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Permaculture Convergence Festival: A Volunteers Story

Our End of Season: U.K’s best green festivals article discussed the immersive learning and enjoyment to be had at British festivals with a sustainable ethos. Following on from this, recent University graduates Rowan and Gina share their experiences volunteering at the 2016 Permaculture Convergence. Their horizons were broadened as they embraced newer more ecofriendly ways of thinking, and their bodies worked as they washed, chopped and fried for the eclectic mix of festival goers.

Sorcha Cassels-Brown
1.    Tell me a little about the Permaculture Convergence itself, what do you think is the point of it all?

Rowan: The point of the festival is to explore innovative ways of living that do not cost the earth or our health.

Gina: Yes and people went there to learn, pen and paper in hand! It was all about meeting others within the permaculture community, to inspire and be inspired as well as build up the Permaculture movement. The days were filled with fun workshops and lectures.

2.    Why pick this particular festival to volunteer at?

Gina: I’m interested in permaculture, how bizarre that you can have a bit of compost, a bit of bacteria, and create something entirely new? I’m also really into sustainable living; I actually just completed an internship placement at the Tyndall climate change research center, a branch off of the University of Manchester. The center is made up of performance artists, architects, sociologists, scientists and historians as they are all about an interdisciplinary approach to climate change research. Something that I felt was mirrored in the Permaculture Convergence also. Plus it was a more rewarding way to earn some money!

3.    What were your daily tasks?

Gina: We were part of the ten men strong ‘Café Crew’ headed by Rocket catering company. We were in the kitchen for 7.30am to prep breakfast, which was glorious in itself with vegan, veggie, gluten free options, as well as options for celiac and raw food eaters. This included homemade muesli, vegan porridge and gluten-free bread. We had to dish up for 300 people then wash up dry and start prepping lunch. Everyone had set tasks, like mine was making onion bhajis one day, another making salad, and the time after that falafel. We then washed up, dried up and followed the drill for dinner. We were tired, however our hard work definitely made our café crew dinners all the more tasty!

Sorcha Cassels-Brown
4.    What about the festival goers, what were they doing?

Gina: They were kept busy with workshops and talks, it was very much about learning, networking and meeting all of the diverse characters. The entertainment on the first night was an Irish Ceilidh dance, led by a man that looked identical to the comedian Bill Bailey (I’m pretty sure it was him…) and everyone gets involved. The dance is quite fast paced and a bit confusing so some people mess up (like me) but that just makes it funny, there was a real fun and easy atmosphere in the evenings, and the cheeriness was infectious!
The second night was an open mic night, numerous people performed on stage. There was a range of talent, from acoustic singing regarding cows taking revenge on humans with guns (quite funny), to spoken word about animal rights (from the animals point of view). A young boy even played a Jungle Book song on the trumpet which was EPIC. We all love jungle book.

5.    What do you think you’ve gained from volunteering there?

Rowan:  From volunteering I got some exposure to new ways of thinking about healthcare beyond the traditional scientific, rational guidelines for thought. I would encourage others to volunteer here as well, it’s a chance to think about new possible lifestyles and approaches to the finite resources our world has.

Gina: Yeah I’d definitely recommend others who love permaculture or are intrigued by it to work this festival! You get quite a bit of time off also to enjoy the talks and can speak to the festival goers about anything and everything as its part of their job (if you can call that a job!)

Sorcha Cassels-Brown
6.    Most importantly, did you like it?

Gina: Yeah it was tough but I felt in that short time I had achieved a lot. There was a real sense of camaraderie amongst the crew and each one of the team members were equally important. Plus, I’ve never worked with such friendly and chilled people. Rowan and I got a little break and managed to check the talk on ‘Permaculture in Health Care’. It was very interesting, the talk was followed by a discussion in the audience (some of which were made up of doctors and surgeons) in which the link between mental and physical deterioration was spoken about, and moreover, how doctors can implement permaculture methods into their medical practice in a bid to further understand it. Plus getting to taste all the food we made was a definite bonus! One particular veggie shepherd’s pie was divine, with a delightful sticky ginger pudding to match. That meal will definitely go down in my log book for tastiest foods.

Rowan: Yes I definitely enjoyed it.

Sorcha Cassels-Brown
7.    Would you volunteer there again?

Rowan: Yes!

Gina: For sure. It felt like an escape from reality into nature, and to top it off the scenery was stunning. The work is tiring but still very enjoyable, it was definitely an experience. Besides chopping onions is quite therapeutic until you cut your finger…Plus, I’m the queen of onion bhajis now, and the people need their bhajis!

Sorcha Cassels-Brown

By Bex Shorunke - Online Journalism Intern

Frontier runs conservationdevelopmentteaching and adventure travel projects in over 50 countries worldwide - so join us and explore the world!

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