Nurturing Young Green Voices and Actions

A handful of students and teachers from the Cobham Hall European Round Square Environmental Conference

I had the recent pleasure of being a Keynote speaker at an international conference on environmentalism hosted by Round Square Organisation member, Cobham Hall School.

The Round Square ethos revolves around six ideological pillars: internationalism, democracy, environment, adventure, leadership and service and their member schools hold conferences all over the world each year.

My day began standing in a queue waiting for a slice of school breakfast – something I haven’t done in decades – which turned out to be far nicer than I imagined. My taste-buds were suitably stimulated by a selection of locally sourced items and Simon and I shared the table with an eclectic bunch of teachers and students from Transylvania and Paris.

Cobham Hall School Music Room
Cobham Hall School Music Room

Once the breadcrumbs had been flicked off my latest charity shop outfit, I made my way to the Music Room to deliver my presentation, How to Find Your Green Groove.

It was listened to by an enthusiastic bunch of people who wanted to sharpen their game and the students based their subsequent Baraza discussions on the topics raised in my talk.

Don’t worry, I confess I’d never heard of it either… Baraza is a Swahili word that means a deliberation meeting held by a collective group of people of wisdom.

It was indeed inspirational to move amongst so many educators who had a clear agenda to normalise sustainable behaviour. I regularly state (the obvious) that children are indeed the leaders of the future and I believe we need to invest in them now, more than ever before for several reasons.

If you spend 5 minutes observing the current band of grown-ups leading our country, you’ll be unsurprised to find out that youngsters are confused by their duplicitous messages and dispassionate priorities. Scientific evidence continues to point to an urgent global need to wean ourselves from fossil fuels, yet fracking remains disturbingly high on the Con/Dem agenda.

International broadsheets are filled with countless stories reporting earthquakes caused by fracking and the ever-present fear of clean water systems being contaminated with carcinogenic chemicals from fracking fluid, is palpable.

The present Government continue to have scant regard for the consequences of squeezing every last drop of oil from the planet, whilst an ever increasing range of experts from all fields endorse the simple facts that our energy needs could be met by several flavours of safe sustainable renewables.

What are any of us to think about the need for investment in clean, green options, while the suits at the top of the food chain rub their hands together and continue to count the barrels?

Solar Tower Spain
The PS10 Solar Power Plant is the world’s first commercial concentrating solar power tower operating near Seville, in Andalusia, Spain.

With advances in green technologies shifting at a more rapid pace than our global weather patterns, untainted young minds need to feel confident enough to challenge those in authority about the problems we’re all facing with open minds, open mouths and self-belief!

By vocalising ‘off the wall’ ideas and sharing practical localised solutions, new communities will be born filled with inspirational souls not leaders and their successes will be measured by different currencies of wealth; happiness, seasonality, resilience.

The Headmaster Paul Mitchell BSc summed up Cobham Hall School’s splendid weekend rather succinctly in his recent blog post:-

More than 60 children from 6 different countries gathered to learn about and discuss environmental topics and participate in environmental activities, including building a greenhouse out of used plastic soft drink bottles in the school grounds.

Conference delegates heard from two keynote speakers during the weekend – Tracey West, eco-author and founder of “InterNational Downshifting Week”, an initiative aimed at getting people to slow down and go green, and Jill Butler, a conservation advisor for the Woodland Trust.

While Mrs West spoke about how to make small changes in daily life to help the environment and consider more carefully what is in the food we eat and where it comes from, Ms Butler taught delegates about the importance of ancient trees and how to measure them to work out their age.

Mrs West was thrilled with the prospect of a recycled greenhouse and stayed on after her talk to watch the first stage of construction. “I have to say the greenhouse project is a tremendous way for them to get their hands grubby and just do something really simple which has an enormous impact,” she said. “I think this is going to really set the scene in their head that such a simple thing to do, can have a huge positive effect.”

Meanwhile, Isabelle, one of Cobham Hall’s Year 9 students attending and leading the conference, said the greenhouse taught her to look at waste differently. “It showed us how to use old materials that we would normally just throw away and not bother thinking about twice,” she said.

For me, the way forward is clear; encourage and nurture young minds to speak out and be bold and here’s hoping for more innovative ideas for cultivation springing up. We’ll be seeing people growing food on the flat roofs of supermarkets in busy cities next!

…actually…that’s so last year.


PS: You can view Cobham Hall School’s funky video of their eco-weekend here.

Thank you Lyn Hemming

The Book of Rubbish Ideas by Tracey SmithToday, I made a new friend and at the same time, learned about the death of an old one.

Lyn Hemming was my editor on The Book of Rubbish Ideas, my very first book which I was so excited to be commissioned to write for Fragile Earth Books, a little sister company of Alistair Sawday.

She was lovely in every sense and I know editors can have a bit of a reputation for being work obsessed ogres; she was nothing of the sort. Lyn encouraged me all the way to the end of my 40,000 words and beyond and she was the gentlest of souls to work with.

Without her constructive guidance, I’m sure I wouldn’t have produced the body of work that I am still so proud of today.

Lyn was only 49 and from what I understand, she simply went to bed and never woke up. No illness, no real time for anyone to prepare for the unthinkable; my heart sank the moment I heard the news and my thoughts immediately went to her man Will, her children and her family. I cannot imagine how their lives must have been turned upside down at that point and no doubt, ever since.

We lost touch once the book was a few years old but got back in contact a handful of years ago just to touch base and we giggled again. She did giggle ever such a lot.

I know once you hit a certain age – I’m almost 49 – you inevitably see some of the brightest lights around you go out. It’s life and it’s the way she rolls. When you hear of one so young and vibrant, somehow that stabs the soul a little deeper. When you’ve had your 3 score years and 10 it’s a fair probability that the Grim Reaper might be considering plotting a course to your door, but not at 49.

I’m not entirely sure why I felt such a burning need to pen a piece about Lyn, I just did. She encouraged me to write, so here I write.

To say my goodbye and to give you my thanks. I know I did them all in your living years lovely lady, but this is another little one to say I am so pleased you touched my life.



The Magic Oxygen Literary Prize is Open

Magic Oxygen Literary PrizeAs well as writing to earn a nibbly crust, I’m also a publisher and I’m chuffed to the core to tell you about the Magic Oxygen Literary Prize that I’ve just launched with my wonderfully creative husband, Simon West.

As I type (at 1am on Tuesday 1st July – go to bed woman) it is all of an hour old!

Here are the nuts and bolts of MOLP:-

Continue reading The Magic Oxygen Literary Prize is Open

Come to My Free Creative Poetry Workshop

Notepad and penIn glorious Axminster on Thursday 5th June, as part of the Arts in the Garden summer programme, I will be running a FREE Creative Poetry Workshop.

It will be held at The Arts Cafe, The Old Courthouse, Church Street EX13 5AQ between 12.30 and 2.30; click here for their full schedule of events.

It’ll be a very convivial and giggly couple of hours, during which I’d like to help people realise that they can use uplifting poetry to turn personal darkness into light.

I did it myself and without thinking about much other than writing them, I ended up creating a great pile of little ditties. They eventually transformed into a paperback called Poetry of Divorce; no prizes for guessing the life event that inspired it!

Continue reading Come to My Free Creative Poetry Workshop

Random Poem: My Oh My, The WI

WIlogoI had the greatest pleasure entertaining a huge crowd at the WI Preston last night.

I did a hybrid talk and demonstration of how to make organic flatbreads using leftover ingredients and laced it around some of my performance poetry on divorce; eclectic and electric!

The group were also celebrating their birthday and in honour of this particular bunch of amazing ladies, I penned a poem that spanned the glowing history of the WI.

I thought you might like a peek…

Oh, and finally, if you want to get involved with your local group, start here!

My Oh My, The WI

It’s always a blast
When I am asked
To do a talk for the WI

You’re woven inside
Great Britain, far and wide
As authentic as hot shepherd’s pie

The National Federation’s
Feminine celebration
Is 99 years old and going strong Continue reading Random Poem: My Oh My, The WI

I’m Poet in Residence for Magic Oxygen Publishing

Magic Oxygen Publishing LogoThere are several achievements I’m very proud of and having 4 books on the shelf with my name on their spine, is most certainly one of them.

I’m Trustee of The National Association for Children of Alcoholics and a very proud Patron of the Women’s Action Network Dorset, who help countless women in crisis.

Topping that is tricky but by Jove (who is Jove?), I think I’ve done it.

I have been officially anointed and appointed as Poet in Residence for Magic Oxygen Publishing!

If you’d like a regular slice of my lyrical shining wit, simply Follow Magic Oxygen on Twitter.


Interview: Mark James, the man who inspired my divorce (play)

Mark James, author and playwrightIt’s lovely turning the interview tables around and chatting to a creative soul about their passions in life.

I had the great pleasure of chatting to Mark James recently, who has written an award-winning tear-jerker of a play called Dear Mother and my publishing house Magic Oxygen has released today it as a paperback performance script.

I was the assistant editor for the book and to be honest, it was the first play I’d ever been involved with. I’ve never trodden the boards (I think that’s what they say) and whilst I can stand up in front of any sized crowd to talk on the hoof about any given subject, I couldn’t remember scripted lines unless they were tattooed on my hands!

I discovered that the layout for a play is quite stiffly formulated and as a writer, it was incredibly interesting exploring the different ways this simple medium goes about portraying a story. It’s all dialogue of course, with a few stage directions thrown in, but unless you have a narrator who can fill in the gaps with a bit more flounce, the guts of the play are pure conversation.

Continue reading Interview: Mark James, the man who inspired my divorce (play)

A Response From The Universe About My Birthday!

Tarantula nebulaI simply had to publish this, a beautiful response FROM the Universe to my birthday poem, posted earlier today…

Dear Tracey, my Tracey
It’s my Birthday too
I’m mostly just spacey
And very dark blue
I measure my age now
In billions of years
And during my life
I’ve seen trillions of tears

Continue reading A Response From The Universe About My Birthday!

It’s My Birthday Today!

Birthday Cupcakes from HelencaDear Universe
Dear Universe
I thought I’d sit and pen a verse
Or two
For you
And probably me too

I’m 48 years young today
And in so very many ways
I have to say
I’m the shadow of the girl I used to be
I wore glitter once
Now it wears me

Before my emergence
And soul mate convergence
I felt as though
My heart and soul
Had been put through a mincer
With really small holes

Continue reading It’s My Birthday Today!