Something very special is happening around the country. Local communities are taking control of their lives, especially over environmental issues, as the government has failed them. It is happening here too, in a part of the country adjacent to Mid-Suffolk where with the Green Party has taken majority control over the district council – the first majority control Green council in Europe. Clearly, the community know what they want and they’re prepared to go out and get it.
A green fair on Fair Green
A short while ago, in the small town of Diss, Norfolk, a gathering took place. The Fair Green Green Fair was organised by the neighbourhood association, the local repair café and members of the PlaNet Diss project. Coinciding with the King’s coronation, this event was to honour our new environmentalist king, and to celebrate the community. The forecast rain held off and the enthusiasm was palpable.
The day was planned with sustainability in mind. Amongst the 40 odd local businesses, the seed swap, nature crafts and repair café, stood a ‘Green living marquee’ where a platform was given to local speakers and a public consultation took place to identify areas of local interest and plan future goals.
The organisers’ objectives
The Fair Green Green Fair convenors’ aims are to “re-invent Communities” and promote sustainable living. Their focus is to create a cooperative, sustainable society with people working together for mutual benefit in a well-organised way. They want local food, transport, energy, trades, services and care to be provided by community networks built with trust and cooperation. They are hoping that the Green District council will support these aims by connecting local groups that already exist and strengthening cooperation between them.
East Anglia Bylines recently reported on Earth Day in Woodbridge, Suffolk, where a similar community event was hosted by Transition Woodbridge. The Transition Network is a global network of communities coming together to work on sustainability, with their tagline ‘from oil dependence to local resilience’.
In the green tent, members of the public were invited to put stars next to the ideas they liked most, and to give their own ideas. Results prioritised a community owned and run shop and meeting place, ideally utilising disused buildings in the area, an idea that has proved successful in Ipswich. This would help bring people together, support local businesses and provide a central hub for the many activities that come under the heading of sustainable living. A repair café, transport coop, local food network and energy savers were also high on the list of priorities.
Central to some of these ideas is PlaNet Diss, a new social network app, which will enable people in the local area to connect in all things sustainable – where people can offer and seek support from others, share resources, and promote events. Next for the organisers is to turn PlaNet Diss into a legal entity, potentially a cooperative, in order to apply for and receive community funding in the pursuit of their goals.
The importance of trust, support and collaboration
The key message of the day – the importance of creating an economy based on trust and support – is similar to one growing around the country in connection with saving our planet. All the speakers explained how they promote this message.
Adrian Ramsay, national co-leader of the Green Party, spoke of the importance of creating a fairer and greener society, one that will be more resilient against climate change.
David Wolfe talked about Wakelyns, his organic farm, one of the longest established and most diverse agroforestry sites in the country. It is engaged in “enterprise stacking”, which means hosting small land-based businesses which in turn maximises the input and output of the 23 hectares they occupy together. It is all about “food, people, the environment and much more”.
Bonny Williams spoke about Community Climate Action, a group that aims to mobilise the 60% of the UK’s population who are worried about climate change, while creating a resilient and prosperous community. The group holds meetings for local people in order to identify community issues and create action plans.
Gary Alexander, one of the organisers, talked about the emerging vision of caring for the wellbeing of people and the natural world, not money and power. It is about people working together for mutual benefit and care for the environment. That is much more than just climate change! The vision is summarised in a three-minute video.
A vision in the making
East Anglia Bylines reported recently on the apathy that many people are feeling, because of a lack of trust and a belief that nothing will change. However, the Fair Green Green Fair is a sign of a groundswell of action building through communities coming together to effect change through their own energy, collaboration and determination to build a better world. Now could be a good time to get involved in local initiatives and be part of the change that is coming.