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The Lyric Hammersmith keeps 180,000 bees on its roof as part of its continuing commitment to going green. Sian Alexander tells the story.

Photo of beehives on top of the Lyric Hammersmith
Bees at the Lyric

© Omari Daniel

As a leading producing theatre and the largest creative hub in west London, the Lyric Hammersmith welcomes around 200,000 people a year to its building, including 30,000 young people at classes and activities. We have nine Young Lyric partners based here, three resident companies, 50 permanent staff and over 500 freelancers each year – all under one roof.

We are always looking for ways to keep the conversation fun, motivating and accessible

Our roof is also now a symbol of our long-standing commitment to environmental sustainability. As well as our public roof terrace, a green oasis in the heart of an urban environment, we have a green sedum roof - covered in plants - installed in 2015 during our last major capital redevelopment.

Last year we teamed up with the local business improvement district, HammersmithLondon, to install three beehives on the roof, now home to 180,000 Buckfast honey bees. They seem to be happy here, and this summer we enjoyed a substantial honey harvest. We sell the honey in our café and at local markets, where it is a great conversation starter about our efforts to go green.

We also plan to incorporate the honey into our food menu. BeeUrban, the company that maintains the hives, addresses the declining bee population by supporting bees and providing safe areas for them to thrive. Bees have a critical role in food production, as around a third of the food we consume relies on pollination. The bees also help our green roof mature through pollination, and help improve air quality and biodiversity in the local area.

Green strategy

Having bees on our roof is just one of the many things we do to be more environmentally friendly, and it sits within a much larger green strategy for the theatre.

We have an active Green Team, including representatives from every department, who drive forward our commitment to sustainability, as laid out in our sustainability policy and action plan. We have been measuring and managing our carbon emissions for nine years, and our building has a BREEAM rating of 'excellent'.

We strive to ensure our green values run through all elements of our business. For example, our building has air-source heat pumps and predominantly LED lighting; we send zero waste to landfill, working with First Mile and Scenery Salvage; our energy supply is 100% renewable electricity and green, frack-free gas; our finance and administration teams run on a paperless system; and all new staff and creative teams are given a reusable water bottle on their first day.

We recently refurbished our auditoria, incorporating our sustainability principles, and our studio now has a 100% LED lighting rig. But we are always looking to improve. This year we are focusing on energy management, and hope to install solar panels.

Advocacy is also important. Each year we run a staff and audience green campaign. Last year we tackled single-use plastic with our #PlasticFreeLyric campaign, and we no longer sell plastic bottles in our bars. This year our focus is #FoodforThought, looking at the environmental impact of food – what we eat, how we grow it, what it comes in and how we get rid of it.

Over four weeks we are hosting a range of activities to learn more about our food choices. We are introducing a vegetarian and vegan specials menu in our bar and grill, visiting allotments and trying alternative foods. We are also running a stall at the local food market to engage the public on food packaging, as well as addressing food waste.

Carbon reduction

All this work is underpinned by an absolute commitment to carbon reduction. Last year we reduced our energy emissions by a further 15% and achieved a 17% reduction in water use per visitor. Overall, we have reduced energy use and emissions by more than 50% since reopening in 2015.

We are committed to environmental sustainability because we know climate change is the greatest issue we face. Scientists tell us we have ten years to make urgent change, and arts organisations and artists have a vital role in raising awareness and forging the future.

The team here puts a huge amount of work, thought and energy into the conversation around climate change. So we were thrilled to win The Stage Award for Sustainability this year in recognition of our long-term commitment and achievements. While the issue of climate change can feel both urgent and distant, catastrophic and hopeful, we are always looking for ways to keep the conversation fun, motivating and accessible.

Sian Alexander is the Executive Director of Lyric Hammersmith.
Tw @LyricHammer | #LoveGreen

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Photo of Sian Alexander