Monday, 22 October 2007

Dott Festival | Day 7

Today's Dott Debate was on Food Systems and Cities. The Debates were opened with a guest speaker from Toronto, Chris Hardwicke, who took us through some interesting initiatives of the city's involvement in food systems.

Ulla-Maaira Mutanen from Helsinki then spoke about the coupling of mobile phone technology to deliver information by pointing at and scanning RFID tags on products.

I quite like the idea of being able to know the origin of products, how far its travel and the personal stories behind them, all of which may be shared through this technology through word, images and sound.

If 'markets are conversations' (Locke, Searles and Wienberger) then this technology can help ordinary people see the stories of products and also bring people together. Ulla made some interesting points around social networks and the fact that companies cannot buy or control the stories that people share.

After a short break, John led a panel discussion with Tim White, Director of Regeneration from Middlesbrough Council, Chris and Ulla.

Tim spoke about his experience on the Dott 07 Urban Farming project having 'been an eye-opening experience' because initially the Council had thought 'very little' about food. Here's more of what I managed to capture from Tim...

'What came into my office were off-the-wall ideas for growing food in town... I thought it wouldn't work... but was carried along by the enthusiasm... and I was please to see it work well. Our role was to push along [the project] and open the door...Middlesbrough was a grassroots-driven activity. We need to go forward like this in future years...'

Urban Farming

After lunch, the Urban Farming project team gave us an in depth look at the project. Seeing as I have posted the Urban Farming project space pictures up in a previous post, I thought I would document here what will be happening next.

Ian Collingwood, a regeneration consultant who was was integral in making the Urban farming project happen, mentioned that the project concept 'fits strategically with the local area agreement' as it contributes to:

- education and learning
- making the community safer and stronger
- health in the region
- involvement of older people
- economic viability

Ian spoke of the legacy Urban Farming has already begun to leave behind, such as:

- the local health authorities who have set aside money to provide 6 local schools with allotments to grow food for the students to eat
- the development of a Jamie Oliver Fifteen-style restaurant to help put 15-19 year olds in jobs where they cook local food for the town
- the beginnings of a food co-op, where all the money it makes, is put back into the community to help lift people out of poverty through setting up credit unions
- developing ideas around a database for the skills of the growers, so knowledge on growing food can be shared
- organising a Christmas Dinner for the schools where celebrity chefs help cook the food that has been growing since the end of Summer.

Some of the previous Dott Debates had mentioned that while the Dott Festival closes this Sunday this was not the end, but only the beginning. The continuing activities and initiatives from the Urban Farming project in Middlesbrough couldn't be clearer evidence of this fact.

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