Posted by: Richard Frost | January 20, 2012

Transition Chorlton – Garden Share interview

Chorlton Garden Share project coordinator Pete Norris

I’ve been interested in Transition Chorlton for ages. I first met them at a film night, which I was doing PR for in the run-up to Chorlton’s Big Green Festival 2011.

After the film, organiser Matthew Rowe invited people to join a new non-profit community group. Its name was Transition Chorlton and its goals were to…well…they hadn’t quite worked that bit out yet. It was something to do with improving the local community, but first they needed the local community to help them figure out what needed improving.

From those humble beginnings, Transition Chorlton has grown to a point where it now boasts seven regular members and its very first project, Chorlton Garden Share. I caught up with Chorlton Garden Share project coordinator Pete Norris (PN, pictured) to find out more.

So what is Transition Chorlton?

PN: Transition Chorlton is a community organisation that’s part of the global Transition Network movement. It’s goals are based on peak oil and the idea that cheap, easily available energy is coming to an end sooner rather than later. Principally, it’s about getting lots and lots of similar people together to organise a response.

Transition Network logo

How does Chorlton Garden Share fit into all this?

PN: Chorlton Garden Share is there to link up people who have a little bit of land but aren’t using it for whatever reason with people who want to garden but don’t have anywhere to do it. We’d encourage people to grow food because it fits in with becoming more sustainable. We hope we’re filling a niche. A lot of allotments around Chorlton are massively oversubscribed – some only have 2 plots become available per year but the waiting lists can be over 100 names long.

How is Chorlton Garden Share funded?

PN: We won £750 at Chorlton U Decide to set up Chorlton Garden Share. We came third in the public vote, which was quite unexpected.

What PR techniques are you using to spread the word around Manchester?

PN: We’ve just received the Chorlton U Decide money so we’re putting some of it towards posters that people can put in their gardens. I’ve got one in mine already! And we’re hoping to have a presence at Chorlton’s Big Green Festival, probably a stall. We haven’t got a website because we don’t know what we’d do with it – it’d end up being very static. So we’re relying on social media marketing on Twitter, Facebook and WordPress instead.

Why is social media marketing useful for non-profits like Transition Chorlton?

PN: Because it’s free! I don’t think non-profits have ever had such a good way of communicating with people so cheaply. If you can get people interested in what you’re doing, you can get people sharing very easily. I couldn’t see the point of Twitter at first but it has been very useful as a free networking tool to find like-minded groups, which I wouldn’t have found out about otherwise.

Are you worried green issues could take a backseat as everyone focuses on the financial crisis?

PN: I actually think the major problem at the moment is that being green has been reduced to something you can just use to sell things. Things like cars, which aren’t really green at all. The idea of being green through such stuff is quite dangerous and can leave you thinking that carrying a plastic bag to Morrisons is enough. It’s quite easy to get lured into going down a lifestyle that’s been packaged and marketed to you. Nowadays, most people are aware of things they could do to make a change but feel there’s no point in doing them because they’re only one person. But you can achieve a lot together.

Speaking of which, is Transition Chorlton still looking for volunteers?

PN: Absolutely, yes! What I’d really like is if people came to us with ideas for projects. Things to do with the economy, energy usage, transport and permaculture would be ideal, although the scope is so wide that it’s impossible to list everything. The best way to find us is to come to our open meetings at Lloyd’s Hotel. Look for the plastic dinosaur on the table.

Plastic dinosaur?

PN: Um, yeah. Before one of our early meetings, I realised we needed something that distinguished our table from everyone else’s. I was just about to go out the front door and it was the only thing I had to hand. I think it’s an Achelousaurus, and it belongs to my flatmate. He was enthusiastic about me using it till I forgot to bring it home once. Thankfully, it’s back now.

If you’d like to find out more about Transition Chorlton, check out their Twitter and Facebook or email them on transitionchorlton@gmail.com. You can also try their new WordPress blog. Alternatively, pop along to their open meetings at Lloyd’s Hotel, Wilbraham Road, Chorlton, which take place on the first Thursday of every month. Look for the plastic dinosaur.

Transition Chorlton plastic dinosaur - Achelousaurus

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