Transition Stroud

This is a shared history blog. Together we can write the history of our process of transition as it happens.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Transition Stroud AGM

Saturday from 2pm to 8m Transition Stroud members came together to share where the project has got to, the appointment of Directors as we are now a not-for-profit company and shared food and two bands. See more pics here.

Photo: Helen Royall outlining the day's events

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Pearls in the Oyster

Having spent yesterday morning selling Stroud pounds I spent the afternoon in one of the necessary, but not always entirely joyful, organisational meetings that we have shared during our Transition process. It was chaired with affability, firmness, charm and tact by Nigel Westaway, and I am truly grateful to those other members of TS who keep this structural vehicle on the road - Helen, Mike, Simon and John.

I have a difficult role in these processes. I used to think that it was just that I am a difficult person, but advancing years and a greater degree of reflection have brought me to realise that my ability to be critical and step back and have another perspective on our activities is my role. Although I always feel respected and valued for this - which is one of the reasons I live in Stroud! - it is an uncomfortable job and one that can require a great deal of energy.

'Constant vigilance is the price of freedom' is a great slogan, but what does it mean? To me, it means that, because we cannot be sure precisely what put us in the mess we are in, we must question everything. An important recent example for Transition Stroud is the process of incorporation. While we know that the limited liability company has emerged from exactly the system of exploitative economics that is driving the planet to destruction, we can also see how using it wisely could greatly help to facilitate our work.

Another example is the first paragraph of the Portland energy action plan, which was circulated at the meeting. It neatly explains how, according to economic theory, the market system works to ration scarce resources, so that as they are running out prices rise. This is the very same economic system that I spend my working life trying to eradicate, because I know that it is a power play to preserve the position of those who over-exploit and extract an unfair share of the earth's resources. The real causes of changes in the prices of commodities - wars, speculation on futures markets, corporate shenanigans - do not feature in these bogus but culturally accepted explanations.

The best and most radical things that we can do as Transition Stroud are those that arise from our critical insights and turn into subversive tools that have change designed into them but move beyond our control and become active in the hands of people we don't even know. I hope the Stroud pound is designed like this. Radical comes from the Latin word for Root, and French philospher Gilles Deleuze talks about the rhizome as an image for how change comes about. A root-system of underground potentialities burst into unexpected life in distant places. Our job is to plant the rhizomes, ensure that the soil is fertile, and welcome the plants as they emerge. This is my view of a Transition strategy.

I know that others in the group are just as wary of standard structures and ways of doing things - not to mention funding applications with their in-built cultural assumptions - and I feel reassured by this. I'm even more cheered that James has agreed to be a director. I know that when the two of us are exhausted with taking a critical edge there will be others who will take our place.

I originally thought of this role of constant vigilance against the tyrannical structures of authority as being a thorn in the side or perhaps a fly in the ointment. But now I think the best metaphor is pearls in the oyster. I can imagine us as that little bit of grit that, in some miraculous process of exchange with its host, creates a beautiful gem.

'Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men [and women!], undergo the fatigue of supporting it.' -- Thomas Paine: The American Crisis, No. 4, 1777

Monday, 14 September 2009

Eco-Renovation Open Homes weekend: a monster success


Below is some of what we sent to the press regarding the Stroud Eco Renovation Open Homes this last weekend - plus details of talk coming up in October - it really was a great weekend - the weather was wonderful and home owners wonderfully informative - I managed to get around several of the homes - photos enclosed with this blog - more info about the homes on the Open Homes website - I'll do another separate blog re the installers fair and Social Enterprise Centre at The Exchange (see here).

First two photos: new build in Rodborough with rainwater harvesting, solar and lots more.

Saturday began with helping set up the exhibition at the Exchange - balloons and all - they were from Open Heriatge and sadly not biodegradable but am sure helped people find their way to exhibits. Of course this weekend has been full of other activities like the launch of the Stroud Pound and Fairtrade directory plus Randwick Horticultural Show. Helen Royall, the coordinator this year has been amazing - there are a hundred jobs to do with a project like this and she managed to get it all together in a wonderful way! Anyway here's that press release below...

Photos: The Hill - this little bungalow converted into this modern home with sedum roof, aluminum floors, a wonderful balcony plus various eco-measures like the air source heat pump

Helen Royall, Coordinator of the project this year said: "We are delighted by the hugely positive response from visitors to the homes and exhibitions. We had over 20 homes open to show measures like insulation, wood pellet boilers, solar, sedum roofs and rainwater harvesting plus the installers fair."

Helen Royall continued: "I am still collecting info regarding the numbers of visits, but it looks set to be well over 600 plus 200 people going to exhibition at The Exchange. We are also hoping people will switch to local energy company Ecotricity on their green tariff as each time Transition Stroud gets £25 to help fund future low carbon projects like Open Homes (i)."

Photos: Far Westrip farm with solar, a meter that goes backwards, a Greenfuels converter of chipfat to biodiesel and a wood pellet boiler

Philip Booth, who helped organise said: "Helen Royall has organised a resoundingly successful event. Thanks indeed. This is all about giving people the chance to see, touch and hear at first hand from homeowners about their eco-renovations: the highs and the lows, what worked and what didn't. With new feed-in tariffs and rising energy prices there has never been a better time to invest in these measures."

Philip Booth added: "If people missed the event advice from the Energy Savings Trust and SWEA is excellent. There is also the 'Low Carbon Home Show' on Tuesday 6th October in Painswick Town Hall with free advice from experts: booking essential on 01452 835076."

Photo: Wall at Co-Housing in Uplands and view of co-housing

Big Thanks

Philip Booth added: "Big thanks to the many that helped including Debbie Hewitt for organising the walk, Liz Hillary for the website, Graham Stanley from the Gloucestershire Minibus Sharing Scheme, Ecotricity, Stroud District Council, Stroud Town Council, Helen and Peter Nightingale for pizzas, cream teas and cafe, Stroud Valleys Project and Heritage Open Days. Of course special thanks must go to all the homeowners who are so very kindly opening their homes to the public."

Photos: Nightingale pizzas on the Sunday - yum indeed! See my blog from a while ago re how to make one of those ovens here.

For more information on Open Homes call Helen Royall on 755509 or email admin(at)transitionstroud.org

We will be writing a full report of the event in the next weeks but you can see more about the homes and the project at: http://www.stroudopenhomes.org.uk/

Photos: Ecoglass recycled work top in home in Rodborough - made from granite chips and more - looks great! Glos Minibus Sharing Scheme with Graham Stanley.

Notes

(i) Ecotricity is an electricity company with a difference. As green energy pioneers, Ecotricity is dedicated to building new wind turbines to fight climate change. Switching is easy and it's the biggest single step you can take to reduce your emissions and protect the environment. Act now and sign up to Ecotricity at www.ecotricity.co.uk/transtroud or by ringing free on 08000 302302 and quote ‘Transition Stroud’. Transition Stroud receives a kind donation from Ecotricity every time someone makes the switch.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Bank of Stroud Open for Business

The Stroud pound is officially launched. Now begins the business of lengthy conversations over counters and cups of coffee to persuade the good people of this town why it really matters what kind of paper they use to exchange their goods with.

The launch went off very well, in spite of the numerous other exciting events in Stroud at the moment. The photo shows (left to right) Sharmila, Molly and Charley (bankers to the unwashed), with John Rhodes in his unreconstructed t-shirt, Pete North, local currency expert from Liverpool University, and Bernard Jarman.

Kathy Lee unveiled the most valuable note - a £10 in red themed with apples and with Laurie Lee as the figure head. I wonder if we will soon be lending each other Lauries when we buy each other pints. We have one pub that is on the verge of joining up and two others with keen interest.

The most exciting thing was taking the money into a local shop to see if it 'worked'. I headed for Walkers the Baker for a loaf of bread and an iced bun. The girl behind the counter didn't turn a hair, taking the new note as though she had been used to them all her life.

Those who support our transition to a resilient local economy are encouraged to talk to the shopkeepers they trade with regularly to encourage them to the join the scheme. Offering Stroud pounds or even just asking if they are accepted in the local shops is crucial to boosting the number of outlets and increasing the local money multiplier.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Eco-Renovation Open Homes

Places left on the Minibus Energy Safari

The Stroud Eco Renovation Open Homes organised by Transition Stroud Energy group weekend returns on September 12th and 13th after last year's huge success that saw over 1,100 visits to homes and the exhibition. This year there will be eco-installer stalls at The Exchange in Brick Row, Stroud on Saturday - the first chance for the public to view the eco-renovation of that building. We also have over 20 homes that will be opening to share their eco-renovations plus we have pizzas, cream teas and the wonderful Nightingale's Cafe.

Our leaflet has details of the event and opening times of the homes: it is available in libraries and many other places plus on our website: www.stroudopenhomes.org.uk. There is no need to book and no charge. It is a great opportunity to see measures like internal and external insulation, wood pellet boilers, air source heat pumps, gas condensing boilers, PV, rainwater harvesting and more. We still have places left on our minibus safaris that take in the homes each day. There is a £5 charge for the safari - details from Graham Stanley on 01453 766882 and £5 tickets from Stroud Tourist Information. Plus a few places left on the eco-walk walk.

This year Transition Stroud have negotiated a deal with local green energy company Ecotricity so that anyone switching to Ecotricity's green tariff will lead to a donation to Transition Stroud getting £25 to help fund future low carbon projects like Open Homes (i). The Open Homes event is also part of the Heritage Open Days weekend: http://www.heritageopendays.org/

We are delighted to have the support of many people and groups including Ecotricity who have sponsored this year's leaflet plus wonderful support from Stroud District Council, Stroud Town Council and Heritage Open Days. Of course special thanks must go to all the homeowners who are so very kindly opening their homes to the public.

For more information on Open Homes call Helen Royall on 01453 755509, Philip Booth on 01453 755451 or email admin(at)transitionstroud.org

See more about the project at:
http://www.stroudopenhomes.org.uk/

Notes
(i) Ecotricity is an electricity company with a difference. As green energy pioneers, Ecotricity is dedicated to building new wind turbines to fight climate change. Switching is easy and it's the biggest single step you can take to reduce your emissions and protect the environment. Act now and sign up to Ecotricity at www.ecotricity.co.uk/transtroud or by ringing free on 08000 302302 and quote ‘Transition Stroud’. Transition Stroud receives a kind donation from Ecotricity every time someone makes the switch.