Conference 2011: A journey to remember
It's just over a month since Friends of the Earth's Annual Conference. Conference is always a highlight of the activist calendar. This year we tried to come up with something a bit special to mark our 40th anniversary. I hope we succeeded.
Friday kicked off with a green fair - home-grown vegetables and home-made jam, a bicycle-powered smoothie maker, crafts, games and music.
Before long we were into the serious stuff: dozens of sessions run by members of our local groups, debating and organising on the things they want to debate and organise on. A parallel training session introduced the uninitiated to tweeting and poking.
Meanwhile four former directors of Friends of the Earth (pictured below) took to the outdoors to reminisce and prepare for their appearance on the main stage that evening.
They joined current Executive Director Andy Atkins in the Plenary Hall to remind us of the journey Friends of the Earth has been on over the past 40 years. They spoke of the successes, surprises, pitfalls - and embarrassing moments. And they finished with a challenge to the under-40s to take up the baton.
Later two international speakers took to the stage: Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International; and Jagoda Munic (pictured below), Coordinator of Friends of the Earth Croatia. The discussion was ably chaired by Vanessa Baird of New Internationalist magazine.
Saturday began with a presentation of our new campaigns, followed by seminars. External speaker Ian Willmore, an architect of the successful campaign to ban smoking in public places, provoked a buzz with his suggestions for what the green movement could learn. He was in conversation with Juliet Davenport, Founder and CEO of Good Energy.
Elsewhere Nadia Idle (Co-editor of Tweets from Tahrir) engrossed the audience with her first-hand account of the Egyptian Revolution. She joined a discussion with Friends of the Earth staff and film director Emily James - whose most recent documentary Just Do It screened later in the day.
Evening celebrations showcased the work of Friends of the Earth's local groups and saw Birmingham Friends of the Earth named Group of the Year (pictured below). Former Friends of the Earth Cymru Director Gordon James received a standing ovation for his work with the organisation over the past four decades.
Sunday featured thoughtful discussions and a mass letter-writing action (pictured below) in solidarity with Friends of the Earth Uganda - which is opposing destruction of the Mabira rainforest.
For the finale Professor Kate Pickett (pictured below) co-author of The Spirit Level, explained the links between greater equality and the kinds of measures needed for a more environmentally sustainable economy.
As Andy Atkins reminded us again of the journey we've been on he also charted a direction for the years ahead. We've won many arguments, but we need to turn this in to real change. We returned to our localities to strive to do just that.
Tim Gee, Activism Team
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