An evening with Rob Hopkins – the Power of Just Doing Stuff talk at Swaffham

Last Thursday we made our way across to the Green Britain Centre at Swaffham to an event organized by East Anglian transition groups, in particular Downham & Villages in Transition and West Norfolk Permaculture  – this was part of the Transition Thursday series of talks being given by Rob Hopkins, co founder of the Transition Network.Transition Thursday Swaffham

The evening was well attended , with some 70 or so transitioners from groups around Norfolk and interested members of the public (including organic gardening celebrity Bob Flowerdew) and the Transition Free Press.  The Green Britain Centre kindly laid on some scrummy organic snacks and drinks.

The event kicked off with introductions from Ben Margolis of West Norfolk Permaculture in familiar transition style,  followed by some brief upates from some of the local transition groups including Kings Lynn and Downham & Villages.  Most of the Norfolk groups have been running for a couple of years longer than us at PiNT,  but as with Peterborough’s Green Back Yard many groups were similarly based around local community growing projects of various types. These have gone from strength to strength, particularly in the case of Transition Norwich which has a particularly vibrant scene in the surrounding area.  Due to the large mostly rural area of Norfolk, attendees came from quite a wide area, from us   in the west  to the North Norfolk coast ,  east to Norwich and further south. The organizers had printed out a massive map of the area to put our names on to see where we were all from, which made interesting viewing by the end of the event!East Anglia Transition Map Our neighbours at Transition Kings Lynn have spent most of their time and energy recently in fighting the massive Cory Energy From Waste Incinerator that was due to have been built at Saddlebrow, near the large Palm Paper Factory. However due to some hard campaigning work engaging successfully with the local community, this scheme has now been overturned, the council have seen sense (and several councillors replaced at the last election) and a new recycling scheme and waste disposal program is to be introduced that will see the majority of waste being properly recycled in a rather more environmentally friendly way (they are hoping for something like a 90% recycling rate that puts most other schemes to shame!)  Of course that just leaves the similar PREL site nearby at Sutton Bridge to contend with but shows what can be achieved.

Rob Hopkins at Swaffham

Rob Hopkins then gave his talk on the Power of Just Doing Stuff  – how local action can change the world, which followed  the theme of his new book. This was an interesting and empowering couple of hours  about how it is possible to create a new kind of resilient, economic future , creating employment and wealth and wellbeing in local communities.  It was about the positive changes that the transition movement has begun to achieve around the world through communities who decide to take a different approach to how they live and work instead of the current “business as usual” model.

The transition movement has spread rapidly around the world, from the UK to North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australasia – with many different initiatives in response to the particular local situations. Interestingly, transition in those countries of the global south is evolving in  a somewhat different  way  to that we are familiar with in the UK. It is based on the same principles, but with more emphasis on social justice , education and food security for local communities, challenging  the status quo and development by growth strategies pushed  NGO’s and big government – alternative development if you like.

For the UK, Rob covered the trials and tribulations of various transition related projects from its Totnes roots to  Transition Tooting’s ultimately successful struggles with the local council bureaucrats  and excellent community energy projects in Brixton,  along with the various local currency schemes (complete with examples  of both Bristol and Brixton pound notes – now highly sought after by international coin collectors!) . He went on to look at initiatives in various countries around the world including Portugal, Brazill and Australia.

One of the main thrusts  in the UK is the REconomy project – which basically  means getting the cash back into the local economy creating more resilient communities, local business and jobs to the benefit of  the local community. Whereas the situation at the moment in most places is that the majority of the money spent locally is just siphoned off to swell the profits of some anonymous corporation elsewhere with little real wealth retained locally.

For example, the majority of money spent in the UK  on groceries –  an astounding 97% – is split between just 8 large suppliers (ie Tesco, Asda, Sainsburys, Morrison etc) .   A growing number of  small projects are starting to counteract this, from  local food co-operatives, bakers and greengrocers to small brewers and community energy companies. These are all individually small projects, locally owned and run, but taken together,  they are empowering communities and starting to make a real difference,Power of Doing Stuff

Rob ended the evening with a brief Q&A session followed by him signing copies of his new book. I now have a copy of this but can certainly recommend it to anyone interested in where transition is going today. It is a relatively small paperback (compared to the Transition Companion), some 160 pages  and is now available to buy online from and elsewhere – or if you can get over to one, one of the Transition Thurday events ( the next one “locally” is on 18 July , organized by Transition Horncastle, Lincolnshire.)

You can see a short video of the Swaffham event on youtube that Rob has just posted!


Birch tapping with the brew club!

Peterborough in Transition’s brand new brew club has kicked off in Birch tapping style. On Friday we went to a secret location to give the ancient art of Birch tapping a go. In the UK, you can tap both Birch and Lime trees for their sap which can be used for a variety of brewing uses, being a base for both beers and wine.

It’s an ancient technique; birch sap can makes a delicious tea or nourishing soft-drink. Boiled down to make a sweet syrup it can be used as a flavouring agent in sauces and marinades for meat, fish or in baking as an alternative to other sweeteners. In many countries, Birch syrup is used as an herbal medicine with antiseptic, anti-parasitic and anti-inflammatory properties.

As the cold weather extended right into the spring the sap was rising slightly later than usual, meaning that we would harvest it in mid-April. If you want more information there are a variety of guides on the web including this one:

The brew club is really informal but if you would like to get involved then just email transitionpeterborough at gmail dot com. The next brew on the list is Dandelion champagne, followed by Japanese Knotweed beer…brewing can be a legitimate conservation activity after all!

On another drinking note, everyone is invited to come along to the monthly Green Drinks held at the Ostrich Inn. Details can be found here:!/events/535295789862084/.

Visit to Transition Heathrow

On 13th April a group of us will be visiting Transition Heathrow. If you are interested in coming along then please get in touch via our usual email address (see the about page). This is the first of a series of visits we have planned for the year. We’re also hoping to visit Organic Lea, Nottingham, and planning a weekend trip to Manchester to visit Manchester Veg People.

We’ll be publishing more details of these and other events when dates and times are confirmed. Check our event calendar.

News round up

The February Peterborough in Transition meeting ad PECT was a very productive meeting one, with lots of ideas discussed. We decided to take up an offer from Chime Creation Centre as a place to host some meetings, and we decided that Chime would be a good place to hold film nights. We decided to meet from 7-9pm on the third Monday of the month. As well as showing a film we’ll have a discussion afterwards. The first film night was on Monday, and proved very enjoyable. I took along a freshly baked coffee and walnut cake (it was still in the oven at half past six!), and others brought vegetable crisps and biccies, and the discussion after the film was very lively, with subjects touched on including advertising, feminism, the price of baked beans, and how to find the time and energy to learn to make better choices when buying food and other stuff. If you’d like more information about future film nights then send an email to the address on our “about us” page.

We’re also having a short series of additional meetings to try to firm up a calendar of events for the remainder of 2013. Ben is looking into the possibility of holding a “Green Challenge week” with other local transition initiatives. The idea is that those taking part try to make radical changes to their lives for a week to get as close as they can to having no impact on the environment, and that we document the things that make it hard or impossible to achieve this.

We are also trying to engage with various “consultations” being held by Peterborough City Council. I went to a forum on our local bus services last night.

Family Group Swap Event at GBY

The PinT family group met at the Green Backyard on Dec 2nd for an informal get together and swap event. Items that found proud new owners included DVDs, books and toys (Have you finished the cat jigsaw yet Charlie?) , Wellington boots, clothing and a wallet made from Zippy from Rainbow (which one of the children got to before I could 🙁 ). There were quite a few children present, and I was pleased to see them enjoying playing with some vintage plastic meccano I took in. Later on the children enjoyed playing with a Peppa Pig game. There were scones (made with mincemeat instead of dried fruit), and some home made gingerbread too.
We met in the new GBY building, and it was the first time some of us had seen it. Meanwhile volunteers were continuing the job of taking down the old GBY buildings: the old kitchen was nearly gone, and the office/workshop building looks as though it will soon follow.

PinT members hunting for treasures at the Swap Event!

You can find more photos on the family group facebook page.