Amelia’s Magazine | It’s National Wool Week!

Illustration by Gareth A Hopkins

Illustration by Danielle Andrews

London is phenomenal, story a vast ever evolving metropolis where nothing stays still and sleep is for the dead. As much as it tires you out, the frenetic pace of life is what keeps us all going. The thing is: growing up in Dublin, there are times where I yearn for something a bit more relaxed. From almost anywhere in Dublin you can see the mountains and countryside, (From almost anywhere read: my house, and if I’m honest only the Irish call the Wicklow Mountains that, to most others they’re big hills). Try doing that in London. The parks are gorgeous, but they just dont cut it.

Sheep on Savile Row. Photography by Nick Bain

 On Monday though, Wool Week stepped up to the plate to help alleviate this pastoral longing. In order to champion the cause of the British Sheep Farmer, and the wonder natural resource that is wool, Savile Row was over run with our four-legged friends. Now, these were the cleanest sheep I had ever seen – but it was great to bring the countryside into town. The week was later launched in style by a fantastic party in Selfridges attended by the great and the good.

The initiative which was set up by His Royal Highness Prince Charles, who champions the cause of wool. Shocked by the fact that it can cost a farmer more to shear a sheep than the value of its fleece, Charlie set up the cross-industry Campaign for Wool. Sure, we all have our favourite big wooly jumpers perfect for winter, but the fact is wool can be used in a huge variety of ways. From aerospace to insulation, wool has a huge range of uses. I’ll be honest though, I’m not too concerned about them. Championing great British fashion that uses wool on the other hand is another story.

The fine gauge knits of John Smedley, Pringle‘s innovative and directional intarsia, organic products from Daniel Hechter at John Lewis, traditional tweeds at Hackett and a lovely thick Crombie all show just how versatile wool is. There is a very good reason Britain used to be swamped from shore to shore in woolen products. Aran sweaters, cricket jumpers and kilts all make up part of our rich cultural heritage.  This should be celebrated! Yeah, they shrink in the wash – and some fibres can be itchy as hell (though with modern spinning techniques less so than the past) but don’t think of that awful school jumper you had growing up. Think of your gran knitting you that somewhat hideous jumper out of love. Think of the glamorous Tilda Swinton in Pringle. For heaven’s sake, think of the Queen in her twinset and pearls. Get behind Wool, leave the polyester blends behind.

If nothing else do it for the sheep….

National Wool Week runs until Sunday

Categories ,Aran, ,british, ,Crombie, ,Daniel Hechter, ,Dublin, ,Farming, ,Hackett, ,HRH, ,John Smedley, ,knitting, ,Prince Charles, ,Pringle, ,Queen, ,Savile Row, ,Selfridges, ,sheep, ,Tilda Swinton, ,Wicklow Mountains, ,wool, ,Wool Week

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Amelia’s Magazine | Food Inc – film review

Image courtesy of Food Inc.

It is natural to assume that the people in charge of food standards and the people making the food would have your best interests at heart. Food, no rx Inc. uncovers the unbelievable truth about the American food industry and dispels this myth, abortion or as they say in the film, this ‘lifts the veil’ on the industry and shatters our assumptions. From beef production that is so horribly intense it causes tens of thousands of E.coli cases in humans a year, to why the rate of type 2 diabetes is rising to 1 in 3 for Americans born after 2000. The greed of food companies to claim more and more of the market despite the damage they are causing to consumers, animals and the environment is shocking.

Chicks on the factory floor. Photo courtesy of Our Daily Bread

Smaller producers and the consumers themselves have barely any power to fight their corner when faced with companies that have the money to win any court case brought against them. While it’s easy to say that the power lies with the consumer, the consumer would probably never imagine (unless they were particularly cynical) that the production behind the food on their plate was so damaging and disgusting. This is why this film, and others like it, are so important – to make consumers aware of where their food comes from so that they can make a choice but also to show food companies that their production methods cannot be kept secret and that the consumer will not stand for it.

Click here for all UK screenings.

More films on food:

There are two other absolutely superb documentaries I’ve seen on food production.  One is Our Daily Bread (Nikolaus Geyrhalter, Austria, 2005), which traces factory farming throughout Europe.  It has no narration or music (and so requires no subtitles), but its pure minimalist awesomeness makes your jaw drop from the start right through to the end.  No sensationalism here, just images free of commentary, with the eerie, mechanic soundtrack of the machines that have replaced men in farming.  I defy you to peel your eyes away from the screen, and not feel a million times wiser at the end.  Truly recommend it, not only as information and as an eye-opener, but as a piece of unique, striking cinema.  Stark and poetic.

Photo courtesy of Our Daily Bread

The other is We Feed The World (Erwin Wagenhofer, 2005), which makes the link between European food production and hunger in a direct and shocking way, but with a sophisticated humour and sarcasm that will make you laugh when you shouldn’t.

Photo courtesy of Our Daily Bread

Categories ,Dogwoof, ,Dominika Jarosz, ,Eric Schlosser, ,Erwin Wagenhofer, ,Factory Farming, ,Farming, ,Fast Food Nation, ,Food, ,Food Inc, ,Joanna Van Den Driessche, ,Michael Pollan, ,Nikolaus Geyrhalter, ,Our Daily Bread, ,Robert Kenner, ,US, ,We feed The World

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Amelia’s Magazine | Lammas Low Impact Courses and Conferences

Lammas Low Impact Aurelia Lange
Illustration by Aurelia Lange

Wales – the land of soaring song, viagra turf-churning scrums and cunning cross-dressing rioters – is today at the forefront of sustainable, information pills ecological development. In 2009 the Welsh Assembly Government announced a national sustainable development scheme, buy One Wales: One Planet, which led last year to Technical Advice Note (TAN) 6: One Planet Development. The objective of the One Planet Development policy is truly laudable: for Wales to be using only its fair and sustainable share of the earth’s resources – which was measured in 2003 at 1.88 global hectares per person – within the space of a single generation. To this end, One Planet Developments must be zero carbon in both their construction and use, and within five years sit on land that provides for the inhabitants’ basic needs of income, food, energy and waste assimilation. Developments can take the form of single homes, co-operative communities or larger settlements.

Tir y Gafel Hub Outside
Low-impact building The Hub at Tir y Gafel

Roundhouse in construction at Tir y Gafel
A family’s roundhouse under construction at Tir y Gafel

Tree Planting sign at Tir y Gafel
Crafted wooden sign at sustainable settlement in West Wales, Tir y Gafel

One such community is Tir y Gafel, nestled in 76 acres of dizzyingly beautiful ex-farmland mixed pasture and woodland deep within the Pembrokeshire hills. Tir y Gafel is the first eco village to be birthed by Lammas – a cooperative trust that exists to support the development of eco villages in West Wales – following efforts by its founders, members and fellow low-impact supporters to gain planning permission for such developments. Currently under construction by the residents and volunteers, within a few years Tir y Gafel will comprise nine residential smallholdings created using the latest innovations in permaculture, environmental design and green technology. And, of course, they’ll be completely off-grid: water will be sourced from Tir y Gafel’s existing spring; on-site renewables such as the village hydro-electric facility will provide the sparks; fuel supplies will exist in the form of willow and ash; and organic waste will prove food for the village’s abundance of plant life.

Tir y Gafel flowers decorate The Hub
Tir y Gafel flowers decorate village meeting and celebration space, The Hub

Tir y Gafel Cat
Two of Tir y Gafel’s diverse range of residents

The people of Tir y Gafel will not just live off the land, but will nourish it, enriching their plots to the end that the land can support a range of livelihoods, from the growth of cash crops such as blueberries to crafts conjured from the woven hair of malamutes. The completion of the village community building The Hub is also in sight.

For many gazing in awe at the energy, vision and strength of pioneering spirit exhibited by Lammas and the Tir y Gafel residents, a relocation to Mars can seem more reachable than a move to a One Planet lifestyle, with all the land issues and lifestyle transformations it might involve. One of the guiding principles of Lammas, though, is to create a model for sustainable eco living that can be replicated across Wales – and, hopefully, outside it. Education plays a central role in the current life of Tir y Gafel, with courses and conferences inviting people to experience and explore low-impact living, and while doing so help make this groundbreaking example a reality. WWOOFers and other volunteers have been a driving force in the building of The Hub, exchanging enthusiasm and sweat for experience of low-impact building and a role in the future of sustainable living.

Footprints in the farmhouse
Lammas: Steps in the right direction

Building a timber-frame barn wall at Tir y Gafel
Building a timber-frame barn wall at Tir y Gafel

Carving joists for timber-frame barn wall at Tir y Gafel
Joy of joists: getting to grips with timber-framing at Tir y Gafel

Aside from a regular rotation of passionate volunteers, attendees of courses held at Tir y Gafel go on to spread the word, objectives and feasibility of One Planet lifestyles such as those that they experience and learn about through Lammas. The Eco Village Conference will bring those inspired by Lammas’s work and eager to grapple with the practicalities of creating an eco home or village together between 9-11 September, when the folks behind Lammas will impart advice on everything from land-based livelihoods to legal details. Other courses currently booking include a weekend covering willow planting, harvesting and sculpture.

A couple of Lammas course attendees tour the land
People power: Lammas Low Impact Experience course attendees tour the land

Group cooking at Tir y Gafel
The community that cooks together…

Tir y Gafel volunteer spades

Foraged blackberries at Tir y Gafel
Foraged blackberries at Tir y Gafel

Later in the month comes another of the enormously influential Low Impact Experience weeks, which have so far seen dozens of eco-conscious minds enter Tir y Gafel curious and leave – a week and countless incredible vegetarian meals later – with fresh skills spanning cob building, bread baking, stem wall forming, foraging, escapee hen catching and beyond. Led by Hoppi Wimbush and James Giddings, the most recent Low Impact Experience Week, held in August, was for this writer an inspirational reminder of the joyful warm ache of limbs worked sawing barn wall joists; of the rich pleasure – irate wasps and all – of a permaculture landscape; and of the timeless worth of a mental store of stories to tell while rain batters darkened windows. Above all, though, the Low Impact Experience Week re-affirmed the significance of community to our selves, our health and our happiness – and not just because the attendees shared our foraged wood sorrel.

Foraging for wood sorrel at Tir y Gafel
Foraged Tir y Gafel wood sorrel during the Low Impact Experience Week

Baking bread at Tir y Gafel
Future kneads: The Low Impact Experience bake-off

Banquet at The Hub, Tir y Gafel
Banqueting at The Hub, Tir y Gafel

Fire at Tir y Gafel ceilidh

Long gone are the days when it was considered avant-garde to believe that the future health and happiness of our communities rests on the success and extended positive influence of low-impact living initiatives such as those that Lammas is pioneering at Tir y Gafel. As the people of Lammas and Tir y Gafel are showing through their courses and conferences, if we are willing to share knowledge, skills, sweat and time as part of a wider ecologically minded and responsible community, the future can look very, very bright. Even if it is lit via homemade solar panels.

Categories ,Agriculture, ,Aurelia Lange, ,Baking, ,Biodiversity, ,camping, ,Cat, ,Centre for Alternative Technology, ,Co-operative, ,cob building, ,community, ,composting, ,Conference, ,Coppicing, ,course, ,Eco-village, ,Education, ,Farming, ,Grass roof, ,Hoppi Wimbush, ,Hydro electric, ,James Giddings, ,Lammas, ,Land-based Livelihood, ,Livestock, ,Living Roof, ,Low impact, ,Malamute, ,One Planet Development, ,Paul Wimbush, ,Pembrokeshire, ,Planning Permission, ,Polytunnel, ,Renewable Technologies, ,Renewables, ,Roundhouse, ,Self-build, ,Solar panels, ,solar power, ,Straw bale building, ,sustainable living, ,TAN 6, ,Timber framing, ,Tir y Gafel, ,Tony Wrench, ,Tree planting, ,vegetarian, ,Volunteering, ,wales, ,Welsh Assembly Government, ,Wild Foraging, ,Willow weaving, ,Wind power, ,Wood crafts, ,Wool crafts, ,WWOOF, ,zero carbon

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Amelia’s Magazine | Tambogrande: Mangos, Murder, Mining – film review

pionerosThe San Lorenzo valley before it was transformed into orchards of mango and lime trees.  All images courtesy of Guarango films.

In her recent review of the film Crude, Amelia acknowledged that the documentary/story of the big corporation destroying lives is something we’ve become shamefully accustomed to.  It’s a huge issue in an age of what seems like information overload.  But in a lecture I attended a few days ago in LSE, press freedom scholar and president of the University of Columbia Lee Bollinger reminded us that the more information we have, the better.  And the truth is that the information we get on what is really going on in the world is still very slight.  Yes we have more information, but we also have extreme censorship and stereotypes to overcome.  And desensitisation can only happen if we let it.
14dic00 mango y lim+¦n2 copy

Tambogrande (2007) tells the story of a farming community in northern Peru, who through decades of hard work had transformed barren, desert lands into a thriving, successful green oasis of fruit trees and crops.  In 1999 Manhattan Minerals, a Canadian Mining company, decided to cash in on the gold deposits discovered underneath the land by planning a kilometre-wide open-pit mine, fully supported by Peru’s then president, Alberto Fujimori.  The mine would require the relocation of half the town’s residents, the destruction of two generations’ worth of transforming a desert into an oasis, and the contamination of surrounding land, water and air.  Filmmakers Ernesto Cabellos and Stephanie Boyd follow the formation and progress of the farming community’s five-year mass democratic movement, the Tambogrande Defense Front.  A peaceful, highly creative and organised movement, it became a rare success story of people against the violent and, in this case, murderous, tactics of the government and corporations.  The movement achieved timeless international resonance and has inspired peaceful movements worldwide.


“Farming is a treasure worth more than gold”.   The people of Tambogrande immediately see past the mining company’s empty promises of new housing, jobs and roads and economic benefit to the area.  They are all too aware of the toxicity of gold mining, and all too wary of exactly what this will do to their community, their children, their land, water, health and livelihoods.   Farming is life, gold is money.  “We can never put gold or silver in a saucepan” as one farmer puts it.  “Where did all these gringos come from saying Peru needs to produce gold, silver, and copper? Peru needs to produce food.”
Mango marcha Lima dic00

The sharp, outspoken community is, for want of a better word, inspirational.  They organised a referendum which gained huge media attention and which eventually led to the scrapping of the mining project.  They used art, music and culture in a campaign which captured the imagination of both Peruvians and those much further afield.  Yet this did not prevent government and business officials trying to stop the movement by resorting to violence and to stereotypes of the isolated, naive peasant.  One official states: “In other developed countries, the levels of culture and education are very high, so you could probably use this kind of process [referendum].  But in Peru where the population is so easily manipulated…”.  And how idiotic he sounds.  It is rare that a moment in a film makes me want to gasp out loud/throw my shoe at the screen quite so much.  It is all too easy to sit in a suit at a desk in an air-conditioned office looking important and refute a mass democratic movement on the grounds that it is formed by a group of dim farmers with no idea about how neoliberal ‘free’-market economics  and total disregard for human life and the environment will somehow save them.

The people of Tambogrande rose, thankfully, well above this kind of ignorance.  Their story is a reminder of how much the majority of the world’s population have to struggle and rise above the ideas of a powerful, wealthy, comparative minority to defend their right to life.  Yet it is also a reminder of how upliftingly successful organised, united, peaceful and democratic protest can potentially be.Tambo mango still

I’d read the international reviews of Tambogrande, heard the accolades and awards, but was not prepared to receive such a moving film through the post this morning.  Tambogrande is a film that informs, moves you to tears and lifts you up all at once, yet doesn’t shy away from a healthy dose of irony and humour.

The reason I’m only seeing the documentary now is because I’ve been helping Movimientos organise a night of Peruvian cinema, photography and music at the Rich Mix Cultural Institute on the 18th of February (see listings), and this is one of the documentaries that will be screened.  The event focuses on the issue of mining and will also include another documentary by filmmaker Michael Watts (interview coming next week), photos by the documentary photography collective Supay Fotos and live music.   With the ever-growing Tar Sands project in Canada and the news that Brazil has just given the go-ahead for the construction of another hydroelectric dam in the Amazon, we need to hear more about how these projects affect the people who live there.  So I hope I’ll see some of you at our event on the 18th.

More info:
In-depth article by Stephanie Boyd

Categories ,Ernesto Cabellos, ,Farming, ,Fujimori, ,Guarango, ,Guarango Films, ,Lima, ,Lime, ,Mango, ,Manhattan Minerals, ,mining, ,Movimientos, ,Open-pit mine, ,Peru, ,Rich Mix, ,San Lorenzo Valley, ,Stephanie Boyd, ,Supay Fotos, ,Tambogrande, ,Tambogrande Defense Front, ,Valley

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