Interview: We spoke to Boomtown’s Sustainability Coordinator about this summer’s Radical City

 Interview: We spoke to Boomtown’s Sustainability Coordinator about this summer’s Radical City

Boomtown Fair have got some big changes coming up for ‘Chapter 11: A Radical City’ when the festival returns to the South Downs National Park this August.

Ahead of announcing this year’s music line-up, the headliners were revealed as “Our world, our environment, our future”. The ‘Radical City’ title was unveiled at last year’s closing ceremony alongside the message: “The future of Boomtown is unwritten. We must consider environment, sustainability, and consequences in order to survive.”

This summer, two brand new areas will be introduced focusing on environmental consequences. Since the collapse of Bang Hai Industries at Chapter 10, new ecosystems are flourishing at the site of their headquarters to form RELIC. At the other end of the Fair, the Sector 6 reactor has gone into nuclear meltdown with the exclusion zone dubbed Area 404.

The festival has partnered with TreeSisters to plant a tropical rainforest with nearly 50,000 trees, one for each ticket that’s been sold. Beans on Toast has even recorded a special song for Boomtown Citizens entitled “Take your sh*t home with you!“.

We spoke to Boomtown’s Sustainability Coordinator Emily Ford about some of the changes being brought in, like the plastic bottle ban, totally compostable beer cups and cigarette butt ballot bins. We also caught up on some initiatives from last year, like putting solar panels on school roofs and exclusive early entry for Citizens arriving by sustainable transport.

You’ve said previously Boomtown is aiming “operationally” to eliminate single-use plastic bottles from bars and traders. Does this mean plastic bottles will be much harder to find at Chapter 11?

Yes! We’ve stopped selling single-use plastic bottles, saving 225,000 from being used at the festival! We’re encouraging everyone to bring their own reusable bottles and will be selling reusable ones at the festival. We’re collaborating with WaterAid to provide lots of free refill stations around the arenas and campsites too.

We’re a part of the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) where over 60 fellow independent festivals have joined forces and are part of the ‘Say No To Single Use’ and ‘Take Your Tent Home’ campaign. We’re also part of a campsite waste industry steering group and played a leading role in helping to create an industry-wide campaign to raise awareness around the issue of single-use tents.

A WaterAid volunteer refilling a water bottle at Glastonbury

What about the sustainability plan for Boomtown’s bars? Will the 10p cup deposit scheme continue?

We don’t have one this year because all the food and drinks containers on site are now completely certified compostable and we’ve banned plastic cutlery, packaging and straws from food stands. We are working closely with our packaging supplier Vegware, and are really proud to be able to say that everything on site is compostable (including coffee cup linings & lids etc).

All we need now is everyone to work together to use the right bins in our bin system and we can significantly reduce the waste produced at Boomtown and set the standard for the future.

How is the new Boomtown eco-camp coming along? Will everyone have the choice to camp here?

Yes they can! Within DSTRKT5 camping we have created a zero waste space in collaboration with Environmental Recovery Solutions. Facilities include: NiftyBin system to sort waste at the source, campsite patrol to help maintain the clean camp ethos, and workshops to share ideas for a zero waste lifestyle after the festival.

Everyone will have the choice to camp here, as long as they agree to the ethos. All you need to do is head towards the Eco Camp in Downtown (where DSTRKT5 camping was last year) and you’ll have to take a pledge on entry.

Boomtown Sunrise

Last summer, Citizens arriving via environmentally friendly transport were allowed exclusive early-entry access from Wednesday. Will this policy be in place again this year, and do you have anything else planned to reward Citizens for making environmentally positive choices?

Yes, after the massive success of the initiative last year we are running it again. This year if you book your public transport for Wednesday arrival then you don’t have to pay for the add on! You can also book your transport (coach, train & shuttle, cycle ride) alongside a Public Transport Saver ticket which is cheaper than a standard entry ticket.

Once again we will have our EcoBond, where we’ll add £10 on top of each festival ticket, which is then refunded when people drop off a bag of recycling.

Permaculture workshop Boomtown whistlers greeen

Last year, money from car park passes was used to balance 370,591 energy miles. How does this work, and will it continue?

Last year we worked with Energy Revolution, which is a festival industry collaboration that turns your fossil-fuel travel miles into a direct investment in renewable energy.

The public donated £1 when they bought their car park ticket, which went straight to Solar for Schools, who are a UK charity that put solar panels on top of roofs of schools. This is a hugely positive partnership and will be going ahead for Chapter 11.

I love that Boomtown now measures its carbon footprint! Apart from travel, what are some of the most carbon-heavy aspects of the Fair and what’s being done to reduce them?

Food and energy are also large contributors to carbon emissions. We’re working closely with our food traders to increase the amount of vegetarian meals on offer and with our power contractor to reduce our total fuel consumption.

What challenges does having the Cheesefoot Head Site of Special Scientific Interest within the festival site give you?

We are so lucky to share our festival with the beautiful South Downs National Park and a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and it’s our priority to protect this wild landscape.

We work together with the park to look after the local wildlife and promote biodiversity, which means aspiring to leave the land in a better condition than we found it and inspiring people to care for the natural environment in their daily lives.

We’re seeing massively increased awareness and action on single-use plastics, but it seems cigarette filters often slip under the radar despite being cited as the most littered item on the planet and the single biggest source of plastic pollution in our oceans. How much of a problem are discarded cigarette filters in the Boomtown clean up?

After the success of our cigarette litter campaign at the festival last year, we are continuing to work with Buttrfly and Terracycle to increase awareness around cigarette litter prevention.

We’re really excited to trial our new voting ballot bins to encourage our audience, crew and artists to dispose of their butts responsibly. All butts disposed of via the ballot bins will be taken to Terracycle who recycle the butts into products used for furniture and construction. We will have a table tennis table made by Terracycle from cigarette butts in our crew area this year.

Now that plastic straws, serveware and glitter are banned at Boomtown, could plastic tobacco filters be next? Major brands supply biodegradable, paper-based filters at similar cost, but it seems hardly anyone knows about them! Any plans to encourage traders to switch?

This is a great point and something we are in discussions about with our tobacco supplier.

Boomtown Recycling Sign

Back in January, festival co-founder Lak Mitchell floated the idea of Boomtown becoming meat-free as soon as Chapter 12. I know you already prioritise vegan, vegetarian and sustainable food vendors, but is going entirely meat-free by 2020 still on the table?

Boomtown haven’t made any decisions to go entirely meat-free but will consider the options again next year. At the moment we encourage vegan and vegetarian options onsite but there’s a huge range of options for people to choose from.

Boomtown Fair takes place near Winchester from 7th-11th August 2019. Prophets of Rage, Lauryn Hill and The Streets are set to headline with hundreds of other artists appearing. Weekend tickets and package deals remain available.

Eight Boomtown stages will be completely upgraded this year
Could Boomtown become a completely meat-free festival?
Boomtown reveals Area 404 line-up with four new stages
Boomtown release final district line-up for Town Centre

Image credits:
Main image – Sarah Ginn
Copper County bins – Leora Bermeister
Downtown – Paul Whitley
WaterAid kiosk – WaterAid
Cheesefoot Head – Lucas Sinclair
Portable ashtray and bin – Derek Bremner

Boomtown sign – Leora Bermeister