Changes Start with... THE SPARK "at the heart of the alternative west country"

The Spark Awards 2013

There’s been plenty to celebrate at The Spark recently – our 20th anniversary for starters. But as we head into our 21st year we wanted to find a different way to celebrate all that’s great and good (and green) in Sparkland. Which is how our Beccy came up with the marvellous idea of launching our very own Spark awards.

But how were we to decide who has the best course, which restaurant offers the best locally-sourced food or who deserved special mention as this year’s Green Hero? Simple: we didn’t. We left it up to you. Announcing our intentions in the last issue, and plugging the idea furiously through Twitter and Facebook – we left it up to you, our lovely readers, to nominate who (or what) you thought deserved recognition for all they have achieved in the last year. And the nominations flooded in: Darryl’s inbox has been bombarded with suggestions for the Best Green Initiative and the Best Community Group.

So here are the winners (and runners-up) of the first ever annual Spark Awards. Please support these great people, groups, projects and initiatives and start thinking about which you would like to nominate next year.

Congratulations to all of the award-winners and a special award from us to all of our readers just for being you!

The out and out winner here was Hawkwood, the residential learning centre near Stroud. A registered charity and an independent centre for adult education, Hawkwood has a packed programme of courses, including personal and spiritual development, arts & crafts, music, health & well-being as well as nature and sustainability. “It is just the best place in the world to be going to work to in the morning,” says Hawkwood’s principle, Alicia Carey. “We have a great team of people working here who truly care about our place.”
“Facilities are excellent, staff are responsive and super helpful, they always go out of their way to accommodate us and can’t be faulted,” adds Rhonda West Pollard of the National Trust.

(photo: Alicia & Katie from Hawkwood)

Runners up in this hotly-contested category were Bath’s Green Park Station, which is managed by the Ethical Property Company and provides office space for small businesses as well as hosing a weekly farmer’s market, and Bristol’s La Ruca, the family-run café, deli, meeting room and centre for all things South American.

Organic fruit and veg wholesalers Sunseed Organics - based in St Phillips, Bristol – came out top here, with readers enthusing about the great price of their organic veggies. Says Sunseed’s Kerstin Schmidtke: “The Sunseed Organics people are thrilled to be nominated for this award and believe that this nomination reflects Bristolian’s appreciation of the wide range of organic fruits and vegetables that we offer at wholesale prices. Thank you Bristol & the South West for your kind nomination.”

(photo: lovely veggies at Sunseed)

Our two runners-up were the Square Food Foundation, Bristol’s groundbreaking cookery school where all of the profits from their paid cookery master classes go directly to support their work in the community. The wonderful Star Anise Arts Café in Stroud also proved popular with readers, especially for their family-friendly storytelling and music sessions.

When told they had won, Catherine Jameson, of Bramble Farm, told us: “We are absolutely delighted to be recognised by the Spark and Spark readers! Best community group! We have had a couple of difficult years on the farm...a poor growing season last year, difficult onsite conditions followed by a spate of animal attacks this year, animal feed and bedding cost increases and an increase in rent. But that’s all behind us now! Onwards and upwards. The overwhelming support shown to us by the community after the attacks and now with this award gives us the strength to carry on. We hope Bramble Farm will grow, develop and continue to be a feather in the cap of Knowle and Filwood ward. We would love our farm to become the heart of the community and this award spurs us on to continue to find ways in which to do this. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this award which we receive with pride and gratitude.
Please join our online forum group, Friends of Bramble Farm on Facebook for details of our local meat sales, open days and general discussion of all things farm and nature related.”

(photo: Catherine from Bramble Farm)

Runners up in the community group award are: The Bristol Bike Project, which repairs and relocates unwanted bicycles, helping people from all walks of life get out on two wheels. The community project also teaches useful, practical skills to recovering substance-users, people with mental health problems and learning difficulties in a positive, supported environment. The Reader Organisation is a charitable social enterprise which works nationwide to connect people with great literature through shared reading.

It probably comes as no surprise that the group behind the winning bid to have Bristol crowned European Green Capital 2015 should have won this section. Bristol beat Brussels, Glasgow and Ljubljana: it was the third time Bristol had entered the competition. Congratulations all round!

Runners-up here were online lobbyists 38 Degrees, the UK-based not-for-profit political activism organisation that campaigns on issues including the environment and climate change, and Avaaz, the global organisation that promotes activism on issues such as human and animal rights. The work that Frack-Free Somerset has been doing to try to prevent fracking in Sparkland was also highlighted by Spark readers.

Winner Light Box is a not-for-profit Community Interest Company (CIC) that works with a variety of support services in Bristol. Through workshops and signposting services its three-year Happiness Project promotes a step-by-step approach to wellbeing. “Thank you for nominating Light Box for a Spark award,” says Lucy Duggan. “We’ve been doing this for nearly four years now, have had over a thousand people take part and heard some amazing stories of change along the way. The people who come to our workshops never stop amazing us and we are still enjoying it so much."

(photo: Lucy Duggan from Light Box)

Leading UK dance movement psychotherapy (DMP) practitioners Dance Voice provide a dedicated training centre for masters level and national certificate courses. Our second runner-up, Mindfulness-West, offers courses, workshops, and one-to-one mindfulness coaching in Gloucestershire, Central Bristol and points beyond.

Dr Gabriel Scally who, you might recall, was interviewed in The Spark earlier this year, becomes our inaugural Local Hero. Dr Scally is the former Regional Director of Public Health for the South-West of England who left the Department of Health after becoming disillusioned with planned changes to the NHS and gained a reputation as a whistleblower, campaigning against what he saw as ‘the demolition of the NHS and the public health system’.

(photo: Dr Gabriel Scally)

Lots of nominations in this section, with George Ferguson, Bristol’s first elected, independent Mayor coming a close second to Dr Scally and local food heroes The Haughton Family – Barny (Bordeaux Quay/Square Food), Phil (Better Food Company/Community Farm) and Liz (Folk House Café) – who collectively deserve honourable mention.

We received an amazing number of nominations for Green Gathering, the family-friendly festival where performance meets permaculture, with one reader singling the festival out for ‘being resilient and important enough to come back after being shafted, bankrupted and silenced by the authorities (and) for creating a space where activists can play, bond and share skills, thus making the world a better place.’

Your other favourites included the ‘amazing’ kid’s workshops at Buddahfield, the alcohol-free festival which allows people to practise and learn about meditation and Buddhism, and the child-friendly films and workshops put on  by Bristol’s Watershed arts centre. “They theme them, so it’s always really interesting,” a Spark reader tells us, “For example you might get a shadow-puppet film followed by chance to create your own shadow animation afterwards.”

Featured in this issue of The Spark, Bristol Solar City (BSC) are the winners of our Best Green Initiative award. Made up of a group of local organisations united by the goal of seeing Bristol become the UK’s solar capital, BSC aims to install 1GW of solar PV locally by 2020.

A project that has proved very popular with Spark readers is the Golden Hill Community Garden in Horfield, Bristol. Says Spark reader Jo Sampson: “My children have enjoyed really fabulous holiday activity days and events which have taken them back to nature. With lots of things to do including growing, pond dipping, making pizzas in the frog oven, it is a brilliant local community resource and deserves this accolade for the sheer hard work the people involved have put in.” Also mentioned in dispatches was Folly Farm, a stunning 250-acre nature reserve close to both Bath and Bristol, owned and managed by Avon Wildlife Trust.

Community Conscious is a not-for-profit project based at Hamilton House in Bristol, offering a range of complementary treatments, massage, mindfulness practice and yoga to people in Bristol who face issues of isolation, unemployment and family breakdown. “It means so much to us to be picked for the Holistic Health Award,” says Nealey Conquest of Community Conscious. “We are proud to have received an overwhelmingly positive response from our clients so far and are committed to making a difference to the lives of many other disadvantaged groups across Bristol.”

Similarly, Your Community Clinic works throughout the city providing low-cost treatments for people on low incomes. There were many nominations in this section, but the Sam Buxton Sunflower Healing Trust (which supports cancer patients and their families by providing funds to employ complementary therapists in the NHS and in hospices) and Penny Brohn Cancer Care – the local charity which helps people to live with the impact of cancer through physical, emotional and spiritual support designed to work alongside medical treatment – both rated highly.

This was another hotly-contested award, and by far and away the greatest number of nominations which came in to The Spark office were for Shambala – a number of people also put the festival forward for the Best Green Initiative award, thanks to their Bring a Bottle campaign, where organisers banned the sale of bottled water on site. Loved and renowned for its fancy dress, join-in, feel-good vibe, some of the festival’s followers were cautious about sharing their best-kept secret.
“Shambala is really thrilled to be nominated in the first Spark Awards,” says Sidharth Sharma Creative Director of Shambala Festival. “We have always had great respect for the ethos of The Spark Magazine, and always love reading the inspiring stories, showing us what sort of planet we could be living on if we put our minds to it.”

The biggest event of Bristol’s year also had a big impact on Spark readers: the Gromit Trail – raising funds for Bristol Children’s Hospital – was a huge success and brought hundreds of thousands of extra visitors to the city in search of the Aardman Animation dog. Finally, another wonderful enterprise that our readers brought to our attention is the Copa Sandino/Copa Lucrecia Lindo - two Football for Nicaragua events that have taken place in Bristol each May since 1987. Latino food, drink and music flows all day and this year the men’s tournament raised £1,500 towards the building of a pre-school for under fives and the women’s tournament raised £500 for a girls football and personal development project in Nicaragua.

(photo: Shamabalans overjoyed at winning!)