SECA founder members Carrie Cort and Nicola Peel have found a fun and effective way of spreading climate awareness with a roadshow performed from a converted milkfloat. The Bright New Future Roadshow is an idea that grew out of the Education break-out group at SECA’s 2020 annual meeting. And while Carrie and Nicola’s project is limited by the range of the milkfloat’s electric motor, their use of the arts to engage audiences on green issues is an idea that they believe other SECA groups could emulate.
“It’s visual, fun and show stopping. People are bored of gazebos,” says Nicola. She found that the term “climate emergency” put people off instead of drawing them in, so the challenge was to make a serious topic fun and engaging, offering a positive vision of the future that helps communities feel empowered.
Looking for something green but mobile, they hit on the idea of a milkfloat, and after a search for an affordable one, Carrie found a 1974 model in Lancashire which was driven down to Sussex on a trailer. They named it the Inspiration Eco Station and Carrie and Nicola spent the winter fitting it out with the help of a friend who’s a professional set designer. They teamed up with Movingsounds and the Woodland Theatre Lorry to add music and theatre to the offering “like the circus is coming to town”. Flashing lights and a speaker enable them to make a showstopping entrance, and on the way back from a show they’ve been known to drive along Worthing seafront blasting out their signature “Be the Change” song by local composer Emily Barden, drawing people out of the pubs to see what all the noise is about.
In the project’s first year they were invited to Amberley Museum, Rampion Windfarm Visitor Centre and numerous schools and village fetes. The milkfloat has a maximum speed of 20mph and a range of just 25 miles, which mostly limits it to Horsham District, though it sometimes ventures further afield on a trailer pulled by a Land Rover powered by biodiesel.
The roadshow’s attractions include yards of bunting, a retrofitted dolls house that illustrates green living, and mannequins displaying eco clothing. Activities include the Wheel of Eco Fortune gameshow, which spins a wheel to select a discussion topic, and Eco Inventions Bingo, with an antique bingo machine that picks random items and challenges the audience to combine them, illustrating the inventive thinking needed to solve environmental problems. Clive Cobie of Woodland Theatre teaches about biodiversity and food chains, while Nicola’s speciality is biomimicry, using Nature’s best biological ideas to solve human problems, and Keith Ellis of Movingsounds adds music. Nicola and Carrie are approved South Downs National Park environmental educators and able to take advantage of their in-school grants.
Carrie runs Sussex Green Living and the roadshow ties into her wider vision of helping communities create action plans to develop holistic, sustainable, resilient and thriving futures. The roadshow encourages creation of repair cafes, men’s sheds, exchanges of clothes, books or seeds, and community gardens and orchards, aiming to bring people together, combat loneliness, and spark further activity. Clive encourages planting of native tree circles that will grow up to become natural theatre spaces – Billingshurst last year planted a ring of apple trees which will grow up to create a community theatre. More photos and a video from activities last year can be seen here.
“Post Covid, there’s no point talking about gloom. We want to inspire people to see another future as possible, and then to feel empowered. The message has to be that anything is better than nothing, and action is the antidote to despair,” says Carrie.