Bridgwater likes a party. It likes something radical, it likes something outdoors and it likes to make a difference. That’s why ‘Seed the Day’ is now in its second year and an established feature of the towns social and political calendar. Despite the global pandemic. Seed the Day was the idea of Cllr Li Gibson and was launched last year in Bridgwater’s historic Castle Street and Art Centre. This year, with Covid restrictions, we chose to relocate it to the High Street and the Town Hall so that proper controlled social distancing could take place. The sun shone and the event was another incredible success. 100’s turned up, kept their distance, shopped green, listened to eco talks, and sowed seeds that could grow to save the planet.
Seed the Day involved some 30 stalls laid out some 2 metres apart stretching from the Cornhill to the top of High street and including the Engine Room, where they’d laid out a Parisienne style vegan café under the trees along the Boulevarde des Galleries and along La Rue de Claire where Hidden Voices showed films about the horrors of modern slavery whilst collecting donations to help modern refugees and next to them Bridgwater Together handed out free vegan dishes from around the world. Engine Room manager Deb Richardson said ” The growth in climate-fuelled migration is leading to increased risks of modern slavery. It also ties into the need to grow food sustainably and key to that is understanding where materials, products and labour comes from”.
The Town Hall itself was opened to the public with a few socially distanced stalls and talks inside, controlled through-routes, masks, sanitisers and track’n’trace apps a plenty. Carnival stewards staffed the checkpoints at either end of the road and various Councillors and towns folk mucked in to ensure the day went along smoothly.
The stalls were organised by Frome based Vegan Fairs who do this kind of thing across the county, supplementing the environmental activists and local groups organised by Cllr Gibson. Bridgwater Town Council sponsored the event with Town Clerk David Mears playing a prominent and visible role (at 6’6”) whilst erstwhile Town Council Leader played a noticeably smaller (and fatter) role. The purpose of the event was to raise awareness of issues and solutions relating to the Climate Emergency by bringing together groups with their versions of the answers so that people could learn and make up their own minds on issues ranging from veganism and a plant based solution to the climate crisis, challenging the Governments views on the badger cull or questioning your own role in the never-ending accumulation of rubbish that blights our streets, waterways and society. But did it work?
Vegan Fairs organiser Daisy Botha said “We had a fantastic day! Only heard positive stuff from the traders. Here’s some highlights from social media …”
@lantaumama on Instagram said: “It was fantastic!!!! Super well organised, vendors spaced apart. Contactless payment. And best of all a fantastic mix of vendors!!! I took home food for the next few days – vegan pizza, amazing vegan Greek food , vegan sausage rolls and pasty. And of course chocolate and fantastic sauerkraut and kombucha! Really hope you can manage another fair before …. well before you can’t again. Fantastic job, really, thank you!!!”
@mrszembe on Instagram said: “Just been there, enjoyed everything. It was good to just buy from the stalls without the hassle of having to check ingredients if it’s vegan friendly. Bought yummy latte from the coffee stall in the Town Hall. Oh and enjoyed the music as well. “
@Nama’stayFresh, one of the local Bridgwater traders said: “Had a great day at this event today! Thank you Vegan Fairs & Bridgwater Town Council. Super well organised & all felt very safe. Looking forward to the next one! “
@Lyn on Facebook said: “Absolutely thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it! Bought some vegan cheese, a lemon balm plant & a delicious wrap with homemade red pepper hummus. Wish that I’d bought a mushroom growing kit but I can always buy one from them online ……they were very interesting to talk to & you could tell that they absolutely love what they do . Never seen pink mushrooms before …..they were beautiful !”
Cllr Kathy Pearce, Deputy Leader of Bridgwater Town Council spent most of her day stewarding the entrance to the Town Hall. Kathy said “The success of the day was particularly pleasing, given the different and strange conditions in which we now must live our lives. I believe that it put down an important marker for the future of Bridgwater town centre – drawing on its history as a market town but updating it with an important environmental and community focus. As I stewarded for much of the day, it was really heartening to see and hear happy faces and feedback from residents and visitors to the town. The range of stalls was impressive, the produce was of high quality and there was something for everyone. I think it was important in that it showed what can be achieved and that people will come into the town centre to shop, eat, drink and enjoy themselves, plus be respectful to each other and the planet. This surely is the future and something that we must build on with our existing town centre traders to ensure that everyone benefits.”
Cllr Hilary Bruce, Labour councillor for the Fairfax ward of Bridgwater and a leading light in the new Sydenham pantry community food project agreed saying “It was fantastic to see so many people out on a lovely day, bringing the High Street to life with their smiles, chatting with the stall holders and enjoying some delicious, plant based food. I was really pleased when I popped into one of the shops in the High Street to hear how happy they were too, as the event had brought a higher footfall into their shop and allowed customers to feel they could browse the shop, just as they would a market stall. I hope to see more of these events in the future. “
Music was provided by Adrian and Steve from the Bridgwater Arts Centre. We weren’t allowed live music nor a focal point which would encourage people to gather, so perched high up in the town hall (from the balcony where election winners use to be announced) the soundtrack of the day drifted out from Mr Bakers speakers while Mr Coram span some tracks. Steve commented afterwards “A lovely day, nice atmosphere in the town centre with lots of people enjoying the goods on offer”
On the streets a wide variety of stalls, traders, campaigners laid out their wares ranging from Riverford Organics to Somerset Wildlife Trust to Rage Against Rubbish to the Bridgwater Area Cycling Campaign.Fitting peacefully amongst them, Simon from XR said “I was on the Extinction Rebellion stall. We had long conversations, we shared our anxieties about the climate emergency and we met new people who feel like us. I’d call that a great success. Thank you!“
The Seeds are Sown
The people of the town agreed. Blacklands resident Andrew added “It was fantastic to be able to socialise, as we are all desperate to do, and I think the event showed how a well thought out and executed plan can really make the most of the town centre to the benefit of people in the area and provide opportunities for small businesses. With this kind of approach, things can be done safely and create a healthy environment and better ways of doing things as we work our way carefully through this crisis. Things can be better than they were before.”
Cllr Li Gibson said afterwards “My aim was to bring people together to get them talking and noticing the ways in which some people are already taking action over what is happening due to the rapid climate changes, biodiversity loss and the decimation of our ecological Planet.
The Planet is screaming out, is on fire and we all collectively need to listen and take action. Every action is important. The market was a small platform where the coming together of ideas and thoughts could happen in one place for a few hours.
Please create your own platform and support groups, or get involved in ones that already exist, and do something now to help work towards bringing back the balance, kindness and compassion to our Planet. Act Now. “
The event was billed as a Vegan Eco Market-and whilst Veganism might be the answer, you didn’t have to be a vegan to take part nor even leave as a vegan if you weren’t convinced. But the seed is out there……
Some Pictures of the day