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The Alternative? Talking 'Bout Envirolution

Envirolution is a great play on words, conjuring up ideas of green revolution comprising agitation, purpose and practical actions.  With the support of the Cooperative Enterprise Hub, Envirolution became a Society for the Benefit of the Community in 2012.

Envirolution’s mission is to showcase environmental solutions. An annual festival in Platt Fields Park, Manchester, brings together a large cross-section of the local community in May each year through live music, theatre, art, workshops, discussions, family fun, fairground games, solar power, pedal power, food and drink. The emphasis is on a blend of sharing, learning and innovating across a wide range of environmental and social issues.

The 2013 Festival included a range of events, including ‘a stage with a difference – family-powered with parents and children pedalling to raise the volume,’ a chatting duck tent with Manchester Climate Monthly to get people talking about the future of their city and community and a chance to visit the Dwelle Eco-House, an award winning eco demonstration home. The idea of the fairground was re-interpreted as a ‘fair trade ground’ with games such as ‘whack a fat cat’.  In the ‘grassroots tent’ workshops and discussions took place on environmental activism, community organising, self-sufficiency, urban gardening, herbal medicine, living autonomously and the principles of permaculture.

“We are trying to make all the solutions as inspiring and interactive as possible until the powers-that-be show enough interest to support them [1]”

Envirolution aspires to be more than just an event. Throughout its history the group has aimed to have an increased amount of activity taking place throughout Manchester and beyond; with fundraising events, an increased presence at other events and festivals, environmental education workshops in schools and a Pop-Up farm programme. This provided a chance for pupils in the city to get their hands dirty through making, painting and planting their very own miniature farm.

An Alternative?

The Envirolution example is representative of a range of community initiatives which seek to engage with people’s everyday practices and concerns. Rather than hammering the language of carbon reduction, the idea of the ‘festival’ introduces sillyness and seriousness in equal measure to debates on the sustainable city.  Importantly, the festival is free to all and aims at bringing about a cultural shift, inspiring rather than imposing change through connecting people around daily issues, problems and actions. The cooperative model and ‘asset lock’ is designed to ensure that any profits benefit the community – in sharp contrast to the dominant rhetoric around green growth for private profit.  As one participant in their online videos noted, such non-commercial public spaces are rare.

Interestingly, Envirolution also uses the language of the ‘platform’, aiming to: ‘build a network of environmental solutions that can benefit people, whilst building a platform for environmental change’ (website). Laudable whilst these aims are, a question raised is the extent to which such platforms (ours included) tend to attract the ‘already convinced’. A central issue for policy-makers, community organisations and researchers alike is how to challenge the stereotype that ‘green’ is a largely white, largely middle class issue?

Envirolution is well aware of this problem, seeking to actively target those members of the community who are not the ‘usual suspects’.  They acknowledge the importance of making issues relevant to the people they are affecting and providing transferable skills. By working closely with the local community around the group’s central hub of Platt Fields Park, the aim is to access a wider demographic.

“2013 was a magical mix of all that Platt Fields has to offer - we have always attracted dedicated volunteers from all over the world, of a multitude of ethnicities and backgrounds [2]."

Find out more:

Sources:  Publicly available information online; email exchange with Bob Walley and Matthew Rowe [1] [2].

Images by Laura Lee photography, May 2013, provided by Envirolution.

What’s ‘The Alternative?’

This article is published here as part of the Greater Manchester Local Interaction Platform’s aspiration to raise the visibility of different community innovations, grassroots projects and activities in the city-region.

Find out here about the background, purpose and content of ‘The Alternative?’ series of articles on Platform.



Disclaimer: The article has been put together using publicly available information and online sources as part of a larger ongoing research project. The author has no responsibility for the content or accuracy of those sites.