Is Sidmouth already Solarpunk? We believe it is.
Once you strip out any overtly ‘political’ aspects of Solarpunk what you are left with is something which is almost quintessentially British, at least for our older generations of which we have a good complement!
The underlying beliefs of Solarpunk are very much ‘mend and make-do’; prepare food from scratch; use local and seasonal food supplies; support your own community and try not to depend too much on the outside world; keep your area (the bit outside your house and any shared areas) clean, tidy and maintained; look after your environment and your neighbours both young and old.”
We have so much that fits the Solarpunk ideal.
We have the Repair Cafe where people can learn to mend all sorts of things from electricals to clothing.
We have organisations like the WI who encourage people to pursue craft.
We have the fish cooking demonstrations at Sea Fest by Mary and Kay from Sidmouth Trawlers, and their school visits.
We have people working their allotments and we are also lucky to have lots of local farms.
We have many volunteer groups which are perhaps exemplified by Sid Valley Help which brings together many groups who provide assistance within the community.
We Have Sidmouth Voluntary Services and Victoria Hospital Comforts Fund.
We have the Plastic Warriors who work hard to keep our environment free of litter and plastic.
We have Churches with their communities ( St Giles and St Nicholas, All Saints, Emmanuel Baptist, The Church of the Most Precious Blood, Sidmouth Methodist Church, Evangel Church, Old Meeting Unitarian, St Francis of Assisi, Primley United Reform ), the food bank, youth clubs ( Youth Centre, Youth Cafe ) as well as many activities for younger people, like The Scouts.
We have art and photography clubs and training (Sidmouth Society of Artists, The Arts Society, East Devon Art Academy, Sidmouth Photographic Club,) celebrating the decorative elements for which Sidmouth is famous.
We have groups, and websites, (Sampson Society, SVA History Group, Drill Hall Research Site, Kennaway House, Royal Glen Hotel, Woodlands Hotel, Victoria Hotel, Belmont Hotel, Royal York and Faulkner Hotel, Bedford Hotel, Hunters Moon Hotel, Kingswood and Devoran Hotel, Entertainment, Friends of Glen Goyle, ) who have researched the history of Sidmouth and its architecture ( Listed Buildings, Cottage Ornée, Model Council Estate) and want to preserve it for sustainability reasons as well as history and design.
We have a Neighbourhood Plan.
We have people knowledgeable about alternative electricity production.
We have specialist builders who know old, sustainable building techniques which are coming back into favour for their insulation properties, for example building in earth and cob.
We have the Knitting Group.
We have the University of the Third Age (U3A) who have courses on jam making and preserving, amongst other things.
We have metalworkers, and mechanics, and loads of other craftsmen and women plying their trades in the town.
We are a Dementia Friendly Town, and have the Memory Cafe.
We are surrounded by an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and part of the World Heritage Jurassic Coast
We have the only Civic Arboretum in the UK Sidmouth Arboretum and the biodiversity group, Sid Valley Biodiversity Group
We have various annual festivals celebrating tradition and culture, and the Science Festival.
So how can we build on this?
Perhaps we can set up evening classes based on the categories covered by the Repair Cafe, so we have for example an evening class on electronic maintenance, or dress making/clothing repurposing, or simple cooking from scratch, or house maintenance.
We could set up junior branches of Sidmouth in Bloom, The Arboretum, Sid Valley Biodiversity Group and work with allotment holders to teach our youngsters about growing and seed collection. Perhaps we could have people growing just a couple of plants each for our annual displays which would allow SIB to have local plants rather than buying them or relying on EDDC Street Scene, if a group of neighbours, or a school class, had their own planter perhaps it would foster a community feeling and cut down on mindless vandalism? This would build on the plantings already done in Connaught Gardens by school children.
We could have an ‘open day’ once a month where experts and groups could be available for people to wander in and ask questions or see what is on offer. This would need to be somewhere really obvious like on the Market Place not hidden away in Kennaway House. Or perhaps it could be in town one month, on the Byes another month, Long Park or other sites where it will be obvious on other months. We could make our town more self-reliant.
Can we turn this to our economic advantage too?
All we need is to market what we have, ie architecture, arts, food, lifestyle, festivals, as Solarpunk; and add more festivals to the mix as we go along. Perhaps a Solarpunk version of this? Things which draw people to the town are good for job opportunities as well as other aspects of the economy.
Solarpunk also fits very well with our Science Festival which also began life as a Vision Group for Sidmouth project many years ago.
Solarpunk isn’t against innovation, in fact it embraces both it and new technology, but at the same time [to take from the quote below]: ‘Our future must involve repurposing and creating new things from what we already have (instead of 20th century “destroy it all and build something completely different” modernism).
Solarpunk is about finding ways to make life more wonderful for us right now, and more importantly for the generations that follow us – i.e., extending human life at the species level, rather than individually. Our future must involve repurposing and creating new things from what we already have (instead of 20th century “destroy it all and build something completely different” modernism). Our futurism is not nihilistic like cyberpunk and it avoids steampunk’s potentially quasi-reactionary tendencies: it is about ingenuity, generativity, independence, and community.