For nearly three decades, hoards of like-minded, green-thumbed folk flock to the Arboretum on a September Sunday for the Nottingham Green Festival, a community-led event where the whole family can educate themselves on being environmentally friendly. Our new Stage Editor, Rebecca Buck, has fond memories of the fest, dating back to her childhood...
As a teenager in the nineties, I remember when it first became cool to talk about being “green”. It was mostly about banning chlorofluorocarbons (remember those?) to fix the ozone layer, saving the whale and, of course, recycling. I have many fond memories of sorting steel and aluminium drinks cans with a magnet – don’t you? My point of view was undoubtedly influenced by having a father who was in Greenpeace and a vegan – that was long before anyone really knew what a vegan was, and when the only vegan option in a restaurant was basically just lettuce. Also adding to my experience of environmental awareness was attending the early iterations of the Nottingham Green Festival, which I am delighted to see is still going strong in its 27th year.
While Extinction Rebellion and the Youth Strike 4 Climate Justice, as well as David Attenborough and Blue Planet, have brought environmentalism and our climate emergency into the spotlight again recently, the Nottingham Green Festival has been a hub for sustainability, animal rights, and protecting the planet since it grew out of the Nottingham Peace Festival in the eighties.
Regularly attracting around 5000 visitors to the Arboretum on a Sunday afternoon, it’s all about exploring, learning and experimenting. This year, between midday and 6pm, there will be free live music, family activities, storytellers, stalls from green businesses, craft workers, community groups, charities, artisan food producers, and vegan catering. It’s full to the brim of information too, with stalls focused on energy-saving at home, technology, reuse and repair, recycling and more. Should you worry that an event of this size uses a lot of energy, it’s all good – the event is run ‘off-grid’, powered solely by solar panels and battery storage equipment. Food vendors are encouraged to avoid plastic, and plastic water bottles will be banned – instead refillable bottles can be filled at the new water fountain, funded by the Green Festival.
Alan Lodge, of the organising committee, says: “A key addition this year is the inclusion of a Speaker’s Area. With the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warning us that we have so little time to the ‘tipping points’ beyond which irreversible climate change may occur, we have both national and local expertise available to lead discussion. I think we really do have to urgently learn and talk to each other about what needs to be done, and then do it!” Speakers will include Natalie Bennett (Green Party), Sam Harris (Youth Strike 4 Climate Justice) and Etienne Stott MBE (Olympic gold medallist/Extinction Rebellion).
I think we really do have to urgently learn and talk to each other about what needs to be done, and then do it
One lifestyle change many people are choosing to make is to go vegetarian or vegan, acknowledging that livestock farming is part of the environmental conundrum. Therefore, all the food at the festival will be vegan. The success of Sneinton’s Vegan Market and Doughnotts’ vegan range demonstrate that there is an appetite in Nottingham for this. Again, the Green Festival was ahead of the game – it has always served exclusively vegetarian food, including goodies from the legendary Veggies Catering Campaign. As a teenager it felt very ‘alternative’ to indulge in a burger from the Veggies van, only ever part of city visits with my environmentalist father. These days, they’re part of a delicious and popular plant-based food scene in the city.
Organised by community volunteers and run on a not-for-profit basis with no statutory funding, the Green Festival is not about threats of doom and disaster – it’s about hope. The volunteers describe the atmosphere as “joyous and relaxed” and say the festival is “the perfect event to help people accept serious lifestyle changes and look to working within their friendship circles to promote these changes.” Festival organisers are working to make provision for the expected larger crowds and are actively looking to including staff, students and societies from Nottingham’s universities and colleges to further enforce the point that education is the main goal.
The Green Festival organisers are always looking for people to get involved; and they invite the whole community to join them for a day of fun and to spread a very important message: one they’ve been sharing for nearly three decades. It is a history, and an event, Nottingham should be proud of.
Nottingham Green Festival 2019 takes place on Sunday 15 September in the Arboretum from 12.00 – 6pm. Entry is free.