First things first


Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Brainwave Bazaar - The Report part 3

If you missed Part 1 of our report from the Brainwave Bazaar, click here. For part 2, click here.


This table looked at how we could address our domestic energy usage, both to cut energy use to help deal with climate change, and to make us more resilient to rising fuel prices or fossil fuel scarcity.

Grants for householders - For individual households, it was thought that there are home improvement and energy grants available to those on some sort of benefit, for the purpose of doing energy efficiency work. Jon thought it was about £2,700, and would look into it further.

It was also suggested that we could collectively approach energy companies, which need to do energy efficiency work on people's homes in order to meet government-imposed obligations, and ask about the possibility of doing efficiency work on a large number of local homes, cutting the cost to company and residents through economies of scale.

Heat loss - One idea was that we could find a way of measuring the energy efficiency of local properties on a mass scale - providing information on where in the community we most need to make improvements. One method might be to hire a thermal imaging camera and take pictures of whole streets - perhaps from above, perhaps from ground level - to show where the worst heat leakage is - and those would be the properties targeted with energy advice and prioritised for having work done.

TT section in the local library - If we did persuade the local library to carry a Transition Towns section, the resources could include information for householders on the hows, whys and whats of energy efficiency.

Energy efficiency directory - TW could produce an easy-reference directory of local firms which can do energy efficiency work, including quick-win, lower-cost solutions. The National Energy Foundation apparently has a database of installers.

Eco-house - There is a demonstration eco-home in Plumstead, run by Greenwich Council - not a new-build but a retrofit of an existing property to show what can be done with existing housing stock. It was thought that there were plans to close the house down, however. Chris agreed to look into this and provide information, and to look into whether a trip to see the house could be arranged for TW members.

Renewable energy - There was some discussion about what renewable energy installations could be suitable - ground source heat pumps, solar photo voltaics, solar water heating, Combined Heat & Power and wood chip boilers all came up. The range and various pros and cons can be confusing - perhaps a talk could be arranged for local people on the options? Can anyone suggest a great speaker who might be prepared to come and talk on this?

Spare bulb swap - Some of us seem to be awash with low-energy bulbs now, with some energy companies sending freebies to their customers. If you've got more than you can use, why not offer them up for free on our Yahoo group, on Freecycle or to your neighbours? Or bring them along to Transition Drinks and swap them for a pint?


We've saved some of the best for last. When we came to reporting back at the end of the bazaar, there was obviously great enthusiasm for some of the ideas that came up at this table, with audibly gleeful little ripples of interest throughout the room.

Co-operative cafe and library - So many of the ideas that came up at the bazaar would benefit from TW having a premises of its own, and this idea was for a co-operatively run cafe-cum-library. It could cook locally produced food at a weekly event, it could stock transition-related reference material, provide a social hub, put on cooking lessons and more. An ambitious idea, but one that got people really excited. Is anyone willing to step up and start exploring how it might work and be funded in practice? (We notice there's a shop to let near Westcombe Park station, where The Cutting Room has been gutted...)

Storytelling projects - This one also seemed to generate a lot of excitement. One idea was for an intergenerational project, provisionally titled 'Sound of Westcombe' (I see Julie Andrews warbling in the gravel pits!), perhaps with the support and involvement of the fantastic Age Exchange / Reminiscence Centre in Blackheath village, tapping local older people's stories of life in the area, touching on how things were with less oil or at other times of 'austerity' and self-reliance as in the Dig for Victory days. Children and young people could get involved in collecting these stories. A sense of the area's history and community would be brought to life, and perhaps it could provide material for a play or for musical or art projects. Lucy was the ringleader for these ideas, it seemed - so, Lucy, do let us know what you think the first step could be, and do use the Yahoo group or the blog to appeal for helpers.

Garden safari - This could equally have come up at the food-growing table, or the skills swap table, but it's a lovely idea for helping people get to know others in the neighbourhood, so it fits here, too. The idea is that we have an 'open gardens' or 'open veg patch' day or 'garden safari' along the lines of the 'Open Studios' weekend, where local artists open up their studios to the public. It would be a chance for novice - or even experienced - gardeners to get inspiration and advice, it would be a great sensory experience for anyone, it could be a chance to swap seeds and cuttings, and would generally be a fantastic way to get to know your near neighbours.

Westcombe News - This idea was simply to remember to use the fantastic Westcombe News to spread the word about what we're doing and to keep up to date with what others in the community are doing. We're really grateful to Neville and the News for giving us space thus far and for showing such support. Hat off.

The Big Lunch - A rather lovely idea encouraging as many people as possible to hold a street party on the same day - 19 July this year - just for the sake of it. If you're prepared to organise one, do let us know - you find more detail at

This table managed to jot down what their overall aims were:

Objective: Community sharing and FUN

Outcomes: Feeling more comfortable between generations, increasing understanding / interaction, sharing skills and helping each other -> cohesion

First Steps: Email ideas to others within TW at first; utilizing contacts in schools, at Age Exchange etc. Lucy to action ‘Sound of Westcombe?


And that is the full report of the Brainwave Bazaar. Phew. Apologies for the delay in getting it all out here, but we can blame the number of ideas that came spilling out.

Some of the ideas that emerged have pretty clear paths to being implemented and could happen pretty quickly.

Some have names attached (thanks to those who raised hands). Others are clearly longer-term, require some good organisation and perhaps funding.

Some would benefit from us having a good, flexible website for sharing information better than a blog can, which we're working on.

Many of the ideas are up for grabs who anyone who wants to volunteer to lead on them - if you're interested in doing so, contact us here so we can help you appeal for helpers, or use the Yahoo group.

We've got some real plans to announce very soon on at least one of the ideas that came up, so keep checking back.

And thanks again to everyone who came along and contributed so enthusiastically and made the evening such fun.


Jakki said...

Community cafe/library
I've had some experience of cooking in an informal community cafe, as well as 'cooking-for-crowds' elsewhere - I would love to be involved in this idea. If we have a rota it doesn't have to be too difficult.
Oh and well-done for the excellent write-up on the event!

dave said...

For a really excellent summary of what individuals like you and me can do regarding energy, look at this page.

Thermal imaging camera is a good idea but probably not worth doing until winter when people have their heating on.

I would be happy to do an informal talk on small scale renewable energy systems (I have experience in this area) suitable for houses, if you're interested. Let me know.

Dave Howey