Flying high at Blue Sky Festival

Mundaring comes together to celebrate community and promote sustainability

True to its name, the Blue Sky Festival was a sunny affair, in more ways than one. A demonstration of the power and joy of community, this local sustainability festival was a celebration of the environment and people. And the residents of Mundaring and beyond embraced this inaugural event with gusto.

Spreading its message of environmental sustainability from one end of Mundaring’s beautiful Sculpture Park to the other, there were a myriad of workshop and presentation spaces, busy bee tents, information stands, stalls, food vendors and fundraising groups.

Funky tunes from the delightfully exuberant Charlie McGee and his Formidable Vegetable Sound System kept visitors’ toes tapping for several sets throughout the day on the music stage along with roving musicians Junkadelic. Local resident and media personality Peter Holland can always be relied upon to bring his dulcet tones to the job of MC.

But more importantly, this event was the brainchild of several local environmentally-conscious groups whose volunteer members are to be congratulated for the countless hours of work they put in to make this incredible labour of love a reality.

In their own words:

Early in 2016, a group of passionate Hills folk met to consider ways of connecting different environmental groups so that we could better network and further develop our beautiful hills environment and community into the future. Representatives from Mundaring in Transition, Glen Forrest Community Garden, The Hills Sustainability Group, The WA Branch of the Wildflower Society, EMRC and the Shire’s Environmental Advisory Committee met monthly and, over several months, decided it was time to have a festival.

The Blue Sky Festival has evolved since then and its development has been a massive learning curve for all involved. It is also hugely rewarding and we are very much looking forward to seeing lots of activity in the heart of Mundaring on the 17th March.

Community collaboration

For reasons of budget but also to truly reflect the collaborative and local nature of the event, organisers called upon the talents and passions of a diverse mix of ‘ordinary’ people within the community to step up and share their ideas, skills and expertise.

Food Security: Starting A Conversation

Jeff and I have been loosely involved over the years with several sustainability-aligned groups including Mundaring in Transition, Hills Local Permaculture Group, Transition Guildford and Hills Sustainability Group. Through those connections, we were asked to present on one of our pet topics: food security. Not wanting to misrepresent ourselves as experts in the field, we gave our talk the title: “Food Security: Starting a Conversation”. We had a half decent group (I wouldn’t call it a crowd – thank you friends) as we tried to remember how to speak in public again…it’s been a while!

The global context

After a brief introduction, Jeff attempted to define the complex topic of food security and then set it within its global context with a concise explanation of the industrial food system and the economic, political, environmental and historical forces that impact on it. He touched on the emerging regenerative agriculture industry that we see as a beacon of hope among the devastating statistics of human and environmental health degradation that accompany the industrial agriculture model.

As an urban planner and architect, Jeff’s area of expertise and interest is in urban and regional planning for food and how to integrate responsible developments for a growing population within the context of sustainable food production. There is much more to be done in this space and I hope he will be one of the leading lights!

Local community and household resilience

He passed the talk over to me to discuss the benefits of sourcing food locally and household resilience. I presented listeners with a few ideas, simple tips and some examples of what we have done in our personal household. I also touched on just a few of the initiatives gaining traction in our local area of Mundaring and the broader Perth Hills region including:

  • Food swaps – Hills Food Share (third Sunday of the month)
  • Community seed banks – Mundaring in Transition has just launched a communal seed bank in partnership with the Mundaring Library to encourage locals to plant their own gardens.
  • Farmers markets – Mundaring and Kalamunda
  • Community gardens – Glen Forrest
  • CSA (community supported agriculture) groups
  • Buyers’ clubs (bulk meat) – Southamption Homestead, Woodglen Beef
  • Map of local producers – one of the great initiatives by Mundaring in Transition at this event is putting together a map of the Shire of Mundaring that shows the location of local producers to help us find them.

You never know what sort of audience you’re going to get at a forum like this, which makes it difficult to pitch the right tone and content. I felt like I was telling my ecologically-minded, DIY audience how to suck eggs, but they all nodded politely so I think I got away with it. I figure it’s all good presentation practice anyway, which is what I’ve been preaching to my two young sons who just completed their school public speaking competition.

While I admit that Jeff drew me into this not entirely voluntarily, I’m glad I participated, regardless of the value I may or may not have contributed. For me, it was a great opportunity to:

  • talk about my passion for sustainable food systems, permaculture and growing food
  • volunteer my time (which I don’t do enough)
  • get involved in my local community
  • contribute to a grass roots cause that’s trying to make a positive difference to our world.

There’s a scent of change in the wind

It’s probably confirmation bias, but I think the Blue Sky Festival tapped into a growing shift in thinking that’s shunning overt consumerism, and wasteful and environmentally damaging behaviour. The more I read in books, newspapers and online, the more it feels like the pendulum is swinging back towards valuing the simple things in life: home-grown and home-made, connecting with neighbours and community, wanting less and getting more.

Sometimes the world in which I’m bringing up my kids terrifies me. But more often, I am filled with gratitude and joy for the amazing life we lead and the plethora of opportunities available to us. I hope that we can right this ship so that in 20 or 30 years’ time my kids’ generation won’t despise us for leaving them a ruined planet.