Thirst for action on the climate crisis is tangible as we step into the community centre reception room, already jostling with people. Some are at the book table rifling through Naomi Klein’s latest, others are friends laughing together and catching up – this crowd knows itself. Corinne, the day’s facilitator, shows us eagerly to a table to sign up to the afternoon workshops. Since moving here I’ve realised that committing to anything on the spot is not very Pembrokeshire, but with only ten spots in each session it’s not the time to be a flake.
With coffee and a (salvaged) pastry in hand, we watch a piece of forum theatre on steering conversations around climate change – from a boy asking his mum about Greta Thunberg to an enraged farmer pulling sponsorship of a parade containing a float designed by Extinction Rebellion. Actors are frozen and skits repeated, audience hands shoot up to suggest improvements. We are hopeful but pensive – there is a lot of work to be done.
After the next break we hear about Transition Bro Gwaun’s summer of community engagement activities. I am surprised to learn about the power of a marquee as a neutral space for conflicted people to mix, debate, tell stories and dance. On pieces of scrap paper we scribble quick ideas on topics we want to talk about in an open space session – our facilitators group these into five big themes and for the next hour we are encouraged to move around “organically” between the different topics. I’m most interested in finding out what drives a person’s decision making, so I spend most of my time getting tips on how to engage the disengaged.
Lunch magically appears out of thin air – we have a choice of three flavours of soup made entirely from unsold vegetables, stacks of bread rolls and pretzels, chunks of cheese and cakes galore, all donated by local supermarkets and wholesalers. My mind boggles at the possibility that this would have all just gone in the bin. We huddle together on long benches around tables designed for us to chat – somehow small talk is just easier over a bowl of delicious food.
Then Ben steps forward with his guitar – initial awkwardness turns to a rowdy competition between the two halves of the room as we try to out-sing each other. There is a rationale for laughing (especially at ourselves) to fend off the eco-anxiety… I mean it is pretty funny to see people dressed as canaries that actually look like chickens
The room is mixed up again as we grab another hot drink and head off to the workshops: there’s the loud comedy corner, a makery for repurposing waste materials, an ideas session to help plan and evaluate your own climate-themed events, and opportunities to improvise with directors from Theatr Fforwm Cymru and the Outcast Theatre.
It’s clear that the time for creative solutions is now – we are looking for hope stories to help us relax amidst the global panic, and we want to be accepted, supported and recognised when we take positive action in our communities. We can no longer judge each other as members of ‘in-groups’ or ‘out-groups’ – the problems we all face are the same. The climate crisis is demanding an ambitious commitment from a united front.
With thanks to the event organisers Transition Bro Gwaun and Renew Wales, and to Fishguard and Goodwick Community Fridge for the wonderful food and refreshments throughout the day. My participation at this workshop was possible due to the support of the CCAT (Coastal Communities Adapting Together) operation, funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales Cooperation Programme.