Last weekend saw the return of CAT’s annual members’ conference – three days filled with ideas, inspiration and connection. Fundraising Officer Tanya Hawkes reports.
CAT was alive with people and ideas at the weekend. Over 100 CAT members, supporters, staff, lecturers and students arrived for the ‘Making it Happen’ conference. How to ‘Make it Happen’ is the new phase of CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain research, and this provided the focus for the conference.
We celebrated the opening of CAT’s new biomass boiler, wrote a collective letter to Theresa May, explored environmental politics with expert speakers from around the UK and danced the night away to a ceilidh band with local organic cider and fresh food from CAT’s gardens.
This was the first CAT conference I’ve helped to organise and the positive energy and transformational discussions were exhilarating. By far the most interesting part of the weekend was presentations by CAT members and students. Val Walsh gave a passionate speech about the tremendous political changes in the UK in the last two years. Ian Care inspired us to find our inner geek. Lucy Care led a group who collectively penned a letter to Theresa May, signed by all the conference attendees. We heard about so many new projects that people are starting – waste reduction at festivals, new food waste schemes, and plans for community energy programmes.
What is so inspiring about the work of CAT supporters is the strength of the peer to peer learning and sharing of ideas and expertise. It feels like this is the epitome of what CAT stands for: strengthening the environmental work of ordinary people, and inspiring confidence in each other to make real world changes, whilst firmly situating ourselves realistically within current political and economic frameworks.
Our expert speakers came along to share and explore idea with delegates. Engineer Adam Tyler led a biomass heat tour around CAT. Helen Atkins, researcher on the latest phase of Zero Carbon Britain, led a session how to re-centre the voices of marginalised people in the environmental movement. Alex Randall, from Climate Outreach, delivered a workshop on the unhelpful ‘framing’ of refugees in relation to climate change in the media. You can download his podcast here.
Rachel Solnick, a food waste expert and co-founder of ‘This is Rubbish’ shared her plans and expertise with us. CAT lecturers, trustees and staff led workshops in biodiversity, building methods and gardening techniques. Chris Blake, Deirdre Raffan and Dr Jane Fisher explored new innovations in community energy and educational tools for children and adults. Professor Tim Valentine unpacked the psychology of climate change action. Petra Weinmann and Roger McLennan, CAT’s growing experts, ran practical gardening sessions. Craig Shankster and Paul Allen led a session on deep well-being including an opportunity chance to ‘bathe’ in the sounds of gongs to develop deep relaxation, which at the end of a non-stop weekend of information, discussion and practical sessions was most welcome!
There were so many amazing and useful sessions by CAT members, staff and visiting speakers – look out for details about them over the coming months, in blogs and articles. The centre seems very quiet now the buzz of conversation has dulled as the last guests left. We hope very much to see you all next year. Thank you for ‘Making it Happen’ with us.