27 Aug 2008
What Transition Nottingham have been up to…
I was up in Nottingham a while ago giving a couple of talks to a very young but vigorously emergent Transition Nottingham group. The first talk was to an invited audience of business people and local councillors, and the second was a public talk with almost 200 people. There is some very good work going on there, a good deal of energy and momentum. On the Every Action Counts website, you can find this excellent update on what they are up to, which I have also copied below. We are planning a Transition Cities event for some time around the end of the year, which we hope will be in Nottingham. Watch this space.
Transition Nottingham – powered by the infinite energy of people
The Transition town movement began in Totnes in the UK and has been emulated by several small towns and villages around Britain. It has now gone viral across the UK and the idea has spread as far afield as Japan and Australia. It was an initiative begun by Rob Hopkins and seemed eminently sensible but could the model be used in a city such as Nottingham with a population 35 times larger than Totnes? It’s been said amongst the Transition movement that if you can’t make cities resilient and sustainable then there’s not much point trying with smaller towns and villages. With this in mind a small group sowed the seeds of Transition Nottingham in the spring of 2007.
We decided that our initial steering group should be made up of a wide selection of people from the various green initiatives in Nottingham. Other places adapted their already existing groups and this meant a “team” was already in place. Our steering group is primarily made up of people who haven’t worked together previously and this has meant that its taken a while to begin to feel that we’re a team and not just a loose assortment of people interested in the process. It’s also meant that we’ve had to put a lot of energy into making sure that we have good communications and that jobs get done.
Due to its size we felt that Nottingham had to be broken down into smaller neighbourhoods in order to carry out the process. With this in mind we organised two events in May/June with Rob Hopkins giving a broad-brush talk about peak oil/climate change and the 12 steps of Transition followed by Ben Brangwyn of the Transition Network concentrating more on the practicalities of actually doing it. Our plan was to use this second meeting to kick-start local groups and, after the talk, we divided the room into the various neighbourhoods of Nottingham to allow people to talk to each other and decide whether they wanted to set up a Transition group in their area.
We now have seven neighbourhood groups in the city and are planning events to encourage the other areas to begin the process. The first step of the transition process is awareness raising and its much easier and effective for a local group to do this in their neighbourhood. On a city scale I’ve spoken to several organisations such as the Wildlife Trust and they’ve always been supportive of the ideas – but it’s when neighbours get together and decide they want to do something to make their area better, and more resilient, that the power of the transition idea becomes evident.
All the local groups are now starting to show films about the issues and importantly try to make these screenings interactive – allowing people to discuss the issues rather than leaving feeling depressed and impotent. These local groups are represented on the steering group and the city hub will organise events to bring these smaller groups together on a regular basis to review and evaluate progress and to discuss future action. One group has already established a community garden and others are planning skill share and local open space events.
Like every city, Nottingham is made up of different neighbourhoods and each neighbourhood has a different cultural and economic mix. The city hub recognises that certain areas will be far easier to establish and maintain groups in than others. It is aware too that areas with high levels of social deprivation will have issues other than peak oil and climate change. Ironically these areas will be the hardest hit when oil peaks. Our challenge is to try and ensure that everyone in the city is on board and is part of the process.
Transition Nottingham has only been going for just over a year and a huge amount of work has been done. Our steering group now feels more organised and efficient. As our organisation has become larger the workload has increased and at some point it’s going to be difficult to fit this work around our day jobs. At some point in the future we may have to look at getting funding to staff an office and there will be an interesting debate about how to achieve this but still keep the organisation as a grass roots community led initiative.
It’s early days here in Nottingham but the process has energised local people into taking action on a scale unprecedented in recent history.
So how would I envision Transition Nottingham in a year’s time? I think we will have more local groups covering most of the city and I think some of the groups covering larger areas will have subdivided. I think we will have sub groups to look at issues such as energy, food, health, transport etc. (we currently have an economics group up and running). We will have an office and staff and will be able to efficiently answer queries and input into local policy. We will have begun the process of oil vulnerability audits with the local authorities and businesses across the city. We will have researched questions that need to be addressed in order for Nottingham to achieve Transition and this will provide data for an energy descent plan. We will have begun practical projects to actually make a difference on the ground and hopefully we will have encouraged local people to feel that they can help create solutions to the problems we face.
Most importantly I think we will have created a useful tool to recreate our neighbourhoods into resilient, sustainable and attractive areas, and a tool that is powered by the infinite energy of local people”.
Paul Paine – August 2008