This weekend saw the launch of the first Seed the Day Festival, the latest endeavour by Bridgwater Town Council to get their message across to the people through the means of a series of parties. Organiser Cllr Li Gibson had said in advance “Not only will the event bring a vibrant and dynamic street fair and indoor market to the town it will also explore issues around climate change and investigating greener living, sustainability and diversity.” So, the festival went ahead, the sun shone and the people turned up. But did it achieve what it set out to?
The event was held amid the Georgian splendour of Bridgwater’s historic Castle street. The road was closed off for the day and a dozen stalls filled the road with a selection of vegan foods from a ‘Hogless roast’-with some very tasty hash browns to ‘Indian Masala’ with its lentil and chick pea curries. Alongside them were stalls ranging from the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust promoting Steart Marshes, the ceramics of Purky Products, the ‘rewilding’ project of the Puriton Nature Network and Bridgwater’s own Engine Room selling delicious vegan Thai curries and vegan Polish pierogy. Also along the street were the locally based Plowright Organics, the gluten free cakes and savouries of the London Feelgood company , hot food of ‘Firmly Planted’ and Cork bags from ‘Get your head out of the sand’
Also on the street was a gazebo set out as a performance area which hosted a range of local and national artistes through the day starting with singer guitarist Christopher Brain, down from Leeds , followed by the 30 strong Somerset based Voice of the People Choir with their songs from around the world delivered in their famous natural voice style, swiftly followed by their leader Yvette Staelens and her own band ‘Three Girls and a One Eyed Dog’ doing radical songs of change. Folk duo Mitchell and Vincent brought a professional set of songs from around the British Isles to the street and the afternoon was rounded off by the newly formed BUSC (the Bridgwater Ukeles Strummers Club, which holds weekly classes at the arts centre). The whole programme held together by the international sound system of Steve Coram’s Global Jukebox with music ranging from swing to funk to ska to reggae to totally barmy and off the cuff.
Ethical Sources and Radical Talks
Stepping inside the Arts Centre there was an ethically sourced bar staffed by organiser Li Gibson and assisted by an array of councillors plus the town clerk on his day off. Also alongside the ciders, wines and flavoured water served in sustainable glass containers, was a table full of seed bombs which people could scatter and do their own rewilding.
In one room a series of ‘Talks’ were offered to anyone who wanted to drop in. John Awen led off with ‘Why we all need to Go Vegan.’ John has raised animals for food, killed many himself and seen what goes on inside a slaughterhouse. With facts and stats on animal cruelty, our health and the impact upon the planet John Awen, a published author and writer, patron and joint director of Beneath the Wood Sanctuary and a passionate Vegan showed how more and more people are dedicating ther time to raising awareness of animal cruelty.
South African Colleen McDuling talked about “Natural Agriculture; Revitalizing the Soil and Hope for the Earth’ .Colleen , an animal scientist and specialist in the field of rodentology has branched out into veganic growing and environmental protection leading her to an awareness of the need to eliminate animal products as part of the food production equation. She spoke of her involvement with Shumei since November last year, assisting the Yatesbury farm manager, Shinya Imahashi with Natural Agriculture public outreaches, education, writing articles and reports.
Jac Freeman has been working for the League Against Cruel Sports for many years, and is a vocal advocate for British Native Wildlife and how we can protect it. His subject for the day was Hunting in the UK: the Law, the Reality & the Future.
The final speaker was Gail Dunsbee of ‘Hempish’ whose talk was ‘Hemp the most sustainable plant on the Planet ‘ Gail explained why in this time of climate crisis hemp is good for the planet and what its uses are and how we can use it in the future.
And Hempish was also one of the stalls that filled the art centre. The garden area became an outdoor wonderland of hemp products with the natural setting of the peaceful garden transforming itself into a little walkthrough open air shop.
In other rooms the public could drop in and chat to stalls set up by Greenpeace and Carry me Kate aka the South Somerset Nappy Library.
As you wandered into the main auditorium a whole range of extra stalls were there to greet you included Open Heart Chocolate, the Base Book Stall from Bath Anarchists, fomented food and drinks from the Bath Culture House, candles and body products from Bellisland Botanicals, tyre inner tube upcycling from Belts+X, Cheese sprinkles from Good Carma Foods, the Happy Bunny Bakery, more cheese from ‘Food by Sumear’, Olive and Rosies Deli and ethical clothing shop , Solar Streets, promoting the use of solar panels and the Cat Protection charity.
Co-operation with Vegan Fairs
The event was funded and organised by Bridgwater Town Council with the vegan element organised and funded via Jo Harrington of Vegan Fairs.
Jo commented afterwards “Seed the Day was an event designed to plant ideas for change and it did just that. Visitors loved the festival atmosphere created by the outside market and the live music stage. It was a beautiful day to relax, eat delicious plant based street food, get creative with clay or make a plant pot from waste coffee grounds whilst soaking up the atmosphere and enjoy the music. Inside talks about veganism, protecting our native wildlife, Veganic gardening and Hemp as a sustainable plant captivated audiences, inspiring people to think about the future of our planet and how they could make small or large changes to make a difference. The amazing array of products proved that it’s possible to live a more sustainable life without missing out. Foods included selections from the best vegan cheese makers in the South West, delicious raw chocolate, fabulous cakes, wines and demonstrations of how to create your own seed oils and make healthy drinks.
There was beautiful ethical clothing, shoes, bags and belts made from sustainable cork and hemp, and up-cycled materials such as recycled fabrics and tyre inner tubes. For the home there were ceramics, cushions, fragrant candles, juice machines and food processors.Visitors were able to find out more about local charities and initiates such as solar power, waste management, organic veg box schemes, animal rights charities, animal rescue charities, wildlife and environmental organisations.Vegan Fairs were delighted to be involved in the event and will be planting 4 trees to offset the carbon emissions of their stallholders and staff on the day, as well as giving a donation of £53 to the Beneath the Woods Charity. We are delighted to be invited back for next years event and look forward to making it a bigger and better day.”
A Regular Feature?
Town Council Leader Brian Smedley, who was in charge of the sound stage for the day (which meant he asked Technician Corey what to do) , said “I’ve never seen so many councillors pitching in and helping to make sure an event happened and was a success. At one point there was 8 of us – that’s half the town council, serving refreshments, putting up gazebos, washing dishes and staffing traffic barriers. The whole idea came from the people in the first place. It’s what they asked for at the Climate Change Forum we set up and its what we delivered. We may not have changed the world over the weekend but we hope to have sown some seeds. The hard work for nurturing this event from start to finish is totally down to Cllr Li Gibson and her dedication, positive world view and deeply caring nature. Without her devotion this might not have happened at all. Credit where credits due.”
Cllr Glen Burrows, one of the stewards for the day , said “The wonderful food on offer was enough to convert anyone to veganism”
Visiting Cyclist Julian Taylor added “An excellent event organised by the town council to highlight issues around climate change and the need to change peoples eating habits, well done the Arts Centre and the Council.”
Victoria ward councillor Julie Cordiner said “I thought it was a good day which served as an introduction about veganism and some aspects of climate change. The public were able to listen to informative talks about how to make a change to benefit the planet. I really like the local bands and thought that this added a really lovely touch to the day. The choir were amazing! “
Town Council Deputy Leader Kathy Pearce said “Excellent family day with superb music along with ethically produced food and products, which got people talking about where their food comes from and all things environmental. That can only be good.”
Seeding All Our Future Days