London Transition: A Year In Review

For many 2010 started with a sense that the best remedy for global, instituional paralysis is local, grass roots action, and a the year has seen much new interest in Transition-style approaches in the capital both, in official Transition Towns initiatives and in like minded Low Carbon Communities and Climate Action Networks. Many new groups were formed, there was continued growth in the size and ambition of activities and and many firsts.

Collected below is a brief summary of some of the more notable events from the past year which were initiated or supported by Transition groups. This list is by no means comprehensive, but hopefully gives a sense of the movement in London.

Building Efficiency

In the UK housing alone contributes 33% of all CO2 emissions. London groups have been highly active in raising awareness of building efficiency ranging from organising and supporting open day events of efficient buildings to community lead building efficiency programmes.

Last winter London Transition groups started running draught busting workshops teaching people low cost, DIY approaches to reducing energy bills improving home comfort. These hands-on workshop were pioneered by Hyde Farm CAN and have spread across the capital. Transition Belsize is now collaborating with Camden Council who are  funding a series of draught busting workshops and providing £20 of free materials to local residents attending the workshops.

Local Energy

Ham United Group, based in Ham, Richmond are developing a hydro power project on the weir at Teddington, SW London. They aim to be up and running by autumn 2012 and providing enough electricity to power 900 homes and save around 1000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year.

Transition Belsize Energy Group ran a solar power expo and Ealing Transition organised a renewable energy conference with representatives from local government, church groups and solar energy suppliers.

Transition Town Maidenhead have formed Solar Co-operative to help households find the right solar thermal, solar PV or biomass solution and provide support for bulk purchasing, tendering, selecting installers and organising finance.

Juice From Your Roof, a project of Sustainable Merton, has sparked wide community support across south-west London, enrolling over 100 homeowners free-of-charge in the capital's biggest volunteer-led discount club for solar panels. The club's £1 million of potential business attracted bids in November from four reputable solar installation companies who offered discounts of up to 20%. The club's assessors were taking references and judging quality of service, before appointing a preferred installer. Other groups like Transition Town Peckham are also looking into setting up local bulk buying schemes.

Festivals

Tooting and Kingston both had "great unleashing" celebrations this year. Kingston's is described here and attracted hundred of visitors, was attended by local alumni, MPs, the mayor and head of the Council and supported by local green businesses and organisations. Tooting's event featured a keynote by Rob Hopkins.

Across the summer London Transition groups organised numerous outdoor events including Finsbury Park's WellOiled festival, Crouch End's Sustainable Community Celebration and Belsize's Eco Week and Green Fair. Finally, in September Transition Town Brixton was again in charge of the Climate Change and Energy Transition Zone of the Urban Green Fair in Brockwell Park, with dozens of talks and workshops taking place.

Arts and Culture

In July Tooting held their Trashcatchers Carnival. Led by 35 artists working with over 600 local residents the event culminated in a parade down Upper Tooting Road of costumes, floats and banners around the theme of caring for the Earth make entirely from recycled materials

Transition New Cross performed a climate change opera called Carbon Chronicles, a participatory opera blending science, myth, politics, music and humour to provoke discussion and inspire action to reduce our dependency on a petroleum. Transition Greenwich hosted an evening of story telling with Steph Bradley after her 6-month odyssey on foot around the Transition Towns of England.

Leytonstone ran a nationwide Transition Poetry Competition, Transition Greenacre short story competition, and Transition Fitzrovia organised a photographic exhibition  of portraits of local residents to help people get to know their neighbours.

Local Food

There's a huge range of active local food projects underway in London, ranging from building new growing spaces, a community tree nursery, allotment campaigns, seed swaps, garden shares, box schemes, estate growing to courses on growing food in containers and making your own christmas puddings.

Tooting ran it's third annual a Tooting Harvest Foodival where eight local restaurants serve up free food made from locally grown fruit and vegetables donated by Tooting residents.

Hackney Harvest is a new project which got underway following an open space event organised earlier in the year in Stoke Newington. The project collected and distributed over 200kg of fruit which would have otherwise have gone to waste, helped promote what is possible with urban orchards and encourages councils to support the planting of more fruit trees.

Transition Heathrow occupied a group of abandoned green houses and transformed them into a working, abundant garden.

Arising out of a discussion following a screening of The Real Dirt On Farmer John in March, Transition Crouch End started a popular "more than a box scheme" community supported agriculture project with Church Farm in Hertfordshire. As well as having vegetables and meat delivered direct from the farm, members of the scheme are able to participate through workdays and visits.

Kingston also started their From The Ground Up food coop, selling locally sourced and grown organic fruit and vegetables, jams, bread, and even local organic seasonal flowers in the warmer months.

Local Economy

TT Brixton celebrated one year in the life of the Brixton Pound with a party around the central market. There is now B£ 35,000 in circulation and the currency is now accepted by more than 120 local businesses.

Transition Westcombe organised a meeting with local supermarkets to develops plans to promote healthy, locally sourced organic food, as well as about minimizing food waste, packaging and the use of plastics. The supermarkets present all agreed to take part in International Plastic Bag Free Day, promote healthy food, employ Fareshare to take away food at its sell-by date, and to distribute it to local Greenwich & Lewisham groups who are in food poverty and to take action to reduce packaging.

Transport

In July the TT Kingston Transport Group organised an exhibition of electric vehicles from a wide variety of manufacturers in Kingston's market square. A well as the exhibition itself a series of talks and meetings explored the technology and it's possible contribution to transition.

Lots of a groups have run cycling campaigns, ranging from cycle tours around local green spaces to helping parents and children learn to ride. Transition Town Stoke Newington teamed up with the Hackney Cycling Campaign to bring bicycle maintenance workshops to N16. The idea here to encourage cycling by teaching people how to be maintain, upgrade and repair their own bicycles.

Transition Greenwitch organised a meeting to discuss managing traffic in Greenwich Town Centre.

Government

In November, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil Meeting invited representatives from the Transition Network to the Grand Committee Room at the House of Commons to discuss what does the movement needs from government.

Reuse

Brixton Reuse Centre is working towards developing a disused block of garages into a community of social enterprises for reusing waste materials. They are aiming to open in spring 2011 divert 200 tonnes of resources from landfill per year, including furniture, appliances, wood, bicycles, garden tools and equipment, musical instruments, computers, textiles and more. The groups has just applied for £100,000 of funding for building works and just secured £7,500 funding from the British Council for a learning exchange project.

Skills

Through 2010 Sustainable Haringey ran a highly successful series of four, all-day skill share events in Tottenham, with sessions ranging from recycling clothing to sustainable food.

Transition Town Brixton operated a Skill Share shop for three months over the summer in, which included training in draught busting, permaculture, beekeeping, cycle training and Open Source computing.

Awareness and Inclusion

Over the year literally hundreds of film nights, talks, green drinks and meetings were organised on topics ranging from climate change, climate justice, food security to whether Lambeth can feed itself? Transtition Wimbledon held a re-thinking Wimbledon event in the town cntre piazza with stalls from local organisations, music and activities, Sustainable Haringey organised Haringey Sustainability Month and Belsize started a 2030 Visioning project.

The Carbon Literacy Forum, which grew out of Islington Carbon Ration Action Group with members from Transition Town Stoke Newington and Highbury, has trained 24 voluntary facilitators for their Carbon Conversations carbon cutting and personal resilience programme running 13 groups with over 100 participants, from the Transition and wider community, including two councils and one Low Carbon Zone. The groups help people identify and start reducing their own emissions, take action and build trust, relationships and community and have helped many become more active in their communities around environmental issues.

Finally, Kingston held an interfaith forum in October attended by some 60 people from a multitude of different faith groups including pagan, humanist and atheist. This was part of our approach to both diversity and to inner transition.