What was amazing about the Reading Climate Festival?

It was a comment by a participant in one of the Festival events – who was from Suffolk County Council – that made me realise – yes this is amazing! So I thought it would be great to capture the history, rationale and achievements behind the Reading Climate Festival.

It started with the Reading Climate Change Partnership, a voluntary, multi-stakeholder group including representatives from business, academia, community groups and statutory authorities. It was originally founded in 2008 as part of the Local Strategic Partnership and the Partnership have developed two previous climate change strategies for Reading. In 2018 the Partnership continued though the Local Strategic Partnership was dissolved, and in 2019 it delivered a strategy in response to the Climate Emergency declared by Reading. The Reading CAN (Climate Action Network) was established to harness the energies of people and organisations in Reading to seek ways to reach carbon zero by 2020, and has over 120 members.

This strategy was due to be launched in 2020, but Covid-19 hit and much of life was put on hold. So, instead of a strategy launch, the idea emerged – why not a Festival – a week of events including the launch of the strategy – the focus being people and organisations in and around Reading telling each other about their ideas, plans, successes and things that had not worked.

The Festival ran from 9 to 15 November and included 47 free, online events for diverse audiences to inspire action on climate change. In the week when COP26 would have taken place if not for the pandemic, the aim was to enable as many people as possible to get involved, share, learn and join the call to action towards the goal of Zero Carbon Reading 2030.

The Festival was probably more successful online than it might have been if all or some of the events had been real. It is estimated that over 5,000 people took part during the week – and many were present because of the particular issue they wanted to speak about. I took part in a number of the events – not just the six from Ethical Reading – and enjoyed seeing people make connections. These were connections with other local people, and also learning from other places. Building a network of people who want to tackle climate change seemed a whole lot nearer. It was amazing to see the passion and energy – not adjectives often applied to Reading!

The Festival was supported by Reading Place of Culture – a partnership project between Reading Borough Council, Reading University and Reading UK CIC – through Reading Culture Live.

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