Totnes is a small town in the southwest of England that has become known world-wide as the birthplace of the Transition movement. The Transition Network is a grassroots “movement of communities coming together to reimagine and rebuild our world.” Community groups crowdsource solutions to local problems and support each other’s efforts. The movement is now active in over 50 countries around the world.
Transition Town Totnes (TTT) continues to play an active role in its community and its small staff serve as an administrative hub for a wide variety of independent local projects. TTT’s goal is “to strengthen the local economy, reduce our environmental impact, and build our resilience for a future with less cheap energy and a changing climate.”
A great number of TTT’s activities revolve around food. Totnes was one of the first to establish an Incredible Edible project planting vegetables, fruits, herbs, and edible flowers in public and unused spaces around the town. They also planted fruit and nut trees, inviting community members to become tree guardians and care for the trees. Totnes 10 strives to connect local shoppers with local food through a local food map, farmers’ stories, and a food festival. Grown in Totnes produced locally grown grains and pulses. The project is now being run by a group of organizations with a mill selling flour from locally grown grain to a bakery and the general public.
The Open Eco Homes Weekend is an opportunity to visit homes that are reducing their environmental impact and utilizing renewable energy. Owners, and often builders and suppliers, are on hand to discuss how they undertook their project, the challenges they encountered, and their solutions. Running in parallel to the Open Eco Homes Weekend is the Eco and Community Homes Fair where the public can meet “suppliers of eco-friendly goods and services, home energy installers, eco-builders, architects and others, learn about how to make your home more energy efficient and eco-friendly, and find out about community led housing solutions.”
After many years and much hard work, Transition Homes will be constructing 27 eco homes. Seventy percent of the homes will be affordable rental and shared ownership for local people.
The TTT Film Festival is a biannual event showcasing “films from around the world providing hope, inspiration and imaginative solutions to the challenges of our time.” Films shown in 2018 included The Worm is Turning: Ecological Farming: The Real Revolution, Human Flow (about human migration), and Albatross (about ocean plastic pollution). There is also a monthly film club.
The Local Entrepreneur Forum began in 2012/13 and has been very successful. Would-be entrepreneurs present their projects and local people are invited to invest in them. Support comes in many, many forms: providing land, marketing expertise, a promise to buy the product. A local volunteer says, “It’s a fantastic feeling of people coming together and helping and supporting each other.”
The Skillshare project encourages individuals to share their knowledge and skills with others. Past projects have included a rammed earth project, willow weaving, and making lanterns.
Celebrations and Challenges
Part of Transition Town Totnes’ strength lies in inviting people to work on issues they are passionate about, rather than trying to channel volunteers into established projects. A local volunteer explains, “As I understand it, the aim of TTT was not to do things for people but to bring them together, to encourage, enable and support people to get involved in things about which they were passionate, and that has been its success.” Some of the projects go on to become autonomous, while others remain under the TTT umbrella. A small part-time staff provides some support, but it is limited due to the large number of projects.
Volunteers receive emotional support from Inner Transition, which looks at the inner changes that are needed to support the external. They offer mentoring as well as a weekly meditation group and share ways to maintain hope and work on healing the divisions within community.