Leah's cycle tour tales

14th December 2011 by

A guest blog from the lovely Leah Kirby of Tartan Trail 2011. Find out what motivated Leah to join an Otesha adventure, and the impact it’s already having on her life just a few short months later.

Otesha had been a long time coming; during my years at university I had been involved and committed to a number of projects with the Permaculture Society and worked for the conservation charity the Fairyland Trust. Several friends had taken part in previous Otesha Tours and I was totally intrigued by the challenges of a cycle tour adventure, communal living and performing! In my daily life I enjoyed trips to the allotment, used my bicycle to wheel around the city and recycled at home. I even made my own draught excluder dog called Trev!

But for me what was integral to my motivation for coming on tour was the opportunity to facilitate educational outreach – to work with and mobilise young people to make them aware of the impacts their choices had on the world around them.

I was a bit overwhelmed by the thought of performing and leading workshops in the school, but by the end of the Training Week I not only found myself playing the lead role in the play, but also kitted out with lots of fantastic skills in workshop facilitation, consensus decision-making, conflict resolution, public speaking, essential bike maintenance and was updated with some sustainable know-how from the trusty Otesha Handbook and numerous discussions on anti-oppression, organic food and wind-turbines!

Before we knew it our Tartan team were wheeling into Edinburgh to start our mammoth journey across the Scottish hills and through the twinkling lights of the cities.  Indeed living 24/7 with twelve others can make for a bumpy ride, but by working together using consensus and open discussions we managed to work through the problems we encountered.

Running the workshops turned out to be LOADS of fun and the young people we worked with were delighted and engaged with both the play and workshops, the teachers would tell us how amazed they were that the children had been completely absorbed in the adventures of Gilly. It was also extremely rewarding to receive such high praise after the workshops with one child shouting out ‘It was fandabudosi!!!’

When I think about the impact tour has had on me, I realise how much confidence I have gained public speaking coupled with developing sensitivity to dealing with people. I am currently searching for work and I find myself far more confident when meeting new people or facing a nerve-racking interview. I have also noticed the difference in my physical fitness and how much more energy I have to complete daily tasks as well as continuing to enjoy cycling everyday! I also am trying my best to avoid big supermarkets opting for the local green grocer and finding seasonal and where I can organic produce, as well as getting my staple grains/tins from workers co-operative initiatives.

Being a tour member has inspired me to get the wheels rolling for my own project ideas, which I hope to make a reality – it now feels far more possible with the help and support that is available from the Otesha Team and Alumni Support.

I wish to work with a friend who specialises in textiles to run workshops to unravel and reveal the processes at play within the textile industry, developing a series of workshops that stand up against throwaway culture by re-conceptualising daily objects and utilising reclaimed fabrics and traditional craft processes.

I was directly inspired by the fashion workshop on tour and the need to share my love of making tetra-pak wallets! It was also a visit to Starter Packs community initiative in Glasgow, which had a profound effect on me. Sarah and her loyal team found practical approaches to recover the symptoms of social marginalisation ­– poverty and homelessness. By providing packs for individuals going into new homes, basic items that we generally regard as fundamental to a dignified standard of living.

So not only was the organisation a benefit to people, it was coupled with awareness to the environment as most of their furniture, fabrics and crockery had been donated, reclaimed and thus recycled. It was the textile studio at the back of their store that captured my imagination – the piles of beautifully textured/patterned reclaimed fabrics – which had me desperate to grab some scissors, a needle and thread and get crafting!

Without my two-wheeled Otesha journey and meeting so many inspirational people from many walks of life, what I might have thought of as just a dream has transformed into a feeling of empowerment – to recognise my ability to carve out my own path and help to create the more sustainable world I wish to see.

Summer 2012 Cycle Tour applications are now open – find out more and sign up here.

The Third Epic Tartan Trail Tour Journal

30th August 2011 by

Why hello there, Tartan Followers

We last left you as we made our journey towards the big bright lights of Edinburgh. Whatever happened we hear you ask??

We were welcomed immediately by Ali (an Otesha alumni) and her other wonderful housemates. We rejoiced in sharing their very cosy house with them and pitched our tents in a higgildy-piggildy fashion in their garden. By the end of our stay most of us had migrated inside with our sleeping bags because of everyone’s generosity. We also enjoyed the rare luxuries: a stove, oven and easy access to a well needed shower.


We had traveled to Edinburgh as the Fringe festival was dominating the city, and the highlight of our agenda was that we were going to have our debut performance on the Royal Mile.  This prospect began to fill us all with excitement and fear and we got on with rehearsals, occasionally interrupted with thunderstorms and hail. Staying with Ali meant we were a short cycle ride away from the city centre so on the day of our first performance we donned our Otesha t-shirts and cycled into town, a tangible feeling of being a part of something bigger struck the group. The Royal Mile was bustling with performers all strutting their stuff and working hard to keep a crowd. We found our spot, did a classic Otesha energiser (the banana game!!) and started the day. Our energy was fantastic but given the setting we found we had passers-by strolling right through Gilly’s bedroom. We set to work on adapting the play to make it a bit more Fringe friendly.

We found help with this challenge from a surprise source – Ben- a friend of a housemate was keen to get involved and debuted his song ‘we’re all gonna die’. Some were dubious at first but the whole group became enthusiastic to the irony and we invited Ben to join our play and bring his musical talent.

Ben also brought the rain; the next day the rain poured down. But in true Tartan trail fashion we sang, acted and danced through it, having an amazing uplifting time.

We grabbed our free time where we found it and ventured out to see what else the Fringe had to offer. We found comedy, street performance and free events. Somehow we found time to also visit a city farm, a stark contrast to Whitmuir’s values and approach to farming. The city farm’s main purpose is to allow diverse groups to see animals in their environment.

We left Edinburgh with a fond farewell to our hosts, armed with an amazing herbal first aid kit from Ali, almost taking one of them with us for a jolly. We traveled over the Forth bridge and to new ventures. We spent our next night at the Ecology Centre and Earthship at Kinghorn Loch. Our home for the night was a yurt! A new experience for many of the group. The Ecology Centre was a project originally set up to engage young people with their environment, run by voluntary members of the local community. The earthship itself was the first of its kind in the UK, made from tyres to be super insulated, running on solar gain (no heating needed) and renewable energy.

After a night’s sleep in the yurt we embarked on some work exchange at The Ecology Centre to help out our hosts – weeding was their task of choice but weeding ragwort quickly turned into playing in a massively idyllic field by the sea with two very very cheeky ponies. Later that night the playing continued as we went to a BBQ of a friend of the centre. The vegan diet was not entirely maintained by all…

After the BBQ we cycled on a few short miles to Kircaldy, and took up residence in a vast church hall, we were all hyper at the thought of turning the rooms into bedrooms and again using the luxury of a kitchen. The mood was particularly high given the news that Arthur had got his A- LEVEL results and would now be going to the University of East Anglia (well done Arthur!!)…

Here we must leave our adventures but please read on in the next edition of the Tatarn Trail adventures! Love from Luciana Banana, Leah-Pop, Jenny Tree, Jenny A, Lucy Colbiz, Zoe, Kimberley (Eco), King Arthur, Colin-der, Dina the Dinosaur, Andres, and Catherine xxxxxxx

The First Epic Tartan Trail Journal Entry

1st August 2011 by

There’s just one week to go until the second cycle tour of the summer, Tartan Trail, hits the road. Our two trusty tour liaisons are here in the office making last minute preparations and confusing everyone by both being called Lucy (or Luci, but spelling it differently doesn’t help much in conversation).

Good day to all! Luci and Lucy here, tuning in from the Otesha office, Tower Hamlets, somewhere in East London…

We’ve been working away feverishly all week surrounded by piles of maps, cups of coffee and endless roasted corn snacks to keep us sustained in our mission to have everything prepared for a week today, when the Tartan Trail adventure begins!! The lovely Otesha office staff have welcomed us with open arms and loads of amazing home grown/ prepared and cooked food, every day for lunch! Lucy very quickly stopped bringing in her peanut butter sandwiches.

The route is coming along nicely. We’ve got some epic days planned and lots of lovely surprises. We’re particularly excited about staying and performing in a tiny village called Gartmore, which has ONE ROAD. JUST ONE!! Well, one main road anyway.

We’ve also had some serious chats about serious things, and we’ve learnt about consensus decision making which involves lots of strange hand gestures! All very very exciting and new.

Right we’re off now to eat lunch at the Foodcycle community café nearby (it’s a tough life), can’t wait to meet our lovely tour members next week at Whitmuir Organic Farm and commence our epic summer adventure, being sustainable and inviting others to join us!

All our bicycling and eco-love,

Lucy and Luci (your neighbourhood friendly tour liaisons)

Come to the theatre, or let the theatre cycle to you…

27th May 2011 by

Our first tour of the summer will be hitting the road on 10th June.  We’ll be visiting schools and youth clubs from the north-west corner of Wales, up through Manchester, the Yorkshire Dales, the Lake District, along Hadrian’s Wall, through Newcastle and up to Edinburgh! Young people across the UK will get a chance to enjoy our high-energy ‘Morning Choices’ play and participate in a series of hands-on workshops all about environmental and social sustainability.

You don’t have to be at school still to catch a show, we have a public performance lined up at Heron Corn Mill on Monday 4th July at 6:30pm.  There are plans in the works for Newcastle and Edinburgh – so watch this space!

The schedule is getting fuller by the minute – but there’s always a tiny bit of time left to squeeze in an extra school visit or a public performance!  (I’m sure the team won’t say no to delicious vegan meals, hot showers, or spare inner tubes either, just saying!) This year we’re headed to Felin Uchaf, Bangor, Saltney, Manchester, Skipton, Beetham, Burneside, Penrith, Cockermouth, Carlisle, Newcastle, Alnwick and Edinburgh.  Our next tour will be rolling around the south of Scotland, follow this link for more!  If you’re en route for either tour and want to organise a visit, email cycletours@otesha.org.uk for more information and to find out when we’ll be in town!


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