Youth leads the way at Alton’s Eco-Fair

Organised by ACAN with Alton Town Council, the Eco-Fair in the Public Gardens on 11th July included a colourful, vibrant mixture of things to hear, see and do.  Altonians and others from further afield poured in in their hundreds to hear the speeches, listen to the music, and visit the stalls.

A key aim of the Eco-Fair was to give young people a platform to share their views on the environmental crisis.  The younger generation were there in force.  Teenager Isabelle had devised the popular Nature Bingo nature trail.  Seven-year-old Valentina Lewis talked about her “Save the Planet” poster, on display in the marquee.  Equally heart-wrenching was the performance of SOS from the Kids, a children’s eco-band who reached the semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent in 2020.

Nine-year-old Frankie Morland sang two songs ‘A World in Danger’ and ‘The Ocean’, moving many to tears.   He is pictured here with MC Jerry Janes.

Pupils from Eggars and Amery Hill Schools spoke about their concerns and actions.  From Eggars, Daisy stressed the need to make sustainable choices in clothes, food and travel, Ellie urged us to eat less fish as fishing nets cause more plastic in the ocean than any amount of plastic bottles. ‘It’s scary living on a planet with a sell-by date’, she said, ‘so let’s do something about it.’  Lillie talked made an impassioned plea to reduce, reuse, and recycle.  “We all think we’re doing enough,” she said, “but in truth it’s not enough, and we must all ask ourselves what we have done to help.  We need also to take a political stand”, she said.

Amery Hill’s Eco-Union described their efforts to gain the Eco-Schools Green Flag status.  They began by initiating small changes and then involved the whole school. They are now proud to see the Green Flag flying outside their school. 

In the Art and Craft marquee visitors admired the work of local schoolchildren.  The centrepiece was a huge sculpture from waste by Becky Shaylor, of a shoal of 1,000 fish, all cut from drinks cans.

There were over 20 stalls, all with an eco-friendly theme.  Many were run by individual groups in the ever-growing ACAN network.  Several wildlife protection groups were represented.  All did a roaring trade.  One stall-holder commented: ‘There is a lovely vibe here.  People are so interested in the issues and keen to learn.’

The day’s talks and live music took place from the bandstand.  Opening the fair, Town Mayor Cllr Pam Jones quoted David Attenborough reminding us that: “The future of humanity and indeed, all life on earth, now depends on us.”

In the middle of the day, the bandstand was occupied by local musicians, including The Lürxx, who blended rock classics with their own original environmentally themed compositions; and The Band with No Name with renditions of golden oldies.

The day ended with a talk by the Director of the Gilbert White Museum and a performance by Alton Fringe Theatre of scenes from his life in Selborne.  300 years ago, Gilbert White wrote, ‘We shall never rule over nature and we must come to know this.’

For one visitor the Eco-Fair ‘represented the best that humans can be’, while for another it was ‘the best community event ever’.