Lessons from Hardwick: Bringing a local eco event to life

Lessons from Hardwick: Bringing a local eco event to life

Hardwick’s inaugural Eco Event took place on Saturday 4th September in and around the new Cabin building and St Mary’s church. It resulted in a screening of David Attenborough’s ‘A Life on Our Planet’, 27 stall holders and 9 speakers, providing information and enthusiasm on a wide range of sustainable ideas:

  • 41 individual Pledges to reduce CO2 emissions over the next 12 months
  • Heat Pumps and Insulation
  • Wildlife Trust
  • Swap stalls for school uniforms, books, clothes and seeds
  • Vegan Food and Recipes
  • How St Mary’s is becoming more sustainable
  • Fairtrade
  • A Green Weigh shop
  • Solar panels
  • The Carbon Footprint of Wine
  • Composting and organic gardening 
  • Green Investment advice
  • Interactive projects for children: composting in a lemonade bottle, paper making and surveys of wildlife, log moisture and nettles
  • How to get the most from Solar PV
  • The Lisa Kent Trust
  • Local experience of owning an Electric Car
  • A Christian view of Sustainability and Biodiversity
  • How to support the local wildlife in Cambridgeshire
  • The ins and outs of Electric Bikes
  • A Bicycle Repair Shop
  • Sustainability projects at Comberton Village College
  • What is easy and what is difficult about reducing your carbon footprint
  • A guided local cycle ride
  • An Open Mic “soap box” for young people to voice their concerns

A few of the stalls were inside the Cabin’s main hall but most were outside under gazebos. The speakers were in the church deliberately away from the stalls so they could be heard and the audience could sit in relatively safe Covid isolation: 4 in the morning and 5 in the afternoon. Each talk was 10 minutes with 5 minutes for questions. The film was also screened in the church as it shared the same AV equipment as the speakers. Permission to screen it was obtained by registering the event at the David Attenborough website. Those who watched it found it moving, shocking and inspirational.

Sustenance was provided with teas and coffees and delicious home-made cakes and a campfire heating a very tasty cooked lunch made from locally produced food.

How did it happen?

Planning started in December 2020 during lockdown as a joint project between St Mary’s Church Hardwick, Hardwick Evangelical Church and the Hardwick Climate Action Group, with the aim to highlight what is being done to help the environment and to increase awareness of the need for further action, particularly locally. 

A steering committee was formed of about 8 representatives of the three organisations under the very able chairing skills of Peter Cornwell. Regular monthly meetings were held, initially via Zoom and then face-face outside the Cabin when lockdown was eased. These generated ideas and actions and devolved responsibilities for organising the food, stalls, refreshments and speakers. From July the meetings were every two weeks, with progress and commitments being reported. 

Potential speakers and stallholders were mainly identified by local knowledge and word of mouth. Many of the speakers were recommended by similar groups in the Cambridgeshire Climate Emergency Community Organisers from nearby villages.

On the day each attendee was welcomed by one of our younger volunteers. This turned out to be very important as attendees immediately got a feel for how friendly and positive the event was and could ask all their initial questions about the event. Printed copies of the programme were available detailing talks, stalls and events. A QR code was also made to be scanned by mobile phones to access the website version of the programme.

The following Sunday a joint service of the two churches was held outside the Cabin where prayers were made to reaffirm commitments to be more sustainable. 

Finance and Publicity

Attendance was identified as a major risk, which also made planning for refreshments difficult. We aimed for 100-150 people, but we had no idea really how many people would turn up. This made planning for food and drink very hard. It was vital that as many people as possible attended the event, otherwise there’s not much point organising it. Hence a major part of the planning was devoted to publicity.

Expected costs were identified for publicity (a leaflet drop to every house in Hardwick, posters in nearby villages and a large sign outside the church) and a small grant applied for and awarded by the Peoples’ Postcode Lottery and the Postcode Places Trust. Admission to the event, food and refreshments were free but donations were encouraged. A programme was produced about a week before the event and posted on the event’s website, Facebook page and in email shots (including all parents of school students) and two messages were sent via the Nextdoor app covering about 12 surrounding villages.

As well as the paper publicity, articles were posted in the Hardwick Happenings (the village’s monthly newsletter sent to every house in Hardwick), on the Hardwick group’s Facebook pages and email shots to various village mailing lists. Word of mouth was also vital, with door-knocks, friends and family and schools encouraged to spread the word.  This resulted in 266 attendees on the day (about 9% of the Hardwick population) with some coming from nearby villages and Cambridge.

Feedback

All the speakers were thanked after the event and their feedback requested, which was very positive: 

  • I was very impressed and to get so many people in its first year is amazing
  • Great event and really glad it was a success
  • It seemed to me a very nice atmosphere with lots of good stuff going on
  • It was a delight to be involved and to see it all. A really great event. 
  • I had 3 new members join our trust on the day which is very pleasing and spoke to quite a few families as well. I met lots of existing trust members too, which is always nice and it’s great to update them with our latest news. Plenty of others seemed very interested in our work so hopefully a few more may get involved with us in the near future. It really is important to promote what we’re trying to achieve to local people.
  • It was a pleasure to be a part of the event and I felt very welcome, it was certainly well planned
  • Thank you for inviting me, it was good

And constructive:

  • Possibly the marketing could have happened earlier
  • People need to think in advance about bringing stuff to swap
  • Perhaps it would be good to think about how to increase ambition and participation and grow the event further
  • Interesting you are thinking of an annual event… I wonder whether it would have more impact if it ‘went on tour’… what about holding something similar in Comberton next year, using the know-how and contacts and so on from this year?!

The stall holders feedback:

  • We had loads of enquiries – we hardly paused for breath. Obviously it is too soon to tell what the results will be but I would be very surprised if there were not lots of follow-ups.
  • We did really well, from my side we had around 20 direct enquiries 
  • With hindsight I could have brought my laptop with [installation] videos, so if you hold another event perhaps we could use a projector or TV to run a couple of videos that show what different products are and how they are installed

 

Challenges

 

  • This was the first Event we have done so there was a lot of ‘making it up as we went along’ in terms of planning. We will have this event as a foundation when planning the next one.
  • Many attendees weren’t prepared for the swap stalls, some went home to get toys to swap once they realised how they work.  Next time we should give the village enough notice about the swaps, so they can think about what items to bring. As this is a new concept for the village, perhaps we need to do an event dedicated to swaps.
  • Engaging and involving young people – how can we do this better?
  • The ‘big-ticket’ items, such as installing solar panels or heat pumps, require time, commitment and resources with up-front research and planning required.  We could make this easier by pooling common actions, such as identifying the best products and installers and bargain reduced prices through bulk orders. We should establish special interest groups for the people who are interested, do one lot of research and pool resources to get the best deals. Maybe provide sign-up sheets next time?

 

Next Steps

The post-event wrap-up of the steering committee took place a few days later and identified the above challenges. 

From the donations received for refreshments it was resolved to reimburse some of the stall holders who had significant costs. 

During the event we were approached from representatives of nearby local groups (Toft, Waterbeach and Oakington) to collaborate if possible. We agreed to share our expertise and experiences on hosting an Eco Event. For future events, perhaps local villages could run events on the same day as us – we could then share speakers and resources. We were reluctant to do joint events with other villages as it is unlikely as many people from Hardwick would travel to another village, so Hardwick might lose potential attendees.

We decided that Saturday 17th September 2022 would be a better day to hold the next event as schools would then have returned which might help to better involve younger people. A joint service would also be held the following day as this was a very positive event.