Transition Black Isle
History | Successes | Challenges | Contact
In the mid-2000s, there were discussions popping up about the notion of creating Transition Towns in the Black Isle, including a presentation to the Cromarty Community Council (and local Highland Councillors) in September 2008, where the response was that Cromarty (pop 750) was probably too small, but a Black Isle-wide (pop c18,000) Transition Group might be more effective, even though this dispersed approach was different to the approach advised in the first Transition Handbook by Rob Hopkins (2008).
Independently, two women found out about Transition Town Forres who were showing a film. They lived nearby so decided to liftshare and were impressed. They asked the Convenor to come and give a talk in Inverness in early 2009. At the talk were a mixture of people mainly from Inverness and the Black Isle. It was suggested that two groups were formed. (The Inverness group ran for a couple of years but struggled to have enough enthusiastic people to keep it going.)
30 people turned up to the first Black Isle meeting. We held monthly meetings there for quite a while and began to run film shows and set up energy and food subgroups.
Initially everyone attended the monthly meetings and decided things democratically but this got a bit unwieldy and we needed to set up a recognised structure to apply for funds. We are a registered Charity as well as a Limited Company.
An Early event was Greening Homes and Gardens in which about 10 homes on the Black Isle were opened up so people could ask about solar panels, heat pumps composting etc with a hub in a village hall for energy advice. We worked with the Energy Saving Trust on this. We held a couple of other events then they took over the idea and set up the Green Homes Network and held Green Homes Open Days.
We applied for several rounds of Climate Challenge Fund money to fund setting up food projects including two more community markets (one already existed in Culbokie), two community gardens and some allotments. We now have four markets in the Black Isle (one per Saturday) in Cromarty, Fortrose and North Kessock, as well as supporting a market run by Culbokie Community Trust. Our emphasis is in creating trusted short supply chains with local producers of food, creating hubs for social interactions, sharing info about climate and fossil fuels etc.
We set up courses for people to have practical instruction on growing food and now run around 10 per year and from this we wrote a manual on what grows well in this area (“Grow North") which still sells well.
We also produced a local food guide though this tended to go out of date so now we have the website instead, which also includes restaurants and suppliers.
We ran a three-year project, “Million Miles”, working on sustainable transport and aiming to reduce the annual mileage driven by Black Isle residents by a million miles – sounds ambitious, but then that’s a mere 1%. In fact, we exceeded the target by 30%!
Running annual Potato Days and seed-swap events and organising Apple Pressing days.
Creating a Black Isle Larder website showing off local food growers, suppliers, eateries etc.
Working to create new cycle routes for commuting and recreation, promoting Active Travel (eg via maps), working with others to encourage more and better local bus services, participating in local Tourism initiatives to encourage ‘slow tourism’ rather than “Instagram tourism” exemplified by the North Coast 500 route around north Scotland.
Black Isle Bicycles is a social enterprise originally funded from the Coastal Communities Fund but now continuing as a partnership with a local Cheese Shop which looks after and organises the hire of our bikes (9 hybrids and two ebikes).
A “Drastic Plastic” group set up by a member of TBI to address plastic waste and is now part of TBI, looking to address waste issues within the Black Isle.
We operate a Website, Facebook page, Twitter account, produce monthly newsletters for members, place items in local newspapers and community newspapers, host discussion events.
We are planting Community Pocket Orchards to celebrate our 10th anniversary.
Without a single geographical focus in the Black Isle – there are eight or nine villages of 1,000 + people and a scatter of smaller villages, farms and isolated houses – it’s impossible to find a venue that suits all our members. But this can also allow us to deliver more localised services.
We put a lot of effort into developing a community bid to take over a plot of some (very average) Forestry plantation to install three wind turbines; with the income to be used to fund community projects. This included debates, presentations from other communities with energy incomes, media campaigns and a ballot; but the vote went against these proposals. We were surprised by the antagonism and distrust in some quarters.
We are aware that we don’t reach younger age groups, although there is a large and growing awareness of the climate emergency by young people, with school climate strikes and engagement in e.g. Extinction Rebellion and some political parties. We have tried to reach out to local schools and youth groups, but this is difficult and we need to offer different things.
We also realise that we do not effectively reach working class and/or less well-off people in the Black Isle (except those who come to the markets) - those who perhaps are most likely to feel the impacts of climate change and peak oil first - although it could be argued that some communities have stronger inter-generational and social resilience already and so perhaps feel the lack less than those of us who have moved here and whose roots are perhaps shallower?
www.transitionblackisle.org or via our Facebook page.