I went to a Take One Action Film Festival screening of Four Horsemen (see blurry pictures above and below) the other night at Filmhouse. Take One Action is a company that wants to get people to … take one action and change the world, and does it by using films to stimulate discussion. Two words came into my mind after the screening: Agency and Collaboration.

Many people feel their power to influence events or actions on global issues is very limited – their sense of agency is low. The audience on Saturday was full of people who are engaged, concerned and, to be blunt, probably of a class and status to be better able to influence things than many. Yet one of the questions from this audience, which won some applause, was about how we could do anything worthwhile when China was so overwhelming in its influence. Even this group feels a lack of agency.

Collaboration is surely the key and one thing the arts do well is bring people together. A mass of people join forces to watch a band, see a show, even to a lesser extent look at visual art: the art wouldn’t exist in quite the same way, or certainly wouldn’t be experienced in the same way, if there weren’t others around you sharing it with you. We come away with a sense of togetherness and group-feeling: we have been through the same experience together.


Such collaboration and shared feeling can increase people’s sense of agency – bigger-than-self problems can become more manageable; others facing the same problems and struggling with the same challenges means more brain cells are working on them; and knowing that others are interested in what you’re interested in makes you feel less alone. Creative Carbon Scotland’s Carbon Management Projects use this important collaboration: people learn from each other at group meetings and share experience, tips and knowledge.

This is why I think that cultural events, where people come together to jointly experience some cultural work, can be a powerful force in bringing about change in society. Cultural organisations, that promote such events, can play their role. I’m researching this in a part-time PhD at the University of Edinburgh and working on it through Creative Carbon Scotland. Contact me if you want to know more.