Transition Culture

An Evolving Exploration into the Head, Heart and Hands of Energy Descent

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7 Sep 2007

Transition Town Totnes Celebrates Its First Birthday in Style.

cakeOn Thursday 6th September, a year to the day of its Official Unleashing, Transition Town Totnes celebrated its first birthday at the Royal Seven Stars Hotel in Totnes. The sell-out event was an opportunity to reflect upon the achievements of the previous year and to look ahead to where TTT might go next. Organised by the TTT Celebrations group who made the space absolutely beautiful and the event run smoothly, it was a great examples of John Croft’s exhortation that Transition initiatives should celebrate as often as possible.

bpThe evening was introduced by David Horsburgh, the Mayor of Totnes, welcomed everyone to the party. Then Naresh Giangrande and myself gave an overview of the last year, taking people from the Unleashing through to today. Many highlights were picked out from along the journey, such as the woman who was interviewed in the Square in Totnes and asked if she knew what the Totnes Pound was, to which she replied “isn’t that where they take the stray dogs?”. Rob concluded with a toast, “To Transition Town Totnes, to friendship and to the power of hope”.

b2Then a collection of birthday greetings were read out from many of those who had spoken at TTT events over the past year (these are reproduced below). After the greetings, Sophy Banks of the Heart and Soul group invited people to talk to each other in pairs about their highlights of the year and their visions for the following year. There were then written onto heart shaped post-it notes and stuck onto Sandwich Board Bob as he wandered through the crowd.

mattThis was followed by local comedian/poet, Matt Harvey, who began by announcing that he had been thinking of writing some new material for the evening, but decided that, in the spirit of TTT, he would just recycle some old stuff instead. My favourite joke of his from the evening was “I went to a car boot sale the other day, and I took some Totnes Pounds. I was delighted to find that the stall-holder there would take Totnes Pounds… not in exchange for any goods, they’d just take them….”. He read out various poems and went down a storm.

b3He then set the competitions for the evening, one which was to answer the question “what would you do with the last barrel of oil?” and the other was to create a poem where each line started with the letters of the name Totnes (first line starts with a T, second with an O.. etc). Rooh Star sang a couple of songs with her beautiful powerful voice, including her ode to compost toilets.

Then, before the break, the amazing TTT birthday cake (see above) was brought out, made by Julia Ponsonby at Schumacher College, 3 cakes adorned with a T, and decorated with marzipan Totnes Pounds. After a rousing ‘Happy Birthday’, the cake was taken to the bar to be devoured, while a slide show of images of the last year played on the back of the stage. During the break people worked on their poems and chatted, and at the end of the break they were read out and prizes given out. The only one I remember was to make it into homeopathic preparations, distilling it millions of times, so that everyone in the world could get some and be able to take it as a remedy when they needed more energy! I think another was to use it to dip seagulls in…

dancingAfter the break, some human sized chickens went walkabout, there was some improvised comedy, and then Bert Miller and the Animal Folk played to much dancing, the raffle was drawn, and then the evening closed with Poisson Rouge getting everyone doing some Breton dancing. The evening a delightful celebration of the year, with good food, music, dancing and laughter. It was a fitting close to a quite extraordinary year. I’m already looking forward to the second one…

**The TTT Birthday Greetings.**

“Whether we like it or not the world faces a major transition away from dependence on fossil fuels. Either we will decide to manage that transition for the maximum benefit of everyone, or we will be managed by it in a way that is likely to be messy, dangerous and potentially lethal for millions. By taking this initiative, Totnes is leading by example. TTT is a pioneer. It is one of the first beats in a drum roll announcing the arrival of a new era in which we will come to understand that good lives do not have to cost the earth.”

Andrew Simms, policy director New Economics Foundation.

“Congratulations on your first birthday, TTT. Where you blaze the trail many others follow. Here at Transition Town Glastonbury we find your experiences both and inspiration and an education. The wonderful thing about this movement is that it’s not a protest against something, it’s positively working towards something we all want – a sustainable future. Happy Birthday and Many Happy Returns!”

Patrick Whitefield, author and permaculture teacher.

“Transition Town Totnes is a practical expression of a great vision. I am particularly inspired by TTT because it reflects the ideals of non-violent social transformation espoused by Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore came to Totnes in the early 30s and was very impressed with the beauty, tranquillity and spirituality of the place. Tagore was the inspiration behind the establishment of the Dartington Hall Trust. Leonard Elmhurst worked for Tagore in India for several years and now, in an implicit and an indirect way, Tagore’s vision is being realised in Totnes through transition and transformation from a fossil fuel based wasteful way of living to a natural energy based sustainable lifestyle.

TTT is a wonderful example which is stimulating thoughts and actions around Britain. Only through grassroots action and through bottom-up initiatives can we bring about a real and lasting change.

The transformation is not going to come about from the House of Commons, the City or from large corporations; it will come about when people in towns, villages and cities realise that there is a better way to be and live and when they start to live their ideals. The people of Totnes are doing exactly that; you are giving a great hope to us all. I wish you every success!”

Satish Kumar, Schumacher College.

“Hello you TerrificTownsfolk of Totnes

Here is a birthday message from Scotland. According to page 71 of the Penguin Classics version of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s 12th century History of the Kings of Britain, it was at Totnes that Brutus of Troy landed in the 12th Century BC and named Britain after himself. However, we Scots have a disagreement with Brutus. He presumed to place Scotland, or Alba, under the feudal overlordship of his fourth son, Albanactus. It was on this basis that Edward 1 presumed to invade Scotland, thus giving rise to the whole Braveheart thing.

We in Scotland are very pleased, and not a little reassured, to see that Totnes has now moved on from being a Staging Town to a Transition Town. Totnes is now pioneering a new way of relating to this land. The brutal ways of Brutus and even the days of Braveheart must be put behind us all. Violence shaped the past, but nonviolence must fashion the future. Let beauty guide the way forward, and may Totnes be but one of many turning points. Happy Birthday”.

Alastair McIntosh, author of Soil and Soul.

“Transition Town Totnes is much more than simply one of more than 50 Transition initiatives in the UK. It has acquired leadership status and will act as a benchmark for other Transition projects, not only in this country but throughout the world. In my view, the Transition movement is one of the most important developments of the new millennium. It not only addresses climate change and fossil fuel depletion imperatives, but also captures the spirit of a move away from Government and corporate dependency towards individual empowerment. Happy Birthday TTT!”

Patrick Holden, Director, Soil Association.

“To everyone who has helped this vision take form,
Thank you for your commitment to the challenge,
and for the light you shine to others.
May many follow your lead.

Happy Birthday, Transition Town Totnes!”

Peter Russell.

“One year on, and you’ve given inspiration
To a world still anchored in the economic past.
One year on – you’re the first new generation
Of a people in transition and you’re doing it very fast.

Have you forgot what it’s like to work with horses,
How to cultivate the land using muscle-power alone?
Have you forgot how to marshal local forces
To keep things going though you’re down to crust and bone?

Sweet fire of youth, you will carry all before you –
See your way to answers that the establishment would scorn.
Sweet fire of youth, your courage will restore you
To a visionary town amidst its fields of golden corn”.

David Fleming

“Happy Birthday TTT, you’ve certainly been an inspiration for me watching from SW Ireland the growth over the past year of what appears to be the fastest growing environmental movement since the 60s. You have caught the imagination and energy of many people looking for a way forward and will be seen in the future looking back as one of the key initiatives in the transition to a low-energy world. Just remember the future will be one of modest consumption so don’t eat too much cake”.

Graham Strouts, Kinsale, Ireland.

“Here’s my big birthday wishes now that you’re (very soon to be) one year old. I believe that TTs are the single most important thing happening in the UK right now and seeing what’s been happening in Totnes and watch the spread of interest fan out across the UK has been inspirational. As Victor Hugo said, “nothing is so powerful as an idea whose time has come” and the time for TTs is certainly NOW. Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you”.

Stephen Watson – Transition City Brighton.

“Many happy returns and more of them. You are so important and I hope that the groups in West Wales can keep up with you. It’s going to be a hard slog as a friend of mine said that this is the 21st century and with all the high technology it shouldn’t be a problem. Happy birthday”.

Peter Rout