Anna comes to collect me in her street van, hired for a couple of hours, to do lots of collecting of large items not easily transportable on a bike and trailer. Street cars are a new thing to Cambridge and Anna is very excited about the idea, she doesn’t own a car and the last time she had to pick up something heavy she was afraid it would buckle her trailer.
We visit Daily Bread, Cambridge’s health food wholesaler, there is one heath food shop in town, Arjuna, which has been there since the 70’s. Daily Bread is good though for buying such things as organic recycled paper, toilet tissue and large bags of oats in bulk.
As we drive between the various locations we talk transition. We go through all the people from the the original steering group who are still involved; James Southwick, Rowan Wiley, Pippa Vine, Agi Berecz, Nareen Paterno, Corinna Gordon-Barnes, Ivan who comes from Huntingdon where there isn’t yet a group, and Anna McIvor herself. I have met all of these and heard a flavour of their transition tales. James founded transition Cambridge, is feeling a bit burnt out, when I asked him what was the most inspiring thing about transition for him at the moment he said my tale and I remind myself that ths recognition of all we are doing is a really important part of the process.
Rowan, from the transition tales group, about to start a new visioning 2020 project, and also the garden share coordinator jointly with fellow transitioner Jackie, who runs the local cheese shop, Pippa and Ivan on a permaculture course, excited about gardens as well as a whole wealth of other things; Ivan with the energy group, Pipaa with liaising with the council.
Corrina, fabulous compere and front person, Nareen, who had stepped back a little, but now really excited to see everyone again and find out that though her energy for it had got a little low, delighted that it is still going strong , and thrilled with her new coriander plant which turns out to be parsley. Ivan promises to grow her a coriander plant.
Anna goes through the projects they are currently involved with; the transition tales story competition which she is very excited about; many of the local schools got involved and they had over 80 entries, they are hoping to publish the winning 18 tales.
I have read a sample of these tales and they are excellent though what really stands out for me is the fear more clearly stated in some than others but evident in all and I feel slightly concerned about what sort of input their class teachers had given It reminds me of how important the process of providing a supportive listening environment for our children is. I am concerned that where these issues are concerned they, in fact adults too, ar simply not getting it, and strongly believe that a key role we hold as transitioners is to find a way to provide this support. Anna agrees with this and is still disappointed that their heart and soul group didn’t have the courage to call themselves this, and are known as the wellbeing group instead.
The group struggle with knowing exactly what it is they need to do to reach people. Anna remembers her Work that Reconnects course (http://www.joannamacy.net/theworkthatreconnects.html) and the course they had to design aimed at their most difficult to reach group. She chose academics, being part of the zoology department herself and bridging the two worlds, and wonders now if she shouldn’t find a way to start implementing it here.
We talk about our shared passion for showing the positive side of transition and our growing realisation that it is not by talking peak oil and climate change that we reach new people, but the community building, having fun aspect. Transition Cambridge don’t show doom and gloom films on their awareness evenings. Anna hated “Age of Stupid” (I tried to insert the link but it crashed my computer!), as I did, my own sense is that it put more people on the other side of the fence than it did encourage collaboration. Cambridge show inspirational films, like “The Turning Point” which we watched the other evening, and “In Transition” (http://transitionculture.org/in-transition/) coming up at their next film night. Anna laments that there are so few positive awareness raising films out there and hopes the next transition film will be a little differently d one, for varieties sake.
We talk about how good a dramatisation of transition would be but imagine that the budget will simply be too high, remembering how much it cost to make “In Transition”. Then an idea is born; of dramatising elements of the winning transition tales. Cambridge has plenty of highly creative people and those trained in media science. Let’s watch this space…
The next big project for Transition Cambridge now is the Eco Fest , run in conjunction with the local council. Transition have a dozen different things going on over that fortnight, coming up in June, from awareness raising stalls, to storytelling, and a day long walk and picnic to an area where lots of tree planting has been going on.
The crown in the jewel of Transition Cambridge is their food group, I am given some of their leaflets to take on to the next town, they are so well written and full of great ideas. Marion gives me a piece of patchwork felt, made by a local artist,and left over from making her storytelling coat.
One of Anna’s concerns is how to discourage people who think they are transition people but who really don’t get it, from getting on board and then talking about it widely, especially at public events, when actually their understanding of it can be quite damaging for the concept. If anyone has any thoughts for how we deal with this it would be great to share thoughts.
Anna and I collect compost from a garden centre, and are shocked to discover there is so much greenwash in the labelling that it is hard to know which is really simply organic compost with no added hidden chemicals. She buys a large compost bin too in the hope that she won’t have to do this anymore. The compost is for the plants Transition Cambridge give away at many of their events.
We go to Anna’s house to drop off her purchases before returning the street van. As we unload everything including an enormous straw bale ( I never did ask what that was for) the loudest thing I have ever heard zooms overhead stopping us dead in our tracks. Anna’s new home is on a flight path, fortunately not a regular one, she has been in a month and this is this first plane she has heard, but I am so struck by the amount of damage that level of noise must be doing to us and our environment. No point in concerning ourselves with noise levels in discos and our young people’s ears, when that type of noise pollution is legally permitted.
We visit the transition office; it is the minister’s room at the church where we saw “The Turning Point”. The church folk weren’t too sure they wanted to rent out any of their rooms for non church things so the minister gave them his room! I take a picture of Anna wearing the lovely transition Cambridge T shirt they all wear at events.
I ask Anna if there are maller neighbourhood groups within the larger Transition Cambridge hub and she says not really, that actually they also cover surrounding villages too, as many of the people of Cambridge cannot afford to live in the town. What they do though is to hold their events in a a different location each time.
We leave the street van at the train station where Anna picked it up from and say our goodbyes, me to walk into the town centre, marvelling at all the bicycle parks, and to head for the river for a bit of sun worshipping. It is finally quite hot enough to be described as summer sun.
I am beginning to feel quite at home in this city where you can walk or cycle everywhere easily and where transport is clearly well thought out.