Energy Cafe Moving On..
21st March 2010
Those of you who participated in the Pilot Phase at Gunpowder Park, will know how difficult it was for us to move off site - as people’s involvement and community support for Energy Café to remain there had grown beyond our expectations. The site was charged with potential. Our decision to move the trailer was complex. But it felt right to go after a lengthy period of negotiation with Lee Valley Authority, during which time our resources were at a minimum. We felt it important that Energy Café keep hold of its dream – of which a part was to keep on the move, be mobile.
All that happened on that small plot of land, the over flow car park, became a unique ‘case study’ that we will compose in the near future. A ‘case study’ of testing the ground in public space. Energy Café became a temporary free zone, revealing local issues, needs and desires of the community, it encouraged people to take responsibility for their own health and safety, to use initiative, common sense, to play, experiment, invent to have bonfires, to cook and eat together outdoors. We discovered over the 6 months of being there that what was needed and desired by the local community was a meeting ground, a place where all kinds of community led activities could happen naturally, spontaneously, by chance. Just as we were leaving local lads started to construct beautiful bike ramps out of the scrap, they told us of their wish: to construct permanent ramps on site, a facility they would use and manage themselves.
We recently returned to the overflow car park and noticed that the fire-pit is still lodged between the millstones, that traces of Energy Cafe still remain. We wait to see if any of the wildflowers will grow, as on the last day we scattered hundreds of seeds on the beaten ground…
WINTER SEASON 2009
Energy Café News Bulletin! 21st Feb 2009
Have you visited Energy Café yet? If not why not?
above: Workers All Day Fried Egg Breakfast (Eggs from Holyfield Farm, Waltham Abbey)21st Jan 2009
Energy Café is situated on approx half an acre of land (the field Station over flow car park) that has been temporarily and generously donated by Lee Valley Regional Authority, and is commissioned by Landscape + Arts Network Services – forming part of the Art of Common Space Programme that has been running for the past year at Gunpowder Park.
Energy café is off grid, working with the natural elements, renewable energy, experimenting with seasonal cooking methods and searching for food being grown or produced within a six mile radius. The trailer is being converted into a mobile community kitchen with a growing resource and a small library.
Energy Café – a testing ground for off grid experiments – is in its pilot phase. It started from scratch on the 21st November 2008, and continues to naturally evolve day by day. It’s still under construction, that’s what makes it special – It is being hand made from materials that have been donated or found and is being constructed in a collective spirit. Anyone can come and join the process of shaping this plot.
Once upon a time, prior to it being a Gunpowder testing facility, this site was connected to Epping Forest, as Common Land. Five years ago Gunpowder Park was reopened as a New Country Park. Described as ‘the wilderness’ by many locals we have met, a place to walk dogs, play sport, ramble, bird watch etc. We are finding it a perfect (and challenging!) location for off grid winter season research.
Recently the Mercury Newspaper announced – ‘Energy Café putting spark into parkland’. Yes that’s what we hoped for! Energy Cafe aims to create a unique social facility in the park – to re invigorate the feeling of commons’ on this small patch, as we were invited to do.
Yes it’s a luxury to be donated some land to experiment and research on, and we want to continue to optimise this opportunity. So now as its still under construction we are organising Energy College.
Energy College – Charge your Knowledge! (16 February- 14 March) Everyone is welcome!! It’s FREE! It started with Kids take over for half term when local craftsman Andy Bisgrove brought One World Workshop to Energy Cafe. Now on site there is a wigwam, a decorated ‘house’, a huge panpipe made from bamboo. The first wind power experiment was made too. For two days kids charged the site well and proper! Next – a ‘Bike Power Workshop’ with Magnificent Revolution. Its fully booked!
We will be continually updating the calendar on the blog: http://www.energycafe.wordpress.com. It tells you when, who and what is happening on site (week by week). If you want to get involved, run a workshop, demonstration or talk give us a call or just drop by! It’s an open space to conjour inspiration, imagine the future, bring food to the table – share ideas, test out inventions, learn by doing it in an informal and shared environment. Just experiment!
What is the future of Energy Café?
We don’t know!
Our commission contract here in the ‘over flow car park’ runs out at the end of March!
In this short pilot phase, Energy Café has revealed a desire for the longer term. The response we’ve had has gone way beyond our expectations.
Energy Café is forming many links with all sorts of people who live and work locally:
Of course we’d prefer not to cut these ties, rather allow them to grow. The word is spreading fast – now Energy Café is becoming more prominent – with a roadside banner generously supported by About My Area! People have travelled far to get here in all temperatures and after a great experience, often don’t want to leave! Plus people from around the world are keeping track via the Energy Café blog. Over 4000 hits to date! The personal time and energy people have given has been incredibly warming.
Energy Café was always intended to encompass the four seasons in its initial research so to develop a resource for all. It takes at least a year to start to get to know a piece of land and understand its changing resources just as It takes time to connect meaningfully with local people, with the location and surrounding area. Plants, wildlife, the natural elements, the gradual shift in daylight hours all affect the daily rhythm of Energy Café.
Energy Cafe started at the end of Autumn so research has only just begun. Based on the winter pilot season, we are drawing up a proposal for the coming spring and summer that incorporates the wish list of community activities and workshops that could happen; from solar and wind experiments to wild food foraging walks, growing and harvesting and lots more!
Energy Café needs to complete the land cycle. To the Summer Solstice and to a Harvest in late September… wherever that land may be… Energy Café will make it common.
Energy Café welcomes ideas and support of any kind to enable it to evolve through the spring and summer seasons! Any land, wasteland, disused space… in the offering out there, somewhere in the area? Please do get in touch!
To mark the beginning of spring we hope you will join Energy Cafe On the 21st March when we will be celebrating with our biggest ever local food banquet, bike powered sound system, acoustic music and lots more. Look forward to seeing you there!
Pilot Publishing, 21st February 2009
Energy Café was initiated by Pilot Publishing. It continues to be brought to life by the enthusiasm, expertise and involvement of many others. A warm thanks to all (over 100 so far!) who have been part of the ‘collective’ construction!
For continuous updates check out the blog:
The field station over flow car park,
Waltham Abbey, Essex, EN9 3GP
Brief description of proposed project
The Field Station Energy Café is a project by Pilot Publishing (Amy Plant and Ella Gibbs) which will reinvigorate Gunpowder Park with a feeling of the original ‘commons’ where land was used as a resource for all.
The construction of Energy Café will turn normal planning procedures on its head. The process will be developed organically, out of necessity, through people’s involvement. Pilot Publishing will work with ecologists, permaculture specialists and the local community to harvest wild food from Gunpowder Park and source farm or home-grown produce within a five mile radius. They will experiment with sustainable ways of cooking and make an off grid kitchen outside the field station and through these activities, develop a greater understanding of the landscape by those who use it. Over the course of a year Pilot Publishing will host harvesting walks and events, permaculture workshops and research into renewable energy to create a sustainable social facility that can continue to provide Park visitors with a common space to meet, share ideas and exchange local knowledge.
Watch this space!