In January we introduced the FIG Tree international visitor centre in Garstang – a community interest company, set up by Bruce Crowther and other local people.
Since it was set up in 2011 it has:
- Attracted over 12,000 local, national and international visitors including a visit from the Mayor of Poços de Caldas, the first Fair Trade Town in Brazil and an international delegation with representatives from France, Germany, Poland, Japan, Korea and Brazil.
- Engaged and recruited a team of almost 40 local volunteers aged 16 – 68, some of which have received training and taken part in visits e.g. attending a Fair Trade course at Liverpool Hope University and visiting Ironbridge Gorge Museums and World Heritage Site.
- Created one full-time job and two part-time.
- Created a Community Hub – a place for local people to gather – as collective or as individuals and even reducing social isolation.
- Promoted local heritage demonstrating the amazing Garstang world’s first Fair Trade Town story and the heritage themes around the abolition of the British Atlantic Slave Trade and Quakers.
- Worked with businesses locally and nationally to promote fair trade, local produce and Corporate Social Responsibility e.g. Pipers Restaurant, Crofters Hotel, Old Holly Farm, Dewlay Cheese, Lanes Vets, Garstang Cars, Colin Cross Printers, Bolling Coffee, Lorna Young Foundation, Oromo Coffee Company, Just Change Tea, Divine Chocolate, Fiddlers Crisps, The cooperative, Sainsburys etc
- Hosted four half day school visits and held twelve full day Chocolate Making Workshops providing schools in the area and beyond (all Garstang Primary Schools and schools from Gt. Eccleston, Nateby, Goosnargh, Barton, Galgate, Fleetwood, Wigan and Wakefield) with an education on Heritage, History, Geography, Global Citizenship, Citizenship and Voluntary Service.
- Launched the free Oware Club for all ages and the Kid’s Club held regularly on the first and third Saturday of each month respectively.
- Sold over £47,000 worth of products and gifts (fair trade and local where possible) in the café and shop.
- Attracted over £50,000 in grants and donations (local, national and international) including £33,300 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for our Fair Trade, Slave Trade and Quaker project.
- Held fair trade events including Coffee at The FIG Tree to promote Oromo and Grumpy Mule coffee, Tea at The FIG Tree to promote Just Change tea and an Open Day supported by the Cooperative, Sainsburys and Dewlay local cheese makers. At the Open Day the Mayor of Garstang was one of the first in the world to sign the Fair Trade Beyond 2015 declaration to be presented to the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York in September 2013.
- Hosted an Oikocredit photographic exhibition and a Lancaster Global Link exhibition on coffee.
As the Executive Director, Bruce spoke on behalf of The FIG Tree at the United Nations UDP-NGO conference and the European Parliament Breakfast in Brussels, the 6th International Fair Trade Towns Conference in Poznan, Poland, the US 1st Fair Trade Towns conference, the Swedish Fair Trade Forum, the 100 Fair Trade Towns in Germany celebrations, the Act4 Masterclass on fair trade in Antwerp, the Aware and Fair conference in Hanover Fair Trade Week in Seoul, South Korea and more recently at the WFTO Conference and Global week of Fair Trade in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The Fig Tree’s main challenges for the future are:
- To obtain funding and increase income to ensure long term sustainability for The FIG Tree.
- To secure premises for The FIG Tree beyond the termination of our present lease in November 2014.
After years working part-time as a vet and part-time as the Fairtrade Foundation’s Towns Co-ordinator, Bruce’s time is now devoted to The FIG Tree (very proud to sell LOCAL PRODUCE as well as Fair Trade) and his international Fair Trade Towns work. He is also keenly aware of the need for farmers in this country to get a fair price for their produce. Those who would like to read more Bruce’s about thinking on this subject, presented at Lancaster University, can do so here.