Working the Workshops with Totally Tasty

22nd July 2013 by

I am lying in Lynn’s garden hammock looking out at the massive oak tree in the park next door. “You look extremely happy”, Jessie says as she walked past. I am a bit. I feel really enriched after everything I have experienced and taken part in today. This morning we woke up at 6.37am. All ten of the Otesha tour members were sleeping in the Rope Walk Permaculture Project’s garden shed just behind a mosque.Yesterday was our first day on the road and today we were introduced to the world of environmental and social workshop facilitation.

This morning we cycled to a local school to spend the morning at the, maybe paradoxically named, “inclusion unit”. It was for children who had been deemed not adapted to be within a conventional class room. The average number of children in these inclusion classes were between four and six. Students would stay on a single floor on which all of their needs were catered for. All their subjects, tutors and even lunch was provided on this level. The teachers were all amazing and it I think we learnt much from seeing how they spoke to and engaged the students. While one team delivered another workshop, my group was presenting a workshop on Fair-Trade which looks at all the different people involved in the production on bananas; from the logger who has to clear-cut his beloved rainforest to earn enough money to get by, all the way to the consumer in the UK.

Later that day, I was shown a feedback sheet with Alex, one of the students had written after the class but had seemed one of the hardest to engage. In it he  recalled with great detail several of the facts concerning fair-trade and gave many interesting suggestions for how we could improve the workshop. In the second group, also four students, was one girl who was full of enthusiasm, excitement and charisma. We had one who wanted to read many of the character cards describing what each person in the supply chain has to do. After each card she would give a particularly conscience summary of what had just been said and apply it to examples she was familiar with as well as explaining it within the greater whole of the exercise. After class, the teacher, told us this student was normally the most introverted and shyest member of the class. He had never seen her as enthusiastic and engaged as she was. We felt we had been of use and that our presence at the school was being appreciated.

The last workshop was the one I thought was most successful. The four boys in the class seemed genuinely interested in what we were talking about and shared their knowledge about pesticides and GMOs. Later in the day, we discovered that this last group we had worked with were reputed to be the most difficult to engage with. Quite a result, we told ourselves.

After some not-so-vegan egg and cheese sandwiches the school kindly provided, we headed back over to Southampton Common [we had cooked an epic dinner for ourselves there the night before] to meet a home education group. These were children who were educated by their parents or grandparents and all met up on a regular basis so as to learn and play with their kin. These children take an active role in deciding what it is they are most interested in and would like to learn more of. “I drive my grand-daughter around 200 miles a week so she can receive lesson from all the specialist teachers in the region” one parent told us. The children now in front of us couldn’t have been more dissimilar from the ones we had spent time with that morning. Surrounded by supportive, reassuring parents, they spoke, read and posed questions with clarity, self-assurance and calm. At one point when talking about the distribution of money amongst the different actors on the supply line, they took the debate completely into their own hands and we  no longer needed to facilitate and actually stepped back and watched (slightly in awe) as children of six and seven discussed who in the supply line deserved the most pay. This seemed like a million miles away from the disheartened students we had met earlier that same day.

Personally, I felt greatly privileged and enriched to have had the opportunity to experience these two polar opposite worlds. We had witnessed first hand how socio-economic segregation is passed on from one generation to the next as a result of systemic causes within our society. These skills and experiences are fantastic to get, and the whole team is developing in leaps and bounds ready for all the schools we have ahead. Thomas

An Otesha farewell with food

13th September 2012 by

We always knew that Charlie would only be with us for half of the tour, but the moment of her departure had seemed so far away. With sad faces and heavy hearts, we bid her farewell in Bristol.

But of course, this being an Otesha tour we were going to celebrate and not cry about the loss of one of our members! So the cooking team got to work on a 5 course feast made up of local ingredients from the fabulous Feed Bristol, where we were staying, and the Bristol Sweetmart.

One thing we’ve all taken out of this tour is how easy it is to cook healthy, local and organic food on our budget of 5 pounds per person per day. As we’re promoting a sustainable, local lifestyle, it’s important to us that we walk the talk. Our food mandate means we’re eating vegan food that is from the UK, or the EU if it can’t be grown in the UK, and we’re avoiding soya and palm oil.

We buy most of our foods from the farms we stay at or the nearest farm shop and local greengrocers and wholefoods shops. At first, wading through the packaging was hard work – just because something says it’s ‘made in’, ‘manufactured in’ or ‘produced in’ Britain, does not mean the ingredients are British. So we check for signs saying EU agriculture and use our common sense to decide if products are likely to be British. Unless we’ve got it all wrong and cumin seeds do grow in Guildford, we’re hoping we’re doing okay… and all without a supermarket in sight. Woo! For Charlie’s leaving party, we enjoyed a wonderful meal of homemade houmous, English melon, Italian olives, local curried vegetables, tabbouleh, beetroot and green salad and blackberry and apple crumble.

After a delivering our workshops and performances all over Bristol, we rode on to our next stop in Chew Magna. We arrived later than expected due to two punctures and a burst tyre but we timed our arrival perfectly to see the sun set over the pituresque Chew Valley lake where we set up our tents. We were staying at The Community Farm and were greeted by the lovely Claire and the infamous mid tour retreat package from the Otesha office.  As expected, it contained a lot of postcards to spark pupils’ individual actions, ideas for the retreat and a big bar of chocolate. Less expected were wonderful, positive messages from the Otesha team, thanks guys!

We contemplated the previous two weeks, what we had achieved, what we hadn’t, what we wanted to get out of the next few weeks and the Otesha experience as a whole. We then reconvened to chat over our thoughts and celebrate the tour so far with ‘The Great Big Pat on the Back’ where we counted up miles cycled, projects visited, punctures, best views, and highs and lows in general.

The second day was more relaxed and began with volunteering on the Community Farm, with jobs ranging from picking cucumbers to pruning raspberry bushes. We then had a wonderful feast with all the volunteers, well deserved after a morning’s work. The Community Farm, a co-operative vegetable box scheme farm seems to be really established, despite being in its early stages. We were treated to a tour of the farm by Ben and heard about big plans for the new education centre, where numerous courses will be run, ranging from foraging to bee-keeping, so if you are interested and in the Bristol area watch this space.

We had a wonderful, relaxing, mid tour retreat, thanks to the Otesha team, the Community farm and the beautiful weather. It was a great chance to reflect and re-cap on our play and workshops, thoughts and aspirations, which helped us to feel prepared to enter schools; the next phase of the Western Quest tour.

Tastetastic South 1 : Hills 0

25th August 2012 by

Bonjour, Guten Tag from the French-German connection of the Tastetastic Southern Tour live from the beautiful rainy Cumbria (England!). We are deeply sorry that this won’t be more multilingual but we had to step back in consensus decision making process and accept English as the dominant language. Donc this blog entry will be in English ;-)

Welcome to Fairyland….

Over the last few days a happy bunch of cyclists managed to get through the dangerous and hilly Scottish Borders thanks to many fairies along the way. Magic pastries created by the fairies of the Dunbar cooperative community bakery, which was set up by Sustaining Dunbar, helped us power all the way to Westruther (once we were set free by the very knowledgeable fairy Mark who told us stories about local wind farms, landfills and nuclear power stations). Soon after having left the caring Dunbar fairies and after an impressive thunder, we were welcomed by more of them in Westruther. The local fairies kindly offered us the village hall as our shelter and soon we met many nice and interesting and curious little pixies at Westruther Primary School and taught them about fair-trade and food production.  As a final goodbye to the wee town of Westruther we spent a night of festivities in Angie’s local pub next to a heart-warming firewood, playing pool, the ukulele and singing songs.  Our charming landlady fairy finally offered us some yummy mange-tout which nearly gave us enough strength to cycle to the far far away Headshaw Farm next to Hawick passing via lovely Midlem where we were lucky to experience local Scottish hospitality…

Indeed, the big hairy hill fairy nearly attempted to kill our entire team by putting a massive hill at the entrance of our 5 star hotel in Headshaw Cottage… Comfy beds and hot showers were waiting for us but it was not long before we all had to jump out of our sleeping bags and cycle for more than 10 miles in the worst weather that the angry Scottish Gods could have created. All of our happy jolly team landed in St Margaret’s RC Primary School looking more than soaked but, the great pupils and teachers’ fairies helped us recover our positive spirits and deliver our 4 fun and informative workshops about energy, fair-trade, grow your own and transport. We final ly paid a visit to the marvellous and generous bike fairy Julian, from Borders Cycles, who took a lot of his time to repair all of our unhappy bikes… Thanks again!

With another good night’s sleep in the comfy cottage, new knowledge about passive houses and heat pumps and the feeling of having made a difference to the local primary school in Hawick we set off towards Low Luckens Organic Resource Centre in Cumbria, England. Unfortunately the local bike fairies were on holiday that morning and after an hour of punctures and little bike troubles we were saved again by our faithful bicycle fairy Julian at Borders Cycles in Hawick, we can only recommend him!  With lots of enthusiasm, a smart cow distraction fairy from Cambridgeshire to clear congested country roads, many fairies among us to push the trailers up many hills and brilliant cake fairies in the local teashop in Newcastleton, we reached a beautiful woodland camping ground next to grazing cows at Low Luckens. Now we’re ready to reach more youth with our sustainability workshops and eager to learn about the Organic Resource Centre…

A bientôt und bis bald

(Coraline & Ralph)

Tartan Trail – The Finale

27th September 2011 by

The long feared cycling day proved to be wet and challenging from the start- perhaps due to the tail-end of a certain hurricane (cheers America).  We lost Colin very early due to an exploded tyre (don’t worry, we found him again!) as we headed over the mountainous moors in gale force winds and driving rain. It was hard to keep eyes open in the rain, however we managed to keep our spirits high by singing silly songs (ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIIIIIFE!) and making impromptu and secret stops to tea rooms. Luckily, no-one was swept away in a cyclone and we all made it, limbs intact, to the Allanton Peace Sanctuary just outside of Dumfries.

Looking rather wet and bedraggled we chanced upon the lovely Glenda, and later on Uma, who ran the Peace Sanctuary. Taking pity upon us Glenda ushered us into the Sanctuary’s rather lovely mansion and very very very kindly gave us all beds in dormitory rooms usually housing groups coming to work on various social, environmental and philosophical aspects of peace. She later told us she wouldn’t have been able to sleep if we were all out camping in the hurricane! Equally exciting we were given the use of a really homely kitchen and dining room and… showers and a washing machine. So much luxury I almost cried. Our time in Dumfries was spent doing the usual Otesha activities – we performed at a primary school, and did workshops at a secondary school. This proved to be a bit scary as teenagers tended to have grumpy faces on, but we all agreed that the workshops were of utmost importance as the pupils were our target audience and tended to understand the themes a bit better, even if they seemed less engaged. We also had the honour of volunteering as marshals with the first stage of the ‘Tour of Britain’, a cycling race similar to the Tour de France. Despite a cold and wet wait certain people really enjoyed watching some rather fine pairs of legs whizzing past!! At the same time there were questions about whether the amount of support vehicles (30 vehicles for 90 riders plus whole police cavalcade) was wholly necessary.

We were all very sad to leave Glenda, Uma and all the others at Allanton Peace Sanctuary, but good times must come to end and we mounted our faithful steeds for our last cycle ride as a group (sniff sniff). And what a final ride it was! After leaving Dumfries we cycled south down the bird filled river and along the wild looking estuary. Long flat stretches provided gentle rides for some and racing tracks for others! After passing the infamous town of Gretna (no- there weren’t any Otesha marriages I’m afraid) we reluctantly passed into England and headed to Carlisle.

We arrived in high spirits to the tranquil organic farm belonging to the determined farmer Susan Aglionby, which was to be our final destination- a field to camp in, and a classroom in which to meet and cook. Susan runs the farm with the help of intern Emma, producing both cattle and lamb (which I’m told are very tasty from Colin, Arthur and Andres) but also runs environmental education and support work with young and vulnerable people.

The next morning we spent a lovely time in the local school. We decided to go all out in our finale performance, which resulted in numerous onstage giggles. Despite this the messages definitely came across and we all had A LOT of fun in the process!!! After the wonderful time in the school we returned to base for a walk around the farm with Susan. Despite some conflicting views on vegetarianism the whole group was very impressed by the amount of work she puts in to her organic venture. In return for her generous hospitality we did some work weeding her yard, aided by Colin’s music and discussions about how best to change people’s behaviour. That night many of us patronised the local pub to sample ale and take part in Mike’s pub quiz, quite unsuccessfully.

And so, the final day had arrived. A big sadness hung over the group, but I think everyone was looking forward to the future, whether it was seeing family and friends, starting new jobs, going on foreign adventures or getting back to their beloved rugby club. Iona from the Otesha office arrived to help us wrap up, giving feedback, sharing our experiences of tour and talking about our futures. That night the cooking team excelled themselves with a 3 course meal from around the world. Everyone dressed up in their finest exotic finery, played games and exchanged secret friend gifts, and reveled in each others company for the last time. The next day we all exchanged sad goodbyes, promises to stay in touch and all boarded trains to pastures new.

So here we are, it’s all over. I’m sitting in my parents’ warm and dry kitchen in Wales reminiscing about the amazing adventure we all went on. Of course there were low points – group conflicts, punctures, rain and boredom of porridge. However the highs far outweigh these. Lifelong friendships have been made, and experiences and lessons have been learnt. Thinking about the young people we have reached is phenomenal – hundreds of kids heard our messages about how little actions can have massive impacts in the world and will hopefully think about this as they grow up. Not only that but I think many in our group will really address the same issues in their own lives, whether it be eating organic food, obtaining recycled and second hand goods and clothes or buying fairtrade bananas. I’m just off now to catch up with some old friends so I shall have to leave it here. Will I be borrowing the car to drive the 2 miles to town like I usually do? Hell no! I’m gonna get on my faithful bike and cycle with the wind in my hair, reminiscing about all my two-wheeled adventures!

Thanks for following our blog! Love, Peace and Bicycle Grease! Over and out.

Luciana (Goose), on behalf on the Tartan Trail massive- Colin (Coljop), Dina Dino, Jenny Tree, Jenny A, Catherine (Hunter Gatherer), Kimberley (Eco), Zoe (Zo-ane), Leah (L-pop), Arthur (Arty), Andres and Lucy Colbizzle xxxxxxxxxxxxxx


Many thanks to the Postcode Trust for their generous support of this project which has enabled us to reach over 1000 children and young people across Scotland.



Tartan Trail Adventures: part two

23rd August 2011 by

Hello hello hello

Warm welcomes to the second installment of Otesha’s Tartan Trail adventure!  What a whirlwind training we had at the wonderful Whitmuir Organic Farm... Flooded out of our field within the first few days we relocated to our new home – a big dry barn, camped up near the pigs and later joined by an army of baby turkeys, who we’d helped herd into the neighbouring barn to tweet to us through the night.

We had a varied programme, from our first read through of the script, to conflict resolution workshops, to bike maintenance, to writing up our food mandate: what to eat and where to buy as agreed by the team.  Tartan Trailers will abide by a “flexigan” – flexible vegan – diet, buying as locally and organically as feasibly possible!

There was a whole lot of laughter and new friendships were made – including jolly moments jamming with guitars, a tambourine and our new friend Doug (a charming bloke in charge of Whitmuir’s livestock).

A highlight of the week was our first excursion with the trailers – off we tootled to Penicuik where we indulged in long hot showers (the first in FIVE days!).  Well… let’s make this an honest blog… two thirds of us indulged in cleanliness whilst the remaining four continued to delight us with their “natural” odours since bike repairs took priority. We certainly were smelly but happy campers.

Training week concluded with a magical day with Calu, Edd, and Iona who organised an impromptu treasure hunt, which had us running across fields, scouring chicken sheds, and creeping into a teepee, until we discovered an antique treasure chest filled with delicious fairtrade chocolate and a mysterious invitation to don our glad rags for a delightful dinner party, accompanied by instructions to bring along bike lights…

It is important to note at this point that the Tartan Trailers’ “glad rags” include face glitter, underwear over muddy trousers, “dresses” created from sarongs and many other exciting bits such as ….wait for it…a CLEAN shirt.

…De de dah….  and our team were bestowed with our upcycled Otesha t-shirts in an array of colours, followed by a jolly knees up and our very first one minute bike light disco!!!

Phewee – what a week! It was then a farewell to Edd and Iona, and a day off before the big pack up and goodbye to Whitmuir farm as we mounted our two wheeled steeds and swooped towards Edinburgh with our first performance at the Fringe in sight!

Northern Soul's School Days – part 3

8th July 2011 by

Fun Facts:

Bicycle Punctures: 5 regular punctures to date (4 go to Erin, 1 goes to Heni, both have purchased new tyres). 2 inexplicaple inner tube explosions (both on Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres….uhoh!)

Trailer Punctures: 4… the thorns got us good.

Miles cycled: 420

Schools and youth clubs visited: 10

Bee attacks: 1  (but well compensated for by honey and mead)

Minor bicycle mishaps:~5

Kilos of peanut butter eaten: 8 (that’s 1 per person)

Baby hedgehog saves: 1

The real blog:

Last Tuesday morning the entire Northern Soul team wriggled out of a tiny two-man tent to find 100 primary school children sitting in neat rows (this may have been planned).  It was one of many great visits to schools over the past couple of weeks.  The performances and workshops always remind us why we’re on tour.  The children’s and teachers’ laughs make the performances so much fun, and their ideas and initiatives inspire fantastic conversations during workshops.

Although the funniest part of the play for the children is repeatedly a tree in the Amazon being cut down, interactions with the children after the play and during workshops assure us that they are really engaging with issues of sustainability.  The only thing children don’t like about our Fairtrade workshop is the reality that many people in the production chain of a non-fairtrade banana don’t get paid fairly!  Children have told us about significant changes they will make in their (and their families’) transport choices; they’ve also told us (half-way through a workshop) that they’ve just used less toilet paper!

It’s great to see so many projects going on in schools already, led by students and teachers alike.  From gardening projects to bike-ability classes, and keeping chickens to composting, the schools really impressed us with their knowledge, motivation, and desire to learn and share with us.

We’ve experienced such wonderful hospitality from schools: from donuts for breakfast, to moving meetings for us to use their staff room, to letting us camp in the school hall or field, and even gifts of Fairtrade chocolate, juice and oatmilk.  These school visits along with the hospitality from all our other wonderful hosts has given us new faith and hope in humanity.

World Fair Trade Day

13th May 2011 by

To celebrate World Fair Trade Day on Saturday 14th May, the Fairtrade Foundation (in collaboration with international Fairtrade licensing organisations) have created this short film, A Fair Story. It’s as sweet as a Fairtrade chocolate bar with the production values of the finest Fairtrade coffee.

Tomorrow the Fairtrade are celebrating with Bunting for Justice in Battersea Park, London, 12-2pm.


1st April 2010 by

Nothing feels more exciting than opening the oven to find a big lump of sticky sweet goodness to devour in half the time it took to make. What a good way to cheer not only yourself up but the people around you too. So this month we’re challenging you to get creative in the kitchen.

Making your own treats will also help reduce; the amount of packaging you consume, the amount of products which have travelled so many miles to you and the amount of money you spend which goes to companies who advertise heavily at children and stick horrible additives in their food.

This is Nick’s ever evolving and never quite the same cake recipe:

With a fork mix 2 tablespoons of margarine with a good pouring of fairtrade caster sugar, pour a tiny bit of oat-milk/milk/water/whatever into the mixture and mix, add chocolate/nuts/fruit if you fancy some or have some in stock but if not don’t worry, mix together and then add around 5/6 tablespoons of organic self raising flour, mix together. You should now have a mixture which is thick and gloopy (if not add some more flour). Then put into whatever baking utensil/casserole dish (line with baking paper) you have and put into a hot oven of around 180C and cook for about 30 mins or until you can prod the middle with a knife and the knife comes out clean.

As always we would like to see pictures of your best brownies, Fairtrade fruitcakes, lovely lemon tarts and organic oakcakes. We also want to hear stories of kitchen happenings and any great recipes that you would like to share ( Bon appetite!

Here are three cakes (carrot cake, cheesecake and chocolate cake) that Carla made and brought into work!

make bake cake

At Stitch and Bitch they’re laying down their needles to bake too. Full of puns and peatnut butter, two of our favourite things, purl your eyes around this stitch dropping and drooling recipe- PKnit2Togobble Pknitbutter Cookies

Frugal Festivities & Decadent Decembers

1st December 2009 by

As the festive season draws near we challenge you to have a happy and socially and environmentally sustainable Christmas/ Ramadan/ Hanuka/ Winter Solstice etc.

How about some environmentally friendly decorations? Rent a living tree instead of buying a dying one, after Christmas the tree will be collected and replanted. You can even order the same tree again next year to see how it has grown.

Have yourself an energy saving Christmas, let your lights be solar powered. Have a sustainable festive dinner, let the Well Hung Meat Company do you an organic turkey. Or get a fair trade advent calendar. It doesn’t matter if you eat four days worth of chocolate in one go, you can feel good about yourself knowing that cocoa farmers are getting a fair wage.

Save yourself another tree and send e-cards this Christmas, let your wrapping paper be rescued (newspaper and potato printing has reached dizzy heights of sophistication this year). With the trusty website instructables on hand you can make just about any present you can imagine. Or give time not money and do something nice for someone this Christmas.

Full on Fairtrade

3rd October 2009 by

This month we challenge you to buy Fairtrade. And if you already buy Fairtrade, to buy even more Fairtrade, and if you can’t find Fairtrade to ask for Fairtrade.

Then we want you to tell us what you bought Fairtrade, and what you fought for Fairtrade. So send your lists of lovingly produced and laboriously sought out goods to We also want to know if you’ve been looking, long, hard, high and low for an elusive Fairtrade item that no-one can provide. We want Fairtrade phones.

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