On 10th September 2011, the Sustainable Fish City team had a fantastic day on Southwark Bridge in London, participating in the Thames Festival. Each year, the bridge is closed off to traffic and becomes a communal space for people to meet and share a harvest meal, to eat, drink, talk and dance in the spectacular setting of a bridge over the River Thames.
The theme of this year’s Feast on the Bridge was fish. The event celebrated sustainable fish with debates, stalls, sea shanties, cycle-powered cinema screenings, games, a four-metre 'fish cake' (made of chocolate and vanilla sponge and lots of jam), mullet hair cuts and a ‘one that got a way’ photo booth. As part of their commitment to helping London become a Sustainable Fish City, the Thames Festival organisers also required food stall holders to exclude endangered fish species from their recipes.
As the sun went down and the lights came on along the Thames, dining tables were laid out on Southwark Bridge and visitors received a celebratory meal made from sustainable fish and fish species that would otherwise have been discarded. Jon and Kath from Sustainable Fish City were lucky enough to share a table with fishermen from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fishery in Hastings, and learned a lot more about the damaging effects of discards and fisheries quota policy.
Throughout the day and evening, Sustainable Fish City ran a stall on Southwark Bridge. We had a busy and exciting day, and were able to talk to hundreds of festival visitors. In the end, we collected over 200 messages from individuals and families, to send to London’s restaurants, caterers and events organisers, telling them how much Londoners and tourists care about sustainable fish. The photographs below give you a flavour of our day!
Two minutes after the Thames Festival opened, an early visitor (on the left) stopped at our stall to send a message to London's restaurants about sustainable fish. Throughout the day, we received over 200 messages for restaurants, showing how much people - young and old - care about the future of precious fish, wildlife and marine ecosystems.
Jon Walker from Sustainable Fish City (left) was available to answer questions about sustainable alternatives to fish that are most under pressure. We were impressed by how many visitors were very knowledgable about fish, particularly following the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall Fish Fight television series. Yet still, most admitted that they rarely ask restaurants, sandwich shops or caterers where the fish comes from or how it was caught. They are too shy or embarrassed to ask. So food outlets may be unaware how much the public care about this important issue.
Several families stopped and expressed their concerns about whether fish would still be available for their children and grandchildren to enjoy. Our very youngest visitor was 7-week-old Katerina (in the sling on her dad's front in the picture on the right). Her dad wrote a message to restaurants saying please save fish for Katerina to eat in the future.
Yes, that really is cress growing out of lady's police hat on the left, and she really did have a cardboard cut-out kipper round her neck. The Thames Festival was full of fabulous displays, demonstrations, stalls and costumes! She wrote on her postcard to restaurants that she loves fish and wants to see it on the menu for many years to come, so it needs to be from sustainable sources. The man on the right is a compost doctor from the London Community Resource Network, who is working hard to save food from going to waste and promote composting, and is also concerned about the terrible waste of fish in our oceans.
The man on the left wrote that he'd like to see more different types of fish featuring on menus, to relieve pressure on popular species. The cyclist on the far right - it was his 40th birthday, and he said he hopes to be eating sustainable fish for many years to come! They all stopped to send their messages to London restaurants.
Fantastic conversations often took place whilst people were thinking up what to write to restaurants, to express their concern about sustainable fish. We also received lots of new ideas and support for the campaign! Some tourists said they were impressed by London's attitude to sustainable fish and congratulated the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the Thames Festival for opting to use sustainable fish, to show what can be achieved when people set their minds to it.
The mood of the Thames Festival was flamboyant and celebratory. The organisers gave out fancy-dress hats, including this one, which is a lampshade with a plant growing out of it! This man stopped to fill in a postcard to restaurants saying he doesn't mind what headgear he wears, but he does care about sustainable fish! Feng Sushi, a restaurant committed to using sustainable fish, and a signatory to the Sustainable Fish City pledge, were kind enough to give us a £50 voucher for a prize draw, as an incentive for people to join in.
Some of the people who sent messages to restaurants also asked questions about the campaign, and said that they really liked the idea of so many people joining in to make London the world's first Sustainable Fish City. When they heard that it is very helpful to have lots of members of the public add their voices to the campaign, they were happy to join in.
We recognised some familiar faces in the crowd, including The Guardian's investigative food journalist Felicity Lawrence, who has done so much to raise awareness about the peril facing the world's fish stocks and marine environments. She and her family (pictured on the left) sent their own messages to restaurants through the Sustainable Fish City campaign. The London Mayor's food advisor Rosie Boycott also visited our stall (on the right, wearing a grey shirt), who has been instrumental in helping us persuade the London 2012 Olympics, London government and national government to buy only sustainable fish. She was joined by our lovely friend Alice Elliott, who works for the WorldWide Fund for Nature (WWF), supporting Marks & Spencer in its work to make the switch fully to sustainable fish by 2015.
We were also pleased to meet one of our great heroes, Crayfish Bob (on the left, in the hat), who is working hard to rid Britain's waterways of the invasive American Signal Crayfish, and helping threatened native species of crayfish to thrive. Some of Crayfish Bob's catch featured on the sustainable fish menu for the fabulous Feast on the Bridge.
The Sustainable Fish City stall was positioned right next to the stage, where speakers such as Simon Clydesdale from Greenpeace informed visitors about the fantastic progress being made to improve the sustainability of tinned tuna via changes to the buying policies of leading brands such as Prince's and John West. Sustainable Fish City's Kath Dalmeny (standing up in the picture on the right) joined Paul Joy (Hastings CIC Fishery) and Rosie Boycott (London Food Board) to discuss government and European policies that could save the world's fish.
On a final note, Jon Walker and Kath Dalmeny of the Sustainable Fish City campaign say a massive THANK YOU to all of the visitors to the Thames Festival and Feast on the Bridge who made the day so thoroughly enjoyable and informative, and to our volunteer Joe Short, who helped to prevent the bunting blowing away on a very blustery day, and to help man the stall. Our second THANK YOU is for the restaurant Feng Sushi, who kindly gave us a £50 voucher for a prize-draw. We also want to say another enormous THANK YOU to the fabulous Thames Festival organisers, stallholders and the Feast on the Bridge chefs, who did so much to raise awareness of, and to celebrate sustainable fish. We've come away with renewed energy, enthusiasm and ideas to campaign for a Sustainable Fish City!
Sustainable Fish City is a Sustain campaign