For over twenty years a group of Edenbridge men and women has been selling Traidcraft Fairtrade foods and crafts in the town. It was from these people that the suggestion came that Edenbridge should become a Fairtrade Town. They hoped to join an ever growing list of over 120 (as of February 2006 150, with Fairtrade sales increasing by 40% a year) towns and cities across the country which realise that, without the adoption of Fairtrade practices, those living in poorer countries will not be able to work their way out of poverty.
A steering group of people representing local interests was established in January 2005 with two purposes. Firstly to work towards achieving Fairtrade Town Status; and secondly to encourage wider participation and to monitor the future commitment of the town’s existing Fairtrade organisations and companies.
The Campaign, which developed a momentum all of its own because of the energy and support of key groups within the town, culminated on Monday 11th July 2005 in a new Town Council resolution agreeing to use and promote Fairtrade Mark goods, alongside their commitment to local producers. The Council had passed an initial supporting resolution back in November, and in between these two resolutions the other criteria were met.
Edenbridge Primary School became a Fairtrade School and has played a significant role since; with assemblies, projects, designing Fairtrade Town Logos, and providing excellent and thought provoking entertainment at the October Celebration. The town now has four Fairtrade Churches, and many other local organisations and companies are now using Fairtrade products.
Edenbridge shops are providing Fairtrade goods, with the Co-op stocking a large range. Local restaurants and cafés, BRIDGES, CARE Bistro and Haywards, all became Fairtrade outlets.
There was a wonderful endorsement event on 1st October, held in bright sunshine in the historic setting of the Doggetts Barn Precinct. The Town Clerk, Mike Downing, received the Fairtrade Town certificate on behalf of “The People of Edenbridge” from celebrity Richard Stilgoe. Primary School children received prizes for their Fairtrade Town logo designs from MEP Sharon Bowles. All were ably refreshed by a team from the CARE Community, using Fairtrade products donated by the Co-op. There was also an opportunity to shop early for Christmas at the Traidcraft stall while being entertained by local folk group Pig’s Ear.
Why the celebration? It’s not just that Edenbridge is the First Fairtrade Town in Kent (though the town is always happy to lead the way!), but that Edenbridge is helping in the attempt to MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY. When you buy Fairtrade Mark goods you are providing a stable and fair price for growers and small scale producers, safe working conditions for those employed and a social premium that is ploughed back into their local community.
This is not charity, it’s just playing fair, and Edenbridge is not alone as nearby Sevenoaks, Lingfield, Dormansland (and maybe soon Tandridge District) have all now achieved Fairtrade Status.
Keep up the good work!