Frustration, stimulation & inspiration: Feedback from Bridport’s Sustainable Food Town bid event

Frustration, stimulation & inspiration: Feedback from Bridport’s Sustainable Food Town bid event

Well, well, well, several days later and people are still talking about it!

In terms of impactful public engagement, that’s got to be pretty good, I reckon.

I’m talking about the evening with Jamie Catto, film-maker and former pop star turned self-styled “creative catalyst” who came to Bridport during One World Week to remind us that unless, and until, “we start with ourselves,” all our efforts towards sustainability will be in vain.

The evening also saw the launch of Bridport’s bid to become a Sustainable Food Town with a panel of award winning local food heroes, who outlined the contributions they are all already making to the development of a sustainable food system here.

Inspired by the example of these producers, chefs and community activists, more than 50 local people pledged to become more conscious of where and how they buy food, to waste less and to support local shops and cafes. Many also volunteered their time, interests and skills in service of making Bridport Dorset’s first Sustainable Food Town.

CLS in Dorset’s aim for the evening was to reach underneath the deadening weight of habit and convenience to make us really think about our current food system. In a world where too few acknowledge there’s a global food emergency, horrendous amounts of perfectly good food are wasted while 14 million people go to bed hungry in this country every night…

One thing is for sure: Jamie Catto’s talk energised the audience, provoking a great deal of passionate and stimulating debate, and forceful feedback. It’s been a while since I’ve heard such vociferous, and yet radically different, reactions to a speaker. Certainly Catto’s delivery riled many, even as people acknowledged he was right on message.

CLS has learnt some valuable lessons about choosing speakers (and trying to ensure they are responsive to our audiences). The panel of people sharing what they are doing locally was universally well-received. But the whole experience rather begs the question: which messages, delivered by whom, are going to reach the audiences other commentators cannot? Those who have taken  part in our post-event survey sent CLS a clear message: you said you want to hear more about sustainable food, to be addressed by locally-based forward thinking farmers and food producers, to debate the issues and to have your questions answered. You want campaigns, upcycled feasts, site visits, practical work and skill-sharing days, workshops on healthy eating, foraged foods and medicinal herbs, advice on how to manage on a budget, not to mention a sustainable food map and sustainable food buying group!

Future Food Bridport is YOUR vehicle and CLS hereby puts a call out to YOU to actively get involved in the pursuit of the Sustainable Food Town award – not purely for the award itself – but to take the whole town, and beyond, on a journey towards reclaiming and taking control of how food is grown, processed, procured, retailed, distributed and disposed of in this community.

We face some tremendous challenges ahead. But as one member of the audience remarked: “My highlight was hearing the same driving passions behind different Bridport people, all with their own impressive local food enterprises and how, all together like that, they are already a hugely influential body which can galvanise more and more support for all this.”

It’s clear that in Bridport there is huge willingness, great expertise, no shortage of ideas and a healthy appetite for action. The trick will be for us to start with ourselves AND then find ways to join forces, to work in partnership and to master the art of collaboration!