REPUBLIC OF BOLTON as the new website of Bolton Gathering of Organic Growers.
WHY THE TITLE ‘REPUBLIC OF BOLTON’ ?
We now do much more than grow food! GOG was originally set up as a network of community gardens in 1999 but since then individual members have expanded their activities way beyond just growing food (which of course is a big enough thing in itself). For example, they have got involved in delivering healthy eating, craft and cooking classes, local food celebration events (such as Apple Day and World of Food), setting up a mobile fruit & veg shop, a walking club, alternative technology, a biodiesel plant, a community centre, a recycled bicycle social enterprise and, most recently, a local-food vegetarian café. Our new website needs to reflect not just our food growing activities but our wider activities and perhaps the activities of other like-minded people in Bolton in order to do our bit to support a wider movement in our town towards sustainable community-based solutions.
- Looking at the nature of our diverse activities it is clear that there are common threads running through them such as Sustainability – Putting Bolton first in the old ‘think global, act local’ sense; Self-sufficiency and self-help on a local level; health and well-being; and building a sense of community for all Boltonians by putting the focus on our town rather than looking outside.
- Generally speaking our activities do several things within the town – decrease dependency, give people new skills, save people money, help prevent leakage of wealth outside Bolton, encourage recycling, help the planet and wildlife, create more understanding between diverse communities, improve health in many different ways.
- We’ve grown into a sizeable community rather than developed as a formal organization – this has its strengths, e.g. projects can make themselves self-managed and not dependent on bureaucracy - but the dangers of movement in this direction can be that individual projects can become isolated and without a common outlook and identity.
- Other people talk and have talked about food growing as part of a wider movement to create sustainable communities. For example there is the thought-provoking Manchester Is My Planet climate change campaign. Also the original ‘think local’ activist was Mahatma Gandhi who dreamed of the creation of an ‘India of Village Republics’, a decentralized society made up of federations of local communities aiming to be as self-sufficient as possible. This was one of the reasons he encouraged Indians to do things for themselves such as making their own clothes, growing their own food, making salt and so on. Most modern leading environmentalists agree that, in terms of sustainability, small decentralized communities are the way forward and the only viable social structure that the planet can sustain in the future.
- The building blocks of a more sustainable society surround us now, they just need scaling up and more resources applying. Food growing is the best example of this. In Bolton now there are 1000 allotments (with 500 people on the waiting list), numerous school projects, community gardens and many people growing food in their own gardens. The next step is larger scale growing projects – the need is there – the market, with over a quarter of a million of us after all, and many unemployed young people in need of an income and new skills and cheap, healthy food. It’s a situation of massive potential and a do-it-yourself approach emphasizing what can be achieved in the economy of the future .
- By calling our new website Republic of Bolton we focus on local self-sufficiency but still have food growing at its heart, in same way as climate change campaigners in Manchester [Manchester is my Island.com] conceive of the city as a island in order to focus attention on local solutions, we could put across the idea of our town as an independent country, The Republic of Bolton. This reflects both the core of our food growing activities and our wider activities around green community projects and look to the future to give other people an inspiring idea and point of contact for future developments [which might include developing new initiatives such as local currencies].
- The withdrawal of the wildlife trust from established food growing projects gives GOG the opportunity in this time of economic recession to offer some much needed fresh ideas, new directions and leadership for food growing in the town – ideas which reflect GOG members’ own practice – sees it as part of a wider movement for sustainability, do-it-yourself activity and self-sufficiency thinking, and places food growing at the heart of other ideas of local self-sufficiency.
- As a final point, there is a community growing project in Todmorden called Incredible Edible Todmorden (IET) that has so successfully promoted itself that it has made a virtual identification between the project and Todmorden itself. This has engendered a new civic pride for local residents and a wider perception of Todmorden as a ‘green’ town. And yet the group is only four years old and has only carried out a limited number of initiatives compared to Bolton, which has been developing a wider diversity of local food initiatives over twelve years. What IET has got is a knack for self-promotion and publicity with regular network TV and radio slots giving Todmorden a national profile. Bolton’s more established, larger and, in many ways, better growing and community food projects clearly lack this single-minded approach to marketing. Perhaps a new image and the idea of the Republic of Bolton can serve to galvanise and focus publicity for all of Bolton’s local food initiatives and help to deliver similar benefits for the town as a whole as IET has done for Todmorden.