Saturday, March 09, 2013

Fairtrade Fortnight -busiest yet in Stockton

The last fortnight has seen more events and activity on the Fairtrade front than ever before in Stockton.  It wasn't all organised by the Fairtrade Borough Partnership but we were involved in many of the events.
Of course the planning started before Christmas and it's been great this year to have support from sections of Stockton Council which previously haven't been involved. We've had a competition between schools to produce artwork using the packaging and wrappers from Fairtrade items. The imagination shown by some of the children is amazing, as is their wider thinking around the construction of their sculptures.  For example, I wouldn't have thought of eating the fruit from the banana, stuffing the skin with yellow tissue paper, spraying it with hair spray and wrapping it in the plastic bag it came in to stop it going black and smelly.

The Rediscover Stockton shop on Stockton High Street has provided a lovely display space for the results and they're staying there for another week or two to give people the chance to see them.  On Thursday the Mayor visited and selected the winning item, a farmer watering his crops, constructed entirely of Fairtrade wrappers.  It must have taken a great deal of thought and work and is a worthy winner.  Now I'm waiting for the school to let me know how many children were involved so that we can produce their certificates and prizes.
Meanwhile a stall on Stockton market gave a chance for people to buy some Fairtrade items that aren't readily available in local shops as well as getting information.  Being able to man that stall for two days was great.
All Saints Church at Hartburn was full last Friday for a talk from three people who'd been on "Meet the People" tours to meet the people who make some of the products sold by Traidcraft.  Tours of Vietnam and Sri Lanka were described with the aid of slides and samples of the crafts produced there. Fascinating and well worth hearing.  It made us even keener to go on such a tour when eventually I retire!
On Monday the turnout was less impressive but those who heard Paul Chandler, CEO of Traidcraft, talk about the work of Traidcraft and the challenges for the future were enthusiastic and attentive listeners and had plenty of questions afterwards.  Strangely, the samples of Fairtrade wine didn't find many takers!  I'm sure the university will find a use for the bottles they had left.
A Fairtrade coffee morning at Norton library, Big Brew at Preston Park and the annual Fairtrade cafe at Egglescliffe CE primary all drew good numbers of people and we hope some of them learned more about Fairtrade than they knew before.  At the very least they enjoyed some Fairtrade drinks.
The one sour note of the fortnight was the failure to have a motion in support of Fairtrade passed at Stockton Council.  Despite attempts to communicate with the Council leader we had no response on the proposal from the Partnership until the day before Council when a very basic motion was proposed.  I didn't have time to contact all the members of the partnership but those who did read it and respond weren't happy at all.  As a result I withdrew our motion and made a public invitation to the Leader and relevant cabinet member to come to a meeting of the partnership and discuss the problems they see with our motion.  I've now sent them the list of partnership meeting dates and await their answer.
Other than that, though, it was a very successful fortnight and well worth the effort of organising the events.

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