Saturday 23 October 2010

The Summit and the Cellar

Just as I wouldn't have chopped firewood before I joined Transition, neither would I have spent all day at the Waveney Rural Summit in Bungay's Fisher Theatre listening to people talk about local businesses and social enterprise. And three years ago I definitely would not have been co-leading a Sustainable Bungay Transition workshop with Josiah, Charlotte and Nick on Transport and Economics and Livelihoods.

Local transport? Mine was a plane to Spain.

Upstairs in the theatre V.C. Cooke Ltd., a waste management company, (who supplied the soil for our Bungay Library Community Garden), talked about their zero waste policy, Suffolk County Council about bringing fibre optics and faster broadband to rural areas and the Suffolk Foundation about helping set up social enterprise grants. The Fisher Theatre Youth Group showed a DVD of their productions and local Tory MP Peter Aldous presented community awards and told us he 'believed' in the Big Society. But first we have to climb a brick wall, he said.

Meanwhile down in the cellar, it was several degrees cooler than everywhere else. That's where we held our grassroots Transition Workshop. It began to warm as Josiah spoke about Transition as a people-led response to the interrelated realities of Peak Oil, Climate Change and Economic instability, and what Sustainable Bungay as a Transition group has organised, from a food conference, Growing Local!, to Bungay Community Bees. Charlotte introduced the 63 patterns, now called ingredients, which make up a Transition initiative, and which range from individual actions (Standing Up To Speak) through outreach and scaled-up community projects (e.g. CSAs) to engaging with national government.

Splitting into two groups we discussed how Transport, and Economics and Livelihoods might look in the future. Charlotte's group talked hitchhiking, biodiesel, insurance and car clubs. Several transport activists of a certain age had already set up community bus services in Bungay, though some schemes had not worked because people wanted to travel when they chose. In a future of leaner energy and less money, we would have to be more flexibile with time and more willing to share space.

In Economics and Livelihoods we discussed the need to create more local jobs and services. The whole mindset of passive consumption is going to be challenged in the coming times, and we'll need to be more directly involved in the fabric of our everyday lives. For example, a social enterprise could deliver locally-produced 'tiffins' to homes and offices and also teach people to engage in food production from growing to cooking. To be more aware of where our food comes from, more engaged in the business of life. This would have real, positive benefits for our physical, emotional and mental health.

We were still happily discussing when lunchtime came and no one seemed to be in a hurry to leave the cellar. As Josiah and Charlotte summed up the workshop in the theatre upstairs afterwards, I became aware of one ingredient which marks a lot of our Transition events and activities. It was upbeat. We were speaking for a new time.

Pics: Waveney Rural Summit; Josiah talks about Transition in the Cellar; Charlotte Sums Up Transport in the Theatre

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