Green Futures Festival Inspires Action, Hope!

‘This is what is really happening… this is what you don’t see on the news.’ The attendee leaned in, whispering as if sharing a secret, towards the end of the Green Futures Festival. ‘Maybe it isn’t happening everywhere, but it’s happening here. It gives me hope.’

Such was the vibe at the Green Futures Festival held by the East Lothian Climate Hub on 16th March – a gorgeous day belying weather predictions of cold, wind, and rain. About 300 people made their way to Queen Margaret University in Musselburgh for the all day event. The curated programme featured dozens of talks ranging from international Climate Voices sharing the already lived experience of the drastic effects of the climate crisis, to hyperlocal guidance on breathing life into your own small garden. 

Diverse audiences, many admitting they were new to attending an event like this, found themselves engaged in conversations that spanned from open discussions with government representatives on high street revitalisation to the importance of handing down a safe planet to the younger generations. Each attendee found a connection to the cause following their own path. Children loved the event, fascinated by the cycle-driven ‘make-your-own-smoothie’ machine and the muddy and fun giant marble run. 

Getting some exercise and a nice snack from the smoothie bike at the Lil CIC stand

Some attendees didn’t even make it past the stalls, as there were so many stories of action and hope, energising the front room with a sense of belonging and wellbeing. It was a great chance to engage with passionate folks engaging our community. You could speak to and be heard by those leading significant initiatives, like refreshing long-standing attractions such as the John Muir Birthplace with an even more targeted message of sustainability, and those looking to make it as easy as possible for people to get the right information and advice about energy in their homes to simultaneously save money and ‘do their bit’ to reduce carbon emissions, like Insulating Innerwick.

There are so many people in East Lothian doing their best, in their ways, to resist and adapt to the climate crisis. To channel their grief and anger into positive practical action. To imagine and make real visionary schemes to transform our region for the better of the populace and the planet. One could understandably assume that this was the climactic event of years of planning, despite it being the Climate Hub’s first big public event. In many ways the Green Futures Festival was both a culmination of years of efforts, and a new beginning.

Where did the East Lothian Climate Hub come from?

The activity in East Lothian is special, but we do not act in isolation. Nearly every region of Scotland is covered by 20 similar Scottish Government-funded Climate Hubs at various stages of development. They each have their own story.

Our Hub has come into being as a collaboration between East Lothian Climate Action Network (ELCAN) and Lil CIC.

Sarah Bronsdon is the CEO of Lil CIC, a social enterprise which has been supporting people to take earth-positive action and simple steps towards a lower impact lifestyle since 2018. She and Jo Gibb (who helped set up Climate Action East Linton and is now one of the Hub’s Community Development Officers along with Tess Humble) tell us ELCAN’s origin story.

Sarah and Jo (far left) with Louise Hastie (Lil), Ian Malcolm (previous ELCAN Coordinator and Climate Friendly Aberlady), Ivy & Marilyn Bridges, Luna Morrison (Knox Academy Students) & Lorna Telford (FoEEL)

In 2019, the drums beating the urgency of the climate crisis were growing louder. Indeed, the East Lothian Council had just declared a climate emergency, acknowledging ‘the urgency of action and [committing] to do what we can.’ Inspired by a call to action by Mothers Rise Up, a number of local community groups organised East Lothian Rise Up!, a bringing together of people from across East Lothian asking the council to be more ambitious in their climate change strategy. Sarah remembers, ‘that was like our first festival. It was about the power of collaborative working, coming together… Ultimately, that’s how ELCAN came about.’

Following COP26 in 2021, the beating of the drums grew more symphonious, as SCCAN was invited by the Scottish Government to establish regional climate action hubs across Scotland. A 44-strong network of member organisations were already coalescing, so with further support from SCCAN and the formation of a steering group, Lil CIC stood up and took the responsibility to host the East Lothian Climate Hub.

‘The GFF is a beautiful initiative and I admired the community participation. Listening and sharing is the best way to promote the importance of how we can all contribute towards our environment, especially through personal stories and involvement. It was quite inspiring!’ 

Alethia Braganza, who shared with us her experiences of the impact of climate change in India

This is just the beginning. The Green Futures Festival was built from the skills, experience, passion, and activity already happening in East Lothian. With such strong seeds sprouting from such fertile soil, who knows what the Climate Hub and the communities it supports will be able to accomplish in the years to come?

The Hub is now fully staffed and enquiries from individuals, businesses, and community groups can be directed to