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2011

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The nights are drawing in and the majority of harvesting has come to an end, and what better way to celebrate this hinter-wonder-land between autumn and Christmas than creating some homemade chutneys courtesy of one of the many Abundance Project harvests around the country?

These clever people have been busy harvesting and making use of neglected fruit trees all season. They consist of proactive groups of volunteers who help to harvest city fruit and redistribute the surplus to the community on a non-profit basis, for community cafes, fayres, nurseries, Surestarts and individuals. Anyone is encouraged to go along and get involved, and with free food and outdoor fun on offer how could I refuse?

I arrived at the arranged meeting point and was greeted with smiling faces and welcoming conversation, of course, it helps if the weather is great and it was a perfect evening for a spot of tree climbing. I was a little nervous at first because it’s while since I scaled a trunk but once we arrived at our destination and started work on the garden’s three heavily laden apple trees I was in my element. With just a couple of hours’ work the three of us managed to fill nearly 20 receptacles. After we’d taken our pick there were still more than enough crates to cater for the various community projects that benefit from the abundance of fruit.

The optimum time to get involved is obviously from August until November but there’s no harm in getting on to your local group’s mailing list or checking out the website to find out more about upcoming events in your area. And if you don’t have a local group, there is nothing stopping you from setting up your own and gearing up for next year’s bounty. The Sheffield branch recently produced a beautifully illustrated handbook on urban harvesting, which is available online for any budding harvesters.

From stable yards to ancient abbeys, the National Trust has Christmas markets taking place all over the country, perfect for picking up last minute locally sourced gifts and eco stocking fillers.

Spend time soaking up the festive atmosphere, enjoy the scent of hot chestnuts and warming mulled wine, or join with a spot of carol singing and treat the kids to a visit from Santa.

Here’s the top pick of National Trust’s Christmas markets…

Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire

Christmas Food Market, 7-11 December 10.30am-4.30pm

A good opportunity to stock up with all those Christmas supplies.  There is something for everyone including fresh ducks and local lamb, homemade Christmas cakes, sweets and biscuits, chutneys and specialist cheeses, fresh pies and puddings. Why not complete your outing with a viewing of the Christmas displays in the Manor, which has an Italian theme this year – booking in advance advisable to avoid disappointment.

Normal admission charges apply to manor, admission to market is free of charge.

Booking is not required for this event.

For more information please call 01296 653226.

Ham House and Garden, Surrey

Christmas fair, 17-18 December 11am – 5pm

The popular Christmas fair returns to Ham House. Find exciting and original Christmas gift ideas from the National Trust and from local artisans and traders. The fair takes place in a marquee. There will also be family activities and entertainment in the basement of the house and the Orangery will be open all day for seasonal refreshments.

Adult £3.65, child £2.45 and family £9.75 (2 adults + 2 children). National Trust members go free. Admission fee includes the family activities.

Booking is not required for this event

For more information please call 020 8940 1950.

Blickling Estate, Norfolk

Christmas at Blickling, 17-18 December 11am – 5pm

This year you are invited to the big house for a traditional Christmas. Come and be welcomed at the door by characters from the past and enter a grand country house beautifully decorated for the festive season. A new trail of decorated Christmas trees and lights leads you through the garden to the Temple where Father Christmas awaits. The Christmas Courtyard houses a marquee, with festive crafts and seasonal snacks and drinks. Christmas trees, wreaths and greenery are for sale beside garden gifts, hot chestnuts and seasonal delights.

Traditional Christmas lunches will be available each weekend, and music and entertainment will ensure you leave full of festive cheer.

Free entry to the Christmas courtyard and craft marquee, shop, restaurant and bookshop. House and garden normal admission charges apply.

Booking is not required for this event.

For more information please call 01263 738030.

Erddig, Wrexham

Christmas market and winter wonderland, 10-11 & 17-18 December 10am – 5pm

Enjoy a traditional Christmas market with food and drink, plus live music creating a wonderful Christmas shopping experience. Wander around and find those special and unusual Christmas presents. Browse over fifty picturesque wooden chalets and stalls offering hand-crafted gifts. Father Christmas will also be in his winter wonderland – complete with his toy workshop.

Adults pay £1 to enter the market, children are free but there is a £5 charge for children to meet Father Christmas.

Booking is not required for this event

For more information please call 01978 355314.

Gibside, Tyne & Wear

Festive food and craft market, Saturday 17 December, 10am – 3pm

Come for Christmas gifts and a festive atmosphere at Gibside this December.  We’ll have tasty seasonal foods, local crafts, roasted chestnuts, mulled wine and live music.

Free entry to market, normal admission charges to estate.

Booking is not required for this event

For more information please call 01207 541820.

This month the Hello Eco Living boys and girls in the office are loving the ‘do good bus’.

do good bus

It’s all about, yes, a bus, and doing good things. So over in LA some lovely kids who have been doing good stuff for many years decided to get together, get a bus, and start getting other people to do good for the community. The idea is simple. If you want to do something nice for your community then you can do so via the bus. It can be anything from helping build new homes, to creating community gardens.

The bus sets off every other month from LA and you never know where you’re going or what the project is until you’re on it. They promise to wine and dine you when you’re on board and you’ll learn more about community projects as you go. We can only give this project a massive thumbs up and hope it brings a fantastic community spirit to whereever it visits. If you’re over in the US and want to get involved then check them out at www.dogoodbus.com.

If you’ve been on the bus, we’d love to hear from you… please drop us a comment :0) x

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Having just about recovered from my bout of post festival blues, it is now time for me to take a stroll down memory lane and relay for you all the fun of the Fair that was Boomtown!

Boomtown Fair (with credit to Tora Baker)
Boomtown Fair (with credit to Tora Baker)

If you remember, from my preview article on the Fair, the location was kept a secret from ticket holders until a couple of weeks before the affair.  However I can now tell you that Boomtown Fair 2011 was held at the intimate location of Matterly Bowl, near Winchester, and what a grand event it was.

With over 2,000 tickets having been sold in the first week of release and announcements of new areas to explore, not to mention the mouth watering line-up, I had high hopes that my first experience of Boomtown was set to be a goodun’!

When you arrive at Boomtown, you can see where the name derives from as quite literally you are in a town, albeit one that looks like a scene from a post apocalyptic movie. The variety in venues, split into districts, combined with the miscellany of music ensured that you were literally transported to another time and place.

Adding to this was the attention to detail and the effort made by the organisers in creating an all encompassing atmosphere, not only with the fancy dress theme which allowed people to be characters within the town setting, but also the theatrical performances and other random events.  For example there were huge displays such as a giant metallic robot, a Tesco building with a car and rocket rammed into the side of it, and a mechanical horse walking through the crowd occasionally blowing out flames and neighing.

The Town Centre, which contained the main stage featured a number of amazing acts throughout the festival with bands such as Gorgol Bordello on Friday night and Goldie Lookin’ Chain and Bad Manners on Saturday.

The Lion’s Den played host to some of the finest Jungle and Reggae acts around such as the Iration Steppas, though I have to admit I was disappointed to learn on the Saturday night that Barrington Levy would no longer be performing at the Lion’s Den as planned for reasons unknown.    That aside, there was still a great number of acts to see, with the Bassline Circus tent not only actually putting on trapeze acts, but also providing a stage for grime and dubstep act Foreign Beggars, and drum ‘n’ bass/breakstep dj DJ Zinc who made his mark on the crowd with a typhoon of a set, comprising of some classic Zinc D&B tracks.

Another artist that impressed at the Fair was Ms Dynamite who got the crowd going with songs such as Katy B’s ‘Lights On’ which features Ms Dynamite, Magnetic Man’s ‘Fire’, and of course ‘Wile Out’.  The crowd was also lucky enough to be shown a preview of her latest single, ‘Neva Soft’, from her new album.  Whilst at Boomtown I was able to catch up with Ms Dynamite, and here is what she had to say:

Q.  So where have you travelled from to be here with us today?

North London!

Q.  Do you have any pre-performance rituals, maybe down a pint of whisky, some star jumps?

Not really, I get excited, and then I like to have 5 minutes on my own to calm down and then I go on and let it all out.

Q.  Any tips for first time festival goers?

Particularly based on tonight, bring warm clothes because this is England, and bring and umbrella as well!  Don’t bring your nicest clothing, wear comfortable shoes, and come with a really open attitude and mind.  Oh yeah, and wet wipes!

Q.  Is there a song you can’t stop listening to at the moment that you’d recommend we hunt down?

I would probably say Heaven by Emeli Sande

Q.  If you could see any act living or dead at Boomtown, who would it be?

Bob Marley

Q.  Word on the street is you have a new album dropping soon, can you give us some intel on this?

The first single, which is done with Labrinth and is called Neva Soft, is going to be released on the 5th September 2011 and you can catch the video on YouTube now.  The album will be out in the New Year, and I’ve been working with Naughty Boy and a few other producers I won’t talk about – leave it as a surprise!  I’m really enjoying making it, and very excited for it.

Q.  Any last words for your friends at Hello Eco Living?

Love, love, more love and wait… more love!

With something for everyone, even the kids who were gifted with Kid’s Town where there were a host of things to see and do, Boomtown proved to be a great festival.  Even in the mornings when I would wake up with a sore head I found the choice of food for breakfast was impressive.  The Fair with reasonably priced food stalls, of which I frequented the Burrito Van on numerous occasions, also catered for lunch and dinner.

Beyond all the fun of the fair, more attention could have been paid to the eco side of the fair.  There was on-site recycling, and an area at the festival devoted to permaculture, along with Liftshare scheme and Boombuses to help individuals to travel more sustainably by sharing their journey, but it would have been nice to have seen more eco-friendly initiatives. Still, it is early days and perhaps in future there will be opportunities to implement other sustainable solutions.

Apart from that with enthralling visual treats on every corner, fantastic sets, an array of clothing and gift stalls and some mouthwateringly tasty food on offer Boomtown proved to be a captivating festival for all ages alike.

“We would like to thank all our loyal and enthusiastic supporters. In a young and ambitious festival like Boomtown we are constantly trying to push the boundaries and expand our vision. Through this we are likely to run in to a few teething problems but with all the support we receive from the people who love and help Boomtown grow, together we can work on making this festival the perfect escapist, alternative event that we all aspire for it to be. Bring on 2012, we’ve only just begun!” – Lak Mitchell and Chris Rutherford, Boomtown Organisers and Founders.

Amen, roll on Boomtown 2012!

Who do you see as the world’s favourite ‘Green’ and Responsible celebrity? The International Green Awards are giving you the chance to vote for nominees such as Sir Paul McCartney, Leonardo Dicaprio and Gisele Bündchen.

Voting to date has been overwhelming and it is a close tie as to who will be crowned an international green media ambassador. This accolade carries with it the responsibility to continue to promote a global green agenda through the media. This year’s nominees have used their prominence to promote environmental and sustainable development issues and thus, are already global ambassadors for organisations such as Oxfam International, the United Nations Environment Programme and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.