kimberley crofts


an information and communication designer living in London

The Bigger Picture

I was lucky enough to attend the morning sessions of The Bigger Picture Festival of Interdependence in London over the weekend. Unfortunately we couldn’t get back in for the afternoon sessions as the queue for the event was, by this time, around the block. A great pity, but at least that meant that other people got to see it, not just the early birds like us!


The queue

The festival was put on (for free) by the New Economics Foundation. The festival was part conference, part workshop, part skill-share, and part exhibition all devoted to exploring the future of sustainability.

NEF’s choice of venue was inspired. Bargehouse is an 4-storey, gritty old warehouse space at the OXO Tower on the south side of the river. It was so lovely to be inside such a ‘human’ building instead of the usual polished concrete conference venue. It lent a really DIY activist vibe to the day.

I saw three talks. The first was a presentation from three speakers on the topic of food security and was introduced by NEF’s Andrew Simms. Of note was Tim Lang questioning what a sustainable diet looks like and how this fits in with our desire for a healthy diet. Lang asked can we have both? Lang says that it’s a fantasy that we have the right to choose what we eat, especially when it involves unsustainable transport and production processes (strawberries in winter, tropical fruit in the UK, etc).

Lang also introduced the audience to a new word deracination, which means lacking roots, to describe how the west has become so urbanized that we have lost touch with how to independently sustain ourselves through growing our own food. Another new term of Lang’s was the BINGO, that is a business that creates an NGO (non-government organisation).

Lang kept talking about a book by Tim Jackson called Prosperity without Growth that I will have to try and find at a library.


Tim Lang

Next up was the very interesting Professor Richard Wilkinson from Nottingham University talking about inequality. I could have listened to more of what he had to say, but unfortunately his presentation was brief. He showed by way of data graphics how countries that have a larger gap between the rich and  poor have more social problems than countries where there is a more equality. Loss of trust, increased crime, and larger incarceration levels are some of the indicators of an unhappy and unequal society.

Wilkinson says that without trust a community loses the social cohesion that is fundamental to solving the problems of climate change. For, if we have no trust and no empathy for our fellow citizens, why would we bother doing something for them? The UK and Australia are at the top of the unequal scale so we have the most work to do in order to bring back the common good and stand any chance of solving the problem of climate change.

The last talk I saw was a discussion about the value of storytelling. My favourite speaker from this session was Lucy Neil, a theatre producer and an initiator of the Transition Town Tooting project. Neil told the story of her great great aunt Mary Neil. Mary started the Espérance Club in the late nineteenth-century for poor girls from the dressmaking trade. At the club she taught traditional English dances such as Morris dancing which were popular at the time. The girls were then able to travel throughout England teaching these dances and thereby earn a new income. Mary Neil saw dancing as an inclusive rather than exclusive past time. Lucy quoted her great great (and wise) aunt to finish the talk: “isolation is death, only in union is there life”, a great mantra for a sustainable future.

More photos on Flickr


Lucy Neil

Filed under: activism, environment, events, food, future, , , ,

Blog Action Day ’09

This post is part of Blog Action Day ’09 which hopes to raise the awareness of climate change in the lead up to Cophenhagen.

Rather than talk about the science of climate change (of which I know very little), or the doom and gloom of our current wasteful and energy-rich behaviour (of which I unfortunately know a lot) I am instead going to focus on the local. Think of it as a return to the “think global act local” mantra of the early years of the environmental debate (oh how I wish that we had begun acting then).

I have been following the wonderful progress of the Transition movement since I moved to England last September. People involved in Transition Culture educate themselves in ways to improve the local community now, and well into the future. Transition groups across the country are working out ways to embrace sustainable farming, transport, energy sourcing, and financial practices as a way to move beyond peak oil and into a carbon-free future. Transition Culture has seen the birth of Transition Town Totnes as well as the Brixton Pound which I have posted about before.

I like what Transition Culture is bringing to the table, but at present I am not really able to contribute in a large-scale way to helping develop any initiatives. I do hope that will change. What I do want to do is to live more locally.

In November we will be moving to London and I am excited to read about many local initiatives in areas that we are thinking of living. Locally organic grown food has many obvious benefits like less carbon released through food miles and having no pesticides in your food, but it is also wonderful for the community. I have met some friendly local people here in Reading at the True Food Co-op and I am sure that it is the same throughout the local food community. If you haven’t tried it, go do it! (those in Australia should check out the Live Local Challenge)


Plums picked from a tree in my back garden

Here are some of the London food groups I have found just today:

Growing Communities is in Hackney and delivers organic vegetables to local homes and sells them at local farmers’ markets. They also have their own market garden which you can volunteer at and hold a fantastic sounding food swap event where local people can swap some of their homegrown produce (and get rid of the excess courgettes from their allotment!).

There are of course the Borough Markets for generally delicious food, but produce from the Islington Farmers’ Markets (held every Sunday) are certified by FARMA (National Farmers’ Retail & Markets Association) as being grown in a defined local area by the farmer themselves. If you’d like to find a real farmers’ market in your area, head to Farmers’

Anyone living in the borough of Islington and who wants to grow and distribute their food should investigate Edible Islington, set up by the Council and managed by the Capital Growth folks. The Council are providing financial aid to anyone who wishes to set up a community food growing project in the area.

And what should you be buying now from your local farmers’ market? Fresh herbs, peas, broad beans, carrots, courgettes, patty pan squash, runner beans, all sorts of tomatoes, red/black/white currants, gooseberries, red, white and black cherries, raspberries, Discovery apples, new season Bramleys, sweet corn, puff ball mushrooms, cherry plums, marrows. Thanks to London Farmers’ Markets for that info.

Filed under: food, living local, Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

Twitter Updates

Flickr Photos