The Big Green Gathering is the largest event of its kind in Europe. Around 20,000 people attend the five days of camping in the Mendip Hills, Somerset this year from the 1-5 August.
The Bicycology summer tour had recently arrived in Exeter and a crew of five cycled up from there via Glastonbury, taking the soundsystem, the energy trailer and the Brox. Others cheated and took the train but we all met up in the Appropriate Technology tent which was to be our base for five days. We offered the usual selection of information and energy trailer amusements, and a multitude of bike jewellery and Tetra Pak wallets were produced.
There was no shortage of stock for the wallets. Dozens of catering stalls had sacks full of the un-recyclable cartons. So a hundred or more were gathered up and we had a big washing out session which evolved into a giant Tetra Bike.
We were just up the track from the Last Chance Saloon, the Climate Camp’s benefit bar. They ran a basic bike maintenance workshop which we supplemented with a workshop on more advanced bike maintenance the following day.
We helped transport stuff around the site on an occasional basis using our trailers. Even magnanimously offering lifts to toy car loving infants. There was an embryonic bike library for people to borrow transport in emergencies. Many thanks to those who donated bikes, several went on to be part of the bike library at the Climate Camp. We also had a high noon bike polo match with an assorted bunch of kids and bike punks.
On the Friday night we did a guerrilla pedal powered screening on the green. The ever popular naked bike ride film and the story of New York’s Critical Mass ride generated a large and appreciative crowd. We also ate a lot of cake, stumbled around in the dark saying hello to people, and danced. But it wasn’t all fun and games.
Just across the way from us was a car. It belonged to the guy promoting veggie oil as a fuel. We are really concerned by the suggestion that biofuels are a sustainable solution to the current crisis (see the info under Convenient Myths) and we had a bit of a chat to him about it during the week. But he was unmoved. So on the last day two bicycologists walked over and placed a sign on the windscreen saying “We love Green Consumerism? Really?”. It was all done in a very smiley fashion, but Mr Veg oil got agitated and aggressive. After half an hour of patient conversation he calmed down and agreed to have a public debate with us about the issues next year. (see pic) He was just off anyway, so we took back the notice and pinned it onto the central signpost, where it was just as at home. There’s a lot of shopping at the big green.
Then came the rather depressing sight of the car park. Thousands of people drive to the Big Green, despite a cheep bus service being offered from the train station. We had produced some leaflets pointing out this paradox, but unfortunately hadn’t printed nearly enough. So after windscreening and hand delivering the ones we had to the departing punters, we recycled some of the security tape into a fence banner. The lovely stewards had no problem with our reminder – “U R Fuelling Climate Chaos” which as far as we know stayed up for the rest of the festival.
We had a great time. Despite the rampant capitalism and new age mysticism, the Big Green is still an invaluable point of access for people wanting to take a first step towards sustainability. Unfortunately they’re currently looking at bankruptcy, and are making an urgent appeal for support so that the event can happen again next year.