Tooting Life – Kitchen table

Tooting has another lovely cafe, this time on Fransiscan Road, on the way to Tooting Bec Common from where we live.  This one has just popped up in the last few weeks, so we took the small boy along to try them out.

It was a gorgeous sunny day, and the small boy greeted the proprietor with “Cake!” as the door opened.  He’s not stupid, that one.  We tried out their excellent carrot and walnut cake, Him Indoors had a sticky bun.  The place is very well kitted out for a freshly opened cafe and they’re well prepared for kids, with a changing table, toy baskets and a buggy store outside.  Highly recommended.

Transition Town Tooting’s great unleashing!

Rob Hopkins, co-founder of the transition network 'unleashing' Tooting with Lucy Neal, co-founder of Transition Town Tooting

Last night, Transition Town Tooting was unleashed.  The unleashing point for a transition town can be several months or years after transition activities start, but it marks a point at which the town feels it has gathered sufficient momentum to celebrate.  The town hammers a metaphorical post into the ground which says: here we are, this is what we have achieved so far, what shall we do next?

The unleashing date is then used in other activities as a point to measure from.  For example, when people get together to envision their town in 30 years time, they often then work backwards to the unleashing date, so that the intermediate steps which need to be taken become clearer.

It was an evening full of inspiration, potential and promise.  Rob spoke about the challenges of peak oil and climate change and the various groups involved in Transition Town Tooting took to the stage to let us know what they were up to, and what progress they hoped to make in the future.

There are now several groups within TTT which will all be making plans for the town over the next few months.  There is a group looking at housing, training local people to make their homes more energy efficient.  There is an economy group, which will consider creating the Tooting pound, and look at opportunities for community held assets or microfinance within Tooting.

There are youth and education groups, hoping to engage young people with transition activities and get more schools to look at how they can be more sustainable.  There is a transport group which will be promoting cycling and walking locally.  There is a food group, which will be hosting the third Tooting Foodival in September, encouraging local people to grow and cook their own food at home.

The great thing about the transition movement is that it can encompass whatever people are passionate about.  I’ll be fascinated to see how the groups progress over the next few months.  For more information on transition and transition towns, have a look at Rob Hopkin’s great blog

The Trashcatchers’ carnival!

When it comes to sustainability, it’s not always easy to get people’s attention.  However if you’ve got a 20ft, animatronic, carrot wielding giant on your side,  it’s hard to be missed.  The Trashcatchers’ carnival blew into Tooting this afternoon in a whirl of colour, sound and excitement.

Everything in the carnival had been made out of ‘trash’.  Project Phakama, Emergency Exit Arts & Transition Town Tooting have been working together to make the various carnival characters along with over 800 local residents, school children, members of community groups and clubs.  In all, they used over 1 million plastic bottles and shopping bags, half a million crisp packets, half a ton of renewable willow and half a ton of other materials.

The star of the show had to be the awesome gardening giant, but the carnival also featured an enormous turtle, elephants, fish, foxes, birds and insects.  The whole procession was led by the beautiful Sankofa bird.

The Sankofa bird is a particularly fitting symbol for the carnival, and for Transition Town Tooting in general.  She is an ancient West African creature who looks forward and backwards in a single glance.  She reminds us that sometimes we have to go back to our roots to move forwards.  This is the message of the carnival.  Even in a large urban town such as Tooting, we can take steps to overcome our oil

The Sankofa Bird

dependence and our waste problems by going back to our roots, slowing down, and taking a fresh look at how we consume food and goods.

The carnival will act as a powerful reminder to all who witnessed it that the people of Tooting are creative and flamboyant enough to rise to this and any other challenge.

Lucy Neal, co-chair of Transition Town Tooting said:

Individually we may seem insignificant, but when we connect up in a community, we are very strong, we can make a huge difference. We are thrilled at how well it’s come together and amazed at the support we have received from the people of Tooting.

The powered vehicles in the procession were fuelled by recycled vegetable oil.  Many of the vehicles were powered by bike.  Hundreds of fantastically attired carnivalistas danced the route on foot.

The event finished up with a sharing picnic in Fishponds playing fields.  By the time the last float arrived, there were hundreds of people there to welcome them and continue the carnival spirit with some locally made spicy potato curry and elderflower cordial.

I don’t know how much the amazed spectators would have known about the carnival and what it stands for, but I hope they will be inspired to search for it online and find out more.

The day was a huge success and a really incredible spectacle – huge congratulations to all the organisers and all of those who took part.  Tooting has never seen anything like it!

One thing is for sure, the momentum gained over the last few weeks and months will certainly spill over from today into ongoing projects.  This heightened visibility on Tooting’s High Road must raise the profile in the area and help all of Transition Town Tooting’s causes.

Transition Town Tooting is planning a Big Launch on the 12th of July, and a Foodival later this year.  See their website for more details.

Tooting Foodival 2009

Tooting Foodival face

Last Sunday saw the second annual Tooting Foodival, arranged by Transition Town Tooting.  TTT aims to

“…bring together the people of Tooting and surrounding communities to develop a plan to transition to a life beyond our dependency on oil.”

Tooting foodival in full swingPractically, this means lowering the collective carbon footprint of the town by encouraging greener modes of transport, food growing groups and re-skilling workshops.  There are even rumours that Tooting may get its own currency before too long.  I have been deeply envious of the ‘Brixton pound’ and it would be great to see T£ as it will be known enabling residents to keep trade flowing through Tooting’s local businesses.

The Foodival kicked off with a ‘Food walk’ which I was unfortunately unable to attend, followed by a Food Fete in Fircroft school.  Here there was free food cooked from home-grown Tooting fruit and veg, an urban beekeeper (very distressed about vandals who have been throwing bricks and logs at her hives), and the great Tooting pudding competition, which featured some amazing looking puds which sadly weren’t on offer to the punters, although perhaps they were dished up after the judging.

Veg manKids were getting involved making creatures out of locally grown vegetables, and Ting Ting Tooting were there fixing bikes and promoting cycling in the area.

It was a beautiful September afternoon, and everybody seemed to be having a great time.  It reminded me that I had meant to go to some of the TTT meetings, so fingers crossed I will get to one before too long.

It might seem impossible that an area as urban as Tooting can possibly embrace low carbon ideas, but the TTT movement is growing all the time, and steps have already been made in the right direction.  If it can be done in Tooting, it can be done anywhere!

Tooting life – The River Wandle

It is amazing what people do in their spare time.  Dressing in green rubber waders from the waist down, and a Stabilo yellow jacket from the waist up would not be my usual choice of attire on a Sunday afternoon, but this week-end many Wandsworth residents will be trying it for size.

The River Wandle is a unique South London chalkstream which flows north from Croydon and Carshalton to join the Thames at Wandsworth. In Victorian times, the Wandle was one of the hardest-working rivers in the world, with 90 mills along its 11 mile length. In the 1960’s, it was officially declared a sewer.  (from the Wandle Trust website.)

On the second Sunday of each month, the Wandle Trust run community clean-ups at various points on the river.  This Sunday they will be tackling a section of the river in Earlsfield, Wandsworth.  Not exactly Tooting admittedly, but it’s all connected.  They reckon they will remove 2 skips worth of rubbish from the river in 3 hours, which is pretty good going.

Fruit and nut map

This is a nice idea.  A google map that you can edit, to plot the locations of trees which overhang public areas in South London, which bear edible fruit and nuts.

Permission often needs to be obtained, but it’s a very good starting point.  I’m going pear picking on a nearby road this week, now I just need a few ideas on what to do with a surfeit of pears…

Project Dirt and the Tooting Harvest Foodival

Summer may be over (I think I blinked and missed it), but grow-your-own continues to flourish in London. 

This afternoon I’m off to speak to Seb from Food Up Front for another City Bumpkin podcast.  Food Up Front is a brilliant project, encouraging people to grow their own food in their front gardens, back gardens, balconies, window boxes, wherever. 

Whilst I was pottering through the Food Up Front website, I discovered an environmental social networking site called Project Dirt, which aims to

Facilitate and encourage environmental action.  How?  By helping people form their own groups to undertake their chosen environmental projects.

All of which sounds like a Good Idea to me.  What is particularly exciting about Project Dirt is that it seems to be based in South London, so lots of the environmental projects on there at the moment are nearby. 

Through it I have already discovered that there are pears which need picking on a road near mine, which I intend to take full advantage of.  Not only that, my beloved Tooting is holding the inaugural ‘Tooting Harvest Foodival’ from 2-5pm on Sunday October 5th. 

A celebration of sustainable food
Sample food grown right here in Wandsworth, including…
Sag Aloo
Tooting Crumble
Blackberry Jam
Giant Tooting Salad
And a local dish made by Rick’s Café especially for the event

Talks and workshops on urban gardening, city bee keeping, permaculture and more!

Mark your favourite food spot on Food Map, find out more about
Deen City Farm, and Chateau Tooting!
And there’s more:
Face painting, apple bobbing, cakes and a fantastic food raffle.
Learn how to grow your own veg, find out about sustainable food and try some home-grown dishes!

Can I even begin to express how excited I am about this?  Can I even begin to express how angry I am that I’m working on that afternoon?  If you live nearby, please visit and show your support.