The idea for Environmental Rock came from a student at the University of Southampton. A Master’s degree Engineering for Development student at the time, William Austen Bradbury was inspired by a song he had written reflecting his thoughts on the environment. In 2002/3 he applied to the Young People’s Trust for the Environment (YPTE) for a grant. He was successful in the application and was awarded around £3000 for developing the idea and running the event. YPTE also mentored him, and provided advice/ help along the way.
Austen’s initial idea was to provide a fun event that would attract a wide range of people and provide information about the environment while encouraging people to do their bit. The tag line he came up with was ‘combining entertainment and environmental awareness’, which sums it up quite well! He was also very keen on minimising the negative impacts of the event itself. He got the pub to start recycling their glass bottles, and got them to buy in organic and fair trade food and drinks for the day. Advertising banners were painted on old sheets, and information on the event website encouraged people to walk, cycle or get the bus to the event rather then drive. Although the event has since developed and expanded, the organisers still hold these ideals.
As far as memory serves, he organised the event pretty much alone. He arranged the stalls, got the bands signed up (performing for free), spoke to the Hobbit about using their venue, got environmental literature from various sources, etc. About 3 months before the date of the event, he engaged the help of some volunteers – largely students – to help publicise it. We put up posters in the local area and around Uni, and provided details to local media and music magazines. We also then helped out on the day to welcome people as they arrived, mark the ‘quiz sheet’ (aimed to get visitors to speak to stall holders and gain some new environmental knowledge), and handed out their free bar of organic chocolate (an incentive to go and speak to the stall holders!).
After the event, about a week later, Austen held a thank you party for all the volunteers, and we discussed how successful it had been – everyone we spoke to on the day was having a great time, the stallholders loved it, the Hobbit were impressed and the count on the door showed that over 450 people turned up! Hopefully some of the information and tips were taken on board to make Southampton a little bit greener. Austen mentioned how great it would be for the event to continue in future years, and so, the annual festival was born…