Report by Claire O’Meara
The Atherton based event was intended as a bringing together of people and information and actual practitioners of some green community based cooperative projects.
Around 25 people attended during the day, including local community activists.
Contributors in the morning session included:
James Noakes, Wigan MBC Climate and Sustainability Manager
Jon Hallé from the Sharenergy Cooperative
Ian Taylor from GMCVO who made a contribution about their trail blazer energy and sustainability community initiatives in parts of rural Greater Manchester.
The morning session was a fascinating blend of experience and advice, ranging from the overview and the initiatives provided by the local council, to a commitment to act as an information point and facilitator to local groups wanting to get involved in renewable energy cooperatives, including energy surveys and information around suitable sites for hydro and wind initiatives.
The contribution from Sharenergy provided some background and greater understanding of how to set up both large and small scale projects. How to make the best of the resources you have, including those provided directly by the Sharenergy Cooperative itself.
Sharenergy have been involved in many kinds of renewable energy projects including biomass projects and hydro in addition to solar and wind. Jon Hallé from the project was a fount of information about the context of dwindling resources, and how ongoing use of fossil fuels could not be an option. He also had sage advice about how to tackle your local council to make them an ally.
Ian Taylor from Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisation (GMCVO) talked through the trail blazer projects that they are involved in, which in many cases involve and incorporate use of land for food production and community involvement, as well as using solar and wind energy. They are currently looking for further projects in the Greater Manchester area to be included in this work. Maybe we could take this up in the Atherton area soon?
The afternoon session was led by Pam Warhurst of Incredible Edible and this was received with the expected enthusiasm, as the project which has now been running for some years is growing and has been generally motivating and impacting on the town of Todmorden and has been reaching out worldwide with ‘veg’ tourism taking off. The ‘just do it’ philosophy has melded with a 3-plate model of linking learning with community and business.
This has spawned other incredible edible projects throughout the world.
There are some spin-off local businesses that have arisen alongside the Incredible Edible project in Todmorden (our emphasis is really on promoting ‘co-operative business’ and co-operativism in general, rather than individual ‘private business’ – one of the main objectives of the Tastier Greener Pie initiative being community empowerment) as well as educational and training spin-offs.
The attendees at the event had many questions about methodology of the project and these were mainly around difficulties encountered and the balance between seeking permission from landowners to just planning things wherever expedient and asking people to help themselves to crops produced. The larger project which have involved schools and local farmers have led onto many more diverse projects and seem to have revitalised the local high street and some civic pride.
The latter end of the day consisted of a general roundup and taking stock of what had been heard and the opportunities, potential grants and assistance available. The organisers provided a resource pack with information of helpful organisations as well as places, which were offering grant funding for local groups considering co-operative ideas in relation to renewable energy or growing projects or both. You can download your own copy of that document here: A TASTIER GREENER PIE-1
The group had many different ideas about where to start and benefitted from some other local community groups who had been gardening some communal areas for some time but not using food production as a base.
The key outcome was that many different people from both the Leigh and Atherton areas were linked by contact details with the remit to keep in touch and share progress and link up for mutual support where required. The advice from those who had directly been involved in such projects was one of the purpose and immediacy of starting with a few key people and building up a momentum from taking small and effective steps. Lots of quick wins and good propaganda to spread the message by leading by example, was perhaps best expressed by Stephen Hall at the end of the event in his concluding words of the day ‘go forth and multiply’.