Wray Avenue March of the Lanterns Festival 2013

It’s getting close to that time of year again that we’re organising the March of the Lanterns community festival for Wray Avenue.

We want to coincide it with Earth Hour again, which is on Saturday 23 March this year – so save the date!

Bruce Abbott has kindly allowed us to use Replants to have a little get together this Wednesday 30 January from 7pm to see if anyone has any new ideas and to look at ways of sharing the coordination. We always love to see new faces, so don’t be shy.

Also, bring a plate as it’s always great to share food!

I also realised that I never posted anything after the event last year to say how great it was and to show the photos. I think Emma and I were exhausted, plus involved in work at the Fairbridge Festival immediately after then running a Living Smart course.

So, in belated summary, it was a great success. It rapidly evolved from our original idea in a very short space of time and the organic nature of the final event really floored me. I reckon we had around 200 people at the event throughout the day. I was astonished to see how many children lived nearby!

In particular our lantern designs developed and a huge (belated) thanks goes to Bec Massey for her instruction in making lanterns – if you need a professional to instruct groups of people I highly recommend hiring her services. As a result all sorts of crazy shaped lanterns were made.

A very sad part of the night was finding out that Vincenzina Galati had been taken to hospital with a heart problem, so we made a lantern for her and covered it with well-wishing messages (you can see it in the pictures below). The Galati family were very generous donating some food to the festivities. We were very relieved to learn that Vincenzina recovered.

We had three wonderful musical acts (Stuart Orchard; Dave Robertson, Rachel Armstrong and “Merle”; and The Dream Tree Collective) playing on the corner of Wray and Brennan.

During Earth Hour we asked all residents to turn off all electrical devices besides their fridges and demonstrated how we can have community and really enjoyable leisure without relying on electricity.

To finish, we were led on a beautiful march by the Dream Tree Collective up Breanna Street, through the primary school,  back along Attfield and then down the middle of Wray.

All this happened without shutting down the avenue. Everything was kept just the way it always is, with the community making use of our space, just the way it should always be!

This year I’d love to replicate it with a clearer sustainability focus, even more local music, a range of food and even more lantern making and decoration.

Oh, and here’s the best pictures of the 2012 event.

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A whole year of things to come!

We’re having a get together at Replants on Wednesday 30 Jan from 7pm to catch up, see how all our new friends are doing in the neighbourhood and talk about some ideas we have for doing March of the Lanterns again this year.

We’ll have a BBQ lit if people want to bring food and it’d be great if you could bring a plate or something to share.

It’d be great to see you there, even if we’ve never met before!

Activating my alleyway

I’ve found people shooting up in my alleyway, plus a few needles and other waste from users. This goes back a while. You can read about it here.

Rather than just whinging that the cops or council should just do something about it, I decided to reclaim the alleyway space by activating it as an area for growing vegetables. Maybe I’m just a naive optimist, but I suspect that by activating a space and getting locals to take some ownership of it the risk of crime or anti-social behaviour will be reduced.

Even if it doesn’t, I still think I’ve done something cool.

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I made raised beds and used the vertical space with planter boxes. Aside from the bolts and chain, everything else was recycled, mostly from vergeside collection: discarded sheet metal, wooden palettes, chicken wire, hessian coffee sacks – even any screws I used.

In all, I’ve created 2.5 square metres of growing space. In the process I’ve had 8 conversations with neighbours, 4 of which have been about behaviour change that would reduce their ecological footprint, one of which has involved a neighbour to growing her own food.

And that’s just in one week, with no actual plants growing yet. Imagine what will happen once they do and I’m able to share my produce!!

If you happen to be walking by, you can check it out where it runs off Brennan Street. If I’m around and you’re interested in chatting about how I did it (especially if you want to make you own!) or you’re interested in maybe doing some food swaps, I’d love to talk to you.

More on Michael Mobbs’s ecoPOPs

Michael Mobbs shared so many great ideas at Replants last month and I got all excited about the ecoPOP concept. You can read my blog on this here.

As I was about to head off to Melbourne, I emailed Michael to ask whether there were any examples in Victoria I could check out. He replied that the prototype he had built was in Dandenong so, on my way to hike around Wilson’s Promonotory, I stopped in to check it out.

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It clearly is a “prototype” when you compare it to the models in Michael’s new book Sustainable Food, and bigger than what I’m proposing for Wray Avenue.

Still, it gives a good sense of what such a structure looks like. It also gives an insight into what needs to happen to make it successful.

This prototype is in a very different environment to Wray Avenue. While it still provides (and demonstrates) the shading potential that an ecoPOP provides, it’s in a carpark, far from any houses.

On the other hand, the position here, by a bus stop, means that it will have many observers each day who take away an experience of the design. Furthermore, it can provide those commuters with fresh herbs, fruit and (perhaps most importantly) and opportunity to interact, share knowledge and develop a community in which people feel connected and safe.

Unfortunately, the water pump seems to have broken and a lot of the plants have died so, at least visually, it doesn’t appear to be an incredibly successful concept. Keep in mind though that it is a prototype in a very different context.

Unlike Wray Avenue, the prototype is far from any residents who could take some ownership of maintaining plants and replenishing it with annuals. In an ideal world, the bus users would do this but it would take some time for this sort of culture to establish itself.

I’m not as convinced that I can get the Wray Avenue idea happening as I think there were be too big a concern about sight lines for cars. But I’m still very interested in it.

I’d love any feedback on the concept and aim to start talking to Councillors about it very soon.