I attended South Tyneside Council's 'Enviro Fayre' event (notch one up to the Department for Shit Names) on Sunday and it seemed a well organised event, let down by the weather which no doubt caused the disappointing turnout.
The fayre started with several speeches, the first one from Council Leader Councillor Paul Waggott telling us how great South Tyneside Council is at all things green.
Then TV presenter John Craven gave a ten minute speech on environmental challenges, drawing a link between his time at the helm of BBC's Countryfile and his increasing interest in green issues. He passionately covered the threat of climate change and had particular criticism for our wasteful throwaway culture.
Mayor Tracey Dixon gave a bland but mercifully short 'I open this event' speech, brightened momentarily by her embarrassment at a wardrobe malfunction which prevented her from stepping onto the stage. I would have thought that South Shields MP David Miliband (who I didn't see there) would have loaned his Toyota Prius in the spirit of things to get Cllr Dixon to the event, but she had to make do with the council's monster diesel Volvo.
There were many companies plying sustainable wares like solar panels, wind turbines and ground source heat collectors. It's amazing how the domestic renewable energy and energy efficiency market has taken off. Local battery company Cell Pack was also there with the new Hybrio range of hybrid rechargeable batteries and chargers.
There were loads of freebies - energy saving light bulbs, radiator heat reflectors, free tries on Segways (although I still can't work out what's green about them), free bicycle checks and tonnes of information. The Council organisers were also giving away rubber balls made to look like the Earth, but I'm not sure where these fancies fit in with John Craven's rally against frivolous waste, given that most of the balls will end up in the bin after serving it's purpose as a marketing tool.
There were a number of local conservation groups present, with Durham CVS reporting on it's excellent work restoring local habitats, the Vegetarian Society on well, being a vegetarian, and Traidcraft bringing in the ethical trade message.
One local green group was missing though. South Tyneside Friends of the Earth. The group, which has been closely involved with several council consultations, most recently the waste strategy, and involved in the Tyne Tunnel and Fellgate campaigns, didn't receive an invite. I wonder who they've pissed off.
Overall though, the Enviro Fayre concept is a good one (but a shitty name) and well executed, if not as organic and egalitarian in it's approach as the brilliant Newcastle Green Festival, but there's hope that the normally excellent South Tyneside Council event organisers can learn and up their game for next year. Perhaps the event could be brought forward into the late summer season's events for next year and include a live music stage.
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