FIG Tree founder Bruce Crowther's Fair Trade reunion unites nations

A Fair Trade reunion with a difference brought together more than 37 people despite the COVID-19 crisis.
Bruce CrowtherBruce Crowther
Bruce Crowther

The online international gathering was the idea of Bruce Crowther who, as a driving force behind the creation of Garstang as the world’s first Fair Trade town, was considering how to mark the 20th anniversary of the Lancashire market town's initiative.

He and friend Tadeusz Makulski, who helped build the Fair Trade initiative in Poland, decided that it would be good to catch up with other Fair Trade pioneers.

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The movement now numbers 2002 towns across the world on every continent except Antarctica.

Bruce, from Garstang, enjoyed talking to people he had met over many years of campaigning and said: ”I’m delighted our virtual gathering was such a joy with people joining us from 16 countries."

He said: "It was truly an international event with no less than five participants from Media, Pennsylvania, USA - the first Fair Trade Town in the Americas. It was just to touch base with people and celebrate. It was lovely. They are an amazing bunch of people. I've had the privilege to meet some of the most fantastic people all over the planet.

"All these people saw what Garstang did and said we can do that too. The mayor of Seoul came and sat in my living room and now Seoul is the biggest Fair Trade city in the world with a population of 10 million and half the population of South Korea now live in a Fair Trade town."

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Those joining the virtual meeting also took part in a quiz to raise money for charity the SALVE COVID-19 Emergency appeal which helps Ugandan street children.

Bruce, who also founded the former Garstang based Fair Trade Visitor Centre The FIG Tree, provided a prize of £20 worth of the FIG Tree's home-made bean to bar chocolate which was won by an entrant from Sweden.

The questions for the quiz were set by FIG Tree co-director and local resident Graham Hulme and the meeting's IT needs were arranged by the FIG Tree's IT consultant and supporter Matt Ivory.

Bruce chose to mark the anniversary of the date the annual town meeting voted in favour of making Garstang the first Fair Trade town. It was a move which subsequently brought the small Wyre town to international attention, with reports on Australian and Japanese TV. Over the years many overseas visitors were welcomed to the town and many places have followed its example.

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After the town meeting it was another 18 months before the Fairtrade Foundation officially declared Garstang a Fairtrade Foundation Fairtrade town. Responding to the town's lead it created its Fairtrade marque.

Bruce still leads educational chocolate making workshops for schools, using fairly traded cocoa beans from New Koforidua in Ghana - the first Fair Trade town in the whole of Africa. There are also plans to sell more of the chocolate by post.

Bruce added: "I think it is always time to reflect on Fair Trade. We have to keep reflecting more on people less fortunate than ourselves. I've never gone with charity begins at home. To me we're a world together."