Thursday, 10 July 2014

Fun at the Big Weekend

Liz and Anna on our stall at the Big Weekend on Saturday

July is a busy time for fairs and one of the biggest is the Big Weekend on Parker’s Piece. People come to wander around and have fun doing an extraordinary range of things – from sliding down a helter skelter to having a lesson in unarmed combat. There are lots of stalls too: this year our pitch was opposite the Wildlife Trusts and next to a food stall selling delicious garlicky potatoes in cream, prawns and other aromatic things. As well as the smells you get a lot of noise: the music blaring out from the main stage ranges from rock to rap, jazz or reggae. And the people are as varied as the music – elderly couples, students, other couples, families with children from age zero up – but everyone is in a good mood and not in much of a hurry – so easy to engage in chat about sustainability and what to do about it.

On the Sunday the stall was mainly about energy but I ran into a post-grad student who had experience with heritage orchards in her native Russia. As well as growing traditional varieties of apples they were reviving old recipes for preserving them - I gave her details to contact the food group. I also met a girl of about 9, who told me about some of the eco-activities she did at school (Newnham Croft). Children of all ages liked playing the carbon saving card game (though I was a bit flummoxed to be asked by a 6-year-old what carbon was) while adults usually get some sort of advice.

The energy group now has seven different advice sheets on renewable energy and energy saving topics. We also had literature from Action on Energy – the local councils’ projects to help people save energy, now with grants for solid wall insulation and also for a variety of measures in privately rented housing. Quite a few people were interested in those.

Setting up a stall is not an easy thing to do but if you plan it right the actual day is much more fun that stressful. You need a checklist to make sure you have everything you need, and a rota of helpers. There is some advice on how to organise one on our website here.

It helps to agree on what you are trying to achieve. The first thing is to raise awareness of our existence – about ¾ of the people I spoke to had not heard of us before. Also you get people who are on the mailing list but who would like to have a chat about ways they can get more involved. The food stall on Saturday had a lovely display of fruit and veg which people often think is for sale – so you have to judge in each case how much more to say about us but the main thing is to be friendly and make sure they take a away a flyer of some kind. Fairs like this bring golden opportunities to spread our messages more widely.

Finally, by having a rota you can make sure no-one has to be there all day and there is time for everyone to have more fun enjoying the rest of the fair.

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