After widespread criticism in 2008 the Birmingham Climate Change festival kept a low profile in 2009, but this year it’s back complete with “solar powered green circs”, “green workshops” and a “solar powered stage with music” and though it’s been cropped from 9 days to a weekend its already clear that this wacky (and costly) spectacle is making a comeback.
Billed as “the world’s first climate change festival” back in 2008 Birmingham’s original effort was ridiculed not solely due to the £200,000 price tag but also due to the fact that even the Friends of the Earth poured scorn on the organisers’ rather obvious disregard for the festival’s carbon footprint. Error.
Residents and visitors to Birmingham were treated to an enormous pylon surrounded by corn (?!) in Victoria Square, various pink blobs scattered around the city with sanctimonious drivel (described by the website as ‘inspiration’) printed on them about the virtues of cycling and turning lights off, ‘waste sculpture’ and, perhaps most intriguing of all, ‘litter performance activities’. Festival bosses even boasted that they’d managed to get a whole 1500 to sign-up to a pledge to cut their carbon footprints (where are those people now??), exchanged 2,000 carrier bags for bags for life and 160 people took part in a “mass” tai chi session, but what that has got to do with climate change is anyone’s guess. I suppose it was just going that way.
At the time a council spokesman said that they looked forward to the festival being spun out to other cities in England and Europe. As we now know, they didn’t even follow their own lead the next year, no doubt cowed by almost universal disapproval.
So why is it back? Well it seems that they think this attempt to put Birmingham on the map still has legs but they are a little shy about it. In fact, though the new logo takes pride of place on the Birmingham City Council website, clicking through yields little information. A google around however reveals a little more than just the stagnant website, still online since 2008.
Alongside an Ethical & Fair Trade market (another issue lumped in with climate change) at this year’s event there will be a “green circus” and:
* Croissant Neuf Circus Big Top – The Worlds only wind and solar powered Circus Top.
* Green themed clown shows, juggling shows, recycling shows.
* Circus Skills workshops.
* Electric vehicles – Car, various bicycles, tricycles.
* Life size inflatable whales, dolphins, and porpoises.
* Renewable Energy display.
* Scrapstore Tent – make something out of waste!
* Sustainable Living exhibition – Local Agenda 21 explained in an easy to understand way.
* Solar powered Victorian Roundabout
* Central pond feature – with solar powered fountain.
With public finances as they are, who in their right mind thinks it appropriate for taxpayers to be shelling out for solar powered fountains and an inflatable porpoises? Well Birmingham City Council apparently...
And once this extravaganza (/freak show) has rolled in and out of town, what are the residents left with other than the bill and – at best – a handful of short-lived good intentions. Will Birmingham City Council change the world? Has climate change significantly bettered since this festivals last outing in 2008? Are there, indeed, any tangible benefits at all? No, of course not. It’s just another costly exercise in environmental tokenism for a council keen to polish it’s green halo, and a good opportunity for peddlers of beads, hemp products and scented candles to make a few extra bob.