Friday 17 September 2010

Waveney Greenpeace Celebration Gig

This year’s Waveney Greenpeace event on September 5th was the last to be held on Farmer Paul’s land. We were going to help Josiah set up and run the tea tent. The day before, the exhaust fell off our car and Charlotte discovered me in the garden with a ball of string and some chicken wire.

“That’s very Mexican,” she said.
“Very apt for the make do and mend week,” I replied. “How on earth are we going to get there?”

I made several phone calls. No one was at home. I left messages.

I needn’t have worried. Josiah drove cross-country to pick us up next morning. The sun was shining and we talked about harvest and fruit and the unusual apple tree he’d found, badly flailed on the road side but full of fuit on the field side.

“Will anyone come?” people were wondering. I was too as I secured the tea tent tablecloths with gaffer tape. The atmosphere was unusually quiet. What had grown into the large Waveney Greenpeace Fair over the last 20 years had been whittled down to a Celebration Gig in honour of everyone who had made it happen. There were to be no commercial stalls this time.

We set up the Transition East 2010 table and put flowers and fruit from the hedgerows and our gardens on the tea tent tables – buddleia, fuchsia, sloes, dogwood, blackberry, ash.

I went visiting: Tom Foxe was setting up his cycle dynamo in the food tent next door(click here for his bike generator workshop this month) for the acoustic musicians. A truckload of old settees and easy chairs arrived and two young men created a make-shift front room for the audience.

‘Whoops, better move the Greenpeace banner from above the bp supports climate change! poster in case people don’t get the joke,” said Emily. The map about Canadian tar sands extraction remained.

I spoke with Adam about his elegant composting toilets, and with Eloise and Adele, who were setting up facepainting and a fairy garden for children. Sally, one of the veteran organisers, lent me her scissors.
“They belonged to my mother,” she instructed me. “Ten minutes.”

The gig began at midday. Josiah looked ruefully at the bubbling tea urn.
"Last year I was having to fill it constantly by now," he said.
We looked at the empty tables and the occasional person wandered by.
"Oh well, I can freeze the flapjacks."
"What, all 320 of them?" I asked.

We made ourselves a hot drink. He explained to me how to make five kinds of flapjacks – very easy, not time consuming. And then I explored the inside of the old caravan behind the tent.

The flapjacks were the metaphor for the Greenpeace event downshift. Usually in the tea tent there are cakes of all shapes and sizes, and huge plates of sandwiches being frantically constructed and consumed all day long. This year there were flapjacks and Celebration cake. Minimal, but delicious.

Then people began to arrive. By one o’ clock the tea was flowing and the piles of flapjacks were diminishing. I really got into selling Malcolm's vibrant chilli plants (Serranos and Ring of Fire) from the Transition East stall, (mind you I was dressed for the part in a flowery Mexican guayabera).

"Mark you have to come dancing!" said Charlotte dragging me away from my sales pitch - first to the Norwich Samba and then Uncle Romeo, a group of men of a certain age (like me) in big wigs playing 70s funk and disco classics, like Don’t Leave Me This Way and Red Light. They were awesome. The band could really play and sing and had the whole music tent boogying and roaring with laughter... though I did experience a tinge of embarrassment when Charlotte began whooping along with several other very energetic women.

As we left the fields that evening we passed Farmer Paul on the track. We thanked him and said we'd really enjoyed ourselves. He told us he had too. "Like it was in the beginning," he said.

Pics: Top banner - Setting Up the Tea Tent and the Transition East table at the Waveney Greenpeace Celebration Gig; Middle Banner - Nick and I and flowery Mexican guayabera in the old caravan, Tom Foxe and his daughter charging up the batteries, and 'people did come'; Bottom banner - Fuchsias, Chili plants and tea mugs, Josiah's chocolate flapjacks, outside the Greenpeace tea tent


  1. What a delightful piece of writing! You've really captured the flavour of this year's event. Hopefully it will be held at our place next year, but can't announce yet ... Would you mind if I mentioned the Waveney Greenpeace website on here, so people could check for more details? xx

  2. Thank you! What a lovely compliment.

    I've put a link to the Waveney Greenpeace website at the top of the piece.

    Look forward to hearing about next year's event.

    All the best, Mark