What did you get for your birthday?" It is an easy question to ask your friend's young daughter, but you sometimes get a useful answer. As Sheila McCubbin did, when she was proudly shown an entrancing book called Rescue Mission: Planet Earth, a children's edition of Agenda 21.
Agenda 21 is Britain's environmental agenda for the 21st century, to which 179 countries signed up at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. Since Sheila McCubbin is the co-ordinator for Arts is Magic (AiM), and was looking for a theme for this year's festival, the result is The Art of the Environment at the Tramway next week.
"Festival" may not be quite the right word for the annual Glasgow arts bash. It is more an Alton Towers of the imagination, a hugely serious funfair of making and sharing, a marketplace of ideas, with a touch of a circus, where the audience are the performers. Now seven years old, born in the "Year of Culture", it is the thriving sibling of director Dr Larry Riccio's stateside original in Washington.
His recipe is both simple and daunting. Take the Tramway (the Scottish Exhibition Centre costs too much) and fill it with craftsmen and artists who can readily share their skills with others. Men like Billy (Billy the Wood) Russell, who can let youngsters turn their own spinning top on his pole lathe. Or artists like Aileen Neillie, whose tiles are made from a quick-hardening clay that needs no firing.
These and others have individual skills to pass on. But perhaps more central to the AiM philosophy is the collective principle. Possibly the most conspicuous demonstration of this will be "Creeping Roots", a space-filling structure of woven withies, which will be made, over two days, by hundreds of hands. The willow will be tied and festooned with wool which will be woven from the raw fleece.
Banners will help make the Tramway child-sized. Lengths of fabric have been sent to schools, together with a "soundscape" tape which children are invited to interpret visually, in graphic or phonetic style. Also on display will be postcards, on which children have made an image or collage of their home area. Afterwards these will go on display in the AiM Washington gallery.
Around the wall will be drawn the outline of a cityscape, which groups of children will fill in with their own detail, the result of a child's vision of the future city. Gamesters will get their chance with "Beo", the green answer to board games. Here you play with, rather than against, your opponent. Produced by the Living Water charitable trust, it shows how collective solutions can be found to environmental problems.
AiM will show that the art of making something out of nothing is a magic we all have. At the same time, it will suggest that for these children to make more out of less, to make peace and not war, to cycle and recycle, might be their way to survive the millennium.
The Art of the Environment is at the Tramway, Glasgow, June 19 and 20, 10am-3pm, tel: 0141 943 1489