february - may 2010
spring - issue 60
Emanio Vestri Pennae Spread Your Wings*
ENJOY: your 3 month guide to the best of the alternative west WIN: a lotta bottle, instant organic gardens & stained glass workshops DISCOVER: green, food, family, activism, events, news, campaigns, courses FIND: everything from acupucture to zen in our unique A-Z directory *no butterflies were harmed in the making of this cover
the spark inside this issue welcome Despite the
sadness over Haiti and the disappointment of Copenhagen, there’s vigour, spirit and determination in the air this Spring. All over the West people are forging ahead with their projects, plans, hopes and dreams. We’ve got DIY anarchy, community gardening, spiritual activism, self-building, rites of passage, inspiring elders, women changing the world, men changing nappy culture, theatre flouting convention and some quality ideas for down-time in a luxury yurt or tipi. Enjoy the springtime! Love from the Spark team…
three months of life worth living
ignite events classes, meets, retreats & fairs
beautiful, secluded yurts and tipis
q & a
Dr Hebe Welbourn The ultimate in earthy luxury: the West’s yurt and tipi havens
planet self-builds, bio-gas, chip fat
people anarchy, spiritual activism
(left to right) Vicki West (commissioning editor), Ann Sheldon (advertising manager), Darryl Bullock (business manager), Beccy Golding (production manager), Samantha di Giovanni (accounts) and Will Paice (designer). (not pictured) John Dawson (publisher), Tilly Black (proof reading); Jo Halladey (photography). Contributors: Nathan Eidenstacht, Natalie Fee, Hannah Latham, Fiona McClymont, Kate Burrell, Kate Evans, Jo Middleton, Katie Nichols, David Barrie, Emma Geen Interns: Emily Waddell, Kristina Lupton
Bristol’s Eco-Veggie Fayre 2010
Tuesday to Thursday 10am - 5pm
family Quaker, physician and traveller Hebe Welbourn
sharing, healing, acting, talking
what we do
Sharing land, growing together
Rites of passage for young people
Please go to the inside back page for our affordable ad rates.
the small print
Advertisers are advised that all copy is their sole responsibility under the Trade Protection Act. All adverts must comply with the British Code of Advertising Practice. We reserve the right to refuse, amend, withdraw or otherwise deal with advertisements submitted to us at our absolute discretion and without explanation • Blue Sax Publishing Ltd can accept no liability for any loss or damage resulting from omission or inaccuracies relating to telephone numbers, wording, spacing or positioning or other material regardless of how caused • We reserve the right to vary print run by 1000 up or down• Blue Sax Publishing Ltd, who publish The Spark, cannot take any responsibility for the quality of an advertiser’s service or advertiser’s conduct. In choosing an advertiser you may wish to consult the appropriate professional bodies • The Spark title can only be used under current licence from Blue Sax Publishing Ltd • Intellectual copyright remains with the publishers of The Spark - Blue Sax Publishing Ltd© All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without permission of the publishers.
inspiring the younger generation
(ad enquiries) email@example.com (ad text or alterations) firstname.lastname@example.org (editorial) email@example.com
food special 14
The UK’s biggest free independent ethical quarterly, The Spark reaches 99,000 readers in Cheltenham, Gloucester, Stroud, Taunton, Glastonbury, Swindon, Bath and Bristol. Our editorial is independent so no advertorials for us. We report on local solutions and people making a difference to their lives and their communities, while our adverts cover a range of ideas to help make the world a better place. We’re looking for new freelance writers (green issues and social change) so get in touch and share your enthusiasm/expertise.
growing communally, nutrition
86 Colston Street, Bristol BS1 5BB
Tel: 0117 914 34 34 www.thespark.co.uk
green goodies, ethical products
A-Z directory of complementary therapists, eco-services and more
competitions 49 rocket gardens, creative classes rear view 49 our resident cartoonist Kate Evans
changemaker 50 28
Ethical labelling laid bare
Win! An organic rocket garden
Natracare’s Susie Hewson
booking form 51 Buy an ad to reach 99,000 people
compiled by Emily Waddell
Get involved! International Women’s Day March 6 Events all day outside Bristol Council House and around the region www.internationalwomensday.com
beyond the veil Building
bookish Bath Literature Festival 2010
the Bridge is an exhibition aimed at building understanding between the city’s Muslims and the wider community. One theme is that Islam is a peaceful religion that abhors terrorist acts. From March 1 Easton Community Centre, Bristol
Feb 27-March 7 offers debate, controversy and entertainment, promising literary thrills in the form of Tony Benn, poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy (above) and a Poetry Pub Crawl. www.bathlitfest.org.uk
feisty femme Bristol’s Festival
Italia libero Always fancied learning
a new language but never had the time or money? The Freeconomy Community’s Skillshare starts March 2 with Italian for beginners at the Better Food Company, Bristol. www.justfortheloveofit.org
of Ideas brings another round of discussions and debates to the city, all guaranteed to get you thinking. One worth watching out for is Arguments for the Existence of God, March 3, at St Georges Bristol, with award winning scientist Steven Pinker and bestselling novelist Rebecca Goldstein talking about why, in our rational evolved society, there is still belief in God. It’s also worth looking out for Forty Years of Fun with Feminism, also March 16 at St Georges, an evening hosted by the country’s favourite feminist Germaine Greer, visiting the city to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the publication of her groundbreaking work The Female Eunuch.
meditate on this The Museum
of East Asian Art is offering kids a chance to learn about the art of Zen gardening, March 20. Have a fun session at the museum, making your own miniature Zen garden and learning how to look after it at home. www.meaa.org.uk
No to TESCO on Stokes Croft Jesters comedy club site on Cheltenham Road, Bristol, is earmarked for a Tesco development. There are three Tescos already within one mile of Stokes Croft and 18 Tesco within a three-mile radius. Take action! Send a campaign postcard to Bristol City Council demanding they carry out a meaningful consultation and listen to what the local community really wants. Postcards are available from People’s Republic of Stokes Croft HQ, 37 Jamaica St or Canteen, 80 Stokes Croft. See www.notescoinstokescroft.org.uk, http:// stokescroft.wordpress.com, www.boycotttesco. com, www.tescopoly.org
LAST PUBLIC MEETING Bristol Airport Expansion plans North Somerset Council are set to make their decision on Bristol International Airport’s planning application at a special South Area Committee meeting on March 3. Public numbers at the meeting will show opposition. You can also call/email councillors on the South Area committee (please state clearly the reasons for your opposition, see website for more info) Meeting is 6pm, Town Hall, Weston-Super-Mare. www.stopbia.com Councillors to contact: Elphan Ap Rees (firstname.lastname@example.org), Terry Porter (email@example.com), Ann Harley (firstname.lastname@example.org), Tony Lake (email@example.com) Tim Marter (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Bristolians Against Fluoridation & The Safe Water Campaign for Gloucestershire Bristol Primary Care Trust and SW Strategic Health Authority are planning to routinely fluoridate the water supply of Bristol, BANES, N Somerset & S Glos, allegedly to combat tooth decay in the general population. Opponents argue that synthetic fluoride has been readily available in toothpaste since the ’70s, and that mass medication of the population without consent is unethical and dangerous. Synthetic fluoride (as opposed to natural fluoride) is a by-product of the fertilizer, ceramics and nuclear industries. Bristol Campaign co-ordinator Robin Whitlock says: “We really need people to come out to meetings and get involved.” Email email@example.com or tel 07790 156486. Search “Bristolians Against Fluoridation” on Facebook. For The Safe Water Campaign for Gloucester tel Rob 01453 763943.
World Day for Animals in Laboratories is Saturday April 24. Campaigners from all over the word will gather in London to call for an end to animal experiments. There will be a rally in Cavendish Square and a march to Parliament.
freak du soleil
The infamous Circus of Horrors rolls into Bath and Swindon March 13-14 bringing madness, mayhem and drama. Get set for an evening of acrobatics and freaks, including sword swallower and hypnotist Hannibal Helmur to (pictured) who puts himself into a somnambulistic trance to enable him to swallow multiple swords. It’s a night of thrills, spills and shocks not for the under 18s or the faint hear ted. www.circusofhorrors.co.uk
Coach leaves Bristol Temple Meads 8.30am, leaves London at 5pm. £10 waged, £8 unwaged. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
best medicine Last year more
roots manoeuvre Community
than 200 acts took part in the first ever Bath Comedy Festival and this time round organisers are promising an even bigger event, with a wonderful variety of street theatre, stand-up and other forms of comedy being performed, some of it for free! Various venues, April 1-11, visit www.bathcomedyfestival.co.uk
Full moons: February 28 (sunrise 7.00am; sunset 5.51pm), March 30 (sunrise 6.53am; sunset 7.42pm) and April 28 (sunrise 5.51am; sunset 8.31pm). Spring Equinox March 20; Beltane May 1; Spark 61 published May 24.
Birthdays, anniversaries etc: Happy birthday on Feb 26 to both Buffalo Bill and to Victor Hugo, author of Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame; L Ron (Lafayette Ronald) Hubbard, prolific sci-fi author and founder of the Church of Scientology was born on March 13; the Sikh year
on the web
growing group Eastside Roots is officially launching their garden centre at their Stapleton Road site in Bristol April 23-25. Plenty of plants will be available for sale, there are green-fingered activities for kids, workshops and guided tours of the site. www.eastsideroots.org.uk
www.arrestblair.org George Monbiot’s campaign to encourage arrests on the fomer PM
starts on March 14; March 16 is Hindu New Year, and March 21 sees the start of the 167th year of the Baha’i calendar; Lola O’Frip, the inventor of the Blardigan (a kind of button-up blanket-cardigan hybrid) celebrates her birthday on April 1; Dante Gabriel Rossetti – poet, illustrator, painter and one
of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood – was born on May 12, 1828, exactly 100 years before the birth of Burt Bacharach, songwriter and author of such classics as Walk on By, Anyone Who Had a Heart, I Say A Little Prayer and the theme tune to the cult ’50s B-movie The Blob.
www.escosia.org Eco search engine
6 Get involved UN World Water Day is on March 22. A local campaign called Water On The Go is raising funds for clean water projects in the developing world while at the same time promoting more access to tap water and drinking fountains out and about in our public spaces. email email@example.com or call Matthew Mellor (Campaign Co-ordinator) on 07900 334246
bee’s knees Safe Land for Bees hosts holistic health Bristol’s Pierian Centre is hosting a health and wellbeing day April 24. Come a Bee Bazaar at Windmill Hill Community Centre, Bristol, on April 11. Family-friendly day with interesting speakers, luscious bee-based produce and wildlife stalls. www.safelandforbees.blogspot.com
and try a whole range of therapies, including Psych-K, nutritional healing, massage, meditation, yoga, kinesiology, homœopathy, acupuncture, flirting, chiropractic, creative writing, and hypnotherapy. Refreshments and live music will be on tap, and the whole thing only costs a quid! 0117 924 4512, www.pierian-centre.com
Show of Strength are back with their unique series of short pieces Trading Local: Theatre in Shops (left). Enjoy their latest efforts at Westbury-on-Tyrm (April 24) and Brislington (May 8) or check out the website to see what they’re up to next www.showofstrength.org.uk
smART Preparations for the 2nd annual
Bristol Art Fringe are well under way (right), with events taking place around the Montpelier and Stokes Croft area April 24-25. This part of town is fast becoming a real arts hub, thanks to the Peoples Republic of Stokes Croft and various local venues, artists and community activists breathing life back into the place. Go and enjoy some great local art for free! www.bristolartfringe.org
jack be quick Nine feet tall and covered spring into life How do you fancy four days of fun and frivolity spent among almost
sheltered life Edwina Bridgeman
explores the issue of shelter at Bath’s Victoria Art Gallery until May 16. From the diminutive to the monumental, looking at taking shelter for granted and at those who desperately seek it. www.victoriagal.org.uk
did you know Beltane, the Gaelic name for both the month of May and the festival that takes place on May 1, marked the beginning of summer when the herds of livestock were driven out to the pastures and grazing lands. A massively
7-9pm. Cafe Kino, Nine Tree Hill, Bristol, date TBC. www.bristolfeministnetwork.com
Plans to build a new biofuel processing plant at Avonmouth are still meeting with resistance from campaigners. Salisbury-based W4B Renewable Energy plan to burn 90,000 tonnes of vegetable oil each year at the plant (the UK govt is committed to increasing consumption of biofuel and has introduced tax incentives to biofuel producers). W4B would use palm oil and is also rumoured to be sourcing Jatropha, another controversial biofuel crop grown by burning forest and peat land. Production of both crops threatens wildlife and the homes of indigenous people, leads to deforestation, famine, drought and rising food prices. The campaign against the Avonmouth plant is being organised by volunteer-led group Biofuelwatch.
dramatic licence Theatre group
in foliage, Jack in the Green weaves his way through the streets of Bristol accompanied by dancers and musicians on May 1, in a centuries-old festival marking the start of summer. www.home.freeuk.com/bristoljack
Bristol Feminist Network Discussion: Patriarchy, homophobia and heteronormativity. Another hot topic for Bristol Feminist Network’s discussion group. Open to all.
2000 acres of glorious Dorset countryside? You do? Then get yourself down to the Gaunts House Spring Fair May 7-10. Celebrate the season with workshops, walks through the bluebell woods, let your hair down with a barn dance in the evening. and generally recharge your batteries in a fantastically welcoming and rejuvinating environment. www.gauntshouse.com
green future Sustainable Thornbury
good wood Wood, Britain’s greenest
is organising North Bristol’s first EcoFair May 22. A fun day for the family, with workshops and events for kids and adults including talks, music and demos throughout the day. www.sustainablethornbury.org
festy, takes place May 21-23 in Oxford. Runs entirely on renewable energy the event has compost loos, showers heated by a wood-burning stove and a solar-powered stage. www.thisistruck.com
important festival in the Celtic calendar, the name originates from the Celtic god, Bel (the Bright One) and the Gaelic word ‘teine’ meaning fire. This is the beginning of the ‘lighted half’ of the year when the Sun begins to set later in the evening, with nature in bloom and the earth full of life.
Beltane festivities often involve fire - believed to cleanse, purify and increase fertility. In the past cattle were passed between two fires, the flames and smoke were believed to ensure the fertility of the herd. Other rituals revolved around courting: young men and women would collect blossoms in the woods and light fires in the evening, with
A new political discussion and reading group is open to anyone interested in discussing alternatives to our current economic system. Socialism? Communism? Anarchism? A greener, more just capitalism? From eco-socialism to participatory economics, from council communism to market socialism, come and join a series of monthly workshops at Cafe Kino, Ninetree Hill, Stokes Croft from 6pm. Each month they will discuss a couple of texts which provide an example of a proposed alternative. The aim of the workshops is to be open, tolerant and participatory, and to enable discussion and debate through mutual learning and support. February’s meet will be a discussion of early ideas on alternatives, including Marx and Bakunin on the Paris Commune of 1871. Email Mark for more info at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bristol Defend Asylum Seekers Campaign BDASC meets first Tuesday of every month, 7-9pm, at the Malcolm X Centre, Ashley Rd, Bristol. All support very welcome! No2ID Bristol meets the first Wednesday of each month at Deco Lounge on Cotham Hill, Bristol, 7pm. Bristol NO2ID are a group of professionals and students based in and around Bristol who represent the nationwide NO2ID campaigning organisation. “We are a single-issue group focussed on the threat to liberty and privacy posed by the rapid growth of the database state, of which ID cards are the most visible part. We are entirely independent. We do not endorse any party, nor campaign on any other topic.” See www.bristol-no2id.org.uk
these rituals often leading to matches and marriages. At Beltane Pagans believe the God (who was born at the Winter Solstice) achieves the strength and maturity to become lover to the Goddess.
three months of essential events. to place your ad call 0117 914 3434 • 80p a word
regular events Mondays Weight Loss Challenge Workshop. Larkhall, New Oriel Hall @ 7pm. Nutritional advice & advice on healthy food choices, free healthy snacks & drinks, personal & group support. Winners win cash prizes! Tel: Sanela on 01225 313 218 Mondays Ashtanga Yoga Classes Glastonbury. 6.15-7.15pm beginners, 7.15-9pm intermediate. Ffi: Jane Piddington 01458 445077 www.ashtangavinyasayoga.co.uk
One Saturday per month Innermost Sound Group Frome. Gentle breath, pure voice tones and harmony. Having fun with sound. Everybody welcome. Venue: Pure Moves, BA11 1EA. £10, 2.30-4.30pm on 6 March, 10 April, 29 May. Carmel Reid 0770 262 5835 www.carmel.co.uk
Friday 12 – Sunday 14 March Partner Focus Weekend. Have you ever wondered why you just don’t seem to be meeting the right person? Or perhaps why you seem to encounter the same frustrating problems in a relationship? We understand how you feel as we’ve been there too. Try our workshop and take a new, unique approach to relationships. www.singlesselect.co.uk
Tuesday 23 March Talk: Wisdom Of The Medicine Wheel. The secret shamanic teachings of the North American Indian. 7.30pm. Pierian Centre. £5. Saturday 27 & Sunday 28 March LILI course: make your own natural soaps www.lowimpact.org 01296 714814 Saturday 27 - Weds 31 March
Wednesdays Bristol Feral Choir - improvised vocal/singing sessions and performances. Fun, feral and friendly! You’re welcome to come and try it out to see if it’s your bag, or email with questions. Cost £6/£4 concessions. Discount for termly booking. Find us on Facebook, call 0783 759 9239 or email: email@example.com
Thursdays Tantra for Women. Practises. Healing. Sharing. Dancing. firstname.lastname@example.org Every Saturday and 2nd Wednesday of each month Your Community Clinic. Affordable, accessible therapies for those on a low/modest income, everyone welcome. We are a group of professional therapists dedicated to raising awareness in the community of holistic treatments and their benefits to improve your well-being. FFI: venues, dates, etc. www.yourcommunityclinic.com or call Teresa (for Wednesdays) 0798 224 3804, Mo (Saturdays) 0780 973 6187 First Saturday of the month Divine Embrace Meditation and Healing Transmission of Cosmic Consciousness preparing for 2012. www.divineembrace.co.uk 0117 986 2675 email@example.com
Friday 2 - Sunday 18 April
Thursday 18 March Early Bird deadline for The Spark Summer issue 61. Longer days means more sunshine! 0117 914 34 34 firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesdays The Wednesday Zen Meeting. 7.15pm-9pm, Windmill Hill, Bristol. Suggested donation £5. 0117 963 2505 email@example.com
Wednesdays fortnightly Psychodrama group. Bradford-onAvon, starting March. 01225 862388
Friday 2 - Sunday 4 April Sacred Earth Camps. Easter B/Hol. Shamanic Spring Awakening. Time to step into the sacred magic and truly live. Includes sweat lodge. £125/£100 includes food. Details: 01884 881467 www.sacred-earth-camps.co.uk
Saturday 13 March LILI course: DIY for beginners www.lowimpact.org 01296 714814
First Tuesday of the month “Understanding Health”. Welcoming facilitated discussion group exploring individual and collective health. 7.30pm Pierian Centre. £4. See article on MBS page. Liz 0117 377 4409 firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesdays Glastonbury Positive Living Group meets every Wednesday evening at Glastonbury Town Hall. Weekly talks of inspiration followed by the opportunity to socialise with like-minded people. Refreshments included. Everyone welcome. Doors open 7.00pm. £5. Telephone Liz 01458 833128, www.positivelivinggroups.co.uk
Saturday 10 April Good Mental Health Workshop: Come and join us for a healthy walk. Transport provided. 10.30–1pm. £4/£2. Held at Bristol Mind, 35 Old Market Street, Bristol. email: email@example.com Saturday 10 April LILI course: keeping chickens www.lowimpact.org 01296 714814 Saturday 10 - Sunday 11 April
Sunday 28 March
A monthly meeting of like-minded people to hear talks on a wide range of esoteric subjects
Sunday 21st March 2010 PAST LIFE REGRESSION Jane Satchwell Sunday 18th April 2010 MYSTERIES AND COVER-UPS Andy Thomas Sunday 16th May 2010 THE MAGIC OF ORBS THROUGH PHOTOGRAPHY Katie Hall & John Pickering
Saturday 10 - Sunday 11 April Multidimensional Portals of the Senses. An opportunity to work with Franco Santoro, resident shaman of the Findhorn Foundation. This Astroshamanic weekend includes shamanic journeying, experiential astrology, dance and alignment with seasonal energies. Contact Dave: firstname.lastname@example.org 01905 640735 / 0753 235 6703
Held at: The Friends’ Meeting House, 126 Hampton Road, Redland, Bristol. BS6 6JE Everyone welcome. Refreshments included 3.00pm – 5.00pm Entrance £5.00
Ffi please contact 01225 722963 email@example.com
april Saturday 6 March Sharpen your dating skills! Come along to our unique workshop. Bristol. www.singlesselect.co.uk Saturday 6 March Good Mental Health Workshop: Chanting for Peace with Tim Chalice. Come and experience chanting as a way to quiet the mind and open the heart. 10.30–1pm. £4/£2. Held at Bristol Mind, 35 Old Market Street, Bristol. Ffi: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday 1 - Monday 5 April Vegi Ventures Easter Creativity Break, Derbyshire. Relax in the country and make new friends; activities include guided walks, dancing, painting & drawing, yoga, therapies, singing... Call us for a brochure or visit our web sites. Tel: 01760 755888 www.vegiventures.com & www.yuvaholidays.com
Monday 12 April Bath Positive Living Group launches at Holy Trinity Church. Weekly talks of inspiration followed by the opportunity to socialise with like-minded people. Refreshments included. Everyone welcome. First guest speaker is William Bloom. Doors open 7.00pm. £5. Telephone Liz 01458 833128, www.positivelivinggroups.co.uk
three months of life. to place your add call us on 0117 914 3434 or email email@example.com 80p a word
Friday 16 - Sunday 18 April Ipsalu Tantra Workshop. Venue: Old Town Hall, Stroud; £285 tuition (£195 before February 28 and concessions available). The workshop includes a Cobra Breath level 1 initiation which opens the third eye and prepares the body for the awakening of Kundalini energy in higher levels of the Cobra Breath taught in more advanced classes. Also includes a mixture of Kriya Yoga, meditation and play. For further information and booking, contact: Gerry Russell 01453 825123; 0771 516 1178; firstname.lastname@example.org Saturday 17 April www.festivaloflight.biz Healers, Readers, Trade Stalls. Winter Gardens, Weston-s-Mare. Free Admission 10am-6pm. 01934 624939 Saturday 17 April LILI course: cultivating edible mushrooms www.lowimpact.org 01296 714814 Saturday 17 - Sunday 18 April Sacred Earth. One-day traditional 4 round sweat lodge ceremonies. In the Bristol/Bath area. Details: Mel 0117 951 2639 www.melaniewright.org.uk Thursday 22 April Final deadline for an ad in The Spark Summer issue 61. Blue skies, festivals, laughing children dontcha love the summer!? 0117 914 34 34 email@example.com Thursday 22 April Learn To Heal By Christian Science. Free talk by Dr Robert Ennemoser, an experienced spiritual healer. 7.30pm at Explore AT Bristol. firstname.lastname@example.org www.cssbristol.org.uk Saturday 24 April LILI course: urban / small space gardening www.lowimpact.org 01296 714814 Saturday 24 - Sunday 25
Saturday 15 May LILI course: compost toilets www.lowimpact.org 01296 714814
Saturday 8 May
Sunday 16 May Living Voice – a day of voice, song and improvisation. InAlignment Studio, 4th Floor, Hamilton House. 10am to 4.30pm. www.realvoice.co.uk 0795 005 2100 email@example.com Friday 21 - Sunday 23 May
Saturday 8 May Divine Embrace Inner Peace Retreat, a tranquil and creative day of being and sharing. Repeated first Saturday every month. www.divineembrace.co.uk 0117 986 2675 firstname.lastname@example.org Saturday 8 May Good Mental Health Workshop: Sound Bathing with Ronni Dancing Flame. Relaxing, pure angelic healing sound of the crystal singing bowls. 10.30–1pm. £4/£2. Held at Bristol Mind, 35 Old Market Street, Bristol. email: email@example.com Saturday 8 May LILI course: knitting / crochet for beginners www.lowimpact.org 01296 714814 Saturday 8 - Sunday 9 May Yoga and Art Weekend. 10am4pm, £70-£80, Keinton Mandeville, nr. Glastonbury. An exploration in observation – where yoga and creativity meet. Jane 01458 445077 www.ashtangavinyasayoga.co.uk Tuesday 11 May Grace and Harmony - Frome. Chris James - Sounds Wonderful. Celebrating the light in our hearts, the harmony of our sound and the graceful moving of our bodies. 6-9pm £25. Lighthouse, Tytherington, BA11 5BW. Carmel 0770 262 5835 www.chrisjames.net Wednesday 12 May Joy-Full Voice Evening – Oxford. Chris James – Sounds Wonderful. A gentle introduction to Toning, Singing, Stillness and Sound Healing. 6-9pm, St Michael’s Church, Oxford OX2 7ES. £25 before 1 April / £30 after. Sue 01491 652110 www.chrisjames.net
Friday 30 April - Monday 3 May Sacred Earth Camps. May B/Hol. Shamanic Transformation Camp. All the shamanic tools you need for personal empowerment/ transformation. With 2 sweats. £150/£125 includes food. Details: 01884 881467 www.sacred-earth-camps.co.uk
Thursday 13 - Sunday 16 May Marko Pogacnik London Workshop. ‘Cosmogrammes - Communicating with Other Dimensions of Life’. Geomancy and Earth Healing. £270/£295. Contact Lizzie 0845 6435852, firstname.lastname@example.org www.earthenergynetwork.co.uk Saturday 15 - Sunday 16 May Sacred Earth. One-day traditional 4 round sweat lodge ceremonies. In the Bristol/Bath area. Details: Mel 0117 951 2639 www.melaniewright.org.uk
Saturday 5 June Good Mental Health Workshop: Word power with Elanora Ferry. Interactive storytelling and creative writing workshop. 10.30–1pm. £4/£2. Held at Bristol Mind, 35 Old Market Street, Bristol. email: email@example.com Saturday 5 - Sunday 6 June Womb Wisdom. Shekinashram, Dod Lane, Glastonbury. 10am-5pm, £175 (£75 deposit). This workshop is open to men and women, who wish to explore the hidden depths and sacred jewels within the womb. The womb is the powerhouse of tremendous healing and gives birth to many forms of limitless life, not just children. Come and experience the true power of the womb, and how you can open and work with yours, and your partners. Contact Anaiya Aon Prakasha: firstname.lastname@example.org www.christblueprint.com
Friday 23 - Sunday 25 July Glastonbury Symposium: Investigating Signs of our Times • crop circles • environment • liberty • earth mysteries • new science • metaphysics • consciousness • UFOs • alternative health. Speakers include: Andrew Collins, Ian Crane, Andy Thomas, Mary Hykel Hunt, Rod Bearcloud, Geoff Stray, Patricia Cori, John Dalton, Janet Ossebaard, Christopher Booker. 3-day ticket £98. Day tickets a/v and single lectures. Crop circle tour 22 July. Tel: 01278 722833 www.glastonburysymposium.co.uk
Saturday 12 - Sunday 13 June Sacred Earth. One-day traditional 4 round sweat lodge ceremonies. In the Bristol/Bath area. Details: Mel 0117 951 2639 www.melaniewright.org.uk Monday 24 May New Spark out today! Summer issue 61. Sun lovers don’t forget the slip, slap, slop (slip on a t-shirt, slap on a hat, slop on some suncream) 0117 914 34 34 email@example.com
Friday 18 - Sunday 29 June
Thurs 27 May - Tues 1 June Vegi Ventures Peak District Walking Holiday, Derbyshire. Good company, good food and a choice of gentle or more challenging walks every day. Call us for a brochure or visit our web sites. Tel: 01760 755888 www.vegiventures.com & www.yuvaholidays.com
Thursday 3 - Sunday 6 June
Sunrise Celebration - Crossing the Event Horizon. New this year: The Carnival of Life field +4 new stages including a Circus Stage by Bristol’s masters of renegade and subversive performance: The Invisible Circus. The eccentric geniuses behind the magnificent madness and mayhem seen at their recent jaw dropping Carny Ville shows will be producing a stage and environment in the new Carnival Field, alongside The Pussyfoot Cabaret Lounge with Speakeasy vibes and a fantastic array of Cabaret and Comedy a huge range of colourful entertainment by day with costume cavorting, games for grownups and world dance flavours, from the alluring alleyways of Bristol to the buzz streets of Rio. To check out the massive array of new content for 2010 and the new website visit www.sunrisecelebration.com Tickets: Adults £105 Bristol Ticket Shop/£25 Kids/Family Discounts Available
Thursday 8 - Sunday 11 July
classifieds accommodation offered Wednesday 21 - Tuesday 27 July Singing in the Wild Retreat – immerse your self in voice, song and ceremony in wildest Wales - earthy, liberating, ecstatic. www.realvoice.co.uk 0795 005 2100 firstname.lastname@example.org
£60pcm No Bills. Good accommodation for reliable people interested in living with an older person and willing to give 10hrs time each week. Should be working or studying, with good references. Homeshare West is a not for profit service, matching responsible adults with seniors who want practical help and companionship. Homesharewest.org Tel: 0117 908 3045
Mid Cornwall. Happy single parent and child seek lovely person/people to share house in countryside. Also, 2 bedroom house to let in Lostwithiel.. Phone 01208 871438
spark out: Yur’tis! ignite
three months of essential events and more • 80p a word
Holiday in a yurt or tipi and you get a luxury, low impact break in rustic, wild and beautiful surroundings…
Strawberry Skys, Wales
Strawberry Skys Yurts are nestled amongst 10 acres of beautiful countryside in mid-Wales, punctuated with hiking trails through forests and fields. If you don’t fancy getting your wellies muddy then just relax in your own field, surrounded by willows and cherry trees. Nights are the time for stargazing or snuggling around a fire pit with your chosen compadres. Former guests wax lyrical about the sense of luxury created alongside the rustic, low impact ethos at the heart of the place . Think compost toilets with bunches of flowers. Our moles tell us the owners have “an eye for design” so their beau tiful yurt interiors are the perfect complim ent to the rugged Welsh beauty on your doorstep. Prices start at £60 a night in low season, for a 2-person yurt, for a minimum of two nights. Nearest train station is Welshpool.
email@example.com. www.strawberryskys.co.uk, 01938 811308
Stock Gaylard Estate, Dorset
Blackdown Yurts, Devon
Woodland Tipis, Wales
Blackdown Yurts are tucked away in the tranquil woodland of the Blackdown Hills. There are only three yurts in the 30-acre smallholding so you get plenty of space. You’re also a stone’s throw from the Jurassic coast so you’re ideally placed to go hiking and explore some beautiful beaches. The yurts here are authentic Mongolian and kitted out with fluffy sheepskins and plump cushions. Blackdown Yurts also have spring water on tap and solar powered lighting but you do have the choice of a kettle if you can’t go a weekend without a cup of tea! Blackdown are open from Easter-September. Each yurt sleeps 6 people and prices start at £180 for a weekend, and £500 per week per yurt. There’s a special offer of 10% off in June. Tiverton Parkway is the closest train station.
Woodland Tipis offer family-friendly breaks in an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, deep in rural Herefordshire. Their yurts and tipis are sited in 11 acres of woodland, and the whole site is a car-free zone. They have three traditional Sioux Native American tipis for hire, and three yurts. All tipis sleep five and two of the Yurts sleep seven, with woodburning stoves in the yurts and a chiminea in the tipis. (Note that the yurts are a bit warmer if you have young children, tipi-dwellers need to be “a bit more adventurous!”). Each tipi and yurt comes with its own firepit, table and chairs and hammock, and the interiors are furnished with handmade seating, coconut matting, rugs, cushions and lanterns. The owners also leave out candles, matches and firewood felled from their own woodland. Weekend bookings are a three-night stay, mid-week bookings are four nights stay, Mon pm-Fri am. Prices start at £220 for a mid-week stay at the end of March/beginning of April. No dogs are allowed. Nearest train station is Hereford, five miles away.
email firstname.lastname@example.org Amanda 07703 312294 Jasmine 01884 266699 or 0777 938 8569 www.blackdownyur ts.co.uk
www.woodlandtipis.co.uk, 01432 840488, julia@woodla ndtipis.co.uk
Cornish Tipi Holidays, St Kew
A bespoke tipi retreat, this 16-acre site down in Cornwall is in a forest with a lake close by. The retreat maintains an eco-friendly approach; this means no electrical appliances, only locally sourced materials, and their tipi-poles even refrain from piercing the earth’s surface! Cornish Tipi Holidays has some lovely, secluded sites for individual tipis but if you’re after a special group holiday or just a sense of community with other tipi-dwellers, they also have fields that can host up to 11 tipis at a time. Tipis house between two and ten adults. The site opens March-October and prices start at £230 for two adults for two nights. You’re perfectly placed here to visit Tintagel and Boscastle, as well as exploring Bodmin Moor, and the the rugged charm of Port Isaac, Port Quin and Polzeath. Cornish Tipis are offering Spark readers a SPECIAL 2010 offer for all holidays booked and paid for by end of March: 15% off all bookings in low season, 10% in mid season and 5% in peak season. Bodmin Parkway (nearest train station), is 18 miles away. www.cornishtipiholidays.co.uk www.cornishtipiholidays.co.uk, 01208 880781, email@example.com
These beautiful holiday yurts are part of the Stock Gaylard Estate in Dorset, four miles from Sturminster Newton. It’s a huge estate, comprising 1,800 acres of farmland, oak woodland and deer park; a great spot for wildlife lovers, with foxes and roe deer roaming around, barn and tawny owls in residence, and butterflies and birds in abundance. All of the wood for the yurts comes from the estate, and each was handcrafted by Jamie Ross, a local craftsman who also made most of the furniture. The yurts are arranged in two groups of three with two separate bedrooms and a communal kitchen/ lounge area. The yurts are kitted out with solar-powered indoor and outdoor lighting, bed linen, duvets, pillows, rugs and kitchen equipment. You can even have an organic food box delivered to your yurt, take lessons in yurt building and enjoy moonlit barbecues cooking venison from the estate’s own herd of deer. Choose the east-facing yurt if you fancy catching the sunrise or west-facing for long, lazy dinners watching the sunset. Open May to September, prices start from £350 for a week. Nearest train stations are Sherbourne (7.5 miles) and Templecombe (7.6 miles). www.stockgaylard.com, 01963 23511, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Yurt Farm, Wales
This place is both a wildlife haven and a working farm. Laurie and Thea invite you to run around in their fields, help feed the animals and relax amongst the wildflower meadows and oak woodland that make up this lovely corner of Wales. The farm is situated in Crynfryn, near Ceredigion, and is well placed for exploring the mountainous surrounds of Cader Idris (walks and waterfalls) and the coast near Cardigan bay (dolphin spotting!). You’re well looked after here: you get a hamper of organic veg from the farm on arrival, and you can buy eggs, jam and meat from the shop (lamb and beef when in season) and your yurt will be kitted out with a wood burning stove, logs and kindling, a wind-up torch and organic cotton sheets. The Yurt Farm is powered entirely off-grid, by wind and solar, and there’s a communal cabin to relax and meet other yurters. The whole site is extremely kid-friendly, well away from any roads and kitted out with a sandpit and swings. Yurts are open April 1 to October 31, prices from £55 for one night for the smaller yurt in low season. Nearest train station is Aberystwyth, 30mins away.
Oxenford Farm, Somerset
Oxenford Farm Yurts are situated on a working farm in the heart of the West Country, near to Ilminster. Hunker down under luxury canvas in this beautiful corner of Somerset and throw back the ceiling of your Mongolian Yurt to watch the night sky. Oxenford Farm can also lend you a brood of hens for the week. Treat ’em right and fresh eggs should follow! Each yurt comes with its own compost toilet, wind-up lanterns and candles. You can buy food direct from the farm and the local cider mill gives tours. The National Cycle (West Country Way) runs very close to Oxenford and the countryside around is ideal for discovering by bike. Open April-September, each yurt can hold up to 5 people and prices start at £138 for a mid-week stay. Axminster train station is ten miles away. www.yurtis.co.uk, 01460 54096 or 079511 84207
www.theyurtfarm.co.uk, info@theyurtfarm. co.uk, call Laurie and Thea on 01974 821594 or 07977 214520
Four Yurt Eco-Camp, Glos.
Abbey Home Farm in Cirencester hosts two yurt camps: one deep in a wooded glade, 20 mins walk from the farm, and one group of four yurts on the edge of woodland, just two mins walk from the farm. The four yurts can sleep a maximum of 18 people. The nearby farm café offers a delicious Sunday lunch sourced from the farm’s on-site market garden. Abbey Home Farm follows a strictly organic ethos, coupled with compost toilets and a ‘no-electricity’ policy for the yurts. The farm shop has a variety of gifts from fairtrade/ethical or recycled sources. If you’re itching to get your walking boots on, the Cotswolds beckons. You can stay here Easter-October, prices start £40 per yurt (1 or 2 adults) for a minimum stay of two nights. The nearest train station is Kemble.
www.theorga nicfarmshop.co.uk 01285 640441
“Simply stunning” Circomedia’s new home in Portland Square, Bristol, is a breathtaking and inspirational space available for hire. Suitable for a variety of uses including workshops, meetings, performances, training, etc etc. Small meeting room and café/kitchen area also available.
For further information or to arrange a visit. please contact Jo telephone: 0117 924 7615 email@example.com www.circomedia.com
Hebe Welbourn those things together is this sense of quest: a quest for purpose, for love and for meaning. What is your connection with Elsie Briggs House in Westbury on Trym? Elsie Briggs House is the oldest inhabited house in Bristol, next door to the parish church in Westbury on Trym. It’s a very sacred place and was bequeathed by its last owner to be used as a centre for contemplative prayer. After my husband died I trained as a lay minister in an Anglican church, which was very good in that it got my brain working again but wasn’t really my thing because I’m not your typical churchy type of person. Then, in the summer of 1991, I heard about this house of prayer and just thought “Yes! This is what you’ve always really wanted to do, isn’t it?” So I was interviewed by a committee and subsequently became the warden of Elsie Briggs House. It’s the ideal place to pursue the quest I mentioned and just live it. As a joke I used to describe myself as being the resident hermit: I was the one in the centre providing a kind of spiritual centre for people busy in the world outside.
Interviewed by Fiona McClymont • photo Jo Halladey at the start – I missed the seasons particularly. But working in the hospital was very consuming and I did everything going. I was then given the opportunity to specialise in child health and began doing clinics in prevention of malnutrition.
Dr Hebe Welbourn, 87, was born in England, but moved to Uganda to work as a missionary and doctor at the end of WWII, where she stayed for 20 years. She specialised in child heath and nutrition, and on her return to Bristol continued her work in the child health sphere until her retirement. She is a very active member of Bristol Chan Buddhist Group, Cotham Parish Church and Redland Quaker Meetings, and is involved in all their truth and justice work. She was the first warden of Elsie Briggs House (a centre for contemplative prayer in Westbury-on-Trym) and now lives as part of the Quaker community in Friends of West of England Housing Trust.
What did you learn from your time in Africa? So much! As soon as I arrived I realised what a lot I had to learn. The first thing was that the way that I was used to doing things wasn’t necessarily the best way. I got so many insights into different ways of family life. Life over there was not based on the individual or the nuclear family. Families were extended, the tribe was important and families could be polygamous. I sometimes wonder whether men over here in the West would be a bit more responsible if they had to keep their wives instead of moving from one woman to another! I loved my time there. We adopted three children and I remember when we decided to leave Uganda and told our African friends that we needed to set up a home for our children in England they said to us: “Surely you don’t need to go too? Can’t your children live with the extended family? It’s very selfish of you to want to hang onto your children that way.” I was very struck by that contrast. It wouldn’t apply so much today, of course, because the whole traditional Ugandan structure has been shaken up by Aids and war and disturbance of one kind and another.
What’s the best thing about living in the South West? I love Bristol and one of my favourite things is exploring. I enjoy going round all the art trails and following the course of the rivers through all the different areas of the city. I came to Bristol in 1966 but I still think of myself as a newcomer. Am I a Bristolian? No, but I’ve been here since before a lot of people were born. My mother was South African, my father was a Yorkshireman and I’ve lived all over the place so I’m quite a hybrid; I don’t know where I actually belong! I moved here after having lived in Uganda for 20 years. My husband (the late Professor Fred Welbourn) got a job as a lecturer in African Religions at Bristol University, and I must say that myself and the children came here kicking and screaming behind him! We were sad to leave Uganda and I really didn’t want to come, but ultimately it was very right for the family.
What’s been your greatest mistake? I’m not sure I want to talk about those. I think I’ll keep them to myself!
What’s your greatest achievement? In terms of my work in Uganda, it would be that lots of children survived who wouldn’t have done otherwise. My other achievement, if you can call it that, is survival I suppose.
What’s your greatest fear? The way the world is going. The economic situation, climate change, war, population pressure, the lot. I shall probably be safely out of it, but it’s very scary for our children and grandchildren. When I was young and all through WWII we felt we were fighting for something and there was a sense that things were going to be better afterwards. There was at least a sense of hope and optimism that I don’t think exists today.
When and why did you go to Uganda? I wanted to be a missionary and was told that if that was the case I either had to be a teacher or a doctor. I knew I didn’t want to be a teacher so I took a shortened war-time medical degree. I finished in 1944, met and married my husband, who was already on his way to Uganda as chaplain and tutor of physics at Makerere University. At the end of the war in 1945, passages abroad were hard to come by but I got my passage by going to work for two years at the hospital in Kampala. I was very homesick
What inspires you? My sense of quest has always been my inspiration. I was brought up and am still very much an Anglican Christian, but I’m also a Quaker and a Buddhist. The thing that brings
Who are West of England Friends Housing Trust? When I left Elsie Briggs in 1995 I moved here to Kirwin House, which is part of the Friends Housing Trust. I have always loved the practice and way of life of Quakerism, which is based on silence rather than words and I love that Quakers are very active and well-informed in the realm of peace and justice activities. This accommodation is run with a Quaker ethos and living here means I am part of the Quaker community – we all look after and watch out for each other. What drives you mad? Well, to be driven mad is what one tries to avoid. I’ve been practising Buddhism since the 1970s and the essence of Buddhist meditation is to try and see the things that are going to drive you mad before they arrive and take action to stop that happening! What’s been your most memorable trip? I haven’t the money anyway, but luckily I don’t have an overwhelming desire to travel overseas. If I can just be out of doors and able to walk about in the countryside, by a river or the sea if I’m lucky, that’s all I’m looking for. What’s your favourite book? I can’t read so much any more because my eyes are going funny – I’ve got Macular Degeneration – so I get most of my fiction from the radio. I used to go to Borders a lot but they’ve gone now. I don’t know what I shall do! To go to Borders, get a coffee and sit down in an armchair and have the fun of taking a book off the shelves which is supposed to make money for them, reading it and then putting it back again without buying it, I used to find that a lot of fun! I am always reading my bible of course. The more you study it the more you find there are contradictions: who on earth the real Jesus Christ was, goodness knows? But I just love all the wonderful variety, there’s so much poetry and so many stories. The person of Jesus Christ shines through, I think, despite all the guff we’ve spun around him. What has life taught you? To listen to other people. Don’t think that you’ve got it right because everybody else has their own ways of doing things. Keep your eyes and ears open and be sympathetic and compassionate with others because they’ve got problems too.
Got environmental expertise and a passion for green issues? Email article ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org
“If a local authority has the right vision, they can release land for ‘Best Vaue’… which means alternative options such as self-build housing can be made available to people on more modest incomes”
Photo Emma Geen
carefully placed to give light where it is most needed, and renewable materials, such as wood and lime render, were used instead of energyintensive materials such as concrete. The result is a building that is not only low impact in design but looks lovely, too. But how attainable is this dream for the average person? “It would be great if everybody, regardless of whether they are working or not, had the option to self-build,” says Steffie. “Realistically, this is not the case yet. But we are working to offer a self-build opportunity for people on all levels of income. If you are thinking of buying a house, self-building will typically work out 30% cheaper for you than buying outright.” Bright Green Futures are also in talks with Triodos bank, The Ecology Building Society and other ethical investors about developing mortgage products for their clients in order to
Jackson Moulding and Anna Hope
make finance for eco-self-builds accessible to more people. Next, I go to meet with Jackson Moulding and partner Anna Hope, directors of Ecomotive. I find them at a newly renovated office block on the same site where they also built their own home. Ecomotive helped to renovate the office, doing site and project management, giving financial and legal help to the group that now live there, as well as doing research into the design of the sustainable build. The building was recently given the Regen South West Green Energy Award for ‘Best Housing Scheme’ in 2009. Anna says: “The benefit of self-build is that you can be more adaptable. This was an old industrial site with various run-down buildings.
As mothers of young children, Steffie and Anna are particularly enthusiastic about the benefits of self-build community sites for young families. “It makes parenting so much easier,” Steffie says with a smile. “With the communal garden and a speed limit of 5 mph in the cul-de-sac outside, the children just go out back and Anna applies a lime render play with their friends. So from an early age they become independent and self-confident. They’re all really nice kids and very sociable: people often comment on that.”
Photo Emma Geen
The Ashley Vale self-build community in Bristol was an experiment in sustainable development. Seven years on, some of the original self-builders are helping others find land, form communities and build from scratch. Emma Geen went to meet them ass through the quiet railway tunnel in St Werburghs, Bristol, and the uniform terraces suddenly give way to reveal a motley collection of eccentric houses. This is the Ashley Vale self-build, a neighbourhood created by and built by environmentally driven local residents. Some of original self-builders are keen to help other people looking to start a similar journey. I spoke to one of them, Steffie Broer, who is also director of Bright Green Futures. Bright Green Futures is made up of surveyors, environmental consultants and eco-entrepreneurs, amongst others. Steffie herself is a sustainable energy and buildings consultant and a chartered engineer. Bright Green Futures operate as an ethical enterprise, focussed on getting new self-builders the best deal possible in terms of land and building opportunities. “Bright Green Futures was set up last May,” Steffie tells me. “And our focus is on getting hold of some land and making plots available to people for self-building. We’re negotiating planning permission on some land in Stroud at the moment.” Steffie shows me around her own home. Alongside the more common insulation and renewable energy, her home is partially warmed by passive solar heating. The windows are
Steffie with daughter Leah (4)
A developer would have come in and bulldozed the lot, whereas we tried to work with the conditions. So we kept the concrete base and built light-weight houses on top.” Part of Ecomotive’s philosophy is to explore avenues of design that developers usually ignore but there’s a socially conscious aspect to their work too. They’ve been working with the four local authorities in the West of England to promote sustainability in new builds throughout the area and to try to persuade local councils that self-build and “self-finish” housing (where residents come in and do the interior themselves) can deliver “local intermediate market housing” (official speak for those of us who don’t meet the criteria for social housing, but still can’t afford to buy a house). Jackson explains: “If a local authority has the right vision, they can release land for ‘Best Value’ instead of ‘Best Price’, which means alternative housing methods can be looked at. It’s no good building thousands of new homes if people on average incomes – let alone low incomes – can’t afford them.” Ecomotive are a great resource for anyone looking to join, or form a community of like-minded people and get a sustainable self-build off the ground. Their company offers advice on all aspects of the journey: from finding land to project management and site design, making your project as affordable as possible, putting in renewable energy systems and applying for grants. They can also offer legal advice on setting up your self build group as a legal entity. There are many ways to do this, such as establishing yourself as a housing co-op to secure a lower mortgage, or negotiating land at a low price by setting up a Community Land Trust (which keeps homes affordable into the future). “Think about the kind of community you want to create,” says Jackson. “Whether that be cohousing (with communal facilities), individual private homes or something else. Come and visit our office in the Yard at Ashley Vale for a chat. We’ve got plenty of books and magazines you can look at to get ideas and inspiration.” Jackson and Anna, like Steffie, are good examples of the sort of people that self-building can really benefit. “At the time we heard about the project we’d been renting a house down the road and were looking around for a house to renovate,” they tell me. “Yet even though we were both working, we couldn’t afford a mortgage.” Self-building, therefore, was the only way they could afford a home of their own.
All together now…
So the construction is only half the story. “While the technical solutions are great, they don’t work unless you work with the people, they have to work together,” Steffie says. Jackson elaborates. “Within any group of self-builders there will be different opinions and expectations of what kind of community they want to create. For some people the most important thing is to have a house that is low cost, whereas for others the priority will be minimising their environmental impact, e.g. by installing renewables. It would be hard to install something like wood pellet heating unless everyone signs up to it. This kind of stuff needs to be agreed up front so that everyone who joins a project knows what they are signing up to from the start.” This type of community has benefits for people all ages. The Ashley Vale self-builders are certainly in no doubt. “To be in a space you’re happy to be in changes your outlook on life, you go about with a smile,” says Jackson. Jackson aims high “Going home to a cold, small box is really tricky; it’s what we used to go back to.” Jackson believes passionately that a good home life is the foundation on which you move on to build your higher human needs (such as security, love, esteem, purpose, meeting one’s dreams). Steffie is a perfect example of these needs being met: some of her closest friends are from the site and the self-build experience gave her the personal confidence to take the next step and establish Bright Green Futures. Indeed, if there is one thing that struck me during the interviews, it is that such communities could really have the answers to combating lots of the social ills facing modern urban communities. It’s no surprise, then, that the build has inspired many other groups across the UK to try and set up projects of their own. With both Ecomotive and Bright Green Futures to guide them through the process, all that is lacking now is access to land, and policy change from councils and central government. These are both areas that the two companies are working on tirelessly. So while the road ahead for self-build communities is a long and tricky one, as I walk home I’m convinced that these projects are really worth fighting for. “Self-building in a community is an adventure,” says Steffie. “In the overall scheme of things, it’s better than anything I could have imagined!”
Tricks of the trade
Being personally involved in your build can cut your costs in unexpected ways, too. Steffie relates with a grin how the building merchants were caught off guard when she turned up with a baby in tow. “We got quite famous, and often got the cheapest prices!” The social benefits of working alongside your neighbours are obvious. “We saved money by sharing knowledge, contacts and recommendations of good, skilled tradespeople,” says Steffie. “Every time I got stuck I would talk to my neighbour, and most of the time the answer would be there, or we’d research it together. So it never really felt that scary.”
If you’re interested in getting involved in self-build communities, sign up to the free self-build forum at www.ecomotive.org When sites become available, Ecomotive will email out site information. The forum also enables people to set up their own projects, meet other people interested in self-building and get advice and information. Or pop down to the site at Ashley Vale in St Werburghs for a chat. For Bright Green Futures go to the website at www.brightgreenfutures.co.uk and register your interest to self-build.
Ecotricity plan to become the first company in the UK to supply bio-gas from food waste directly to households through the national gas grid. Renewable gas is already produced in the UK from sewage and landfill but because of various commercial incentives it is all used to generate electricity (at efficiency levels of around 30%). In future, Ecotricity plan to start feeding bio-gas directly back into the grid so it can start to replace conventional gas. Ecotricity founder Dale Vince says: “It fits perfectly with our green electricity model. We can take gas bills and turn them into Gasmills, just like we put revenue from our electricity bills into windmills.” Bio-gas is generated using anaerobic digestion (a composting-like process) that also creates a nutrient-rich by-product that can be used as fertiliser for crops. Ultimately, Ecotricity plans to create bio-gas from emerging next-generation technologies such as special strains of algae. For customers signing up to the new tariff, Ecotricity will supply gas from a mix of green and conventional sources, with the green fuel mix increasing as more customers sign up and it builds new renewable supplies, (the same model it has used with electricity). Dale Vince says: “By choosing green gas, customers can help unhook Britain from its addiction to foreign gas and keep thousands of tonnes of food waste out of landfill”. Ecotricity pledges to deliver its green gas at no extra cost, matching British Gas on both its standard gas and dual-fuel price in each region. www.ecotricity.co.uk, 0800 030 2302
Homeowners with a solar photo voltaic system will be able to sell energy back to the grid as of April 2010, when a new, European-style feed-in tariff becomes law in the UK. After April, surplus power can be sold back to the grid at 36p per unit. Many councils including Mendip, Sedgemoor, South Somerset and Taunton Dean are offering an additional £600, on top of the government grant, towards the cost of your solar PV installation IF you install solar panels before the Feed In Tariff starts in April… The Centre for Alternative Technology have published a book to coincide with the new tariff: ‘Choosing Solar Electricity: A guide to photovoltaic systems’. Choosing Solar Electricity, Brian Goss, CAT, £14 (ISBN 978-1-902175-59-1). www.cat.org.uk
A small Bristol-based company is set to become the first streetwear brand in the UK to use 100% certified organic cotton and certify all their clothes as Fairtrade. Founder James Harper says: “In Feb 2010 all our men’s t-shirts are going fairtrade and by the end of the year we hope to have the whole company certified as Fairtrade.” When the Fairtrade campaign was launched Spunky.co.uk looked for accredited manufacturers but found none willing to take on a small client. It was only when James went on a reccy to India that he found a factory that would take their orders. “It’s important to us that everyone involved with our business is treated fairly right through the chain,” he says. “It’s an idea that should be at the core of all modern businesses.” www.spunky.co.uk
Sundance Renewables in Ammanford, Wales, have been producing biodiesel from recycled veggie oil since 2004. They are a not-for-profit workers’ co-operative who collect used veggie oil from a wide variety of local outlets and convert it into a low-emissions alternative to diesel. Sundance have recently opened a second biodiesel plant in Tredegar and want potential customers to know that they now deliver to Bristol every other month. They say: “If you replace 2500 litres of fuel a year with Sundance Community Fuel, you will save over 6000kg CO2 emissions. Together we can reduce the West Country’s carbon footprint!”. Sundance biodiesel costs 94.5p per litre. They deliver free of charge in 25-litre containers, with a £3 refundable deposit on each container. If you need a larger amount, they can supply 1000 litres at a reduced price of 87p/litre ex VAT (a total price of £913.50 including VAT). The fuel can be blended with diesel in any proportion. 01269 842401, email email@example.com see www.sundancerenewables.org.uk
Bristol’s chip fat bus needs more donations of waste veggie oil from householders and businesses. Get in touch if you can help!
Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you can donate your waste veggie oil
A is for anarchy So you think you know what anarchy is? Nathan Eisenstadt on a much maligned and misunderstood ideology for our time…
Activists the world over find inspiration in Gandhi’s mantra of “being the change”. Writer and spiritual development coach Natalie Fee gives her take on nourishing your inner world at the same time as changing the outer one
y own journey into activism began when a town-wide wi-fi mesh was installed in Glastonbury (where I live), and one of the six masts was sited just a few metres from my son’s bedroom window. I did some research, which gave me cause for concern, and I relocated my family outside the wi-fi zone. But there were still families inside the zone who couldn’t relocate and this prompted me to get involved with the campaign against the mast. It was a steep learning curve. I wrote countless emails and letters, researched technical data, went to council meetings and put myself in the firing line. The experience was a roller-coaster ride of wins, losses and set-backs, but it was worth it: not for the end result (which is still not in sight) but for the experience. It sounds clichéd, but the value has been in the journey for me. Through engaging with a local campaign, I became much more aware of my community and of myself. I got to know my strengths and my weaknesses. I’ve worked in the field of personal well-being for almost ten years, but now I was able to practise what I preached amidst the murky waters of local politics. Many shadows came to light: I noticed myself getting angry with the opposition, getting self-conscious when I made presentations, getting upset by people’s comments. I also fell into the trap of the ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ mentality, and entered into the dismissive ‘we’re better than them’ kinds of conversations so commonly heard amongst activists. Yet I knew
“It’s a challenge to maintain our sense of connection while entering into conflict. We have to keep asking ourselves again and again: does my circle of care include those who I am up against?” that this was wasted energy. I could carry on reacting and feeling hurt, or I could find the parts of myself that were vulnerable to attack and try and heal them, thus being of greater service to my community. I became interested in the dance between the two, about whether it was possible to do either of them effectively without the other. To ‘be the change you wish to see in the world’ you really need to do inner as well as outer work. At Sunrise Off-Grid festival last summer I met Theo Simon of folk band Seize the Day. Theo was giving a talk on ‘Activism with Heart’, in which he shared his experiences and insights as an activist who’s also passionate about the inter-connectedness of all life. I was particularly interested in what he had to say about finding a connection with your opposition. “We’re constantly faced with the challenge of maintaining our sense of connection while actively entering into conflict,” says Theo. “Which is why, to me, the concept of one’s ‘circle of care’ is so important. The moment you identify something as being harmful or disconnected and you choose to do something about it, you immediately enter the realms of conflict and disconnection. So we have to keep asking ourselves again and again, does my circle of care include those whom I’m up against?” Theo has been politically active since the Twyford Down protests of 1992. He definitely has some stories to tell but he also seems to have a developed sense of compassion and acceptance too. I asked him how he’s come to this. “I’ve seen what happens when you belittle someone: they shut down and the defenses come up,” he says. “If we practise really listening to the opposition – be that a policeman, a politician or a relative – we’re more able to see where they’re coming from. We create a feeling of connection, which in turn creates allies and, while increasing your chances of being heard also reduces your chances of getting hurt! Let them experience you treating them as an intelligent human being.” Whether you’re a long-serving activist like Theo, or a newbie like me, or even just wondering how you might get more active in your community, here are some points you may like to ponder as you walk the path of the soulful activist.
n summer 2009 the Bristol Evening Post lead with the headline “Anarchy but only in a nice way”. It was reporting on the squatted convergence space that formed a base for people taking part in ‘Bristol Co-mutiny’. It was surprising to see “anarchy” and “nice” in the same sentence, particularly in a mainstream newspaper. You only have to look at reporting of the G20 demonstrations to see more traditional media representations of anarchists as masked invaders, hell-bent on destruction, and of anarchism as a state of total chaos and disorder. Perhaps that headline just slipped through the net or maybe it reflected a broader feeling that we need to find decentralised approaches to social change. So what is ‘anarchism’ about really? First off, it’s difficult – if not outright contradictory – to try to define it because it is constantly evolving. Philosopher and author Peter Marshall likens it to a river constantly being refreshed by new surges but always moving towards the wide ocean of freedom. Thus, while there are many differences – which mean some anarchists may disagree with what I write here – there are also certain common principles around which thought and practice converge.
A simple guide to getting active 1 Follow your heart Action works better if it comes from the heart. Take some time out to think deeply about this. Go for long walks in the wilderness, or spend some time sitting in stillness, with the purpose of connecting with the things you love and value. If your work as an activist comes from that place you’ll find it deeply fulfilling, and be able to remind yourself why you’re doing this when things get tough! 2 Identify where you’re needed Another great way to get started is to get to know your community better. Explore your local shops, charities, schools, not-for-profits and food suppliers. Talk to your councillors and find out what issues they’re dealing with. Take your time over this and be careful not to commit to something before you’re sure it’s right for you.
Freedom and equality
Anarchism’s most basic principle is that freedom and equality are mutually inclusive: they are inseparable. Whether inequality exists in material wealth or in power, in the context of the home, work or social group, the imbalance inhibits the freedom of those with the short straw. As such, anarchists argue that it is impossible for all to be free when inequality exists. This contrasts sharply with liberalism where a notion of freedom is decoupled from wealth or power and defined in terms of rights: huge inequality can exist but we are all ‘free’ because we enjoy equal rights before the law. It also contrasts with the orthodox Marxist notion of equality where a powerful state could impose equality top down. Though this would achieve material equality there would be massive inequalities of power between state and public.
3 Use your talents Know what gifts you’re bringing to the table. Have you got business or networking skills, muscle power or fund-raising experience? Knowing your skills helps you define your role, which can also prevent you being assigned a task you don’t want to do. 4 Create connection This is Theo’s bedrock for successful activism. Aim to create a sense of connection with everyone you meet: your supporters and your opposition. Let them know you care, not from a stance of self-righteousness but from a standpoint of understanding their point of view. This takes great patience and much practice but just doing it each time you remember is enough.
It follows from the concept of freedom plus equality that anarchists oppose domination in all its forms. Unequal power relations, such as those found in hierarchies, lead to domination of one person over another. Anarchists thus oppose all forms of hierarchy and authority and moreover, they propose that these coercive forms of power are unnecessary for society to function.
5 Know your subject If it’s mobile phone masts, you need to get versed in some techy speak. If it’s globalisation, you need to know your WHOs from your WTOs. The more familiar you are with it, the greater your ability to ‘adopt a position of complete optimism’ – a term used by Theo to describe the feeling that comes from being absolutely uncompromising on what you know is true, while still including your opposition in your circle of care.
It’s easy to see why anarchists (and many others!) might oppose the free-market or ‘neoliberal’ global capitalism that has been enforced so widely over the last few decades. The pursuit of profit at almost any cost has resulted in ecological degradation, human rights abuses, wars on multiple fronts and statesponsored violence against those that protest. But what would be so bad about ‘green’ capitalism, for example, or a capitalist social democracy that taxed the rich to provide public services? Anarchists, concerned as they are with freedom plus equality, would still oppose such a system, because inequalities would still exist. As employees within a capitalist economy we sell our labour and time (by working) to our employer. If we work in the private sector, our employer capitalises (makes a profit) from our work in virtue of the fact that he or she owns the means of production (the workplace/tools/ computers/machinery, etc). Thus, what you earn in a capitalist economy is not so much dependent on how hard you work but rather on how much you own. In capitalism, he or she who begins with the most ends with even more, and thus inequalities will only widen.
6 Choose balance over burnout To avoid getting overwhelmed, be prepared to time-manage yourself, to set achievable goals and to delegate when you can’t do something yourself. Taking care of yourself and your team is an essential part of being a good activist. Making time for play and relaxation will nurture you, ensuring you give the best of yourself. 7 Devote time to the inner work If change comes from within, then you’ll need to address the balance in your inner world. And your loved ones? It’s often helpful to ask yourself if you’re being the kind of lover/parent/friend that you know you’re capable of being. After all, there’s little point in striving for a better world if you’re going to ignore your potential to create a better you. Fortunately, the two seem to go best hand in hand…
Certain capitalist social democracies try to mitigate these negative effects by taxing the rich and giving ‘benefits’ to the poor. This is like recognising the illness but treating only the symptoms. This system also acts as a disincentive to work, both for the rich (since they will not make what they expected) and for the poor (since they’ll get paid anyway),
Listen to Natalie’s interview with Theo in full on Seize The Day’s website at www.seizetheday.org For ideas and how to’s: www.dosomethingaboutit.org.uk For networking and inspiration: www.sunrise-offgrid.com For non-violent communication: www.cnvc.org
as well as institutionalising the dependency of some humans on others. Further, since the system remains a capitalist one, profit remains the ultimate goal. As such we’ll always be fighting a losing battle against big businesses who wish to weaken the regulations around labour rights and environmental regulations.
From principle to practice
Anarchism is famed for its critique of capitalism and state, but this does not define it. Anarchism is a practical philosophy or ‘praxis’ – it exists through the enactment of its principles in everyday life – and this means organising in particular ways. For example, in order to bring about a free and equal society, anarchists recognise that we have to work together. Mutual aid and solidarity are core anarchist principles that we see enacted directly through collective action. Similarly, anarchists organise nonhierarchically; that is, without leaders. Where informal hierarchies emerge, for example if a member of a group has a special skill the others don’t (and thus becomes an authority), a conscious effort is made to counter the imbalance of power. Organising ‘horizontally’ also affects decision-making. Usually this means decisions are taken by ‘consensus’. In contrast to having leadership or a voting process (where the views of the majority dominate the minority), a ‘consensus decision-making process’ enables everyone to have a say in an open forum. Any decision made must be acceptable to all members. Anarchism is concerned not only with opposing injustice ‘out there’ in the world but also in our daily lives. As Gandhi famously put it, it is about ‘being the change you wish to see in the world’. This mode of acting to directly affect a reality rather than lobbying, voting, paying or praying for others to change things for us is known as ‘direct action’. Many contemporary approaches to social change such as LETS schemes, the Freeconomy, community gardening, autonomous social centres, open source software, food and housing co-ops, as well as the multiple DIY solutions for more sustainable living, are all examples of direct action and accord with anarchist principles. They are, bottom up (nonhierarchical), based on voluntary mutual aid and solidarity, and are part of building a freer, more just and sustainable world in the here and now, rather than waiting for others to do it for us.
“LETS schemes, the Freeconomy, community gardening, autonomous social centres, open source software, and food and housing co-ops are all examples of direct action and accord with anarchist principles” So if anarchism is already happening, will capitalism simply wither away? Myself, and most anarchists, would argue not. Powerful interests exist to preserve the current power structure and to protect those who wield that power. As such the concept of solidarity and mutual aid from the perspective of an anarchist means taking action to destroy oppressive structures, at the same time as building the new ones. For anarchists, it is crucial, also, not to drive a wedge between those that throw stones and those that plant vegetables (often they are the same people anyway!). Throwing a stone at a plate glass window can shatter the illusion that business is all-powerful, rupture the visual order of the city space and suggest that something else is possible, not to mention damaging the profits of that company. Simultaneously, planting a vegetable patch throws a half-brick at the corporate food chain that treats the earth as vessel to be drained of its value: it is another way of prefiguring a possible world in the present. These actions should not be separated along some moral register but seen as complimentary if we are genuinely committed to rebuilding the world along egalitarian and libertarian lines.
Get on my land!
Can’t get an allotment? Fear ye not, says Katie Nicholls, communal growing is the way forward for the West Country’s diggers and dreamers…
ore people than ever want to grow their own food. In the last five years the demand for allotments has outstripped supply in many parts of the west country, but the upside of this is a creative and upbeat response. More folk are also simply sharing their allotment and garden space, as they realise the laboursaving and social benefits of gardening in packs, and community gardens and allotments are springing up all over the place. The first point of call for anyone at the wrong end of an allotment waiting list should be the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens (FCFCG), a nationwide organisation that provides a hub of information and advice for anyone wanting to start up their own community garden or allotment. Their website also boasts an invaluable database of existing projects that stretches from Bristol to Frome, Salisbury to Glastonbury, and Exeter to Gloucestershire. “We’ve got funding for a project called Growing Communities in England,” says Ken Elkes of FCFCG. “The project will provide one-to-one advice and training for new and established community groups who want to set up local food growing initiatives.” The south west project team will include a regionally based support worker on hand to help you every step of the way. A great resource for frustrated growers is Landshare.net. Early in 2009 Hugh FearnleyWhittingstall hit on the idea in of linking up potential growers with landowners via online forums. The message boards are buzzing with postings from people looking to get skilled up, grow some veg, or find a bit of land to keep bees or chickens on. There are currently 1345 landowners registered and three times as many potential growers.
The land is yours
A similar but smaller project taking place in Totnes, Bath and, more recently, Bristol is Garden Share. It works like a ‘dating service’ matching those with tiny or no gardens to those with a surplus of space. A contract is drawn up between the two agreeing how to share the produce. Garden Share Totnes is a huge success and currently has 30 gardeners successfully matched with plots of land. Inspired by the GardenShare schemes in Bath and Totnes, and frustrated by the lack of growing space in her small, urban garden, Abbi Gutierrez set about developing the scheme in Bristol. “When I lived in a ground floor flat I was growing veg for the first time,” remembers Abbi. “I had so many seedlings that I ended up giving them away on Freecycle. It got me thinking about land that’s not being used. “People don’t use their gardens because they haven’t got time or perhaps they’re too old or have a disability. We create a profile for each garden and we do the same for the people who want to grow: find out where they live, if they have their own tools, their experience. We then match people with similar needs who live close together. It’s about bringing people in the same neighbourhoods together.” Bristol’s GROFUN project is another great model for community gardening en masse. Started four years ago by Nadia Hillman, GROFUN (Growing Real Organic Food in Urban Neighbourhoods) is a beautifully simple concept. Anyone wanting to set up their garden for growing gives ten hours of their time to other people’s gardens and in return, you get a whole posse of keen gardeners round to your house to help transform your space. GROFUN also run a community allotment and offers free skillsharing workshops on subjects such as companion planting, raised beds and composting. Eastside Roots, the Bristol-based workers’ cooperative with two community gardens, is setting up a ‘Propagation Network’ in Spring 2010, for people who want to contribute to the garden centre and grow at home. Budding homegrowers get given cuttings e.g. soft fruit, herbs etc to take home and propagate. They’ll then bring back bigger plants to the community
planting since spring 2009 and Phil plans to have more volunteer days this year, sending a bus out into the surrounding Chew Valley area and collecting growers from across Bristol. “I want lots of diversity,” says Phil, “I’m going to get people from all over the place, really mix it up.” Called simply The Community Farm, the initiative will be member-owned and Phil will be offering shares to people to buy into the company. Their return may come in the form of money or produce. Another great idea needing support is the Stoke Park Community Farm proposal. The ‘Blue Finger’ strip of land on the west side of the M32 outside Bristol is made up of high quality soil, used for hundreds of years to grow food crops. Transition Bristol point to its value in securing Bristol’s food supply in the face of Peak Oil and climate change, yet the land is earmarked for
A GROFUN team gardening en masse
gardens when they’re ready to be planted out. Some training and a buddy can be provided! The idea is to keep the core plant stock as locally sourced as possible. Eastside Roots provides opportunities to learn about gardening, food growing, plants, carpentry and co-operative working. We’ve also heard that Bristol City Council have appointed someone specifically to look for vacant plots of privately and publicly owned land in southern and central Bristol and bring them back into use as gardens and allotments, offering them on a peppercorn rent, as short term tenancies. If you know of empty plots or want to register your interest, the email contact for this is email@example.com
“I had so many seedlings that I ended up giving them away on Freecycle! It got me thinking about land that’s not being used…” (Abbi Gutierrez) possible ‘rapid transit’ development. A controversial Park & Ride scheme linking Bristol’s north fringe to Hengrove and south Bristol has been on the backburner for a couple of years. The Stoke Park Community Farm idea, which does have some council backing, would be a member-owned food growing initiative based on the principles of permaculture. Members work on the farm and get a share of the veg grown, (see below for details). The bottom line is: long allotment lists are no match for the west country’s army of determined growers. Check out the contacts below and get involved…
Phil Haughton of the Better Food Company is busy developing a community farm out near Chew Magna. His team of volunteers have been
Food growing schemes in your area…
The Community Farm, Denny Lane, Chew Magna, BS40 8SZ. Pop into The Bristol Proving House, Sevier Street, Bristol, 0117 935 1725, email firstname.lastname@example.org www.betterfood.co.uk
Federation of City Farms & Community Gardens (FCFCG) If you are setting up a community garden or allotment call the FCFCG on 0117 923 1800 for advice and see www.farmgarden.org.uk BATH Organic Group Community Allotments Food growing, community composting and workshops. Lower Common Allotments, Upper Bristol Road, Bristol. Call Tim Baines 01225 312116.
GardenShare Bristol email email@example.com
BATH Garden Share 01225 338473, see www.bathorganicgroup.org.uk,
Eastside Roots Community Gardens. Volunteer days: Stapleton Road Train Station site, Easton. Every Tues/Wed/Fri, 10.30am-4.30pm. Most Saturdays 11am-3pm. Trinity Garden site, Trinity Centre, Old Market, Bristol: every Thursday 1-5pm. www.eastsideroots.org.uk
GROFUN 208 Mina Rd, St Werburgh’s Bristol, 0117 914 0113, www.grofun.org.uk
EXETER St Sidwell’s Community Garden St Sidwell’s Centre, Exeter, 01392 666222 Get involved in cultivating a range of organic fruit and vegetables.
Kebele Community Allotment, Royate Hill, Bristol. Volunteer days every other Saturday from Jan 2, 2010. www.kebelecoop.org email firstname.lastname@example.org
GLOS: Horsley Orchard Project Three separate sites in Horsley, Gloucestershire Community orchard project with social events, workshops, and training. 01453 833699
Buried Treasure is an environmental, recycling and organic gardening project in Knowle. 07810 474 558, email buriedtreasure2001@hotmail. com, www.buriedtreasuregarden.co.uk
SALISBURY: Riverbourne Community Farm The ideal place to for children and young adults to get involved in crop planting and learn about agriculture and sustainable lifestyles. Cow Lane, Laverstock, Salisbury, 01722 330667, 07932 736745
Russell Town Ave community allotment: needs new members. Sat mornings 10-12pm. Enter the City Academy site through the metal gates at the cycle track end of Russell Town Avenue. Access the allotment through the 2nd gate on the right.
TOTNES GardenShare 01803 867358 (Lou Brown), see www.totnes.transitionnetwork.org
BS3 community allotment, 07790 759748, see www.transitionBS3.co.uk New members needed.
Easton Community Allotment 10 Eve Road, Bristol, tel Beth Astle 0117 939 8337 / 07875 136040. Volunteer days are Thursdays, bring lunch to share.
‘Sow and Grow’ community garden and growing group. www.hheag.org.uk
Stoke Park Community Farm, email James Adamson on email@example.com to register your interest and find out more.
See our comps on p49 for a chance to win a Rocket Garden: perfect for growing in small spaces!
Why take supplements? David Barrie gives his view… People often ask me why they need to take nutritional supplements if they eat a healthy, balanced diet. I would answer that with the best will in the world, it’s nigh-on impossible to get all your essential nutrients from a modern diet, because our soil – and therefore our minerals – have been so depleted by industrialised farming over the last century. Add to that the pollution in the rest of our environment, and the way so much of our food is processed, and I believe that we could all do with a bit of extra help. Industrialised farming has sought to subjugate nature over the past century, as we’ve assaulted the land with intensive farming methods, fertilizers and pesticides. The body needs around 40 different minerals to function properly, but modern farming returns just three to the soil. These are Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium, the minerals associated with rapid plant growth. The UK government’s own scientists, McCance and Widdowson, measured the mineral content of our vegetables in 1989. They concluded that our vegetables were between 45% and 125% nutritionally richer back in the 1930s than they are today! Overall, 60 years ago people had up to three times the nutritional value from their fresh fruit and veg that we are getting today. The 1992 Earth Summit Report that came out of Rio de Janeiro concluded that there was 76%
“60 years ago people had up to three times the nutritional value from their fresh fruit and veg that we are getting today” less essential minerals in our soil then than 100 years ago. Dr Paul Clayton, whose book, ‘Health Defence’, is essential reading for anyone interested in nutrition, says: “We don’t get enough of all the things we need in our food, no matter how carefully balanced our diets. Many major surveys have confirmed that the vast majority of us are depleted in many, if not most, key micronutrients”. The problems of modern, industrialised farming are only part of the picture. A whole new food industry sprang up halfway through the last century, essentially taking our food at source, processing it, and selling it back to us via advertising campaigns. The food was no longer ‘whole’ and usually the processing leached away the vitamin and mineral content. The backlash against this culture of cheapness started early, however. Those individuals who somehow felt things were awry were considered cranks in the early days but they kept on shouting. Over five decades ago Rachel Carson’s powerful book, ‘Silent Spring’, was published, credited with inspiring millions active in the environmental movement today. Over the last decade we’ve seen attitudes change radically, with ‘slow food’ on people’s radars, whole food shops, farmers markets and veg box schemes thriving, and celebrity chefs challenging the fast food industry and factory farming on primetime TV. I am optimistic for the future. The demand for organic, fairly traded, nutritionally rich food is growing at an astounding rate. With 80,000 people waiting for allotments, the writing is on the wall for those who saw profit, not nutrition, as the driving force for food production. We are slowly but surely regaining our power as individuals: making informed choices about our food. My 30 years’ experience in the health food trade has taught me that a diet comprising mainly fresh fruit and vegetables, augmented by a good multivitamin, offers the best way of meeting your nutritional requirements. Back in 2002 the American Medical Association said that everyone, ill or well, would benefit from taking a daily multivitamin. Until our soil is healed, I think maybe we should all follow their lead. David cites ‘nutrition, food, and well-being’ as his main passions. A former meditation teacher, he now works for a health food company and gives regular talks to the public on health and nutrition.
Hemp hero hosts eco show
With a major award recently for his efforts, and eco-veggie roadshows to organise all over the country, Yaoh’s Tim Barford is a busy man. Darryl Bullock caught up with him
genuine pioneer, Tim Barford was awarded the Arthur Ling Memorial Award in honour of his work within the UK veggie community. He’s responsible for founding the UK’s first hemp company back in 1991, opening the UK’s first hemp shop in Bristol three years later before going on to found Yaoh, which produces a full range of organic hemp food and body products – including the world’s first hemp milk maker – in 2002. Tim is passionately committed to seeing an increase in all things green, organic and fairtrade and, seven years after establishing Bristol’s annual Vegan Fayre, he is keen to expand the remit to embrace other ecofriendly, veggie-friendly and Fairtrade businesses. Relaunching this May as the Eco Veggie Fayre there are big issues to engage with here; Tim has brought together green thinkers, human rights activists and animal rights champions from all over the West and is working with local campaigners such as Julian Jones of Bristol Friends of the Earth and Jenny Foster of the Bristol Fairtrade network. Tim is keen that the sense of fun and madness that has been a trademark of the show in previous years is still very much present and correct. This is, after all, the same event that brought the city its first-ever dairy-free custard pie fight! Involved with the West’s entertainment scene for years as a DJ and promoter, Tim has been organising Eco Veggie fayres around the country,
and hops that the Bristol Fayre will build on the success of similar events Yaoh as held in Brighton and Reading. He’s still passionate about veggie issues but is keen to be inclusive of other lifestyle choices too. “Dropping the word Vegan from the title was a big risk, but it’s really opening up the show,” says Tim. “The word was a big turnoff for a lot of people, and I don’t want anyone to be excluded. But everything at the show is still 100 per cent plant-based. There are no animal products at all.” The Eco Veggie Fayre takes place over the weekend of May 29-30 in and around Bristol’s historic, bustling harbourside. There’ll be talks and demonstrations from a whole host of green experts, cookery classes every day, and stalls offering samples of gorgeous food and cosmetics. The Green Home Zone in the Carbon Market (which The Spark will also be sponsoring) will have specialists on hand to offer advice to anyone looking to renovate or build their home with sustainability in mind. There’s loads for kids to do and live music all weekend, with a focus on booking the best of Bristol’s fresh, local talent, as well as headline acts. Talks at the event will be aimed specifically at bringing together people who are engaging with major issues such as world hunger and climate change. “If you have an interest in anything from healthy nutrition to animal rights, fairtrade or the state of the planet then there should be something
at the show to spark you into action,” Tim says. “I want to see a few flashbulbs going off in people’s minds! I think the job is to unite with people who are already on their way down the road towards finding solutions to the big problems, and I see this as a chance for people passionate about different issues to come together and see if they can work together.” No longer a niche market, the veggie lifestyle is big business and dozens of local companies will be among the 100-plus stalls encouraging you to try meat and dairy-free goodies. This kind of local support is massively important, as Tim recognises: “We don’t have any dosh: no grants, no lottery money. There’s nothing like being skint to become resourceful, creative and imaginative! And it stops you getting above yourself and all up yourself too. “Our show is independent; which means that we’re not afraid to take risks. Because we’re independent we don’t have some of the big attractions that other events have, but what we do have is some tremendous support. “If you can do something while you’re here to help safeguard the future of the planet then you should. We each have a responsibility: at the show we want to encourage people to join forces with other people who are looking for the answers.” The Bristol Eco Veggie Fayre takes place in Lloyd’s Amphitheatre and Millennium Square, Bristol, May 29-30. Tickets £6 in adavance (kids/OAPs £3) per day. www.bristol.ecoveggiefayre.co.uk Tickets available in advance from www.yaoh.co.uk and the Bristol Ticket Shop www.bristolticketshop.co.uk
We are currently recruiting for:
Listening and Communication Skills 10 weeks part-time
Foundation Course in Counselling Skills One year (part-time), Wednesdays 5.30-9.30pm
We have been providing Psychodynamic Counselling Training, accredited by Westminster Pastoral Foundation, since 1983.
Diploma in Psychodynamic Counselling Two years (part-time), Mondays 2.00-7.30pm If you would like to know more please telephone 01373 453355 or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org
Wessex Counselling Service, Fairfield House, King Street, Frome BA11 1BH www.wessexcounsellingservice.co.uk
Beccy Golding on rites of passage for young people, workshops for step families, and the journey of a real nappy pioneer… Spring follies
Avon Wildlife Trust will be laying on an eggs-ellent eggs-travanza over Easter at Folly Farm and Willsbridge Mill. Young adventurers can discover and unscramble egg-citing facts about eggs laid around the nature reserves and follow a treasure hunt leading to chocolate eggs! Also Eggs-plore eggy crafts and try making your own nest (enough Egg Puns yet?!). There’ll be a special activity area for toddlers too. During the school holidays Avon Wildlife Trust are also running ‘Really Wild Activity’ sessions for playschemes and other childrens’ groups, including den-building and bushcraft, ponddipping and minibeast safaris. Grrrrr. Eggstravaganza: Tuesday April 6 at Folly Farm, Wednesday April 7 at Willsbridge Mill. Drop-in between 10.30am-12.30pm or 2-4pm. £6 per child over 4 yrs, Adults free. Search for info on Folly Farm or Willsbridge Mill via www.avonwildlifetrust.org.uk For ‘Really Wild’ sessions contact Ruth Worsley or Alison Logan 0117 932 6885, email@example.com
Animated plasticine characters are firmly linked to the West Country’s cultural identity and now you and your kids (aged 9+) can have a go at creating your own 3D animated film and have it showcased at Wiltshire Music Centre in Bradford-on-Avon. To start: a two-Saturday workshop where you’ll make your models, plan a story, then
using the latest computer technology, shoot your film and add sound effects. To finish: it’ll be shown during ‘Animation: Now…And Then!’ a live event at the Wiltshire Music Centre. Animation Now…And Then will take you on an animation journey, from the early days of cinema to Wallace and Gromit and Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, exploring stop-motion animation from 100 years ago to today. Some of the oldest animations were made before they knew how to add music, so Stephen Horne will be creating music to mirror what happens on-screen, including providing improvised, onthe-spot soundtracks to the brand new films made in the previous workshop.
2 day workshop: Saturday March 13 & 20, 10am-4.30pm. Under 18s: £30 for both days, accompanying adults £20. Animation Now… and Then! Event: Sunday March 28, 3pm. Adults £10, under18s £6. www.wiltshiremusic.org.uk Box Office: 01225 860100
Rites of passage S
Are you part of a step-family? Historically a step-parent usually stepped into the place of someone who had died, but in recent times a step-parent often steps into the place of a still-living parent. Stepping Stories is a two-day workshop exploring the dynamics of step-families, facilitated by Vivan Broughton, a systemic constellations facilitator and trainer, and Julia Vaughan-Smith, who has a coaching and psychotherapeutic background. Both of them are stepparents themselves. Using systemic constellations, and the personal experiences of the participants, the workshop will explore how family systems adjust and re-form, and how they are informed and influenced by unconscious dynamics, experiences and emotions. “Step families are highly complex,” Vivian says, “parents separate and take on new partners, and children have to negotiate more complicated parental arrangements. If not understood, subtle systemic dynamics such as trauma, loyalty, guilt and betrayal, can cause great disruption.” The workshop will explore these issues and look at how children and parents make sense of these changes and the resulting complex, sometimes conflicting emotions.
If you’ve owned a car you may well have owned a Haynes manual: detailed, annotated descriptions of exactly what goes where and why for every model of car. What I didn’t know is that Haynes Publishing (based in Sparkford, near Yeovil) also publish non car-related manuals, the latest being the Teenager Manual (A Practical Guide For All Parents). I really like the tone of this book: it’s contemporary and based in reality; it doesn’t talk down to you; it acknowledges that parents have skills, and it offers advice around the difficult bits. There are even thoughtful sections for single dads with daughters, and single mums with sons, giving advice on how to approach subjects such as shaving and menstruation. I will definitely use this book in future! www.haynes.co.uk
Stepping Stories, March 6/7, in Bristol. Cost: £205. 0117 923 2797 or visit www.constellationswork.co.uk and click Systemic Constellations Workshops.
Beccy discovers a way for young people to mark their transition to adulthood
imply put, Jeremy Thres is an ‘environmental educationalist’. He works to help people reconnect with nature, (including their own nature), and supports people to grow into themselves. I talked to Jeremy about the work he is developing called LandTime, for young people aged 17-25. LandTime is a modern version of an ancient practice: an opportunity for young people to take time out of day-to-day life and experience living closer to the land in a community of peers, with the support of experienced elders. The ancient practice Jeremy is re-visiting and developing is the Rite of Passage, ‘a ritual or ceremony signifying an event in a person’s life indicative of a transition from one stage to Jeremy Thres another, as from adolescence to adulthood.’ In our culture it seems that we are missing these rites of passage for young men and women. The nearest I can think of is the ‘school prom’, ground from which a deeper connection with an import from the USA which consists of a big, both land and community can take place.” social dance party marking the end of secondary Another important aspect of LandTime is school. Other modern rites of passage might helping people find their affinities and work include passing your driving test, leaving home out what they’re drawn to and connected with. or going travelling on your ‘gap-year,’ etc. These The process acknowledges the talents and skills are events that many young people go through you already have but also supports you to learn that may make them feel more ‘adult’, but new ones, such as practical skills using different they don’t tend to be accompanied by a deeper materials. “For instance, one person might find ‘ceremony’ to support and mark the transition, they are drawn to working leather, another with or offer a clear jewellery, another welcoming with stone, another “One person might find they are drawn to working wood,” Jeremy says. from the wider community to with leather, another with jewellry, another with stone These affinities honour that can also be about and another with wood…” young person. exploring and Some religions finding a regular do have these physical practice. kinds of ceremonies, for example the Jewish bar “One of the teachings of many elders and, mitzvah, but in our (largely secular) society lots increasingly, science, is that having a regular of young people don’t have these opportunities. practice such as Tai Chi, meditation, drumming LandTime is a chance to get to know yourself or Yoga is something that supports our health as better. Jeremy says he believes in “planting an adult, so we offer a taste of various practices ancient seeds, such as that of the soul marriage. that can be pursued and continued through You cannot truly (at least healthily) marry life. The journey of finding such an affinity another, without first getting to deeply know can be rich, it can become a lifelong friend.” and commit to yourself.” These skills can also then be shared and used LandTime is also about knowing your to contribute to the community (something environment and connecting with nature. “This young people might have been doing at a much was a natural given in the indigenous cultures younger age in previous times throughout in which rites of passage were the norm,” history). says Jeremy. “Our intention is to recover that LandTime is a five to ten-day programme. connection for young people as part of the Leaders share other practical skills such as
wood-chopping, water-gathering, cooking and building shelters that will prepare the participants for another important aspect: ‘alone time’. There are opportunities for fasting and time alone, varying from 24 hours to three days, as the young person feels ready. ‘Alone time’ marks a period of learning more about yourself and mark the transitions that young people are going through in a different way. To accompany his work with young people Jeremy is building a team of elders. “It’s important that those offering the work have a thorough grounding in it. Fortuitously it can also support and serve you whatever age you come to it, for there are many changes in life.” To this end he also provides talks, consultancy, and training on rites of passage and ‘alone time’, which he believes have been missing from our culture for a long time. I asked Jeremy what sparked him to do this work. “I’ve always been interested in reconnecting with nature,” he says, “it’s a gift to be connected – a joy to see the turning of seasons – many people are missing something that is freely available, and bigger than we realise.” His first personal rite of passage was a Vision Quest (a ceremony most commonly associated with Native American teachings) in Russia 17 years ago, going on to study the pattern of such rites panculturally and working with a number of indigenous elders both in this country and beyond. “That first quest was a real awakening for me,” he says. “I’m particularly struck by how this beautiful balance of community and alone time works, how they both feed and nourish each other.” Jeremy has been delivering and developing this work ever since, with LandTime being the latest incarnation. ‘I love the work because it’s about reconnecting people, resourcing them. We leave something behind, yet in doing so can return hopefully refreshed with fresh gifts and a bit more Shine.” The next LandTime session will be at the end of May. Jeremy also runs Introductory weekends. Contact him for more info, dates, or if you are interested in becoming part of a community of elders. Jeremy Thres 01647 221444, email ojl1@btconnect
Gary Lamont, nappy chappie
Nappies. Not the most joyous part of parenting, but an essential one. I’m a 33-year-old father of two, and if someone had told me 10 years ago that I’d be spreading the real nappy message across Wiltshire, I’d have run a mile! My wife Daisy and I were living in Northern Ireland when our first child was born. We wanted to use a real nappy laundry service so we could avoid disposables but nobody was doing it over there. In the end, we set up Blooming Bottoms, Northern Ireland’s first real nappy laundry service, and started promoting sustainable parenting alternatives (breast-feeding /organic weaning, etc). We re-used packaging, used washable nappy bags and drove an electric van powered by wind energy: brilliant unless you forgot to charge it and ran out of juice halfway up a mountain! I remain grateful to the kind lady and gentleman who not only helped push the van to their house but also let me plug it in and charge it so I could get home! The laundry service was also run on electric wind power. We both love live music and festivals and had everything we needed to do the festie season, except the money. So we contacted The Big Green Gathering and asked if they would like us to provide a free on-site nappy laundry service. They said yes! Through this and other festivals we’ve met many wonderful, awe-inspiring people, using so many different and innovative ways to educate and inspire people. Much of what I learnt about environmentally sustainable ways of working gets incorporated into what I do today.
“We set up Blooming Bottoms, Northern Ireland’s first real nappy laundry service… we drove an electric van powered by wind energy: brilliant unless you forget to charge it and run out of juice halfway up a mountain!”
Blooming Bottoms ceased trading in 2007, although the business was doing well, because we were offered the chance to move onto a ‘microholding’ in the wilds of Wiltshire. Closing the business in Northern Ireland is right up there amongst the saddest things I’ve ever done, but we had always wanted to live on a smallholding so we grasped the opportunity and never looked back. Even back in England, though, the lure of nappies was never far away! I am now Real Nappy Co-ordinator for Wiltshire and I love it. I still have contact with many people from my Blooming Bottoms days and we still provide free nappy services at many festivals. The job has to have some perks, doesn’t it?! So what sparks me? People. The environment is something that people are concerned with but not everyone realises the changes they themselves can make. Issues such as the real nappy campaign have come so far since I first got involved. The best way I learnt about how to make a difference was simply through listening to passionate, articulate people, from all walks of life, talking about what drives and motivates them. I think we’ve each got to try to instill within ourselves and others values that promote responsible environmental stewardship of our planet and compassionate global awareness, not only for our benefit, but for the benefit of generations to come. If you’re interested in finding out more about what I do, about real nappies or other sustainable parenting issues, get in touch with the Nappy Man. Gary Lamont 01380 725670 ext 236, email GaryL@wiltshirewildlife.org, Real Nappy Week is April 26-May 2, Go Real: The Real Nappy Information Service: www.goreal.org.uk
mind body & spirit
Hannah Latham discovers a much-needed clinic and a pioneering theatre group, while Fiona McClymont enjoys some open-minded debate from all corners of the healing community Firebird Theatre
Homeopathy for mental health
A new initiative from Step by Step is offering homeopathy treatment to vulnerable people who might not normally be able to access health services in the community. Homeopathy works on the principle of treating like with like in extremely small doses to encourage the body to heal. What many people may not know is that homeopathy is used for treating mental health issues as well as ‘physical’ ailments. In the UK one in four people will experience a mental health issue in a year. For people suffering mental health problems, and on low incomes, homeopathy is not a viable option but support agency Step by Step has been trialling a homeopathic clinic for their clients with very positive results. Fourth-year trainee homeopathic practitioners work under supervision to treat patients suffering from severe anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicidal tendencies, obsessive compulsive disorders, and drug and alcohol addiction, as well as physical ailments. Homeopathy students get first hand experience at treating complex problems. Plus, their caseloads count towards completing their qualifications. James* who was on medication for anxiety and suicidal thoughts, and who had suffered from mental health problems for 55 years, says of the treatment: “Due to the support, kindness and treatments I received here, I was able to gain a more stable base, both mentally and emotionally, from which I could work from. I’m convinced that the treatment has made a tremendous difference in my ability to cope with life.” Step by Step is run through Second Step, a mental health and homelessness agency which provides housing and support to people with mental health needs in Bristol, Bath, Somerset and
The creative arts have been used in personal development for many years but Bristol’s Firebird theatre company is pushing new boundaries by touring professional plays with a powerful collective of 16 actors, all with physical and/or learning disabilities. The group is doing much to dispel some of the common stereotypes associated with disability. “Some people may think that if you’re learning disabled you can’t remember lines or work with complicated text,” says Andy Harris, joint coordinator with Jane Sallis. “But we’re proving that wrong.” Watching the actors in rehearsals it’s clear that they are more than capable of performing Shakespeare. They’re attentive to the content of their lines and the fine nuances of their expression. Firebird’s latest production is The Tempest. When I asked the actors if they found The Bard’s text easy to understand the resounding “NO!” was very loud. They spent about a year unpicking and interpreting the play, as any theatre company would when preparing for a performance. “They’ve looked at it from the perspective of their own lives and drawn from that,” Andy says. “For example, if you’re called bad names enough you start to believe them. They related that feeling to their work in The Tempest.” Andy and Jane started the group in a Portway day centre 20 years ago. With support from Bristol Old Vic, Firebird has become a professional theatre troupe and have built a strong audience base in the west country. They work with well-known guest directors and musicians and take their work into schools, doing workshops with young people. They now tour their productions. When I asked about the challenges and
(Left to right) Homeopaths Wendy Heath, Nicky Gibney, Charlotte Nickson, client Elaine Stubbs (in chair)
Gloucestershire. Step by Step is also supported by the Contemporary College of Homeopathy in Bristol. Patients pay a nominal fee of £7 per treatment which covers costs but nobody is turned away. Step by Step work closely with support workers and if the client can’t afford the fee then it is covered for them. So far eight students from the Contemporary College of Homeopathy have done three-month placements on the project and it is so popular there is now a waiting list. “The project has been extremely challenging but very rewarding,” says founder Nicky Gibney. “Part of the challenge has been working with patients who are on significant levels of prescribed medication, with deep psychological traumas or abusive life experiences – there is suppression on many levels.” The results have been very positive. “The most striking were in their sense of wellbeing,” Nicky says. “After five sessions many clients said their sense of wellbring was greatly improved”. To find out more call Second Step on 0117 909 6630 or visit www.second-step.co.uk
*names have been changed for confidentiality
rewards of their work, Firebird’s actors are lively and engaging. “Most of us are nervous and some of us are scared, but we have to do it,” says Daniel Bryan, their youngest and most recent member. “We like to interact with the audience, which is life changing for us and them,” says Penny Goater, a longer standing member. “They don’t expect to see disabled people in a professional theatre.” Firebird’s The Tempest is touring venues in the west country in March. www.firebird-theatre.com, 01275 871693.
In brief… Axminster Awareness Centre
The Awareness Centre is a registered charity offering healing, complementary health care, workshops and lectures. The organisation is unique in being the only centre in the country to offer drop-in healing from Monday to Friday. The drop-in sessions are free of charge, although donations are very welcome. www.awarenesscentre.org.uk
SUCH a good idea…
Fiona McClymont finds a trailblazing new space where medical practitioners of all persuasions can engage in honest, open debate about what constitutes good health… and we’re all invited
ast year was a strange one for me. I was diagnosed in late summer with a chronic, auto-immune disease and since then I’ve spent most of my time investigating the how, why and what-on-earth-can-I-do-about-it issues involved with this. All of which has started me on a quest to understand more about my health and indeed the concept of health itself. What does health mean exactly? What’s a symptom and what’s a cause? Why does orthodox medicine recommend one course of treatment and alternative medicine another? What are the philosophies behind the science? Indeed, is there any philosophy behind the science?! Luckily for me, a group has appeared in Bristol called Understanding Health, which seeks to explore and understand what health and sickness are and what it all means. The group meets once a month at the Pierian Centre and was co-founded by mother-of-four and practising homeopath Liz Anderson. “Understanding Health is the kind of group I’d been searching for for a long time but not found, so I thought I’d set something up myself. It has similarities with the Cafe Scientifique or Philosophique, but with a health focus, and it’s unique in that respect. There is no agenda: it is not about promoting a certain practice or treatment, or about pitting the conventional medical world against the alternative one. Although Paul, the cofounder, and I are both homeopaths, we are not promoting homeopathy, we are just trying to get to the truth of what health is and how to progress towards it.” Everyone is welcome at this group. Liz wants to see GPs, consultants, patients, carers, students, acupuncturists, and in fact anyone remotely interested in exploring the issues, all coming together to further their knowledge and understanding. We might think we know a lot – we’re certainly bombarded with health stories in the media and there is an information overload when it comes to things like Swine Flu and MMR vaccines – but if there is one thing this
group has taught me so far, it’s that the deeper, philosophical issues behind these stories remain mostly unexplored. As Liz explains. “Our discussions are designed to be thought-provoking and to get people to think about the ideas behind what they are told or what they believe. The root of the word ‘health’ is to do with ‘wholeness’. Liz Anderson In modern medicine
a lack of, symptoms and it is this deeper, philosophical aspect to the group that I find so fascinating. That is not to say, however, that people are discouraged from bringing things into the discussions from a personal, individual level. The group does not claim to be able to solve your problems, but they certainly broaden the issues involved and make things easier to understand. This is not a group for dry, academic and lofty debate, it’s rather a nonintimidating, welcoming space where people get the chance to share their own experiences and opinions in a supportive environment. “Being inclusive and friendly is very important to us,” says Liz. “The whole point of the group is that we are coming together to try to further our understanding, so whatever anyone says we respect it, listen to it and don’t judge it. We do not take sides: we are trying to expand our view rather than closing off bits of our view.” So, what can you expect if you go along? Each month the group explores a different topic and so far the founders have done much of the talking, but they are keen for it to evolve to the stage where people who come along to listen feel confident and are able to talk more. “I’d love it if people came and said to us ‘This is something that’s been really puzzling me, could we arrange a talk on this?’” says Liz. “We’d probably know someone who could talk knowledgeably on that subject, whatever it is, and we’d set up a talk and take it from there.” So, if you have any interest in your own health, work in the field, or are simply curious, go along to the next session. You can’t fail to learn something or hear something unexpected As Liz says, “Life is all about choices isn’t it? Hopefully our group will help people make informed choices about their health and see things on a deeper level.
“If someone is symptom-free but unfulfilled and unhappy in their life, can we really call them healthy?” a person tends to get separated up into parts – so if a person goes to a doctor with individual symptoms, for example, pains in their knee, a rash and problems sleeping, they will probably be given all different medicines for those different things. They’ll have different specialists for different parts of their body, none of whom will talk to each other. Maybe one of the symptoms will get better, maybe some other symptom will take its place. The point is that no-one is looking at whether this person is generally getting better or worse, as a whole. And what if someone is ‘symptom-free’ in that they have no physical pain, but is a person who feels unfulfilled and unhappy in their life, who can’t hold down a job or form relationships? Can you still call that person ‘healthy’?” Health is so much more than a list of, or
Understanding Health meets first Tuesday of each month at the Pierian Centre, 7.30-9.30pm. Free to all but with a suggested donation of £4. Upcoming topics for March/ April include ‘Germ Theory: What Causes Disease’ and ‘Allergies and Sensitivities’. See www.pierian-centre.com
Set up in 2003, the SUCH project (Service User Complimentary Holistic), based in Taunton, aims to provide complementary and holistic treatments to anyone in mental distress, whether they are service users, carers or working in the mental health service. Treatments available include Indian head massage, reflexology, holistic and aromatherapy massage. The project acknowledges that not everyone has the financial capacity to access these kinds of treatments, and so offers its services to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay. Donations are, again, very welcome. www.suchproject.org.uk
Studies by MIND have proven that nurturing a connection with your natural environment can be as effective as antidepressants when treating depression. Ecominds is their latest initiative, run as a partner of the Big Lottery, aimed at enabling people with experience of mental distress to get involved in local environmental projects, such as creating urban green areas, clearing community spaces, developing recycling points, encouraging wildlife habitat as well as rambling, mosaicmaking and other creative projects. Grants of up to £20,000 are available to smaller projects through the Ecominds initiative. So far Ecominds has funded environental work run through BTCV and WWOOF in the south west. See www.mind.org.uk/ecominds
The Happiness Project in Bristol is led by local artists and funded by NHS Bristol and Bristol City Council. Throughout March an empty shop on Union Street in Broadmead will host free, 90-minute art workshops, exploring themes such as ‘Gratitude’, ‘Goals’, ‘Strengths’ and ‘Playfulness and Humour’. Art activities include kinetic drawing, laminated mobiles, blind drawn portraits, photography and collage. The sessions are aimed at anyone wishing to start investing in their mental health. Doors open March 1. Fun, informative and FREE! Tel 0781 409 4227, email firstname.lastname@example.org, see www.wearelightbox.co.uk
Buqi combines postural correction and energy forces, originally developed for TaiChi, to treat most health issues. A taster event on April 21 at Wesley College in Henbury, Bristol, offers low cost treatments, an introductory talk and free advice on posture. 0117 9850859, 07989 908975
Training for Beginner and Practising Hypnotherapists Enrol now for 2010 Courses
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taught locally in a dynamic, interactive way in small classes by a qualified and accredited teacher and full time hypnotherapy practitioner.
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Plus, short courses for practising hypnotherapists in NLP Self Esteem and Confidence and helping problem gamblers. Evening, weekday and weekend classes available.
Classroom courses in Bristol Diploma in Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy for future practitioners.
For course details and interviews contact Hilary Norris-Evans on 01249 740506 or via www.getmindfit.co.uk To download a brochure go to www.hypno-nlp.org
The Clifton Practice (CPHT) Hypnotherapy Practitioner Diploma Course is a comprehensive ten month course part-time. Two-day weekend courses or small group weekday courses are available.
Course accredited by the National Council For Hypnotherapy (UK) and the National Guild Of Hypnotists (USA) and NCFE (UK)
The course is approximately 150 hours of classroom study. After successfully graduating the practitioner course you will be awarded a Diploma in Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy (DHP) and the hypnotherapy practitioners diploma (HPD) accredited by the NCFE(NVQIV). Designed and written by practising professionals the course will give you a thorough and sound knowledge of the application of ethical clinical hypnosis enabling you to become an effective practitioner. Students travelling from outside the Bristol area may be helped with travel and accommodation expenses. For a brochure and details of forthcoming courses please telephone The Clifton Practice on 0117 973 3260 or simply visit our comprehensive website www.thecliftonpractice.co.uk
Labels and logos
Confused by ethical labels? As we celebrate Fairtrade Fortnight, Jo Middleton fights her way through the throng, picks out the heavyweights and gets the story behind them…
n 2009 the Dairy Milk and KitKat brands both achieved Fairtrade certification. If Nestlé and Cadbury are jostling for accreditation, then it’s safe to say that ethical consumer choice is finally a mainstream issue. Gone are the days when people were on first name terms with their local farmer, fishmonger and butcher, and we all need some help identifying the heroes from the villains in our food chain. Certification is a necessary means of regulating a market full of big corporate players all wanting a slice of the action, as well as the small, independent producers. Ethical labelling is not without its critics, though. Some say it over-burdens small producers with prohibitive costs and excessive paperwork. There is also much debate over certification globally in terms of its aims, impact, ideology and fairness. Is it right to lower the bar and be more inclusive, therefore making ethical certification more achievable and slowly encouraging better practices across an industry? Or does a lower standard for certification simply open the door for multi-nationals and unscrupulous brands to greenwash their products and jump on the ethical bandwagon? The positive benefits are obvious, however. If you buy at least some of your goods from largescale producers in far away places (and most of us do) then kite marks are simply the only way of judging how ethical a brand is. The following guide gives an overview of the main labels for food, clothes and wood products. It tells you what each means, why they are important, and gives ideas for what you can do to make a difference when you shop.
Fairtrade Foundation Fairtrade certification is a system for ensuring
that workers and producers in developing countries get a fair deal. It focuses on those who are disadvantaged and promotes the development of sustainable working practices that lift people out of poverty. The Fairtrade Mark from the Fairtrade Foundation is very widely recognised and respected. A recent survey showed that it is recognised by 70% of adults in the UK, with 64% of the population associating the mark with a better deal for producers in the developing world. When you buy anything with the Fairtrade Mark, whether it be food, drink or clothing, you know that the product has met international fairtrade standards, set out by the international certification body Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International (FLO). Under these standards, both the producers and the communities they work with benefit from an agreed minimum price, long-term mutually beneficial partnerships and a commitment to social, economic and environmental sustainability. Look for the Fairtrade Mark when you’re shopping for food and clothes, particularly things like tea and coffee, chocolate, fresh and dried fruit and juices, cut flowers and cotton products. Fairtrade Fortnight – running from February 22-March 7 – is focussing this year on encouraging consumers and business to swap something they would normally buy for a Fairtrade equivalent. You can get involved and support the Fairtrade Foundation through campaigning, fundraising or other activities. Visit www.fairtrade.org.uk for more ideas.
For more information about Fairtrade and Fairtrade Fortnight go to www.fairtrade.org.uk
Rainforest Alliance Another certification system working to improve working practices in the developing world is The Rainforest Alliance. This New York-based
• Only food made up of at least 95% organic ingredients can use the word ‘organic’ in the title. •Foods that contain between 70 and 95% organic ingredients can use the word ‘organic’, in the ingredients listings, but NOT in the title. In the UK, the different organic certification bodies are regulated by The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFR A). DEFR A currently approve eight independent organisations, the largest of which are The Soil Association and Organic Farmers and Growers. The approval and control of these bodies, together with the development and implementation of EU organic standards, is supported by The Advisory Committee on Organic Standards (ACOS). Members of ACOS include farmers, processers and consumers, as well as representatives from organisations with an interest in environmental issues, food safety and animal welfare. Each of the bodies approved by ACOS (see box below) must reach a minimum sets of standards in their production processes, based on various international and EU legislation. Each sets their own independent standards, above and beyond the baseline requirement. The Soil Association and The Scottish Organic Producers’ Association (SOPA) regulate and monitor their members to conservation campaigning NGO was founded in 1987. Its profile has been raised recently, through its relationships with companies such as PG Tips, Innocent Smoothies and most recently, Kraft. Rainforest Alliance sets out to provide farmers with economic incentives to stop them destroying their environment. The Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance certification operate in similar fields; however, there are two important differences between them. Firstly, the Fairtrade Foundation guarantees farmers a minimum price for their produce whereas the Rainforest Alliance does not. Secondly, coffee producers, for example, can use the Rainforest Alliance logo on their packaging if they use a minimum of 30% certified (by R A) coffee beans. The Fairtrade Foundation can certify an ingredient within a product as being fairtrade but to certify a whole product as fairtrade, that whole product must be 100% fairly traded. The Rainforest Alliance say that it’s impossible to guarantee a minimum price to the world’s 25 million coffee growers on the open market and that by offering small producers and farmers financial incentives, they can raise the quality of what they produce, get out of the poverty trap and eschew the worst of the industry’s practices. Its supporters point to the fact that offering a minimum price to producers is only one element of creating successful and sustainable communities, and that R A certification focuses on general ethical management of farms, including promoting workers rights to organise, to decent living conditions and a safe, clean working environment. Critics of the R A accuse it of offering multi-nationals and larger companies a cheap way of ‘greenwashing’ themselves and tapping into the ethical consumer market.
Organic logos The new European Commission Organic logo comes into force in July 2010 and will be a standard requirement for any producer in the EU carrying organic certification. www.organic-farming.europa.eu The Soil Association Certification was established in 1973 and is one of the most well known logos. Includes specific aquaculture standards. www.soilassociation.org Organic Farmers and Growers is one of the largest certification bodies, operating across the UK www.organicfarmers.org.uk Scottish Organic Producers’ Association (SOPA). Members are primarily based in Scotland, although SOPA has recently expanded to support farmers in upland areas of England. www.sopa.org.uk Organic Food Federation: established in 1986 and operating in all areas of organics, including fish. www.orgfoodfed.com
Biodynamic Agricultural Association supports and promotes a biodynamic approach to farming and forestry. www.biodynamic.org.uk
For more information about the Rainforest Alliance go to www.rainforest-alliance.org
Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association: covers both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. www.iofga.org Organic Trust Limited: founded in Ireland in 1991 and certifying a comprehensive range of food stuffs. www.organic-trust.org
Organic food The case of organic foods is possibly one of the
most confusing in the world of eco-labelling. Only products that carry one of the official logos you see in the box to your right have been officially certified as organic. There are several systems of certification, run by separate independent organisations, and each has their own logo. The rules around the use of the term ‘organic’ are as follows:
Quality Welsh Food Certification Ltd monitors organic farms and food supply chains in Wales. www.wlbp.co.uk/organic_overview
29 © Ian Layzell
Forest owners also have a responsibility to local communities. They must employ local workers and provide them with the appropriate training, equipment and a decent wage. Products that display the logo will have been tracked from the forest right through to the point of sale, and every step along the way will have been subject to the same rigorous certification process. When you buy any wood products, such as home and garden furniture, decking and paper products, always choose ones carrying the FSC logo. If you don’t see the FSC logo, or you see endangered woods such as teak and mahogany being sold, challenge your retailers and ask them to carry products that are certified.
Clothes When it comes to clothes, you may want to
look not just at the materials being used, but also at the conditions in which they are produced. Clothing can be a hard industry to monitor, as the supply chains are often complex and spread across the globe. Many workers are forced to tolerate extremely poor working conditions, terrible pay and regular abuse of their human rights. Organisations such as the Labour Behind The Label campaign (www. labourbehindthelabel.org) work to protect the rights of these workers and promote better working conditions throughout the industry. If you want to buy clothes that have been more ethically produced, there are three labels to look for. The Soil Association logo will tell you that your garment has been produced using organic materials (which protects not only the natural environment but human health since it will be free from pesticide contamination) and the Fairtrade Mark will reassure you that cotton farmers and producers are being supported properly and given a fair price for their products. If you want to know something about the organisations involved in the supply chain, look for the logo of the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO). The WFTO looks not just at the rights of the producers, but at the working practices at various stages of production and distribution. Members can include individuals, retailers, exporters and importers and self-assessment standards relate to working conditions, pay and the environment. a higher level than others. For an end product to be certified organic, it must be approved at every stage of its production process. In some cases, different bodies certify different businesses in the supply chain; in other cases the certification body is able to certify the complete process. Food that is certified organic also has a responsibility in terms of sustainable packaging. All food labelled organic should, where possible, use recycled packaging materials and should minimise unnecessary packaging. In a bid to introduce a more consistent organic labelling system, the European Commission is introducing a new pan-European organic label across all 27 Member States in July 2010. All certified organic products in the EU must carry this new logo from this point onwards. Not everyone in the industry is in favour of the new logo. The Soil Association, who currently certify the vast majority of the UK organic market, are concerned that yet another logo could further confuse consumers and take up valuable space on food labels already crowded with information.
What can I do?
If you want to make sure your food comes from a legitimate organic source, look for a logo. If a product is describing itself as organic, but doesn’t have a logo, check the ingredients or question your supplier about its credentials. The ‘organic’ label carries a lot of weight with consumers nowadays, and some less ethical suppliers are keen to tap into this market, even if they are not licensed to do so.
Forests are being cleared not only for the value of their timber, but also to provide land for intensive farming and ranching. As well as the massive environmental impact, in Brazil alone, European colonists have destroyed more than 90 indigenous tribes since the 1900s. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) was established in 1993 as a response to this increasing problem of global deforestation. Working as a global network, with national working groups in over 50 countries, the FSC aims to promote both the protection of the world’s forests and the livelihoods of the indigenous people who live and work in them. The FSC’s ‘tick tree’ logo can be found on timber and other wood products, including paper, and shows that a product has been certified in accordance with the FSC’s 10 Principles of Forest Stewardship. This means forests must be managed in a way that is “environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable.” Trees that are harvested must be replaced, or allowed to regenerate naturally, and certain parts of the forest are protected entirely to preserve valuable plant and animal habitat.
If you care about animal welfare and you eat meat, it’s essential to look for Free Range and Organic labelling on your meat. The RSPCA’s Freedom Food certification is also one to look out for, although Freedom Food does not denote Free Range meat (confusingly for some). It is, however, the only universal certification scheme in place across the UK, looking specifically at farm animal welfare. The Freedom Food scheme certifies the welfare of chickens, ducks, turkeys, sheep, pigs, cows, laying hens, dairy cattle and farmed salmon. The scheme applies to every stage of the farming process and its members include farmers, hauliers, abattoirs and processors. Freedom Food’s welfare standards are based on five simple principles laid down by the Farm Animal Welfare Council. These are that farmed animals have the right to: freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury or disease; freedom to express normal behaviour and finally, freedom from fear or distress. The Freedom Food certification can be given to ‘higher welfare indoor chicken’, meaning that farms rearing chickens inside but with access to daylight, room to move around and natural materials such as straw bales, can receive the Freedom Food certification. The RSPCA has given Freedom Food certification to big, industrial scale farms, as well as smaller enterprises. It has been criticised for this but the RSPCA argue that their aim is to reach as many animals as possible and a stringent entry-level policy would exclude too many farms and producers at the outset. All the major supermarkets and many independent retailers now carry Freedom Food certified animal products. See www.rspca. org.uk/freedomfood. You can also search for Freedom Food approved restaurants, cafes and farmers markets at www.foodloversbritain.com
Clothing logos www.wfto.com
Wood products We lose an acre and a half of rainforest every
second and experts estimate that this equates to a whopping 137 species of plants, animals and insects being destroyed every single day.
You can download lots of useful information from the FSC website, should your local stores need convincing www.fsc-uk.org www.forestethics.org
What can I do?
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s inspired Chicken Out campaign has done much to improve public awareness of battery hen farming practices in the UK. Hugh says: “All supermarkets now sell free range and organic meat but packaging can be misleading. BEWARE of phrases such as ‘Farm Fresh’, ‘Farm Assured’ or the Red Tractor logo. They can all be found on standard intensively reared chicken. Always look for Free Range, Organic or RSPCA Freedom Food labels.” Hugh also identifies the following supermarkets’ own brands as offering ‘high welfare indoor chicken’: Co-op: Elmwood; M&S: Oakham; Morrisons: Wood Vale; Sainsbury’s: RSPCA Freedom Food; Waitrose: Essential Waitrose.” See www.chickenout.tv for more. Compassion in World Farming is a registered charity which campaigns to end cruel farming practices. See www.cimf.org/food for more info about buying higher welfare food, and to get involved with their campaigns.
Two organic certification bodies look at fish farming. The Soil Association and the Organic Food Federation have developed specific aquaculture standards to monitor organic fish farming in the UK. The RSPCA’s Freedom Food label covers the welfare of farmed salmon. In terms of depleting fish stocks, the logo to look for is the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). The MSC is an independent charity that was formed in response to the problem of global overfishing. The MSC has a set of standards governing sustainable management of fisheries and awards the logo to suppliers who meet their rigorous standards. The certification process has two core principles at its heart. Firstly, all products bearing the MSC logo have shown that they are effectively managed, minimise environmental impact and maintain sustainable fish stocks. Second, the MSC chain of custody standard for seafood traceability ensures that every link in the chain is certified, helping to keep illegally caught fish out of the supply chain. If it’s canned fish you’re after, Fish4Ever produce tuna, herring, sardines, mackerel and anchovies. All the products are sourced as ethically as possible, with 70% now having the MSC certification. Fish 4 Ever products are canned using organic oils and flavourings. (see www. fish-4-ever.com). For a reminder of why we need to protect fish stocks, check out the brilliant documentary End of the Line (see http:// endoftheline.com)
Animal welfare www.rspca.org.uk/ freedomfood
In the UK we eat over 10 million eggs every year and over half of these are produced by caged birds. Egg labelling is often designed to suggest a level of animal welfare which is not adhered to in practice. For example, the label ‘Barn Fresh’ next to a picture of free-roaming hens in a field means nothing at all and is simply a misleading marketing tool. The ONLY way to ensure that you are eating eggs from hens which are not intensively farmed in cages is to buy Free Range or Organic eggs. Eggs have a code to tell you their production method: 0 1 2 3
– – – –
Organic Free range Barn Caged
You can also trace your egg at www. lioneggfarms.co.uk. Under the Lion Mark system 85% of eggs in the UK are stamped with information about where and how the egg was produced.
graphic design for • Arts • Crafts • Gifts Open to all
All of Artrageous’s profits are gift aided to Children’s Scrapstore.
OPEN: Mon-Sat: 10am-5pm
Artrageous at The Childrens Scrapstore The Proving House, Sevier Street, St Werburghs, Bristol BS2 9LB Tel: 0117 914 3025 Reg. Charity No 2624238
• • • • •
logos stationery advertising leaflets websites
gift shop Trading in a peaceful environment in the heart of Bristol's busy shopping centre, we offer gifts and homeware, 3/4 of which are bought direct from developing countries and small suppliers. We work with the communities who supply our goods, providing them with access to larger markets and asking them where they need support. Our profits go to fund Buddhist projects internationally and community projects amongst our suppliers. Visit us on the first floor of the Galleries, Broadmead (next to Waterstones) Tel: 0117 922 5877 E-mail: email@example.com For details of our ethical trading policy visit our website www.evolutiongifts.co.uk or pick up a leaflet in our shop.
tel: 07532 043675
herbs one caring world Ethical Trading Centre, Weavers Walk 33 Silver Street, Bradford-on-Avon
BISHOPSTON TRADING COMPANY
Beautiful clothes for women and children Fair Trading and Fair Prices 01225 867485 www.bishopstontrading.co.uk
shops Celebrating our 30 year anniversary! 55 Gloucester Road Bishopston Bristol BS7 8AD Tel: 0117 942 5625
Jewellery, Gifts and Curiosities from around the World. Watches, Silver, Costume and Body Jewellery. Watch Batteries and Straps fitted Free. Aromatherapy Oils, Crystals, Music Tarot and Meditation Cards. Candles Woodcarvings Furniture, Soft Furnishings and more.
Open Tues-Sat 10:00-5:30
18 St Marys Street, Thornbury, Bristol BS35 2AB
Fairtrade clothes • Bags • Gifts • Funky Tights Comprehensive range of Jewellery • Body Jewellery Scarves • Cards • Knitting yarns • Haberdashery and other Fantastic Stuff
Tel &Fax: 01454 415303 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org www.mythornbury.co.uk/bibelot
THE COTTAGE WHOLEFOODS
Organic • fairly-traded vegetarian foods • Supplements • Remedies • Essential Oils & Toiletries • Organic Wines, Beers & Lagers • Freshly baked bread and pizzas 01225 866590
THE COTTAGE CO-OPERATIVE ORGANIC VEGETARIAN CAFE Fair Trade • Homemade Food 01225 867444
The Alternative Department Store
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Spark readers survey!
we’ve had an amazing response so far: Huge thanks to everyone for making the effort, we’re learning so much about you. But there’s still time for you to let us know what you think and win a hamper of Divine chocolate or Pukka teas! Go to
www.thespark.co.uk before March 30. 30
Rear view by Kate Evans 49
Write to: The Spark, 86 Colston St, Bristol, BS1 5BB
WIN! An organic DIY rocket garden We’ve teamed up with Rocket Gardens, an innovative organic company based in Cornwall, to offer eight Spark readers the chance to win a ‘grow your own’ plant kit. The nice folk at Rocket Gardens are dedicated to providing you with the means to join the ‘grow your own’ revolution. They do this by growing a large selection of organic vegetable and herb seedlings and putting together a range of plant collections that will suit almost any taste or growing space. These collections of growing baby plants arrive on your doorstep packed in hay (grown on Rocket farm) ready for immediate planting. Not only that, you’re provided with easy-tounderstand growing guides so you don’t have to worry about a thing: brilliant for anyone thinking of growing for the first time. The prizes up for grabs are the following garden vouchers: 2 x small vegetable gardens; 2
x Mediterranean gardens; 2 x patio container gardens and 2 x herb gardens. Vouchers can be redeemed online or by freepost and are an ideal way of giving a gift or starting your own Rocket Garden. To win one of these fantastic prizes simply tell us which popular, leafy salad vegetable can have over 11 chemical pesticides sprayed on it in commercial production systems? Clue: you’ll find the answer at www.rocketgardens.co.uk Write your answer on a postcard and send it to us at Rocket Garden Competition, The Spark. 86 Colston Street, Bristol BS1 5BB before April 22. Please don’t forget your full name, address and telephone number, and tell us which rocket garden you would prefer (though we can’t guarantee to meet everyone’s preference!) www.rocketgardens.co.uk
WIN! A day at the Creative Glass Guild The Creative Glass Guild are offering two lucky Spark readers a place on a Stained Glass Weekend course, based at their spacious studio in Bedminster, Bristol. Under the guidance of a professional glass artist you’ll make a gorgeous stained glass mirror or panel from scratch over the two days. Step by step you’ll learn basic glass cutting techniques: how to follow a stained glass cartoon (pattern), cut and shape lead, assemble and solder your panel, and how to cement, blacken and polish your work to achieve a professional finish. Choosing your own glass from a beautiful selection of textures and colours means that you can really put your own stamp on your piece and create a wonderful decoration for your home. You’ll leave the weekend with the skills you need to make further stained glass panels, and Creative Glass Guild hires out bench space and tools to use at their studio so you can continue
creating even if you don’t have space at home. To win one of these fantastic weekend course places, just answer the following question: On which Creative Glass Guild course can you try a variety of glass arts disciplines by attending three hours a week over 13 weeks, and show your creations in an exhibition at the end of the course? Clue: You’ll find the answer at www.creativeglassguild.co.uk Write your answer on a postcard and send it to us at Stained Glass Competition, The Spark, 86 Colston Street, Bristol BS1 5BB before April 22. Don’t forget to include your full name, address and phone number on your entry. www.creativeglassguild.co.uk
WIN! A stylish SIGG water bottle Millions of disposable plastic (PET) bottles are thrown into the world’s landfill sites every day, bottles which some estimates claim may take over 1,000 years to biodegrade. When you consider the energy used to manufacture and transport bottled water, the reasons to switch to a reusable bottle become even more compelling. Backed by 100 years of expertise, SIGG are the world leaders in the manufacturing of premium, reusable aluminium bottles. These puppies are leak proof, highly durable and can take a beating (recently voted “The World’s Toughest Water Bottle” by Backpacker Magazine!). Each SIGG bottle is lined with a safe, high-quality coating which is baked on to remain flexible and crack resistant. The
“SIGG Eco-Care Liner” also removes any lingering taste or scent transfer. SIGG are proud to be a global member of 1% For The Planet, committed to donating 1% of all their sales to worthy environmental causes. To win one of 12 eco-design water bottles (which normally retail at up to £20) just answer this simple question: The beautiful shape of the bottle is one of the reasons that, in 1993, SIGG was incorporated into the collection of which New York museum? Clue: you’ll find the answer at www.sigg.com/about-sigg/history/ Write your answer on a postcard and send it to us at SIGG Competition, The Spark. 86 Colston Street, Bristol BS1 5BB before April 22. Don’t forget to include your full name, address and phone number on your competition entry. Check out over 100 designs in the SIGG Collection at www.sigg.com
competition winners 59
Thali Tiffins for a Year: E. Mayers, Bristol; A Day at the Relaxation Centre: Alison Monger, Glastonbury; Glass bead making tuition: Chris Maggs, Bristol
Susie Hewson Interview by Fiona McClymont • photo by Jo Halladey Susie Hewson is the founder of Natracare, an ethical company that has produced certified organic feminine hygiene and baby care products since 1989. Natracare use only plant-derived, renewable materials that are made to the highest environmental standards. Susie won the Women in Ethical Business award (2008/2009) for her efforts, and lives in Almonsbury with her husband Steve. She has two grown-up sons.
made of? Where can I find the raw materials? Who is going to make it for me? I had no business experience and my sons were still babies really, so I was doing all this in between feeds.
Watching a World in Action programme changed the direction of my life. In 1987, shortly after my first son was born, I saw a programme about dioxin production in the pulping industry. I was totally shocked! Things like disposable nappies, kitchen paper and feminine hygiene products were all being made in a way that created pollution and exposed us to that pollution. The manufacturers didn’t seem to think it was a problem; I thought it was disgraceful and felt really angry. The more I learned about how these products were produced, the more horrified I became. The pulping process is basically this: you take a tree, strip it down and send it to a pulping mill where it is processed using chlorine gas. The by-product of that processing is a substance called Dioxin and it gets released into the environment, into the water and into the air. Dioxin is a carcinogen, it’s also linked to endometriosis, low sperm counts and immune system suppression. At the time I saw the TV programme they were already finding animals and fishes in the lakes near the processing plants that had cancers and sores, that had become hermaphrodites. There is also evidence that residues of dioxin are found in the end products of this type of processing i.e. the nappies and tampons, etc. So the research against this method of production was already building.
Educating yourself and learning about something makes you a very powerful person. I did some research and I knew we could source chlorine-free pulp in Sweden and Finland. I’d lived there a few years back and seen it in action. We got everything made and shipped over from there and we also had, and still have in fact, a manufacturer in Wales. Our first products were sanitary pads which were 40 per cent elementally chlorine free. We managed to change it in the 1990s so now all our products are completely chlorine-free. A lot of symptoms that women associate with their periods are possibly to do with the chemicals in their products. Over time, women from all round the world contacted us with stories of how they reacted badly to conventional sanitary products and we started to investigate the symptoms they were telling us about. We’d hear the same problems over again. They’d say “Thank God for your products! I can’t use any other tampon, my body used to reject them and push them out or I’d get sore and irritated”. 75% of UK gynaecologists believe that conventional sanitary protection could be the cause of this irritation. If you put something on your skin it goes through your skin into your bloodstream (think how nicotine patches work). So if you put a tampon inside you, there is direct access between that product and whatever chemical residues it contains, and your blood system. Independent research has shown that the type of fibre used to make tampons affects the amount of toxins the body produces. It showed that if manufacturers want to reduce the risk of toxic shock syndrome, they should exclusively use 100 per cent cotton in their tampons. We are the only company who do.
I’m passionate about truth and justice. If you think something is wrong, how can you not at least try to make it right? I’ve always been an environmentalist. I’ve been a coordinator for a Friends of the Earth group, campaigned against Windscale, marched in London, worked on anti road-building and de-forestation campaigns, done a lot of conservation work, pulling shopping trolleys out of ponds, etc. People can become depressed by the scale of a problem, but my philosophy has always been that instead of worrying about that, focus on the bit that you can do now. Then, when you’ve achieved that bit, you can look at how to get bigger. I thought ‘Right, I’m going to produce my own product, one that doesn’t use this harmful method of production and gives people an alternative’.
Trust not, question more. Women are being misled into thinking their sanitary products are something that they are not. Some products say they are ‘cotton soft’ but what does that actually mean? There’s no cotton in that product. What is a ‘dry weave top sheet’? It’s just plastic with holes in, which is placed on top of a sanitary pad that was manufactured using a combination of plasticbased materials such as polythene, polypropylene and polyacrylate super absorbent gel, surfactants, and chlorine-bleached wood pulp as well as the occasional fragrance preserved with parabens. Doesn’t sound quite so appealing now does it?
The chlorine industry is a very powerful industry. It’s all very well standing with banners saying “Don’t do this! Stop that!” but you also need to offer people a different, better option. That is much more irritating and threatening to the powers that be, and I’ve got the lawyers letters to prove it! I sat down and asked myself a series of questions: What do I want my products to be 50
I feel like we have given women a choice.
Whether they take that choice is up to them, but it’s there and I consider that my greatest achievement. I feel proud that Natracare is out there as an alternative for women, in 50 countries around the world and still growing. I’ve worked for years to bring the best product possible to women: we don’t pollute the environment, we’re an ethical company, we have a low carbon footprint. I’m proud that we are the first feminine hygiene brand to achieve a scientifically validated, independently accredited, life cycle analysis in the form of an international Environmental Product Declaration (see www. environdec.com). In the end, though, it’s down to people thinking about what happens when they open their purse.
As a consumer you have the power of the purse. It’s so true what Katherine Hamnett wrote on one of her t-shirts: “I consume therefore I rule”. You are the gatekeeper of what happens out there in the market place. If you find yourself thinking “Why can’t we buy these products in Boots?” why not phone the buyer in Boots and ask? It’s up to all of us to take the responsibility to make change happen. www.natracare.com In October 2009, along with 80 other women, Susie cycled 300km through Jordan to raise money for Women For Women, a charity aiming to improve the health of women and their babies. They’re heading for China later this year www.women-for-women.org
Susie (right) with her sister Theresa on their cycle ride through Jordan
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Published on Apr 8, 2010
Published on Apr 8, 2010
the spark magazine the UK's biggest alternative magazine With 34,000 copies distributed around the West (and further afield), The Spark is t...