Fairtrade towns to top 500 in UK and beyond

16/7/2010 Guardian When a group of residents declared Garstang in Lancashire a Fairtrade town 10 years ago,few imagined it was the start of a grassroots social movement that would sweep throughout the UK and beyond.

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“Our aim was simply to get people to help make trade fairer for farmers from
developing countries,” says Garstang campaigner Bruce Crowther. “We never
dreamed that we would inspire people around the world to campaign within their
communities to make people’s shopping habits more ethical.”
A decade on, the Fairtrade Foundation is set to crown the UK’s 500th Fairtrade
town, with Basingstoke and Deane borough in England, Fife in Scotland and the
Welsh town of Llanelli all in the running.
Fairtrade groups are as likely to be found in urban areas as in rural idylls.
Twenty-three London boroughs have Fairtrade status, and Fairtrade cities include
Edinburgh, Cardiff and Liverpool.
“It seems Fairtrade has caught the imagination of everybody,” says Jasmin Gupta,
a hairdresser and chair of the Stevenage Fairtrade Group. “People from all
backgrounds realise they can make a difference by changing their shopping
Whatever the reasons for its success, campaigners agree the movement has changed
beyond recognition. “It’s astonishing to think that in those early years we
would be battling to persuade our local corner shop to stock Fairtrade
products,” says Robert Eggleston, chair of the Burgess Hill Fairtrade Group, in
West Sussex. “Now parents can even buy Fairtrade cotton school uniforms.”
Since Garstang declared itself a Fairtrade town in 2000, awareness of the
Fairtrade mark has grown from 12% to 74%. This success, says Harriet Lamb,
executive director of the Fairtrade Foundation, owes much to the Fairtrade Towns
movement. “People who share the same ideals of fairness and justice have
influenced businesses to trade more fairly, and persuaded whole communities to
shop more ethically,” says Lamb. “They are an incredibly powerful force.”
Emily Murrell, who helped Farnborough sixth-form college win Fairtrade status in
2008, says: “What drives me is realising that I can do something to change some
of the injustices in the world. It keeps me positive about life.”
Tammy Stewart-Jones spearheaded the campaign to make Thanet, in Kent, the UK’s
first Fairtrade island. She became a campaigner after visiting impoverished
communities in west Africa. “When I saw children drinking murky water from dirty
vessels I wanted to make a difference,” she says. “Campaigning has been
incredibly enriching. It feels like singing.”
The next step for Fairtrade towns is twinning with producer communities. “If you
build up relationships with the producers, it increases awareness about the
poverty of producers,” says Crowther, who helped Garstang twin with a a cocoa-farming town in Ghana. “It’s about making connections.”
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