Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Fair Traders Co-operative's First Birthday celebrations!

The Fair Traders Co-operative celebrates its first birthday during Holmfirth Arts Festival
If you like a good party, support fair trade or just enjoy piano music and cake, then you won’t want to miss The Fair Traders Co-operative’s first birthday party celebrations. These will be taking place as just one of the wide variety of fantastic events planned for Holmfirth Arts Festival’s Street Pianos project. Do come along and join in!

Holmfirth Street Pianos is an absolute must see event, running throughout the Arts Festival from 11th – 26th June 2011. In fact it’s not just about ‘seeing’, it’s about listening, discovering and getting involved. For the duration of the Arts Festival, five upright pianos will be placed around the streets of Holmfirth for anyone to play. As well as impromptu performances by the passing public, there will be organised events around each piano, from teddy bears’ picnics for tots, to pensioners playing the golden oldies; and from rock dads, to partying fair traders!
Each piano will be ‘themed’ to draw attention to the benefits of fair trade and sustainable living, and plenty of information will be available for people to find out more about the issues behind the themes. The ‘cotton piano’ will be decorated with vintage cotton patches and will be used to highlight the way conventional trade leaves millions of cotton farmers in poverty around the world. The ‘banana piano’ - and accompanying gorilla - will be difficult to miss, and will draw attention to the plight of struggling banana farmers. The ‘coffee piano’ will emphasize the scale of child labour involved in conventional coffee production and the ‘recycle piano’ may look like a pile of old junk, but will aim to make people think about the impact of our ‘disposable’ lifestyles.
And of course, the ‘party piano’, to be placed outside The Fair Traders Co-operative, will be festooned with balloons and bunting and will be the hub of the party – with plenty of fair trade cake and local beer available for those who like to indulge while they celebrate!

The Fair Traders Co-operative started trading a year ago as a result of investments from individuals, community groups, businesses and other co-operatives both locally and from further afield (our most distant investors are from a fair-trade banana farming community in the Caribbean). We sell fairly traded, ethical and sustainable products from the local area and producer groups across the world. The business now has nearly 500 members, an online store has been launched, and there is an ongoing programme of workshops and events held in the shop’s stone vaulted Community Room.
The focus of the birthday celebrations will be on Sunday 12th June; exactly one year after The Fair Traders Co-operative first opened its doors to the public. The party will be in full swing from 1pm to 4pm, complete with street entertainers, presents and music from local jazz band New Orleans Wiggle. And to tie in with the celebrations and with Holmfirth Arts Festival, there will also be a unique ‘living window display’ on 12th June in The Fair Traders Co-operative’s large window on Huddersfield Road.
Holmfirth Street Pianos is a partnership event between Holmfirth Arts Festival 2011 and The Fair Traders Co-operative. If you are interested in getting involved there are weekend workshops dedicated to decorating the pianos and generating interest, commitment and enthusiasm. Or else just come along and give us a tune during the festival fortnight. Find out more on our events calendar or on the Holmfirth Street Pianos facebook page.

Friday, 4 March 2011

March 2011

Well we’ve been a bit busy to update our blog but we thought it was time to share what has been happening with you all.

It’s been a long winter but this has meant our cosy velvet and cord have been hot sellers all through the cold winter months.

The country has gone bunting crazy for Fairtrade Fortnight and our beautiful handloom has been winging its way to schools and community groups all over the country, all taking part in the Fairtrade Foundation’s campaign to create the world’s longest string!!

Our fashion show kits have been especially popular this year and they are currently out on tour – look out for an event near you and a chance to see the clothes in the flesh – and maybe even try them on!

Now at last spring is coming and with the focus on Fairtrade cotton our SpringCollection is, as we speak on its way from India and will be in our shops next week. The colours this year are vibrant greens, purples and turquoises inspired by the lovely colours on the Island of Crete – have a look and see what takes your fancy!

We are continuing our programme of updating our shops, the Totnes shop has recently been repainted in our new smart cream and grey livery – if you are on holiday in the area why not pop in and pay a visit and say hello to Karen our manager there.

She can even offer you a place to stay in her newly opened, green bed and breakfast – Birds Rest - you even get to sleep under our beautiful organic cotton duvet covers!

Finally and sadly we are having to close our Malmesbury shop – we are all disappointed at this – but there is still time to pick up some fantastic bargains before we close the doors at the end of March.

We’ll try and be back with more regular updates – so come back and have a look soon!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Autumn Update!

Well George left us at the beginning of September and moved north to Newcastle. Since then we have been so busy we have neglected our blog, so we had better tell you some of the things we have been up to.

September is the start of a new season for us when lots of our fabulous Fairtrade organic cotton clothes, bags and household items are delivered. This autumn we have a wonderful colour palette of rich autumn reds, greens and blues and in addition to our trademark handwoven fabric, we also have sumptuous organic velvets and soft organic needlecords in our range.

It all started with a container arriving from KV Kuppam with over 450 or our big boxes to unload and unpack. We quickly set to with a team of willing helpers, everyone mucks in from directors to Saturday girls and friends. We distributed these goods to our wholesale customers all over the country and indeed many in Europe and further afield.

We put together our fashion show kits which are so popular with Fairtrade groups everywhere, and of course we stocked up our shops which are always busy.

At the end of September, Carolyn Whitwell, our founder travelled to KV Kuppam to spend some time with our producer partners.

On 6 October we exhibited at the Ethical Fahsion Forum Source Expo in Westminster. It was a very busy and well attended event. We had masses of interest in our Fairtrade certified organic cotton fabrics and have already received some orders. There was a wonderful array of eithical products from bags and buttons to hangers and hats from every corner of the globe.

Last week a further 110 large boxes arrived and we expect more at the end of this week, our warehouse is a very busy and crowded place at the moment. It generally takes us 2 days to turn around a delivery this size. Last week we despatched organic cotton velvet and corduroy fabric and clothes to Estonia, Germany, Holland, France, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Finland, and probaly several more which I can’t remember!

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

The Patchai Kili Play Centre and Centre for the Elderly

As keen readers of George’s blog will know, Bishopston Trading Co has its origins in the Bishopston Kuppam Link, which was established in 1978 as – at the time - quite a groundbreaking link between Bishopston and a small village community in a developing country. Carolyn Whitwell was one of the three founders of this link, and I was another. I remained very active in the Link until 2004, when my husband and I (who by then made up one sixth of the remaining committee) retired to the SW of France.

My first visit to the village was in 1991. Tragically Barbara Jennings who worked in the Glastonbury BTC shop had been killed just before Christmas 1990 on her way to work. Her husband asked for donations in her memory, to the work of the Link, and with this seed money we were able to set up a small play centre in KVKuppam. Subsequently further small versions of the play centre were established in several other villages in the area and I visited over the years to do further training with the teachers. When we wound up the Link in 2004, we decided to put the money remaining in funds towards building a purpose-built play centre which could later become a model centre for training in the play approach to early childhood learning.

Last January we visited for a month and during this time the play centre was set up, equipped and teachers selected and given rudimentary training. We have just come back from a second visit when we were able to see how well the work of the centre was going and to give some guidance for future development. As you can see from the photos, there are some very happy children clearly enjoying their play in the Patchai kili centre. The name incidentally means Green Parrot in Tamil. If things go to plan we will return next year to set the centre up for training other nursery teachers, and thus disseminate the methods more widely. Learning through play is not traditional in India but in recent years has begun to be practised.

In addition this year we opened the centre for a second use, thanks largely to a generous donation from the South Indian Rural Development trust, which is the charity set up by Bishopston Trading Ccompany and into which all profits not used to grow the business are put. The other room in the building is to be a day centre for elderly people who will come five mornings a week to meet together, to play games, to read the newspaper and to watch television. The ayah who looks after the play centre will also make snacks and hot milk for the elderly people. Just before we left the village we were able to meet those who have been chosen to benefit, six women and four men who seemed very happy to be offered this.

The centre is set, as you will see in the photo above, in a grove of coconuts. It is on the outskirts of Seetaramanpet which is near K V Kuppam. The other village from whom children and old people are drawn is Kamanchemanpet, and both villages share the management of the work of the centre. They are both traditionally weavers’ villages and many of the families are dependent on Bishopston Trading Co for their livelihoods. As you can see, and as is very obvious to us during our visits to the area, Bishopston Trading has made such a difference to the lives of many families over the years, in many different ways.

Sally Whittingham

Friday, 30 July 2010

Lighting Candles in K.V.Kuppam

As many of you will know, Bishopston Trading Company grew out of a twinning link that was established in 1978 between the area of Bishopston in Bristol and the South Indian village of K.V.Kuppam. The twinning link is still going strong, and two of its most active members are Sally Whittingham and Pam Morris. Here is something Pam recently wrote for us about one of the projects she runs.

The One Candle Project

“In our village so many poor people are not able to study. Parents have so many dreams about their children’s future. They can only able to dream because they are very poor, but now because of you they are fulfilling their dreams........ Not only you’re fulfilling their dreams, actually you’re fulfilling their golden dreams because you are giving a very good education in English Medium........You people have a place in our heart.”

(Extract from a letter from Balaji who lives in Seetharamanpet village and is a member of the One Candle Fund committee)

In 2004 my husband Brian and I spent several months in the K V Kuppam area, researching many aspects of daily life in order to produce our web site

Whilst carrying out our research, we made friends with a large number of families. We were shown great hospitality and were privileged to hear about the hopes and fears of these families, both from parents and children. Over time, we began to hear more and more distressing stories of hardships, sometimes caused by illness or death. In times of trouble, people usually strive to help out family members if possible as there is no welfare state safety net for this community.

The concept of the One Candle Project arose out of a desire, shared by other visitors from Bishopston, to do something to help out, specifically when family problems mean that it becomes difficult or impossible to keep a child in education. After discussion with Mr Immanuel, who is the administrator of the Rural Unit for Health and Social Affairs (RUHSA), the development organization based in K V Kuppam Block, the simple structure of the One Candle Project was agreed. We made a bursary available for families who would otherwise not be able to afford to support their children to continue in school. This is for approximately £20-£25 per year and is paid by cheque directly to the children we support and administrated by me with a committee of people from the community and Rural Community Officers from RUHSA. We are extremely fortunate to have the support of RUHSA and some excellent local people. We started with eleven children in 2004 and this number has risen each year as we have been able to raise the funds to support the project. The aim of the fund is simply to enable children from lower income families to complete their education and when a child is granted a bursary we commit to supporting them each year.

In January 2010 we once again visited India and celebrated six years of this successful project with almost one hundred children attending a gathering in the new Pachai Kili Centre which houses the play centre and our new centre for the elderly. The One Candle Fund is now helping sixty children and we are extremely grateful to Bishopston Trading Company for their recent generous support which enables us to help an additional thirty four children from weaving families. It was heart warming to meet so many young ‘Candles’ and to hear them express their thanks so eloquently. It is very humbling to realise what a difference a relatively small amount of support can make. If anyone would like to know more about The One Candle Project, The Pachai Kili Play Centre and/or the latest exciting project with the elderly I would love to hear from you. Also if anyone would like to support us please get in touch.

There are further details about the One Candle Project online here, and Pam welcomes emails from interested people:

Sally's daughter, Rosie, will be running the Indian Queen's Half Marathon on August 1st and all funds she raises will be donated to the projects run by Sally and Pam in K.V.Kuppam. Sponsorship donations can be placed online here.

The Bishopston-Kuppam link is a registered charity (number 283659).

The One Candle Project takes its name from a saying sometimes attributed to Gandhi:

‘It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness’

Monday, 26 July 2010

Bishopston Trading Opens in Clifton

On Friday of last week we opened the doors of our new outlet store in Clifton village, Bristol. The shop can be found at 14 Clifton Down Road, see here for a map of the area. The shop is just open for four weeks, and is full of our organic Fairtrade cotton clothing at reduced prices. We're very happy to be adding this temporary outlet to our chain of shops as part of the celebrations of our 25th anniversary. Our other shops can be found in Bishopston-Bristol, Bradford on Avon, Glastonbury, Malmesbury and Totnes.

For 25 years this year, we have worked in partnership with the South Indian village of K.V.Kuppam, providing long-term, stable employment to hundreds of local villagers. The original inspiration for the business was a simple statement made by one of the villagers that as skilled craftspeople they need work not charity: this has remained the founding principle of the business since then.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Career Opportunity with Bishopston Trading

We are currently looking for a dynamic person with retail sales experience to lead the team in our Malmesbury store. This is great opportunity for someone who is motivated by Fair Trade and passionate about fashion to join our pioneer Fair Trade company.

Have a look here for further details.