What is a Fairtrade borough?
Questions put after attaining Fairtrade borough status
1. When and how did the Fairtrade Borough idea take hold?
For some years Kingston has had a loose network of local groups concerned with significant international issues: Kingston Peace Council, Kingston Friends of the Earth, United Nations Association, supporters of WDM, Oxfam, Christian Aid and CAFOD. This Kingston Peace and Justice Network was instigated by the Kingston World Development Group (a WDM group), but continued to meet 2 or 3 times a year to share concerns only because of wider support (mainly the key people from each group).
The groups helped each other by publicising events etc but were brought together in a more practical way by Jubilee 2000. Most groups helped collect petition signatures by taking on one Saturday each in Kingston Market Place over a period of 8 weeks. The Network covers the whole of one constituency (Kingston and Surbiton) and a bit of another one. Annual meetings were held with both MPs and good relationships built.
Trade Justice was the next issue of general concern to most of the Peace and Justice Network (we are fortunate that Kingston Peace Council interprets its role broadly). Sixty people lobbied our main MP at the Trade Justice lobby in 2003, spending an hour and a half with him at the House of Commons, and the following year 100 people came to a Trade Justice march in the constituency. Against this background, in early 2004, several people raised the idea of pursuing Fairtrade Borough status as a means of further raising the profile of Trade Justice locally, as well as being an end in itself. This got off the ground fairly quickly because it reached the ears of a local Councillor who also wanted to work towards Fairtrade status for the borough.
At a meeting to discuss the idea, which the Councillor attended, as well as 2 Council officers in an unofficial capacity, the 5 goals etc were explained. With the support we clearly had it was decided that we should proceed, but there was no great enthusiasm to be on a formal Steering Group! This was partly due to most people already being heavily involved in some way in their own group or church.
Fortunately there were sufficient people to form a small steering group and a small number of fairly active members was easier than having a larger group of less active people whom we still had to communicate with. It still proved hard to arrange meetings on evenings that all these busy people could manage. We later opted for a kind of double meeting, with those of us who were free meeting in the daytime followed by an evening meeting for people who worked full-time. Thus some lucky people had to attend two Fairtrade meetings in one day!
The Councillor immediately became an active member of the steering group but there was no Council officer at that stage. We were told that this was not possible until a resolution supporting Fairtrade had been passed by the Council. However an officer was able to work on the resolution and liaise with the steering group co-ordinator over certain matters. Most of the work was therefore done by the community side of the steering group. For various reasons not the fault of the Council, this continued even after the resolution was passed.
2. What difference will Fairtrade Borough status make to the borough?
Fairtrade status has validated the hopes and aspirations of all the supporters in the borough who have been working for some time towards a fairer trading system to help relieve poverty in developing countries. It has also made those on the periphery sit up and take notice, and ask pertinent questions. Store managers have been open to arguments in favour of Fairtrade and, almost always, they have embraced the idea enthusiastically.
At civic level the borough is proud, and a little surprised, to find itself awarded this accolade. Kingston has probably not naturally seen itself in the role of caring consumer, but now it rather likes the idea. Fairtrade status is spreading a "feel good" factor and a new awareness of our global interdependence. Across many parts of the community, young and old, people are sharing common objective: to Make Poverty History.
3. Which event marked the achievement of Fairtrade Borough status?
We timed our submission so that, if we were successful, we would be able to declare in Fairtrade Fortnight 2005. A major event in Kingston's Guildhall was planned and, as we were successful, this became a celebration. About 70 people attended. Fairtrade refreshments were provided by Bentalls, our flagship employer (wine), local supermarkets, and Traders Coffee, a local coffee buyer/roaster/blender. Four different blends of Fairtrade coffee were available, and people were invited to vote for their favourite, which has now become Kingston Fairtrade blend.
The donated products which were suitable for eating on the night (cakes, biscuits, fruit juice, geobars, etc) were arranged on a central table, and a raffle was held for seven large hampers made up from other donated Fairtrade products. There was a Trade Justice stall, with information and the new Kingston Fairtrade Guide (directory). We also sold Make Poverty History bands. In addition there was a Traidcraft stall, and another with Day Chocolate Company products. Before the speakers and the presentation of the Fairtrade certificate to the Mayor, whilst people were looking round and having refreshments, live Indian sitar music was being played in the background.
The star guests were two women cocoa farmers from Ghana (brought to London by the Day Chocolate Company for Fairtrade Fortnight), who spoke about the difference Fairtrade had made to their lives. They also answered questions and passed around a large cocoa bean.
One Saturday later in Fairtrade Fortnight a fair trade market was held in Kingston's ancient market place, comprising Traidcraft, Tearcraft and Traders Coffee stalls, a stall selling Make Poverty History bands, and another providing information on Fairtrade, including the Kingston Fairtrade Guide (directory), Trade Justice and Make Poverty History, and collecting votes for Trade Justice. Asda, took up our invitation to bring along for display all their own brand Fairtrade products, and also gave away free hot cross buns spread with Fairtrade honey. We had invited all the local supermarkets but only Asda came along.
Our MP, Edward Davey also came to lend his support and thanked all involved for their hard work. The event was covered in the local press and one newspaper interviewed people about the Kingston blend Fairtrade coffee, and published photographs of six interviewees with their favourable comments.
Co-ordinator, Kingston Fairtrade Steering Group
Kingston Fairtrade Group
The Fairtrade initiative arose via the Kingston Peace and Justice Network, a loose network of local groups interested in international/development etc issues, including Kingston Peace Council, WDM (World Development Movement), and supporters of Amnesty, Christian Aid, CAFOD, Friends of the Earth, etc.
The Trade Justice Campaign has been a major focus for some years. To bring trade issues to the attention of a wider cross-section of the community, it was decided to try to make Kingston a Fairtrade Borough. However we are keen not to lose sight of the wider Trade Justice Campaign and have continued to support this, holding meetings with MPs and taking part in lobbies etc. See news section.
In April 2004 the Kingston Fairtrade Steering Group was set up to work with local people and organisations towards gaining Fairtrade status for the Borough. We were fortunate to have, from the start, a local Councillor with a personal commitment to Fairtrade and similar issues. However most of the work in gaining Fairtrade status was done by the community members of the steering group, with the exception, of course, of the Council resolution in support of the initiative.
Fairtrade Borough status was awarded by the Fairtrade Foundation in March 2005. See news.
If you would like to help support Fairtrade in Kingston, please contact us
We often need help with specific events in Fairtrade Fortnight (end February/early March), and also at other times of year. There is no need to know much about Fairtrade.
We also have volunteers checking retailers and cafes etc. to see if they sell Fairtrade items, and which ones. This information is used for our on-line directory (Where to buy Fairtrade products) and printed Kingston Fairtrade Guide.
There is no need to be an official member of the group to come along to a meeting and see how you might be interested in helping. Our steering group would like more members to help plan activities and decide on how best to support Fairtrade locally.
Contact us if you are interested.
Present members of the steering group:
Jeannette James (WDM, Kingston Peace and Justice Network and Trade Justice Movement)
Douglas James (Christian Aid supporter and church member)
David Ryder-Mills (Councillor)
Peter Watson (member of Co-operative Society, church member active in Southwark Diocese)
Lisa Shipp (Manager, Food for Thought shop, Kingston)
Carlos Queremel (Council Environment Dept employee with Fairtrade responsibility)
Elise Barron (responsible for Fairtrade and Sustainability at Kingston University) (Manager, Rose Theatre cafe/bar) Asi Panditharatna (Catch 22, young people's charity)