Last night was a sleepless one for Brockley Central. For one long year, we have dreamed of the day that Lewisham Council press office added us to their media list. Then, just when we had given up hope, this press release was emailed to us. So we really don’t want to sound ungrateful, but we can’t help ourselves.
Just to be perfectly clear, we think Fairtrade is a fine thing (although it’s also worth acknowledging that there is a big debate about whether Fairtrade is the most effective solution to the problems it attempts to address).
But, why is Lewisham Council doing this?
We appreciate that the Council has a cultural remit and that this exercise won’t cost a lot of money, but every initiative has an opportunity cost – time, energy and focus spent doing this when they could be doing something else (like supporting the Brockley MAX, or fixing the railings on Brockley Road).
Brockley Central used to work for a quasi-public organisation, which had a lot of money to spend and no shareholders breathing down their necks or profit margins to hit. As a result, if someone came up with an initiative, they tended to be given license to do it, regardless of whether it was necessarily a very good idea. Consequently, the organisation ran a plethora of campaigns and initiatives, none of which was very effective. All organisations need focus. We question whether Fairtrade is what Lewisham Council should be focusing on.
We’d also like to know what Mayor Bullock actually means when he says Lewisham is a Fairtrade borough. Does that mean that Lewisham Council insists that all its suppliers source Fairtrade products? Have they banned non-Fairtrade products from the staff canteen? We’d wager not.
Still, here are the details, and thanks to Lewisham Council press office for sending them to us, we hope to be more positive next time.
To mark the event, Lewisham has been running a competition to write a song about fairtrade issues for anyone who lives, works or studies in the borough. The finalists have been chosen and they will be performing their work in front of a panel of judges at Blackheath Halls on Friday 7 March.
The winning prize is a day in a studio to record the song and the chance to perform it live at Lewisham People’s Day on 12 July 2008.
Fairtrade involves paying farmers and other workers in poor countries a fair price for their goods and produce – and means communities can afford to invest in healthcare, education and more sustainable methods of production.
Sir Steve said: “By choosing Fairtrade we can allow others to make changes towards a better life as it enables producers in developing countries to lift themselves, their families and their communities out of poverty.
“Lewisham is proud to be a Fairtrade borough and will continue to encourage consumers to make a small change in what they eat, drink and wear.”
Lewisham achieved Fairtrade status in 2005, with many shops, cafes and community venues all offering products certified as Fairtrade. Each year the borough renews its commitment to Fairtrade during Fairtrade Fortnight.
The finalists of the Fairtrade music competition will perform at Blackheath Halls on Friday 7th March 2008 at 7pm. Limited free tickets are available. If you are interested please email your name and address to: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 8314 7778.