London Focus: Kingston, Leytonstone, Ealing, Tooting
There's loads of Transition Initiatives in London. We're going to hear from just four of them: Kingston, Leytonstone, Ealing and Tooting - for fairness, two from North of the river and two from the South! You'll be hearing more form John, Diana, Grant and Charles in September when there will be a London focussed week...
John Fellowes: TRANSITION TOWN KINGSTON
When the idea of Transition Town Kingston (TTK) was first mooted, at a regular environmental meeting in 2008, it immediately appealed to those present – it promised to help keep environmental issues central, communal, engaging and positive, and to channel information, resources and inspiration to those of us who needed them. I think it was the second meeting of TTK that established a steering group, and to my surprise, I didn't volunteer for it. So many keen people stepped up to take a lead, it struck me there was a risk of 'too many chiefs.' Meanwhile my plate was far from empty – I had a range of environmental roles, locally and elsewhere, not least as an ecologist in Asia.
So I took a back seat on this one. This was quite a release – and it does feel the burden has shifted (with the odd backslide) from a few individuals to a sense of collective responsibility. The initial group of eight soon became six, but they proved an unwavering and creative core, who guided us through a series of milestones including a much-lauded website, a film, an expanding mailing list and a ripping Big Launch party in 2010. Meanwhile I was involved in a number of groups and projects allied with TTK, some of which long pre-dated it. New groups took on their own life through other committed souls, most notably our From the Ground Up organic food-box scheme.
By summer 2011 we were losing momentum at the centre. A combination of bad luck, burnout and (uncelebrated) failure to engage others saw the steering group flagging. A couple of regulars, myself included, stepped in to replace those who stepped back, but we needed a more thorough rebirth. Being busy people we took some time between realising this and orchestrating it, but we got there in the end. As of June we have a new 12-person team, with a promising blend of thinkers, doers, organisers, communicators and harmonisers, and a world of possibilities.
I remain involved in different ways, at different scales, of the transition to living in harmony with nature. Kingston being home, Kingston remains an important one. I look forward to sharing thoughts and experiences from our part of the world.
Diana Korchien: TRANSITION LEYTONSTONE
In September of 2008, Rob Hopkins came to speak at the popular Conway Hall event Transition Towns Comes to London. If you were there, you may recall an eco bookstall in the foyer selling the 2009 Calendar of Climate Change. The books and calendars were mine: there weren't many sales that night. Engrossing myself in Rob's newly-published Transition Handbook, I drew the obvious conclusion: 'doing sustainability' on one's own is a waste of energy. Resilient communities are the future!
Leytonstone, in Northeast London, had been my home since 1987. A rather more 'monocultural' social landscape then, it was now a place of extraordinary diversity, where the council provides translation support services in a variety of languages ranging from Urdu to Polish, Somali and Mandarin. How to kick-start a truly inclusive and diverse Transition in this area? I quailed at the task. My neighbour, Ros Bedlow, did not. Aware of the many hurdles awaiting us, she set her sights firmly on developing a viable Transition initiative in Leytonstone. I had no choice but to follow...
The underpinning trinity of the Transition Movement may indeed be climate change, peak oil and economic meltdown, but we gradually discovered that Food is definitely the most empowering, enjoyable and socially unifying factor of all. Our 6-strong Food Group is currently rather overworked in the co-ordination of a variety of ongoing projects, including notably our year-old Saturday Local Produce Stall in Leytonstone High Road, a cooperative effort with OrganicLea. They provide stall, staff and produce; we provide stall volunteers and some of the produce, too. Stall workers can engage in stimulating discussions with food-aware customers, many of whom come from the ethnic communities that we want to reach! The stall is also a great shop window for promoting our other projects and events. Shameless plug: we are hosting Let's Grow Local! at Wanstead Quaker Meeting House on July 8th. There, we'll be producing our first Leytonstone Food Map and we've invited guest speaker, Pam Warhurst of Incredible Edible Todmorden to inspire us all. The search is on for eager diggers and weeders, scrumpers, garden sharers and stall volunteers!
We should be raising a glass of Transition Ale (another project with local brewers, Brodies) to celebrate the acquisition of our new Community Garden (thank you, Waltham Forest Council). The only problem is...there ain't no beer left!
Grant Venner: EALING TRANSITION
Ealing Transition is now in its fourth year and still going strong.
We have an active community garden group which is now managing an entire allotment site, a bee group which has been set up and funded along community supported agriculture lines, and a locally-sourced box scheme about to launch. In February this year we planted our second community orchard with the help of the London Orchard Project. A re-skilling event late last year drew in over a hundred people, and another is planned for this September. An energy evening drew a surprisingly large crowd, and a talk on 'Nature Deficit' proved remarkably inspiring.
Awareness-raising (primarily films, but also attending local carnivals and fetes) continues to draw in new people, and our database has now exceeded 1200 members. That's not active participants (if only!) but people interested enough to want to hear from us every few weeks. We have developed good relationships with the local council, other 'green' groups like Friends of the Earth, gardening groups, residents' associations and more.
Turning Joe Public into the interested, and the interested into the active, remains the holy grail. We need to think hard about getting greater scale to our endeavours. For all the energy going into the various projects, there are also some signs of tiredness and loss of momentum - maybe you actually need a Cuba-style external shock to really wake people up!
We probably need to take a step back and think about how we can work smarter, not harder. To that end we have been re-casting our website, trying to make it more user-friendly, more visual and with more emphasis on the practical and the local.
We haven't cracked 'energy' yet: a big solar installation might be the way to draw in some real interest, much as Ovesco have done in Lewes. (I'm wondering about the stadium roof of Brentford FC, or maybe getting together with other London groups to harness the tidal flow of the Thames...)
We continue to draw strength from the friendships we have made through Transition. As Rio II produces, well, a lot of hot air, it is good to feel like we are doing something concrete.
Charles Whitehead: TRANSITION TOWN TOOTING
Tooting is a welcoming, interesting and surprising neighbourhood in south west London which developed fast in late Victorian times, and again in the 1920s and 30s. Its heart lies on either side of the A24, which runs south to the sea 60 miles away. Along this road in Tooting there's an intense concentration of small enterprises, including many restaurants, reflecting the complex mix of the local population. There's covered markets, some chain stores, and no mall shopping centre. There are distinct day-time and evening economies. Tooting has a strong feeling of self-identification - if you live or visit there, you know the boundaries!
Transition Town Tooting (TTT) was set up in early 2008, and many of the people active early on are still involved. We really appreciate having this continuity. TTT has held over 100 meetings and events. We host a yearly Foodival of locally grown and prepared food, facilitate neighbourhood Carbon Conversations, established a community garden, are exploring a local currency, develop partnership projects connecting renewable energy and green jobs, explore arts and the imagination, and co-create activities for wellbeing and happiness.
- In the Trashcatchers Carnival we celebrated a positive vision of Tooting's future, with months of local preparation followed by a parade of 800 residents along the A24.
- One person's passion to collect plastic bottle tops for recycling has evolved to include diverse people who may not otherwise be part of a 'sustainability project'.
- This year we offered our Treasuring Tooting walk, touring 12 locations chosen for their local significance for wellbeing.
- In May we also experimented with our 'for nine days only!' Tooting Transition Shop in conjunction with Encounters Arts. We had over 700 visitors.
We've developed this graphic flower (pictured) which helps us describe and discuss TTT's structure and activities.
We're rotating TTT's support roles between us, filling roles for two years – so we share out what needs to be done and encourage ourselves to stay fresh without losing past learning. My own role is as co-chair since March 2011. Between now and the blog posts in September, we have some work in progress including:
- Focusing on preparing for the fifth Foodival, running on September 22 & 23
- Conducting a survey of our email list of 700, and others
Please visit us in Tooting – or view and comment on our blog.
- Hilary, Vic, Lix and John from Transition Town Kingston at the Cambridge Road Estate Diggers project.
- Diana holding a bottle of Transition Ale
- Two young Transition volunteers prepare to plant a tree at the Lammas Communicty Orchard, Ealing
- Transition Town Tooting's Flower Structure