Sunday, July 7, 2013

Kinsale: Arts Festival and Transition Town

Kinsale is a town just waiting to be discovered.  A town that is slowly unravelled as you dig deeper and she gives up her secrets.  At every corner there is an art gallery, a café or a bookshop that is just begging for you to come in and stay awhile, which is of course what we did over our two day trips from Cork.  Kinsale was also the world’s first Transition Town, which is one of the reasons for our visit to this town.   

We find Kinsale in a festive mood as it is celebrating its annual Arts Festival and so there is much to see and do.  We decide to explore the town first and start at the museum where we learn a little about its history.  I love the brightly coloured streets and the beautiful tubs of flowers that brighten up the landscape and bring a sense of cheeriness.  The other feature, prominent in every town we visit, is the large catholic cathedral that is rather out of proportion to the size of the village in which it lies.  It reminds us that this is or once was a very religious country where the church played a big part in the lives of everyone. 

The morning was rather overcast but the fog has cleared to reveal a beautiful day.  We decide to enjoy a boat trip on the water and take in the views of the fort and the ocean from a different perspective.  We feel lucky to be here in Ireland during a rare heatwave.  It has made quite a difference to this trip. 

Later on we enjoy the food stalls, the galleries and the music in the village square.  It appears that everyone in the town has come out to enjoy the festival, the music and the sunshine.  There is a great sense of community here but I wonder what this village is like in the winter.

As part of the Festival there are a number of exhibition around town and the Transition Town network has one of its own, which we visit.  We find exhibits of art created by recycled material as well as other bits of information that indicate how much this movement has now grown.  The launch to which we were invited is an opportunity for us to chat with students studying permaculture as well as community members and artists with an involvement in the Transition Movement. 

As described on their website ‘Transition Town Kinsale (TTK) is a voluntary community initiative working to help make the transition from a dependency on fossil fuel to a low carbon future’.  A group
of committed volunteers have linked in with the local Council as well as businesses to transition to a future that is more resilient to the challenges of peak oil and climate change.  Simply put, peak oil is the point at which the annual production of petroleum is reached.  Some people suggest this has already occurred.

One of the projects we discussed was that of Community Supported Agriculture.  Kinsale has pioneered schemes to encourage self-sufficiency in basics such as oats and potatoes.  This is done through residents teaming up with a farmer to share the investment in a crop from beginning to end, and by dividing the costs and the harvest.  It helps the farmer with his/her initial investment and is just one of those schemes that encourage local food production and reduce the dependency on oil.  We learn that many of the local restaurants have signed up to use Fair Trade coffee, which has enabled Kinsale to also obtain the title of being a Fair Trade Town.   The Farmers Market is a weekly feature here and the deli and stalls at the Festival are full of local produce.  Fresh cheeses, seafood, vegies and fruit are in abundance.  Originally a medieval fishing port, today Kinsale claims to be the Gourmet Capital of Ireland.  

The 50 Mile Menu is another feature of this town making it easy for people to find good food made with ingredients grown within 50 miles of the town.  Restaurants strive to win this title, by sourcing their produce locally. 

The Town also has an Edible Gardens Network, which provides a wealth of knowledge to the locals here.  The Town has won numerous awards from ‘Tidy Town’ awards to awards for innovation in climate change.  This encourages the local community to embrace the same ideals and go after their own awards such as the ‘Community Gardens Award’.   

One of the main ingredients of the Transition Movement is that you form working groups that deal with achieving sustainable targets for energy, food, health, the economy, education, local government,
transport etc.  This allows each person who signs up to be involved in the issues they feel most passionate about.  Kinsale too has its fair share of projects and we hear that one of the bigger projects on the agenda for the future is the bio digester to deal with their waste. 

We’ve been wondering how far this concept has infiltrated the general population of Kinsale.  So as we wander around and pop in to places such as cafes, the bookshops, the library, the art gallery and talk to the locals.  We ask if they are involved in the Transition Town movement and find that generally they only have a superficial notion of this concept and for the most part are not directly involved.  This is a little disappointing given that Kinsale was the world’s first Transition Town and we have come here in search of answers.  But I guess that is the reality of change.  Not everyone will embrace it and it takes a lot of time and effort for it to be the norm.  However, we leave Kinsale having had a wonderful time and feeling inspired that we’ve found an example that other towns and village could learn from and emulate. 

"I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that."    — Thomas Edison, 1931

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