
  • In comparison, had they used domestic flights instead of rail travel within Italy, the total impact of their travel would have been around 1.5 T CO2e – so by utilising rail travel, they saved around 500 kg CO2e. It would have taken 13 tree seedlings grown for 10 years to remove this amount of carbon from the atmosphere [ Source: https://www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gas-equivalencies-calculator ] .
  • The estimated carbon impact of Graham and Evan’s travel for the UK-Germany tour by train was 285 kg CO2e .
  • In comparison, had they flown between dates, the total impact of their travel would have been around 1.3 T CO2e or, had they driven between dates in a standard petrol car, the carbon impact of the tour travel would have been around 560 kg CO2e. Utilising rail travel avoided the emissions of between 275 kg and 1 T of CO2e.
Selected venue responses:
SET UP, Punta della Dogana, Venice, Italy
The show in Venice took place at the recently restored Palazzo Grassi/Punta della Dogana museum. The venue had two free days between the dismantling of one exhibition and the set-up of the next exhibition, so promoters were brought in to curate two nights of a mixed programme of electronic music, contemporary choreography, and contemporary performance for almost 1000 people per night. The aim (and challenge) was to explore the relationship of the musician to visual art, and also the relationship to the empty museum. Attendees were free to explore the space, to create an experience where they could move into the space, relocate, and find new spatial an emotional distances to what was occurring. The promoter, Enrico Bettinello, had not previously tried to specifically make his shows more environmentally sustainable, even though it is an area that is close to his heart personally (he recently gave away his car). He says: “It was a good experience with some good outcomes that I can try to repeat with other experiences and projects.”
  • Taking advantage of the days between exhibitions is an environmentally effective way to create new spaces for events – especially in museums, temperature and humidity control systems generally need to be kept running to help preserve the art and other exhibition features, even when the space is otherwise empty.
  • Evan Parker’s performance was fully acoustic. This created a further interplay with the special acoustics of an unusual venue.
  • Evan and Graham had to walk to the venue from the hotel (as car transport is not possible!) and the journey from the train station to the hotel was also undertaken on foot. In that sense, everything in Venice is a little bit more sustainable by default – although also at times more difficult when instruments and gear need to be transported.
  • Information about the Take The Green Train project was included on all marketing materials for the show to further raise awareness.
Gateshead International Jazz Festival, Sage Gateshead, UK
The Sage Gateshead has been working to green its operations for several years now, through interventions including a large-scale refit of lighting to LED lights across the building (particularly in FOH areas) and the coordination of a dedicated green team. For more information, see the case studies section [link to case studies ] . For the Gateshead International Jazz Festival and Evan Parker’s appearance specifically:
  • Evan Parker’s show did not use the PA system – instead, he performed acoustically. For jazz shows at the Sage, this is unusual.
  • A solar powered promotional listening station in the foyer of the venue, custome-built by one of its engineers, encouraged audiences to sample the music of the artists appearing at the festival while also engaging them around sustainability.
  • The headline sponsor for the festival was Team Cycles, a local cycling business based in the vicinity of the venue. This partnership promoted sustainable transport, added to the festival’s local economic impact, and has resulted in a new staff bicycle scheme for the Sage Gateshead that is being offered in conjunction with Team Cycles.
Venues and promoters worked to interpret the Green Rider in different ways – from fresh organic local produce in green rooms, to choosing organic restaurants, organic wine, and restaurants that worked with local producers.
Information about the Take The Green Train project was included on all marketing materials for the show to further raise awareness. 

Responses from Graham McKenzie and Evan Parker:
In a conversation with Graham in Bremen, he highlighted the following take-aways from the Take the Green Train shows:
  • The key challenge, ultimately, is cost. For example, taking the train to Bremen from the UK involved a Eurostar journey, an overnight stay in Brussles, a train to Dortmund, followed by a train to Bremen. All of these carried a not insignificant cost. In comparison, another attendee at jazzahead booked a return flight for £56.
  • This challenge grows exponentially if the acts involved are ensembles or orchestras, particularly as this frequently also means paying people for extra ‘travel days’. However, even for this tour, some promoters were unable or unwilling to host a show once they were presented with the travel costs involved.
  • The benefits of train travel include arriving straight into cities at a time when airports are generally moving further and further out of cities. Because of security concerns and baggage restrictions, air travel has also become increasingly difficult for musicians travelling with their instruments, and more and more people are also finding their instruments getting damaged. Train travel, for the most part, doesn’t entail the same challenges.
  • Promoters nowadays are used to thinking in the context of one-off concerts and cheap air fares – so the idea of a tour by train caused some reluctance as it involved extra work and thinking – ‘how long will it take you to get here, and where are you going next, and how long will it take you to get there?’
  • A more in-depth cultural shift needs to happen within the whole industry, and especially among promoters. In the days before cheap air travel, artists didn’t usually travel for one-off concerts: they would only go a distance to play multiple concerts. “As promoters, we have lost that idea of talking to other promoters and piecing a tour together – and artists have lost this a little bit as well.” There is a big exercise to be done, perhaps supported by the EJN and Julie’s Bicycle, on working with promoters to change this culture and go back to basics: what are the mechanisms and forums that can be generated for promoters to better join up and put tours together? And promoters need to take more responsibility for bringing artists somewhere for shows, and help artists join the dots from there.
  • Every show is a negotiation and a partnership between the artist and the promoter. But while the artist can bring up green issues, it is ultimately the promoter who is making the arrangements, meeting the costs, etc. so the promoter has a greater level of control.
  • Also, whatever means of transport, food, etc. a promoter provides, there needs to be a certain level of attention and care for the artist so they can focus on the music, art, and concert. If a promoter can do that within the framework of providing greener alternatives, then that’s the winning combination.
  • The green rider in its current shape perhaps left the brief too open – some promoters seemed a bit unsure in how to translate it. A simple, clear list of things might work better. However, others did interpret it in interesting new ways.
  • Perhaps the most worthwhile part of the project was asking venues to think about being more environmentally friendly in their interaction with the audience, like the café, catering, food, drink, transportation for the public, incentivising them to take public transport, cycling etc. This is going to have comparatively a lot more impact than focusing on backstage catering.
“The main thing I take away from this experience is it is making me think about what we do at my festival, and making me think about what I am doing as a professional working in the music industry travelling around Europe. Questions like: do I need to travel? How do I travel – can I take the train? What do I do when I travel – how do I conduct my business? Everytime I am travelling I should ask myself certain questions, and I should ask my staff certain questions. What we have to do is move from a situation of these things being something that is unusual, to something that is normal. That takes all of us to individually start thinking, and then collectively move forward.”
- Graham McKenzie in conversation with EJN, April 2016
In a conversation with Evan Parker in Bremen, he highlighted the following take-aways from the Take the Green Train shows:
  • Travelling by train isn’t in and of itself revolutionary – it is already done, sometimes, when it makes obvious financial or scheduling sense. Travelling by train with 2 saxophones is actually much preferable than travelling by plane.
  • Any green initiative must respect the relationship between the artist and the promoter – especially where there is a prior existing relationship.
  • Regimes cannot always be too rigorous. In some cases, the rider was too literally interpreted, which wasn’t helpful for either the artist or the promoter.
  • Overall, it was a starting point that worked where it worked and started conversations, but may need further refinement. Any ‘green intervention’ needs to make sense (and be respectful) of all scales of implementation and local contexts.
  • Ultimately, it feels like the relationship between artists and promoters is of a relatively lower level of impact compared to issues at the level of the relationship between government, taxation regulations, taxation on aviation fuels, and cheap airlines. For cheap air travel and its associated impacts, this is the level at which action needs to be taken. How can we make this happen?
"There is that old joke about Mussolini and the trains running on time. It's been a while since Mussolini had any influence on the Italian railways but every train was bang on time. It was really perfect."
- Evan Parker interviewed by Daniel Spicer in the May 2016 edition of Jazzwise magazine.
Responses from promoters:
“Of course when organising a gig so many things need to be looked after - it's not easy and can be difficult to carry all these meanings into one single thing. But I really loved this project - I hope it will go on and have an even stronger impact.”
- Take The Green Train participating promoter
  • During the booking of the tour some promoters expressed an interest in hosting a concert on the tour but were nervous about the rail travel element, especially for longer distances. This is because they are used to dealing with air travel and less sure of costs (or reliability) of travel by alternative means.
  • For venues such as the Sage Gateshead who are already undertaking significant greening actions, key challenges are the need for new initiatives, refreshing existing sustainability schemes, and re-engaging staff. One-off projects of events such as festivals or specific events are an excellent opportunity for this, as they offer a setting to pilot new, more ambitious initiatives.
  • For some venues and promoters, the Green Rider and its suggestions were very clear. For others, the openness and encouragement to take action according to their own context proved more difficult, and they were unsure as to how to interpret it.
  • Some promoters remarked that many of the Green Rider suggestions were commonplace for those who usually organise small-scale music events – or at least, they were commonplace for the promoter or venue in question. This does highlight an on-going challenge: for small music shows, efficiencies and sustainability are in many ways built into practice simply due to scale – so that for venues and promoters the perception is that there isn’t much they can do that will really make a difference.
“This project as well as other projects presented by the Europe Jazz Network are dealing with really important things and themes that are surrounding us: migration, the environment, building a new audience for this music…. Exploring these themes together with concerts, both practically and philosophically, makes sense because you can carry a new knowledge of what is around you, bring it to people, and share the music: music and exploration match very well.”
- Take The Green Train participating promoter
“This work should be supported even more strongly – with more gigs, for the project to be more well-known, and to allow more venues to participate!”
- Take The Green Train participating promoter
Key learnings and recommendations:
  • Touring by train often happens in the context of a specific project – as is the case with this tour and Graham McKenzie’s book, and other projects such as Yolda/En Route , which explored the themes of music and migration [ http://projectyolda.be/onderweg-yolda-en-route/ ]. This means that where additional travelling time is involved, this is more easily justifiable as it is ‘productive time’ that is appropriately costed in, rather than being perceived as ‘wasted time’. Attempts to travel sustainably for a ‘normal’ tour have at times been very challenging due to the extra time required, which can mean extra costs for overnight accommodation and per diems. This is exacerbated where there are no good rail connections between otherwise geographically proximate cities.
  • The choice of bookings and venues was at times impacted by the travel constraints. Several promoters/venues who would have liked to take part were unable to do so, as routing them in on the required dates would not have been possible via train travel. On the other hand, the tour also enabled new connections and relationships to be built as some promoters and venues were approached based on their geographic location. The EJN network and participant’s personal contacts proved an invaluable strength in making this happen. When trying to tour sustainably, it makes sense to book dates in conjunction with travel plans, so that the most effective rail connections can be taken advantage of (rather than booking travel after dates have been confirmed). Over time, new touring routes along the European railways with strong promoter relationships at their heart may be built up in this way – and culturally, promoter concerns about the risks of long-distance rail travel can be alleviated as costs and reliability are better understood.
  • Several promoters pointed out that while it is possible for an artist such as Evan Parker to undertake a project like this, this is not be true for everyone. He has the standing to insist on train travel, and a wide range of promoters and venues happy to host one of his shows. An up-and-coming musician attempting to carve a name out for themselves will try and play at as many venues to as many people as possible, and will not always have the option to negotiate dates – so illogical touring routes with a lot of back-and-forth travel in Europe are much more commonplace. Some well-understood ‘touring routes’ could help to address this – and even closer cooperation between promoters/venues in geographic proximity to ‘share’ artists (and therefore travel costs). This could also have a positive impact on artist well-being, as the stress of travel would likely be reduced.
  • Implementing changes takes time for planning and setting up more environmentally sustainable alternatives. In some instances, dates were confirmed very late – so venues had little time to put in place any substantial measures. Any venues wanting to green their operations should leave a sufficiently long timeframe for preparation and implementation – and any touring parties requesting any new green initiatives should leave sufficient lead time for the venue to fulfil these requests.
  • Artists and touring parties should design their own Green Riders based on their specific preferences and usual needs and demands so that expectations and communication between venues/promoters and artists is clear.
  • Venues and promoters should share information on their environmental sustainability initiatives as standard, preferably on a dedicated page on their websites, but as a minimum with incoming artists and productions.
  • While it is important to acknowledge that by its nature, small-scale touring has limited environmental impacts, there is a need to overcome this as a perceived barrier to action. Many small actions can still add up to a large impact – especially in areas such as travel/transport and energy (for example: what if all jazz promoters and venues switched to green electricity providers?). They can also lead to a large impact locally. For some additional ideas, this Generator: Mapped Out guide is a good starting point. [http://www.juliesbicycle.com/resources/generator-mapped-out-guide ] . Alternatively, there is an opportunity to focus more on public narrative both through engaging audiences or through higher-level political campaigning, both of which may have a greater impact than individual local action – but will also be far easier if they can be approached from a position of integrity, where action is already occurring at home. 
  • Projects like Take the Green Train carry a lot of space for potential meanings and opportunities. The tour sparked a lot of reflection among the participants and organisers: on what it means to be ‘green’; on art’s relationship to broader civic challenges; on the politics of music and the philosophical relationship between improvised music, pushing the boundaries, and working in new ways; on the transience of a live experience and our own transience and how we can feel and frame something that takes place at the scale of atmospheric climate change… It is important to recognise the value of these reflections triggered by a straightforward call to action, and the potential spirals of further action they can create if fostered.
  • A future project could also look at the audience experience in relation to this, what the response was, and whether the inclusion of information on Take the Green Train contributed to audience behaviour change in any sphere.
A clear possible next action for the EJN is to undertake some research among its membership, to find out which member promoters/venues are most easily (and cost-effectively) connected via train travel and start building these relationships with a view to building future green touring networks.
Additionally, gathering additional case studies on the different ways that different venues, promoters, and artists are interpreting environmental sustainability in their operations will help to build a canvas of stories that can be referred to by other promoters for additional guidance and inspiration in what might work best in their individual circumstances – and begin establishing what ‘standard practice’ should be. Some initial case studies can be found on the EJN website. [ link to case studies section ]
For further practical information on greening tours, events, and venues, please see the resources page.