I headed down to Green Sundays at the Arcola theatre a little apprehensively, not really sure what to expect. I’d heard it was a meeting place for the ‘ecologically curious’ to explore green issues through film and music which did sound quite interesting, but having said that, each event has a different theme and this one was the rather dry sounding ‘Urban and Community Re-generation’.
Climbing up the ancient, rickety fire escape stairs to the new roof garden, I realised I needn’t have worried. Sustainability and recycling were the order of the day with old toilet cisterns starting a new life as container gardens. Flowers, herbs and vegetable seeds had been donated by well-wishers for the opening of the roof garden. Folk had the opportunity to get their hands dirty with three-year old manure which was, we were told, perfect for providing all the nutrients these growing plants would need. But the thought of being elbow-deep in poo was all too much for me and my new found friend Michelle and we sloped off to the rugs to enjoy some truly scrumptious carrot cake and tea.
Even though the British weather stayed true to form, with the sun hiding behind grey clouds, it was really chilled out afternoon and totally captured a lazy Sunday mood. It was a friendly Hackney crowd of hippies and film students, young families and a couple of old pensioners thrown in for good measure. And the mix provided a real grassroots, community feel to the event.
After a while we all headed downstairs to see a Capoeira Angola performance. But rather than the Tekken-style martial arts performance we were expecting, we saw a very smiley Brazilian man in a bright Hawaiian shirt standing in front of a collection of bells and drums and other bizarre percussion instruments. He was from a collective called Kabula and began slow clapping, exhorting the audience to join in with hand movements and facial gestures. At first everyone was a bit embarrassed and worried about being out of time, the girl next to me furtively whispering “I have no rhythm”. But as the performance went on, the mood lifted and everyone joined in and had a great time. After several minutes of clapping to different speeds and rhythms, we started a slow song “Ummm-ya” which had everyone laughing out loud at the strangeness of it all. It wasn’t much longer until the percussion instruments were handed out with Michelle receiving the best one – a tiny instrument which emitted a loud bull-frog style noise. The sounds of the different instruments combined to bring the sounds of the Amazon rainforest to a café in the backstreets of Dalston. It was absolutely incredible. What made it even more amazing was that the performer didn’t speak any English at all and yet we all still connected. I overheard one of the dads telling his six month old baby – “You’re a proper Stokey baby now”.
Next on the agenda was a short film programme – which included the award winning documentary “The Solitary Life of Cranes”. The film explores the invisible life of city, its patterns and hidden secrets as seen by the eyes of crane drivers who live out their working lives high above the London skyline. It gave a beautiful and sometimes even profound look at a world I had never thought twice about. It was really good and is worth looking out for on More 4.
I started chatting with Jessie Teggin, one of the organisers, and asked her what the Green Sundays vision is all about, she said, “The aim of the events is to create a space for people to come together to explore different ways of viewing our place on the planet and express their ideas and concerns about both local and global issues around sustainability.”
Jessie had done the rounds of many environmental events and felt frustrated at the messages and limited access to the ideas and issues. “Climate change and ecological degradation is effecting us all and the framework and language within which it’s discussed needs to be accessible to all. Green Sundays is an experiment to explore ways to do that – taking a bottom up approach and instead of telling people how they should live or the issues they should care about we hope to provide the opportunities and platform from which a diverse range of people can ask the questions and explore ideas.”
And in that they have succeeded. While there was a small library of sustainable and green books for browsing, there was no pressure, no brow-beating or manipulation. It was up to the individual what they took away from the day. For some it was the films, for others the music or the fair trade organic food at the Arcola café.
Would I go to another Green Sunday’s event? I certainly would. Why? Because it was inspiring to be with other people who are of a similar mind because it makes you feel that there are people out there who do care – about the environment, about the community, about each other – which in turn makes you feel optimistic that anything is possible. Bring it on.
Green Sundays are held on the 1st Sunday of the month
3 – 7pm Arcola Theatre, Arcola Street, E8
All welcome, free entry