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Me and My Funder: Konflux and the SITA Trust

Miranda Thain, Project Development Manager for Konflux Theatre in Education, writes about their partnership with SITA Trust which distributes funding through the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme. The landfill tax provided funds for environmental education and performing arts and supported their production 'What on Earth?!'

Kate Engel, Project Manager at SITA Trust, replies on how they see the importance of creative work.

konflux what on earth

Miranda Thain writes:

The secret to a good funding relationship is shared values and objectives. SITA Trust, who are a Landfill Tax Distributor, funded Konflux Theatre in Education to visit 40 primary schools in the Eco-Schools programme with performances of our play What on Earth?! in 2005. The play raised young peoples’ awareness of a wide range of environmental issues, particularly to do with waste and recycling.

We heard about the funding scheme through talking with people when we first toured What on Earth?!. All we heard from teachers, particularly in Northern Ireland, was that it tied in perfectly with the Eco-Schools programme. We did some research, and decided that Eco-Schools was something we wanted to align ourselves with. We made the initial connection to discuss whether it was a project that interested them.

Our application succeeded partly because its creative approach captured the imagination of the SITA Trust Board. The Trust recognized the importance and impact of our contribution. They were keen that we communicated to our audience that landfill is still an important part of the waste hierarchy and a reality of everyday life, even with ‘greener’ alternatives being developed.

We’ve been fortunate to have received funding from environmental organisations in Northern Ireland over the years. This time, though, we were the ‘commissioned company’ rather than the ‘lead organisation’ so in a way it was new ground for us.

konflux what on earth 1
What on Earth?!-So Furry Crew at lunch
We were given a lot of freedom with the project. We agreed a reasonable time frame with SITA and agreed to target Eco-Schools. Other than that, we were allowed to choose our touring areas and had complete creative control of the style and content of the performance and workshop. The funding allowed us to tour across four different regions, and in so doing gave us an opportunity to bring our work not just to new schools, but also to new environmental contacts with whom we have developed good working relationships.

SITA’s interests were in funding environmental education through theatre – and definitely in that order. From an educational and creative perspective, the tour was a great success because not only were we able to create a performance of integrity and real value for schools, we had the resources to back it up with a workshop approach, allowing the children an opportunity to apply their learning in a different context. Also through the Teacher Resources we could offer schools a programme for looking at environmental issues through the traditional curriculum.

    The Landfill Tax Credit Scheme (LTCS) encourages landfill operators, like SITA UK, to support a range of environmental projects by giving them a 90% tax credit against their donations to ‘Environmental Bodies’.

    ENTRUST, The Environmental Trust Scheme Regulatory Body, regulates the LTCS.

    Environmental Bodies, like SITA Trust, enrol with ENTRUST as Landfill Tax Distributors, and receive monies from landfill operators to spend on projects which fall within the approved ‘objects’ of the Landfill Tax Regulations.

    Kate Engel, the SITA Trust Project Manager for the North of England who was responsible for What on Earth?! said:

    My role was to ensure that the correct messages were getting across. I went to see one of the performances. It was great, great to be in there and see the kids and their responses. Waste management as an issue is very complex.

    If a play can make kids think even about one aspect of it and begin to think about what they do with their waste, that’s a benefit. This is the age that we need to get to in order to make changes.

    We had a video of Konflux’s previous work and a very clear idea of the project and how it would be delivered. It was easy to communicate, we had a good relationship. Konflux answered all our questions quickly and easily. I remember this project out of the hundreds I am project manager for, because it was very straightforward working with Konflux.


Miranda Thain continues:

We had a small initial problem as SITA Trust's remit was only to fund work which addressed recycling and landfill, and whilst this is the show’s theme, it deals with other issues.

The UK population fills a landfill area the size of a swimming pool with rubbish every 4 minutes 12 seconds.
Source: The Observer
12 February 2006.

Of the tax paid to the Government for every tonne of waste that goes to landfill, 6.8%, or around £4.5M, is redirected to SITA Trust.

The Board wanted us to come up with a percentage figure of stage time directly relating to recycling and landfill, but were understanding when we explained the difficulties of attributing percentages to a creative work. After much negotiation and analysis of the script, we settled on 75%, which in many ways is ridiculous, but is a good example of how guidelines need to be adhered to even when not specifically geared to arts projects or even particularly relevant to them.

We made a few alterations to expand learning points linked to the waste hierarchy in both play and workshop, but this was not demanded by SITA Trust, but rather a move by us to ensure the play was as balanced and fertile a learning opportunity as possible.

konflux what on earth 1
What on Earth?!-Colin at North Pole
The project achieved everything that they cited as important when the funding was agreed. We toured to the required number of schools, within the timeframe and on budget. More than that, the project boosted interest in recycling schemes in schools, and boosted membership of Eco-Schools and its profile for local initiatives involving young people working towards sustainability.

Ours was the last round of applications before the government's decision to remove Object C (providing funding for waste management research, pilot recycling and education), which probably worked strongly in our favour as I know that several landfill tax distributors feel strongly that education projects should still be part of their remit.

There seems to be a current trend, particularly with environmentally targeted funding, for offering opportunities to volunteer and community groups, some of which is a very good thing, but does restrict the options for professional arts and education organisations. As far as raising funds from environmental sources now, we are finding that accessing funding through public agencies who then commission us as the artist is proving much easier.

I would recommend that other companies take every opportunity to challenge the government's decision, as surely there can be no more important role of an environmentally concerned funder than to engage the hearts, minds and imaginations of young audiences.


photos: Rob Weaver

Editor's notes

Konflux’s play was within LTCS’s Object C (education), which is now discontinued.
In the Chancellor’s 2006 Budget, there was mention of advancing environmental volunteering opportunities for young people with additional funding to the LTCS, so we wait to see whether that will include education or arts projects.

Eco-Schools is an awards scheme to raise awareness of environmental issues and to encourage school children to develop an environmentally aware approach to energy conservation and waste management in their schools.

Eco-Schools is administered by Environmental Campaigns (ENCAMS) in England, and Tidy Northern Ireland in Northern Ireland. SITA Trust funded the Eco-Schools programme from 1997-2004.

See also Meg Amsden of Nutmet Puppet Company writing about her work funded by the Broads Authority our Features Archive.

published in 2006

"There can be no more important role of an environmentally concerned funder than to engage the hearts, minds and imaginations of young audiences."

Miranda Thain
Konflux Theatre in Education


"Waste management as an issue is very complex. If a play can make kids think even about one aspect of it and begin to think about what they do with their waste, that’s a benefit. This is the age that we need to get to in order to make changes."

Kate Engel
Project Manager, SITA Trust

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