I’m interviewing Davie Philips (Cultivate) to find out more about Ireland’s longest running sustainable living festival, Convergence, and the kind of events which will be taking place across the country, including what’s happening in Galway as part of this year’s Convergence Festival.

Hi Davie can you begin by telling us a bit about Cultivate?

Well Cultivate is the trading name of the Sustainable Ireland Co-operative which formed in 2000. Cultivate is a practical sustainability organisation focused on active education with facilities in Dublin and Cloughjordan Ecovillage, Co. Tipperary. Cultivate aims to equip people to respond to the twin issues of energy vulnerability and climate change by providing access to the knowledge and tools that cultivate sustainable lifestyles and resilient communities. As well as organising the Convergence festival, Cultivate runs various educational programmes and coordinate the Global Green Ecovillage at Electric Picnic each year. More information can be found here:

http://www.cultivate.ie/

Can you tell us about the upcoming Convergence Festival – what is the purpose of Convergence and what kind of events will be taking place?

Our aim is to bring people and ideas together to help citizens and communities make the transition to a low carbon, healthy, just and sustainable society. We held the first Convergence festivals in Temple Bar – these were a week long series of events that brought some of the leading thinkers and doers together for a sustainable future. We opened the Cultivate Centre in the west end of Temple Bar in 2003 and continued to host the annual Convergence Festival there until 2010. By that time we were making the move to Cloughjordan – all the Co-op members now live there – and we started to hold events across the country with different themes. Over the last four years we have focused on a commons and collaborative approach to making our communities more resilient. This is the festival’s seventeenth year – we launched Convergence 17 at the Electric Picnic with a series of talks and discussions in the Global Green area of the festival, and this year is about celebrating “transformative, community-led” efforts to meet Ireland’s climate targets and implement the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In what way has the festival changed since its beginning in 2000?

The content of the festival is very similar today as it was in 2000. We take quite a collaborative approach where we host conversations on different topics. We believe that the intelligence is in the room and not just at the podium, so although we still have inspirational speakers our objective is to get people talking and engaged with the topics.

Can you tell us a little more about this year’s Convergence Festival?

The theme is “COMING TOGETHER FOR A HEALTHIER, HAPPIER, MORE SUSTAINABLE FUTURE”. Across Ireland, citizens, social enterprises and communities are already using social innovation, co-production and collaborative consumption to strengthen resilience, foster their local economies, and create new jobs in areas such as food, transport, energy, education, housing and waste. The festival will bring together community champions, social entrepreneurs, researchers, networkers, support agencies and policy-makers to identify and celebrate best practices in sustainability and wellbeing, build capacity for local change-makers, and promote understanding of the actions that local communities can take to transform their lifestyles.

What kind of events will be taking place in Galway?

A series of Stories and Conversations events will be held in cities and towns across the country including Galway. These events will focus on how to achieve healthy, low-carbon, sustainable communities and encourage increased engagement in community-led initiatives, green businesses, social enterprises, climate actions, wellbeing projects, and sustainability and local energy initiatives. The Galway ‘Stories and Conversations’ event takes place on the 21st of September. This free evening event aims to inspire more engagement in community-led initiatives, social enterprises, wellbeing projects or the protection of the local environment. At this event members of local projects will tell their own sustainability stories, and facilitated café conversations will provide attendees with the opportunity to explore actions to encourage more local initiatives. On the 22nd of September a conference, Climate Change and Health: The Challenges and the Opportunities will be held at NUI Galway. It will feature a diverse range of Irish and international speakers, including John O’Neill, Principal Officer for Climate Adaptation, Soil, GMOs and Chemicals at the Department of Environment, and Dr Nicholas Watts of the Lancet Countdown research initiative. This is being hosted by the HSE and NUIG. Another event in Galway that is part of the Convergence schedule is the PermaCULTURE NIGHT at Galway’s newest public PermaCulture Food Trail.

Bringing people together for stories and conversations is an essential part of the Convergence 2017 experience. In your opinion how important are having these conversations and interactions with respect to protecting the environment and improving health & wellbeing?

It is essential to encourage joined up thinking and synergy between these different initiatives. Across Ireland, citizens, social enterprises and communities are already using social innovation, co-production and collaborative consumption to strengthen resilience, foster their local economies, and create new jobs in areas such as food, transport, energy, education, housing and waste. We want to encourage more of this bottom-up, community-led approach to meeting our needs.

Where can people go to find out more information about the events?

Most Convergence 2017 events are free to attend, and full details and the programme of events can be found here:

http://www.cultivate.ie/convergence-festival

Thank you so much Davie for sharing your time with An Áit Eile – I really hope everything goes well for you for Convergence 2017.

An Áit Eile will be helping with “Stories and conversations for a Healthy and Low-Carbon Galway City” on Thursday the 21st of September, 7.30pm-9.30pm at the Portershed, Eyre Square, Galway City – hope some of you can make it!

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