I quite like the look of this theme with a few tweaks and pictures
This year’s Give and Take Day, our 9th, is taking place on 21st March on the Spring Equinox weekend, perfect timing for a good spring clean! So why not bring along your unwanted items of clothing, furniture, garden and household equipment, books, CDs and DVDs to the Community Centre and pick up something you might need. Just make sure that anything you bring is in decent, usable (or at least repairable) condition. This can even include electrical goods as our qualified PAT tester will be there. (Please note: No TVs, VHS players or videotapes accepted).
And remember, no money exchanges hands – it’s Give, it’s Take, and everything is free (although we do welcome donations towards room hire costs).
Give and Take Days have become an integral part of the ‘remit’ of Sustainable Bungay since we began holding them once or twice a year in March 2009. When the group first formed after the Climate Change conference in Emmanuel Church in 2007, we wanted to know how we could engage locally in response to changing climate conditions. What could we do here?
Since joining the Transition network in 2008, the group’s activities are now also informed by factors such as the decreasing availability of cheap fossil fuel energy and widespread economic downturn.
Profligate waste is one of the biggest problems in our present throwaway culture, whether it’s food, clothing or technology. Fossil fuels are embedded in the production of almost everything in our lives, and carbon emissions from waste exert a significant impact on the climate.
So Give and Take Days are not just about getting rid of stuff and picking up more stuff. They also aim to bring attention to our use of resources and make sure less of that stuff ends up in landfill sites, where it will sit for a very long time, emitting! These modest events have so far meant that about 35 tonnes of potential landfill has found a new home.
Give and Take Days are also a great opportunity to meet up with friends and neighbours – and to enjoy refreshments prepared by the Happy Monday Community Kitchen crew. Everyone welcome. Hope to see you there!
Give and Take Day: Saturday 21st March at the Community Centre, Upper Olland Street, 11am-1pm (please note items accepted 9am-12pm)
The Community Centre will also be open to receive items on Friday 20th March, between 5.30 & 7pm
For large pickups on Friday 20th March in the afternoon and further info please contact Eloise: email@example.com or call 07842 897172
This week saw the departure of one of Sustainable Bungay’s key movers and shakers, Nick Watts. To celebrate his very active presence amongst the group and to wish him well the comms wing of SB wrote and produced a special newsletter as a farewell card. Here it is!
Welcome to our souvenir issue of Sustainable Nick! A newsletter all about our fellow community activist, the grassroots economist, winemaker and grower and sharpest notetaker on the block, Nick Watts.
After 20 years living in this fine old town, and six in the challenging new era of Transition culture, Nick is moving with his family to South Wales. In celebration here is our autumn edition that charts his unforgettable contribution to the group.
Nick burst into Sustainable Bungay our annual Christmas party in 2008, and almost immediately took up his notepad and become the Secretary for all our core group meetings. His organising skills and dynamic energies have been key to all our activities from Give and Take Days to Green Drinks to running the Greenpeace Tea Tent in 2011. He also seeded and led several innovative new projects (see below) and inspired many folk to get involved.
Communicating the hidden worlds of finance however was what perhaps fired him the most. ‘Skintnick’ felt people really needed to know the facts around the fragile and illusory nature of our monetary system. His talk, A Tale of Two Curves – On the conspiracy of silence on natural limits and economic growth in June 2010 was a witty, full-on whistle-stop tour of economic history, and explored ways in which we might become resilient within the Transition framework and the local economy.
During 2011-12 when the Occupy movement had the world thinking about money in a new light, Nick was often to be found at the Occupy Norwich camp speaking about the radical changes needed in the global banking system. He also organised a thrilling nighttime march up to Norwich Castle to commemorate Robert Kett and the Norfolk uprising against the “hard-hearted elite” in 1549.
In an interview with co-chair Mark Watson, Nick explained how being involved with the Transition movement changed his life. “You become friends with people you’re working with on a common understanding, for a common good. Transition casts a different light on everything you do. You’re thinking in a bigger way about the systems that underpin our lives, but acting from where you are.
“You’re simplifying your life so you are less dependent on a high income, high energy use and the industrial food system. Peak Oil presents the very real possibility of these fossil-fuelled ways of life being taken away. I see it as a responsibility, especially if you have children, to take it seriously.
“None of knows exactly what is on the cards for the future – but our bet (6-4 favourite) is that Sustainable Nick will make the valley he is headed for a greener, more switched on and joyful place.
One thing is for sure: we will all miss him here in low-carbon Bungay. Thanks for everything Nick and happy moving!
Images: On the move: Nick with the all-important chair, Give and Take Day, 2011; making medicinal raspberry wine, Plants for Life workshop, 2012.
Food is never far from Sustainable Bungay’s collective heart and from the off our events have been accompanied by homemade cakes, seasonal soups and even our local take on tapas. But it was Nick who suggested we should turn eating into the main event.
Like a lot of good ideas Happy Monday was dreamt up in the pub – it was to be a regular meal demonstrating much of what SB is all about; supporting the local economy, working co-operatively, and celebrating farmers and gardeners in and around Bungay.
Unlike a lot of ideas discussed over a pint this one has grown into a very real and successful venture – thanks in no small part to Nick, who having come up with the idea, organised the first meal (a pie and mash night) in May 2011.
33 Happy Mondays later and almost 2000 meals have left the kitchen since that pub chat. Nick has been involved with every one of them; cooking, supplying home-grown vegetables, buying local produce and demonstrating his formidable washing-up skills. We are now left with a wonderful legacy for the Community Kitchen the future. Cheers Nick!
As a one-time booksearcher and keen to keep folk abreast of the thinking around peak oil, climate change and economic downturn, Nick devised a special lending shelf at Bungay Library. Over 50 book, as well as printed documents on everything from dig gardening to the debt crisis, were available to anyone who was interested. The Library has since disbanded the section and the books are now available for sale. An invaluable resource for people looking at the bigger picture. Green and Transition titles will be available at Happy Mondays on 19th October(see Simon Bloom)
In 2010 Nick took the lead in creating the Bungay Library Community Garden. In January Sustainble Bungay held a permaculture course taught by Graham Burnet off Spiral Seed. Their mission: transforming the bare brick courtyard into a flourishing showcase garden. Working to the collaborative design Nick co-ordinated a team of volunteers, who built raised beds and filled them with donated soil and compost, plants and trees, as well as installed rainwater butts and a composting bin. The Gardem opened the following year with a great celebration has since hosted dozens of events, including the bi-annual Give and Grow plant and produce swaps, also organised by Nick. It’s now a hub for many of SB’s activities and a peaceful and sustainble green space for all the community to enjoy.
NR35 was another plant-based enterprise devised by SB’s green-fingered entrepreneur. Based on Bungay’s postcode the NR35 (‘Natural Resources’ 35) group explore “how to use our skills, knowledge and labour to generate an income by sustainably managing/harvesting the resources which are wildly abundant around our rural market town.” The results include the harvesting and distributing of fruit and vegetable gluts, some of which are supplied to local restaurants and grocers, play area regeneration, dead hedge making and building a communal firewood store.
Tea with Everything; Nick, Margaret and Charlotte at the SB Tea Tent, Greenpeace Fair, 2011The knowledge: Nick (and cat) at Bungay Community Library party, January 2013; Quartermaster’s stores: Nick and fellow members of NR35 with firewood stash, October 2012
This Saturday (11th October) SB’s Mark Watson will run three raw food demonstrations at local Bungay greengrocers, Giddens and Thompson, as part of this year’s Waveney Valley Food & Drink Festival. And it won’t just be lettuce salad!
Simon Thompson says, “Mark will be making delicious dishes that are not only very good for you, but taste amazing. You’ll be able to sample all the dishes being made and take away recipe sheets (as well as purchase any ingredients you might need, of course).”
So if the idea of raw food piques your taste buds, call Simon on 01986 897944 and let him know which demonstration you’d like to attend: 10am, 12noon or 2pm. Each session will last about 30 minutes. Look forward to seeing you there!
Note: All of the raw food dishes I’ll be preparing on Saturday have been previously tried, tested and thoroughly enjoyed at Sustainable Bungay’s monthly Happy Mondays at the Community Kitchen meals.
Images: Raw Food evening with the Low Carbon Cookbook group at The Nectar, Norwich, August 2011; beetroot, carrot, parsley, 2011. By Mark Watson under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license
This post was first published on 24th September 2014 under the title Mark Watson on Making Space for Flowers as part of the “Making Space for Nature” theme on the Transition Network website. It appears here unabridged.
“Did you grow all those yourself?”, a young woman asked me last week at Transition Town Tooting’s 7th Foodival.
She was pointing to a wicker basket filled with the aromatic lemon balm, rosemary, anise hyssop, marjoram and a dozen or so more herbs and flowers I was preparing tea from at the event:
“A lot of them I grew at home in Suffolk, some are wild plants and others are from gardens here in Tooting, including the Community Garden up the road.”
She looked suprised, almost shocked. “My only reference for that kind of thing are the supermarket shelves,” she said.
In that moment I realised many things all at once: that events like the Foodival show how we can come together and regain autonomy over what we eat (and drink); that you never know who will walk in the door and get switched on by something they’ve never considered before; that making space for nature goes beyond the world of nature reserves, wildlife documentaries or even pilgrimages into the wilderness. I also realised that an intrinsic engagement with the living world is what I’ve been showing and teaching in the last six years since I became part of the Transition movement; and that Transition has offered me a role where I can use my knowledge and skills to bring plants and people together in a dynamic and inspiring way.
Bungay is a small rural market town of 5000 people on the river Waveney in north-east Suffolk, surrounded by conventionally farmed agricultural land. The common idea that people in rural areas are automatically more connected with nature can be misleading. Wherever we live now much of the time is spent in artificial spaces: in front of computers, television screens, in our minds and indoors.
When I consider Sustainable Bungay, the Transition group where I’ve been most active since 2008, I see that (re)connection with living systems and considering the planet is implicit in everything we do, from the permaculture inspired Library Community garden, to the Give and Grow plant swap days to a cycle ride down to the pub by the locks of the Waveney at Autumn equinox. The very first Transition event I led was a Spring Tonic Walk introducing people from Bungay and Transition Norwich to dandelions, cleavers and nettles, the medicine plants growing in the neighbourhood.
Our monthly community kitchen, Happy Mondays is now in its fourth year. A meal for 50 people, most of it locally sourced, is prepared from scratch in under three hours and features everything from nettle pesto and bittercress salad to puddings with foraged sweet violets or blackberries from the common.
Bungay Community Bees was formed in 2009 in response to the global pollinator crisis. There are now more than a dozen beehives in orchards and gardens in and around the town. The group has also created a purpose-built apiary (an observation shed with a hand-crafted glass hive) in association with Anglia Regional Co-operative Society and Featherdown Farms. In the summer schoolchildren from the region come to visit the bees and go on nature walks where they learn about flowers and pollinators.
Even behind the Give and Take days with their ethos of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refashion, Re-just-about-everything, there is the sense that the planet needs a major break from all the stuff the industrial system keeps pumping out. Nature needs a breathing space!
A natural breathing space is among the many things that Bungay Community Library Garden offers. In 2009 a subgroup from Sustainable Bungay teamed up with the town library, organised an Introduction to Permaculture course with Graham Burnett and worked with local builders, gardeners, tree surgeons and group members to transform the unused brick courtyard with one jasmine and a honeysuckle into a flourishing community garden with raised beds, fruit trees, flowers and herbs.
Each year since its opening in 2010, the garden’s central bed showcases a different theme: plants for bees in 2011, plants as medicine in 2012, an edible bed in 2013 and this year dyes and textiles. This way people can get a feel for just how multi-faceted plants are and just how interwoven they are in our human lives. In many cases the categories change but the plants stay the same. The calendula you made a tea from in 2012, you tossed into a salad in 2013 and dyed a scarf with the following year!
The person curating the garden each year organises events around the theme. In the Plants for Life series I ran in 2012 focusing on health and wellbeing, there were monthly talks, walks and workshops with guest speakers, on everything from biodynamic growing to walking with weeds to the medicinal properties of homemade wine! I also ran ‘plant surgeries’ during the summer where people could come and ask questions about the project and the plants and exchange their knowledge too.
The garden has become a focal point for many of Sustainable Bungay’s activities from steering group meetings in the summer to seed and produce swaps, Abundance exchanges of foraged fruit, and apple pressings. It is also the starting point for the wellbeing walks begun by the Arts, Culture and Wellbeing group last year.
The idea behind the walks was to explore local places together to encourage wellbeing and a sense of belonging. How that might increase personal, and particularly community, resilience, help combat the desire to be somewhere else and so encourage lower use of fossil fuels. Many people reported that simply by taking part in the collective walks brought an experience of wellbeing in itself.
There is more. Recently a group called NR35 (‘Natural Resources’ 35) based on the local postcode, began to explore “how to use our skills, knowledge and labour to generate an income by sustainably managing/harvesting the resources which are wildly abundant around our rural market town.” The results include the harvesting of fruit and vegetable gluts, some of which are supplied to local restaurants and grocers and a communal firewood store. Last spring a small group of us learned how to make a dead hedge with local tree surgeon Paul Jackson. It took just a morning but I remember practically everything Paul taught us.
So what I’m saying here is that making space for nature can start right outside our doors, and in the places we find ourselves. That it’s not always the big exotic landscapes abroad where Nature is to be encountered. We need to discover the natural world where we are and engage with it, because it’s the natural world that makes sense of everything in the end.
In 2015 it will be my turn again to curate the theme at Bungay Community Library garden, and the focus will be on ‘Helpful Herbs’ of all kinds. Lavender and rosemary are settling into bed, with thyme, St. Johns Wort, sweet cicely and others already there. And I’m working with a team on some exciting events. I’m also planning to map the project as part of a group helping to shape a new Transition Diploma, a collaboration between Gaia University and the Transition Network. Oh, and to make it into a Transition livelihood!
“You can’t go anywhere nowadays without people sitting on walls looking at Hoary Willowherb!”
Mark Watson is co-chair of Sustainable Bungay, a Transition Initiative in Suffolk, UK. Mark teaches groups and individuals to reconnect with nature through plants in the places they live. Details about his talks, walks and workshops can be found on Mark in Flowers.
Images: Talking plants and teas at Tooting Foodival, September 2014 by Chris from NappyValleyNet; Wild sweet violets adorn Happy Monday pudding by Josiah Meldrum; School visit to Bungay Community Bees’ observation hive by Elinor McDowell; Preparing the beds, 2010, Bungay Community Library garden (MW); the garden flourishes, summer 2014; Walking with Weeds, Plants for Life, 2012 (MW); 1st Wellbeing walk by the Waveney, 2013 by Charlotte Du Cann; Throwing our arms up under the cherry trees, April 2014 (CDC); Of walls and hoary willowherb in Bury St Edmunds, 2014 by Karen Cannard
STIR magazine is a “reader-supported” printed publication which appears quarterly in the UK and beyond. STIR looks at “the inspiring and practical co-operative, commons-based and community-led alternatives to the crises in our food, finance systems and other important aspects of our lives.” In the July issue, Mark Watson wrote an article on Sustainable Bungay for STIR’s regular Transition column. The article includes a brief history with mentions of many of our projects. He republishes the column here in its entirety. The images did not appear in the printed article. The original title was Small is Beautiful in Sustainable Bungay. For subscriptions to STIR magazine see here. The Autumn 2013 issue is out at the beginning of October.
Small is Beautiful in Sustainable Bungay – July 2013
November 2007 A young zoologist called Kate stands up after a climate change conference at the Emmanuel Church in the small market town of Bungay in the Waveney Valley, Suffolk, on the edge of the Norfolk Broads.
Climate scientists from the University of East Anglia, a Met Office spokesman and local MPs have presented a sobering scenario of the effects of climate change over the coming century in our flat, agricultural waterland– from flooding and land salination to food insecurity and the possibility of malaria becoming endemic.
“So that’s the bad news from the experts,” says Kate. “If anyone’s interested in discussing what we might be able to do about it, here in Bungay, let’s meet in the lobby afterwards.”
Four people join Kate and Sustainable Bungay is born.
Sustainable Bungay has grown since then, although we remain a small, diverse group, making mostly small, local, community moves through a range of projects and events open to anyone. This is not to say that Sustainable Bungay has no influence, but we are a grassroots rather than a mainstream organisation, and often invisible.
Behind everything we do, whether it’s a Give and Take Day, themed Green Drinks, or community bike ride, is an awareness of increasing climate and financial instability and the depletion of fossil fuel resources. How do we relocalise in terms of food, energy, the economy?
In 2008 we became a Transition initiative, now a network of over a thousand groups in the UK and worldwide, aiming to decrease dependence on fossil fuels, relocalise economies and build resilience starting at a community level.
At Happy Mondays at the Community Kitchen each month, 50 people sit down to eat a meal together at one table in the Community Centre. The meals are cooked from scratch in three hours using seasonal and mostly local ingredients, including foraged food and produce from peoples’ gardens and allotments. The table is always decorated with fresh flowers and each meal has a theme with a short talk on subjects ranging from backyard hens to Mexican conviviality to food security. The crew contains experienced cooks, growers and gardeners all pooling their knowledge and experience. We’re all getting used to working and eating together again, using less energy and fostering independence from the industrialised food system.
Bungay Community Bees is a response to the worldwide decline in honeybees and the first ‘community-supported apiculture’ project in the country. The group has five hives in orchards and gardens around the town, beekeeping ‘in a bee-centred rather than beekeeper-centred way’. BCB has planted wildflower meadows, held two Bungay Beehive celebrations and has now teamed up with the Anglia Regional Co-operative Society and a nearby farm to arrange school visits to a purpose-built apiary. Every primary school in the area has signed up to visit the bees.
We also work with other groups. In 2011, when the library was threatened with closure due to the government cuts, Sustainable Bungay got behind the Save Bungay Library campaign and helped organise poetry events, readings and awareness-raising days. Josiah gathered hundreds of email addresses from people supporting the campaign and we got communicating. The library was saved.
This was great, not least for Sustainable Bungay. Not only are many of our meetings held at the library, we had also built a community garden in the courtyard in 2010, a place anyone can go to read, relax or learn about plants. The central bed has a different theme each year with talks and workshops. In 2011 this was bees, last year plant medicine. This year the bed is edible!
Apart from the bee group, Sustainable Bungay has no external funding. All income is derived from Happy Mondays and donations at events. So after five years as an unincorporated voluntary organisation with a bank account, a constitution, a chairman, secretary and treasurer, we are now looking to become a Charitable Incorporated Organisation.
Why does a group of fifteen to twenty people invest such time and energy organising projects and events like Happy Mondays, plant swaps, Green Drinks and wellbeing walks, as well as maintaining a website and producing a quarterly newsletter and diary? Why does the core group have an open planning meeting every month anyone can attend? Why do we do these things?
For over fifty years in the West most of us have had the means to live an individualisticall-about-me lifestyle due to abundant cheap oil and ready credit. If we didn’t feel like having much to do with other people, we could literally afford not to. This is changing.
Sustainable Bungay and hundreds of other similar initiatives worldwide, through consistent actions within our communities, are relearning the art of working together with other people, sharing skills and helping to create a new culture, a culture that’s more about ‘us’. This ‘us’ includes people, bees, plants and the rest of the living world. We start local, paying attention in small ways to where we are, together. We do it for a different kind of future.
May 2013 SB’s new subgroup and “social enterprise”, NR35, has just laid a dead hedge in Richard’s wildlife garden.
Founder Nick Watts, said, “We are starting to think about how to use our skills, knowledge and labour to generate an income by sustainably managing and harvesting the [abundant] resources around our rural market town. NR35 is the local postcode and also stands for Natural Resources.”
Nobody had prior experience of dead-hedging except Paul, who is a tree surgeon. He taught us how to drive the stakes into the ground, build the hedge up with recently pruned and dead branches, and finally make it secure by jumping on it. These dead hedges become havens for wildlife including birds and insects who make their homes in them.
It took five of us under two hours to complete. Richard was delighted, as was his next door neighbour. Wildlife-friendly, people-friendly, climate-friendly, the hedge seems the perfect embodiment of Sustainable Bungay. A small, beautiful, sometimes invisible thing that benefits life within and beyond its boundaries.
Images: STIR Magazine Cover Summer 2013; Happy Mondays Kitchen Crew Mexican Fiesta September 2012; Hot Beds and Leafy Greens Library Garden Workshop Poster, March 2013; Arts, Culture and Wellbeing walk, April 2013
Mark Watson is the current chairman of Sustainable Bungay, a transition initiative in northeast Suffolk: http://www.sustainablebungay.com/. He is also the distribution manager for the quarterly Transition Free Press national newspaper http://transitionfreepress.org/ He blogs and tweets as markinflowers, http://markinflowers.wordpress.com/
A version of this article appeared in the Autumn edition of the Transition Free Press
In March, Happy Mondays, Sustainable Bungay’s monthly community meal, was visited by a journalist from Delicious magazine. She was researching a story about groups like ours who are growing, cooking and eating food together. For those of us usually absorbed in menu planning, dressing the room, cooking and washing-up, stepping back from the fray to answer questions about why these celebrations of local, seasonal food happen was a useful opportunity for reflection.
Happy Mondays is inspired by the shared meals we struggle to find time for these days; based on seasonal food and simple recipes, with all ages involved in cooking and eating – sharing their skills and the effort. They’re the kinds of meals we might have seen and experienced in southern Europe or in the English rural tradition of harvest and celebration – sadly both are now less common than they once were.
Our aim is to use local and seasonal produce from gardens, farms and allotments in and around Bungay and we hope to demonstrate that cooking with great ingredients needn’t be expensive or complicated – and that the results are delicious. We decorate the room with garden and wildflowers and seat all our guests, 50 or 60 every month, round a single table to encourage conversation and a sense of community. We aim to make the meals as accessible as possible, charging £5 for two courses to cover our costs. The money we take, around £6000 so far, is mostly spent locally on ingredients, kitchen hire and equipment.
The meals offer a chance to find out what’s happening locally, either in general conversation or between courses when someone explains how we arrived at the menu; initially we’d feared these talks would seem intrusive, but we’ve discovered that people enjoy hearing about the food they’re eating – whether it’s back-garden hens, gardening in a changing climate or an update from our community beekeepers.
As well as the social and economic benefits there’s an environmental rationale behind our meals; cooking and eating together uses less energy and creates less waste. And our meals are quietly vegetarian; this simplifies the kitchen work and helps us demonstrate how easy it is to eat less meat.
Two years on from our first plans, hatched in the pub after a Sustainable Bungay core group meeting, and Happy Mondays has served almost 1000 plates of local food, has a team of 5 or 6 who plan the menus and source the produce and a pool of 20 or 30 who cook, wash-up, dress the room, greet and lay the table. We’re no longer fazed by the Community Centre’s idiosyncratic cooker and confidently turn out two courses for 50 people every month. Where once we had to advertise and struggled to fill every chair, now we’re always oversubscribed.
As a collective we’ve started calling ourselves Bungay Community Kitchen and see opportunities beyond Happy Mondays – opportunities that could see us creating employment and offering training as well as spending money with local farmers, growers and independent retailers.
It just so happened that the five of us who turned up at Richard’s on Wednesday morning to learn how to do dead-hedging with Paul were all over 50, and so the title of this post was the ad hoc name we came up with for that morning’s grouping. However, anyone of any age was welcome to join the new Transition social enterprise NR35 (NR = Natural Resources and NR35 is the local postcode) practical dead-hedge laying session.
This involved laying out and hammering in stakes staggered along a boundary of about twenty-five feet, and then placing and roughly weaving in branches and twigs from recently coppiced trees between the stakes. Making a hedge in this way would not only provide Richard with a decent boundary, but create a refuge for wildlife. Birds like wrens will often build their nests in dead hedges. Tony found an old nest rather larger than a wren’s, which we placed in the hedge once we’d finished.
This was the first time dead-hedging for all of us except Paul, who is a professional tree surgeon, and who taught us with consummate calm and patience. I asked everyone how it had been for them.
Cathy: Well, it uses up an amazing amount of material you might think would be difficult to dispose of. And it’s delightful doing it with others.
Nick: It’s hard work and it makes you sweat, but I’m surprised how easily we managed to get a good end-product (the hedge), in the space of 2 hours. And it’s brilliant we can go away and do it ourselves now.
Tony: Working as a team is really good fun. And it’s satisfying to start off with all this dead material and end up with a hedge.
I asked Paul how he found us as a group to teach: “It’s been really satisfying. Everyone’s been very receptive and quick to learn the skills and techniques. The results speak for themselves: we have a very reasonable dead-hedge. I’ve seen a lot worse.”
Me: I found the whole morning instructive and really good fun. I noticed that being physically engaged in building the dead hedge you got into a kind of rhythm with everyone- I would find my hands often knew just what to do. It would have taken forever to do it from a book.
Part of dead-hedging is jumping up and down on top of the laid branches when they’re at a certain height. Cathy and I held hands and pogo-ed up and down together. Later, I realised that over the years I’ve frequently bounced up and down at our events!
Just because you’re over 50 doesn’t mean you’ve got no bounce! Or that you can’t learn a new practical skill in the course of a morning in a congenial atmosphere with fellow reskilling dead-hedgers.
For more information on Sustainable Bungay’s NR35 Natural Resources group, see here.
All images by Mark Watson: Hammering in the staggered stakes; building the hedge from the bottom up; bird’s nest; receptive and quick to learn; the finished dead-hedge; bouncing up and down on the hedge
Last month as part of the Playing for Time project, a convergence of artists, theatre makers, writers and tutors met at Lumb Bank, the Arvon Foundation’s centre in South Yorkshire. We were collecting material that will form the core of the book – the practices and projects of community-led creative action. To help shape the week and to introduce Transition, I mapped out the following events in the light of the work.
Dear contributors to Playing for Time,
I am writing a few notes on three Transition events, so you might consider your own projects and practices in the light of one very ordinary Transition initiative.
If you don’t know much about the Transition movement, this is one way of looking at it in action. Every initiative differs according to its town or bio-region, but all of us work from the same premise: to help create resilient communities that can adapt to the shocks of climate change, peak oil and economic downturn. In many ways we are working in preparation for hard times ahead – creating a low-energy future that people might want to live in, rather than fear. And one, for sure, where none of us feels on our own.
I have included links to blog posts about these three events if you would like to check them out later (no pressure!)
Looking forward to working with you all this week.
Who we are
Sustainable Bungay is based in a small market town in Suffolk, in the Waveney Valley. We are unfunded and without any formal links to any organisation, or public arts body. None of the people taking part in this initiative would consider themselves artists, or these events we put on as art forms; yet thinking about creative collaboration within the context of Playing for Time, everything we do has strong creative base. We are deliberately forging a new culture for a new time, a culture not made up of operas or fine wine or complex poetry.
Our work comes from necessity, rather than theory: it’s grassroots, vernacular, based on gatherings, rooted in time and place. It doesn’t have a hero writer or diva centre stage, with an audience gazing passively upward, but takes place in a room full of participants, with an organising, often invisible, core. Everyone belongs in this space and time. Everyone has a voice.
In Bungay we all bring something to share and we all take turns. Our events are organised by one to five people and everything else self-organises. We don’t do visionings or have strategies. Most of us learn on the job. None of us are rich or influential.
We have a core group of 15-20 people with several sub-groups, who have been working together for five years, producing a regular monthly programme of talks, walks, workshops, film showings etc. that are open to all the community to attend. These include a twice-yearly Give and Take Day, monthly Green Drinks, and seasonal celebrations, such as summer picnics and seed, plant and produce swaps. Our activities are based around the local library where we built and maintain a community permaculture garden, and hold many of our meetings.
All these events were photographed and written up afterwards in a series of blogposts. Keeping a record is part of our communications work.
Monthly meal for 50 people, cooked from scratch using local, seasonal and mostly organic produce. £5
Crew: 16 (5 cooks, 2 front of house, 3 servers, 3 set-up/flowers, 3 washers up)
Venue: local community centre
All of our meals have a theme and sometimes this is a country. Last September I directed a meal, based on Mexico (where I once lived) that took place just after Mexican Independence Day. Most of the food was locally sourced, including several kinds of chilli. Our maize, onions and runner beans were from a local allotment, blackberries from the common, Mexican sunflowers and cosmos from local gardens.
Our Abundance table was truly abundant, filled with Indian summer sweet corn and chilli plants, tomatoes, peppers, raspberries, apples, garlic etc. Mexico is a great place for convivial gatherings, and this was the theme of my short talk between courses, as well as Beans and their place in a low-carbon diet. We also had a Spanish-singing Transition a capella crew, singing the mariachi standard, Cielito Lindo.
All simple stuff. Yet it’s this attention to detail and celebration of ordinary and beautiful things at your feet and working alongside your fellows that makes such events joyful and satisfying in a way a Hollywood movie never can be.
A daylong “celebration of the honeybee and the flowers they love”, as part of the town’s annual festival, held at Castle Meadow (one of the town commons). Free.
Crew: 16 (one event manager, one stalls manager, 3 cafe organisers, 10 set up and breakdown/stall keepers, one grower of bee-friendly plants)
Activities: stalls, workshops, plant walk, film, talks, cafe, children’s corner
Venue: festival marquee, under the trees and around town
The Bungay Beehive Day is organised by members of Bungay Community Bees – the first community-supported apiculture in the UK. The group keep community hives in different gardens and orchards around the town, teach children about bees, give talks about pollinators to local groups, work with a local nursery to promote bee-friendly plants, build their own top-bar hives, train beekeepers and have bee-related events.
Beehive Day invites several speakers, ranging from the professional (Heidi from the Natural Beekeeping Trust) and amateur (Philip, ex-surgeon and local bumblebee “expert”) to local beekeeping groups and the day includes discussions, a film and readings. The stalls sell honey and organic plants, have demonstration hives, info about pesticides etc. and there is a honey cake competition and a bee-flower walk around the town.
Beehive Day is visited by between 600-800 people, and like other SB events, is self-funded.
BCB also grow their own stock of bee-loving plants and have planted a wild flower meadow, with a local landowner, as part of a “River of Flowers” project around the town.
A series of knowledge. skill-share and reconnection with nature events, based around a Herbs for Resilience plant medicine bed at the local library. Donations.
Crew: 2 (organiser and event manager)
Venue: community library and courtyard garden
Each year the Library community garden central bed has a different theme and is curated by a different member of the group. In 2010 this was Plants for Bees and Butterflies, this year The Edible Garden. In 2012 the bed was abundant with wild and garden medicine plants, from a huge burdock to stands of tiny thyme flowers.
Each month between eight and forty people came for a talk, walk or workshop on the theme of plants as medicine. Each Plants for Life session featured a guest ‘plant person’ speaker and included medical and lay herbalists, authors, organic and biodynamic growers, and home winemakers.
“We looked at the medicine under the ground as we connected with our roots in January, learned growing tips in February, adopted a herb to focus on for the year in March, walked with weeds in April, heard about hedgerow medicine in May, made midsummer wildflower oils in June, went on a bee and flower walk in July, had our world shaken by 52 flowers in August, made autumn tonic tinctures in September, medicinal wines in October and French tisanes in November.” (Mark Watson)
We tasted, talked, foraged, shared tips and teas and exchanged seeds. Transition medicine is as much about plant knowledge and maintaining well-being, as it is about getting in synch with the living systems – not as a solitary practice but as a communal one.
Images: creatures made from clay behind our backs – workshop led by Julia Roundtree (Clayground) at Lumb Bank*; Sustainable Bungay crew with van, Give and Take Day, 2012*; Abundance table at Mexican Fiesta, Happy Mondays, Sept 2012**; bees in one of Bungay Community Bees top bar hives***; poster for Plants for Life, Oct 2012** by *Charlptte Du Cann, **Mark Watson, ***Elinor McDowall
Nineteen degrees! That was the temperature on Monday (15th April) late afternoon in Bungay as I dropped Charlotte off at the Community Centre where she was co-cooking the April meal as part of Sustainable Bungay’s Happy Monday crew. The highest in a very low temperature year so far. T-shirts? Outside? For months I’ve only known T-shirts as the bottom layer of several (and that’s been in bed!).
I was down for meeting and greeting people as they came in for the meal and had a couple of hours to spare, so I wandered round the back of the building and found the remnants of a garden there. Packed with tansy (I must make that old recipe, tansy pudding, one spring) and the odd fennel and lamb’s ear, and loads of red deadnettle, it was the kind of place I love, a bit of a wasteground, a bit of a garden.
I moved some of the rubbish and cleaned up a few discarded plastic jugs and containers. They might come in handy sometime.
Then I looked up, and through a window I saw the kitchen crew in the midst of preparation (it’s quite an intense experience in that Happy Monday’s kitchen, making a 2-course, multi-dish meal for 50 people from scratch in two and three quarter hours).
The menu this month was: barley and beetroot risotto, black badger peas with sundried tomato and preserved lemons, grated carrot and mustard salad and stuffed portobello mushrooms with a nettle pesto. The dessert was a chocolate crunch base topped with soaked prunes, Greek yoghurt and garnished with a sweet violet. It was delicious! And all for a fiver!
Through the window in the picture at the top you can see Margaret. Though she didn’t see me at first! Each month for Happy Monday, Margaret makes sure the tables are decked with flowers and greenery and always puts on a lovely show along with the help of one or two other people.
Yesterday she’d brought ivy, sweet violets (which also adorned the dessert), forsythia and daffodils to set the scene and we talked about everything being so late this year.
I told Margaret I’d planted some seeds from a cut flower I picked up from a roadside stall last September and they were the first to sprout of the ones I’d sown so far. The plant is a China aster called ‘Hulk’ (Callistephus chinensis ‘Hulk’) – I found that out by poring over the Chiltern Seeds 2012 catalogue from the beginning, looking at everything under Asteraceae). Luckily I only needed to go as far as ‘C’.
Margaret said she’d like to find some spare land, maybe part of an allotment that’s not being used, to grow flowers specially for Happy Mondays. Do contact us if you know of any. Meanwhile I’ve promised her to plant some of those ‘Hulks’.
“Do bees like them?” Margaret asked. “I’m trying to only sow bee-friendly plants.”
“Funny you should say that,” I replied. “I just found this picture of the Hulk on Flickr by someone called Viveka in Sweden. There’s both a bee and a hoverfly on the flowers. The picture below is of the original roadside stall bunch from last September, with the Hulk on the bottom right accompanied by dahlias, chrysanths and perennial sunflowers. The green ‘ray florets’ are actually leaves.
Images and text by Mark Watson and Josiah Meldrum: Happy Mondays through the Window, April 2013 (MW); Washing discarded plastic jugs for reuse (MW); Chocolate crunch with prunes, yoghurt and violets (JM); Violets, Forsythia and Ivy – Margaret’s flower display for April’s Happy Monday (MW); Roadside stall flowers from Suffolk, September 2012 (MW)
NB: All text and pics subject to Creative Commons with Attribution Non Commercial No Derivatives license
This (amended and expanded) post first appeared on Mark in Flowers on 16th April 2013