Cumbria Green Build & Sustainable Living Festival

An annual festival that's full of inspiring ideas and 'how to' skills for making homes, communities and businesses more sustainable.

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Cumbria's Green Festival Story

The Cumbria Green Build & Sustainable Living Festival is now in its 14th year, and is the region’s biggest annual celebration of low-energy homes and sustainable living, showcasing inspiring ideas and skills for greening up homes, communities and businesses.

The 2019 programme represented CAfS’ most ambitious and extensive festival so far, with events across Cumbria throughout September. The rebranding of the festival, adding ‘Sustainable Living’ to the original ‘Green Build’, reflects an increasingly diverse spread of events beyond just buildings and energy.

At the outset of planning for the 2019 festival, CAfS set the following principle objectives for the delivery of a successful programme:
• Raise awareness of climate science and practical solutions
• Stimulate action
• Share skills and create networks
• Showcase innovation, aiming to normalise low-carbon lifestyles and technologies
• Promote 'decade to zero' concept, aiming for Zero Carbon Cumbria
• Raise the profile of CAfS and funders/partners

The full festival programme of 50 events combined events directly managed by CAfS and external / 3rd party events, and comprised a total of 71 timed sessions.

Selected highlights from the events programme include:
• Open home visits ranging from renovations of traditional solid wall properties, to new builds (particularly Passivhaus principles) and upgrades to modern properties (particularly the addition of renewables & battery storage technologies).
• Headline strategic events on climate emergency responses, including the first 2 carbon & climate literacy courses in Cumbria (Kendal, Carlisle), and the first Cumbria Climate Emergency Action Summit (Carlisle).
• Skills workshops mostly proved very popular, e.g. the following all fully booked: lime working, solid wall insulation, foraging skills, 2 grow your own vegetable courses.
• Overall particularly high interest in food-related events (growing courses, garden visits, foraging, low carbon menus).

Last year, and in all previous years, they concentrated most of the events into an annual festival in September, but for 2020 they had hoped to offer events throughout the year instead, giving more people the chance to benefit from them. Unfortunately, plans were interrupted by Coronavirus, but some online events have continued and the hope is to begin face-to-face events again as soon as it is safe to do so.

Image credits: Cumbria Action for Sustainability.

Useful Learnings from Cumbria's Green Festival

The 2019 festival events programme was attended by over 1000 people, representing a step change increase v. previous years. The high attendance and enthusiasm across the programme demonstrate a growing awareness of and interest in all aspects of sustainability.

For festivals of this scope and scale, it is essential to begin planning as far in advance as possible, preferably more than 4 months ahead (which has typically been the case in previous years).

The scale of the festival programme necessarily needs to fit the available funding, balancing grant funding and sponsorship with additional income which can reasonably be raised from charging to attend selected events.
Festival promotion has used a broad variety of media, and notably the rise of social media advertising (particularly Facebook) has proved increasingly effective, rather than the time and cost of distributing flyers, posters, etc.
Switching event feedback away from paper-based surveys to an online evaluation tool would be very beneficial.

The full long-term implications of the COVID crisis are still being understood, but the pandemic has already proved to be a catalyst to move away from an exclusively face-to-face event programme to more online formats.

Cumbria's Green Festival's Metrics

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Climate emergency summit audience.
'There is no planet B' at the climate emergency summit audience.
Veg growing workshop.