Tuesday 19 April 2022


Taking Climate Experts out of the Box: Part 1 - A Practical Guide in Four Parts.

Image: Marega Palser


Part 1 – Origins & Emergence


Swansea University was where I studied Psychology as an undergraduate in the early 80’s. There I met Paul Davies with whom I went on to form Volcano Theatre Company. For the next twenty-five years we created distinct and challenging work, which we performed throughout the UK and internationally, mostly within the ‘black box’ of theatre with the odd foray into ‘site-specific’ creations.


During a year-long sabbatical from Volcano in 2010, I had my first introduction to the artful process of something called ‘facilitation’ at Schumacher College on a course called ‘Eco-facilitation’, developed by Jenny Mackewn. Since then, I have become increasingly fascinated with facilitation in all its many forms.


Now, more than a decade later, having left Volcano to follow the spirit of ‘Emergence’ and the call of the wild, I use the same approach, skills and methods I used to make theatre to create transformative experiences and effect change working with individuals and groups. In short, facilitation is at the heart of my work as an ‘experiential ritual artist’.


I recently returned to Swansea University and my formative stomping ground, almost forty years after having graduated, in an entirely different set of circumstances. As a result of my work with Emergence, I received an invitation to work with a team of professors and researchers - including Tavi Murray, Kirsti Bohata, Osian Elias and Anna Pigott - to explore “seeing” and “feeling” future sea-level rise through the eyes of climate experts and artists.


In collaboration with artist and dear friend Marega Palser, I designed and delivered the ‘Climate Lab,’ a guided two-day process inviting scientists and engineers ‘out of the box’ of scientific enquiry. It was a space for them to connect with their emotions and how they feel about the climate research they are involved in.


Alongside the process of research, the team embarked upon, I entered a deep enquiry of my own. I determined to witness and track the process, reflecting on the high points, the turning points, and essential ingredients of creative facilitation through the lens of this particular project. At the heart of my learning is the understanding of how vital it is that we create space for emotions and the alchemical process of Emergence within any change process. This essay (in four parts) represents my own personal ‘Climate Lab’ research enquiry. Writing it has helped shape my thinking on how we might create more engaging, enjoyable spaces and processes which help manifest meaningful change. I hope it helps catalyse your own thoughts, questions and conversations. I would love to hear your responses. Thank you for reading.


Image: Marega Palser


 To Be Continued…


Part 2 – The Alchemy of Facilitation – details the processof creating the Climate Lab

Part 3 – The Gathering – details the first day of theClimate Lab

Part 4 – The Responding – details the second day of theClimate Lab.


Fern Smith Easter 2022.




Fern is a Ritual Artist and Craniosacral Therapist.






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