CAT launches new history book, Voices from a Disused Quarry

Home » CAT launches new history book, Voices from a Disused Quarry

Author Allan Shepherd will launched his new book on Friday 3rd of September exploring the history of pioneering environmental organisation the Centre for Alternative Technology.

The launch of the book, Voices from a disused quarry – an oral history of the Centre for Alternative Technology, is the culmination of a three-year oral history project involving over 150 local people, as well as the National Library of Wales, the Arts Council of Wales, The People’s Collection of Wales and the University of Aberystwyth. The project also featured artists, archivists and performers, and included a special edition of Radio 4’s The Reunion.

The book explores the history of the world renowned environmental charity and the challenges and opportunities it has encountered though-out its 40 years. The book was launched at the Small Is festival that was  held at the Centre for Alternative Technology on  the 4th to the 6th of September

“The Small Is festival is a fitting place to launch a history book about CAT and we’re excited to be hosting a dynamic young festival bringing together artists, thinkers and doers working towards creating a betterVoices web res environmental future, whilst reflecting on the past listening to the voices from a disused quarry collected through CAT’s oral history project.”

More than 60 people interviewed for the oral history project are featured in the book, which explores many aspects of CAT’s work, as well as its place in Wales and its role within the environmental movement.

“The project was one of the best things I’ve been involved with. It was a pleasure interviewing so many interesting people and working with these great institutions within Wales. We’d like to do more work with the interviews because they contain the collective wisdom of many years of experience, which I think is relevant to a great many people. CAT is a fascinating place. Why did it start on a disused quarry in a small valley in mid-Wales? What did it mean for the communities in this valley, and for the people who came from elsewhere to work there. Why did it do what it did? What did it achieve? These are some of the questions I try and answer in the book, using the oral testimonies of people close to CAT – its workers, trustees, members, friends and neighbours.”

Allan Shepherd

The book will be published on September 3rd, alongside a new archive website containing historical documents, photographs and a catalogue of material now held at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.

CAT was born out of apocalyptic nuclear threat, post full-employment industrial strife and an emergent energy crisis that defined a new kind of environmentalism. Unlike campaign-focused organisations such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, CAT gave people a positive vision for the future based on novel technological and social ideas, at a time when many questioned earth’s very survival. It changed the way people viewed environmental issues and created a new environmental dynamic that helped create Britain’s organic and renewable energy industries.


Voices from a disused quarry – an oral history of the Centre for Alternative Technology is published by the Centre for Alternative Technology and costs £19.95, ISBN 978-1-902175-87-4, 150pp, fully illustrated throughout. For more information contact or purchase from

• Allan Shepherd will be speaking between 6 and 7 in the Sheppard Theatre in the WISE building at CAT.

• For more information about the archive visit our new archive website

• The Small Is festival explores positive responses to our future through low carbon technology, social justice and the arts. This years festival includes comedians Rob Newman and Josie Long, Mercury Prize nominee Sam Lee, and speakers Jane Davidson and Andrew Simms. Tickets are available from

• Before the festival CAT will be running a special short course on Zero Carbon Britain with free entry to the festival included if booking additional B&B.

• Author Allan Shepherd has written 19 books including The Little Book of Compost, Curious Incidents in the Garden at Night-time and The Organic Garden. He is also a freelance feature writer, and has written over 50 articles for a wide range of publications including The Guardian and The Express. He was shortlisted for Garden Columnist of the Year for his column on organic gardening for Garden News. He is happy to be interviewed or to be commissioned to write an article based around the history of CAT. Extracts from the book are not available, due to the nature of the material. For more information contact