West Hampstead Transition Town kicks off

On Monday evening, the Transition Town West Hampstead initiative kicked off. Sadly I couldn’t make, it but guest reporter Suzie was on hand to tell us more:

It was a good turn out for the inaugural West Hampstead TT meeting. Around 30 people gathered at St James’ Church to find out what the Transition Town movement was all about.

George Latham and nettle pesto canapés

Having been welcomed with some homemade and locally foraged nettle pesto (quite yummy, as it happens!) and elderflower cordial, West Hamsptead resident David Abrahams kicked off proceedings. He had been impressed, he said, by what our neighbours at Transition Belsize and Transition Kensal 2 Kilburn had achieved over a short period of time, and wanted to replicate this in West Hampstead.

David Abrahams

The evening started with A Farm for the Future, a film that tells the story of wildlife filmmaker, Rebecca Hoskin, who returned to Devon to run her family farm. She explains how heavily modern farming relies on oil – from the diesel needed to run the planting and harvesting machinery, to the oil-based fungicides, pesticides and insecticides used in growing the crops. As she puts it: “All food production is dripping in oil”.

The film went on to explain that with world oil reserves diminishing, energy prices on the rise, and a farming community in decline (there are only 150,000 farmers left whereas there used to be 10 times as many), the UK – a net importer of food – is in a precarious position to feed its own growing population.

So what’s the answer? The core concept of the Transition Town movement is building local resilience to a future world without oil, and finding “local solutions to global problems”. It aims to do this by sharing knowledge within local communities; by re-learning lost skills, such as foraging for food (apparently Hampstead Heath is a rich resource!) and sewing; and developing new ones, such as creating cycle groups and learning how to make your home more energy efficient.

Camden’s former ‘eco champion’ Alexis Rowell talking to the group

It’s also about teaching and inspiring people, and helping them feel safe and happy by encouraging residents to get to know their neighbours and breaking down feelings of isolation. Did you know that 48% of Camden residents live alone?

George Latham, from the Kensal 2 Kilburn group, shared a few examples of what can be achieved. He told us how it had set up a community allotment on a Brent Partnership housing estate (which has since doubled in size), and created “abundance groups” – volunteers that collect fruit from local residents’ gardens that would otherwise have been wasted. In fact, last year a staggering two tonnes of fruit went to local schools! It also shared other skills such as crocheting, apple pressing, and jam, chutney and bread making. A big success was their local harvest festival, which drew 200 people and ended up with everyone sitting next to their neighbours and sharing a ‘festival stew’.

Transition West Hampstead can be anything we want it to be and it’s up to Transition members to follow their passion, whether it be energy, sustainable transport and food production, or wellbeing and the creative arts. Last night the enthusiasm was palpable and there was a sense of momentum, but the next step is ours. The key thing is that it’s enjoyable. Remember: “If it ain’t fun, it ain’t sustainable!

If you’d like to find out more about Transition West Hampstead, or would like to get involved, please email: ku.gr1511496223o.dae1511496223tspma1511496223htsew1511496223noiti1511496223snart1511496223@ofni1511496223. Or read more about the wider transition network.

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  • Hello Tom – agree that we need to be more engaged in our home energy consumption. Regarding your point about insulation, it’s not just about returns on investment. Insulating your home also makes it a more comfortable place to live and, if you believe it makes a difference, making carbon savings. The second thing is that any builder can install insulation and if it’s in your loft, you can do it yourself. If it’s in the walls and floors, the trick is in getting the build-ups and then overall ventilation right. It’s very cheap and easy to get advice from a well informed architect or building energy engineers. #cough

  • Tom

    Hopefully interest in home energy consumption will improve now we've had more grim news about fuel prices. Perhpaps there's room for more competition among local suppliers who offer insulation solutions. The problem is still that people are unsure as to whether they will really get a return on their investment.

  • Tom

    Yes it's true that the extra comfort is of course a factor aside from the economics. I'm not sure of modern building regulations, but I imagine the many thousands of roof conversions (flat roof rooms etc.) in London are like two of my rooms – very little insulation. I'm going to get some quotes.

  • Do you guys have ideas as to how to get landlords interested in this. It can be hard to get them engaged in my experience, as it's us (the tenants)who are paying the heating bills…

  • Hey Catherine – it’s hard work, I agree, as the savings on utility bills don’t benefit them. Although it’s much easier if they’re renovating anyway. The Green Deal (if it ever arrives) will enable tenants to effectively compel landlords to use Green Deal funds to install energy saving measures. We reckon that the government should be doing more to assist, for example by reducing stamp duty on these properties.