Here’s a report back from Ros Bedlow and Diana Korchien of Transition Leytonstone on their very successful celebration of diversity in faith, food and culture (5th/ 6th February 2011)
At the beginning of February, South Leytonstone’s Epicentre* was the venue for a faith-inspired weekend celebration of sustainable living, with food, hospitality and entertainment. Transition Leytonstone hosted the two-day event in partnership with Sacred Roots, a Muslim-led organisation promoting interfaith dialogue through arts and culture.
Aiming to make the events programme socially inclusive, culturally varied and engaging, we strove together to deliver a mixture of environmental information and entertainment. Stalls selling eco-books, home-made jam and marmalade, olive oil and other products from Palestine, and Fairtrade goods were there on both days, and there was a seed sowing table. We ensured that children were catered for, with a special workshop provided on both days.
On day one, we featured talks by Polly Higgins, ‘The Planet’s Lawyer’ and Jagdeesh Singh from the Sikh Environment Network, both of which focused on the vital importance of planetary custody for all. These talks were well received by the public: the Mayor of Waltham Forest visibly enjoyed himself and assured Polly that Earth Hour (a day in March each year in which millions turn their lights off for one hour to take a stand against climate change) would be observed at Walthamstow Town Hall.
Later in the day we had a story-telling session, a book launch: Green Spirituality by Chris Philpott from Transition Leamington Spa, and a screening of A Farm for the Future. These were followed by a vegetarian buffet provided jointly by the Hornbeam Organic Café and the Star of India, a Leytonstone restaurant now sourcing organic vegetables locally. A concert in the evening featured our own poetry group: E11 Eco, and another local performer, ‘EnviroMentalist’ Other Theresa, alongside well-known musicians from many cultures and traditions, including Ameer Khan, On the D and Flux Collective.
On Sunday the focus was more on the food! Anton Rosenfeld from Garden Organic spoke about growing ‘exotic’ vegetables in the UK, and Gillian Livingstone from Transition Crouch End told us about their food growing and apple picking projects. Afterwards we held a series of round tables on food choices – a chance to find out why people eat Halal, Kosher, vegan, organic, local or Fairtrade, and to exchange information in an informal setting.
Sunday’s activities culminated in a multicultural feast with vegetarian food provided by a variety of local people. Many of the ingredients were sourced locally from Organiclea, a food growing co-operative based in Chingford. It was a sitdown meal, and the menus were a ‘feast of conversation’, with starter, main and dessert topics to choose from. I’ve no idea how far this was followed, but I didn’t hear anyone talking about football!
In view of the event’s obvious success, we are hoping to run others in a similar format in the not-too-distant future. Here are some of the comments on the feedback forms:
“Lovely community feel, with so many people offering performances – music, poetry, story-telling, and joining in generally”
“Loved the mix of people – music, poetry more of this!”
“I liked the round robin talks on food, and especially the talk by Shamaila on Permaculture, inspired me a lot”
“Planting seeds, poetry pasta (workshop brilliant) and delicious lemon cake!”
*A hub of community life used by a wide range of local organisations.