I work for a Wales-based education and training organisation called Pontydysgu. As part of my role, I run learning projects engaging young people in the circular economy. In 2019, we received Erasmus+ funding to set up Circular Economy for Youth (CEYOU) – a project which connects and empowers young people to take positive action in their community and to come up with action plans to prevent further environmental damage.
Pontypridd Green Week evolved from our work with the CEYOU youth forum from Pontypridd. The young people had been meeting with politicians to create an action plan for change in the town, covering issues such as the need for more Terracycle collection points, creating a bill of rights for the Taf River, and encouraging more people to take up cycling.
Initially, when I set up Pontypridd Green Week, I was expecting to run a single event for the project, combined with some social media activity through the week. But it became much bigger, taking place for a whole week from 18-26 September 2021, in partnership with Climate Cymru and the local Friends of the Earth group.
We kicked off the week with a gig on the opening night with the former Future Generations Commission poet in residence Rufus Mustafa – a leading artist in promoting and mentoring young voices. This launched a wonderful, jam-packed programme of activities, workshops, art sessions and celebrations – including a fancy-dress litter-pick, a community engagement session from Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, a youth forum session, an upcycled art project, a Repair Café, clothes recycling workshops, and many more events and activities for people of all ages.
Local businesses really got into the spirit of Pontypridd Green Week and their support was invaluable. A local flooring shop donated carpet tiles to create a ‘red carpet’ for people to showcase their charity shop purchases; one of the shops in the market ran a recycled toys workshop and many of the shops on the high street had green themed window displays and activities in store to entertain and engage shoppers.
One of the many highlights of the week was a riverside litter pick, followed by a presentation of a ‘bill of rights’ for the River Taf, which flows through the heart of the town. The text for the rights is documented in a handmade scroll crafted from local plants and natural materials which will be presented in our local museum.
The week was a huge success, and we are now looking forward to Pontypridd Green Week 2022.
In the beginning, the most difficult part was trying to secure a venue for Pontypridd Green Week, especially due to COVID measures and restrictions. However, once we secured a venue – Clwb y Bont – for our opening night and for other events throughout the week, things got much easier.
It’s important to have a ‘hub’ for an awareness week – so that people know where to come for further information and to serve as a central space for activities such as workshops. Anything can work as an event hub – from libraries and community halls to pubs and even parks with marquees.
Social media was very useful in helping us raise awareness. I set up a Facebook group and a Facebook event, as well as a Twitter account, and before long, the word spread and people started messaging me, enquiring about how they could get involved. I also used my own network to generate interest. Our funds were limited, so the support we received from businesses, individuals, politicians, and the community were critical to our success.
Pontypridd Green Week took place as part of the national ‘Great Big Green Week’ Campaign. This was useful, as there was general awareness and interest in grassroots climate action and many people were keen to get involved on a local level. Over 5,000 events took place across the UK during the week, and we were proud to be involved in this fantastic event which was one of the biggest, greenest week-long activities the UK has ever seen.
It was difficult to measure exact numbers of engagement over the week, but over 200 people signed up for further information at Pontypridd Green Week 2021.