“Tour de Fair” cyclists celebrate Fair Trade

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AS the Tour de France Grand Depart saw massive celebrations at the start point in Yorkshire  keen cyclists took to their bikes for a Tour de Fair of Oxfordshire.

Alison Merryweather and Sue Campbell get ready to pedal.

Alison Merryweather and Sue Campbell get ready to pedal.

Fair Trade supporters pedalled around key fair trade centres, starting in Witney, the world’s 1,000th Fair Trade Town. Alison Merryweather-Clarke, tower captain of North Leigh parish church and a member of the Witney Area Fair Trade Action Group, and Sue Campbell, churchwarden at North Leigh, launched the event, cycling from Witney to Woodstock, where they visted One Village, one of the first Fair Trade enterprises in the UK, which started in 1979.

There they were met by Roy Strong, the shop’s founder. They then moved to the Town Hall, where the Mayor, Julian Cooper ; Deputy-Mayor Mary Robinson ; and District Councillor Elizabeth Poskitt, a member of Fair Trade in Oxfordshire, staged a reception. Woodstock supports Fair Trade as part of its “Sustainable Woodstock” initiative, which has also engaged in various environmental initiatives over the years, including creating a community woodland and encouraging the use of solar panels. Cllr Cooper said: “Fair Trade is very much a community initiative. We do feel that it’s something that helps us to show the green credentials of Woodstock and our connection with other bits of the world.”

Cyclist Sue Campbell said: “I believe that cycling and Fair Trade can both be good ways of life. They are both fair to the environment and fair to all people. We do so much damage to the environment in so many of the ways we live, and by cycling and by buying Fair Trade you are ensuring greater justice and greater sustainability for the future.”

Cyclist Alison Merryweather-Clarke said: “I think it’s important to choose products which guarantee a fair wage to vulnerable producers. There is such a wide variety of Fairtrade products available now – my current favourites include sparkling wine and unusual flavours of herbal teas, and supporting these brands helps suppliers in the developing world support their families. The Tour de Fair is just a small way to raise awareness and celebrate our commitment to fairly traded products.”

On Saturday, 5 July, Janet Warren, a member of St Mary’s, Kidlington and the Kidlington Fair Trade Group, cycled from Woodstock to Kidlington, joined for part of the way by Maranda St John Nicolle, Coordinator of Christian Concern for One World and convener of Fair Trade in Oxfordshire.  Kidlington Fair Trade Group is making preparations for a “One World Market” offering fairly traded and environmentally friendly goods. The event, which will be held on , is a continuation of the parish’s “Fair Trade Christmas Fair,” which has been a resounding success for the past six years. Janet Warren said: “Buying Fairtrade is such an easy thing to do to get the benefits of trade a bit more balanced. And the quality of products is superb nowadays. Why wouldn’t you buy Fairtrade?”

Ms St John Nicolle then cycled from Kidlington to Oxford. Oxford is currently celebrating its tenth anniversary as a Fairtrade City: Fairtrade products can be found widely throughout its shops, cafes and restaurants, and there are numerous schools, places of worship, and key employers which support Fairtrade. The city also contains several dedicated Fair Trade shops, including Fair Trade at St Michael’s, housed at St Michael’s at the North Gate, where the “Tour de Fair” drew to a conclusion, and the Headington Churches Together shop, The Windmill, which had a special “Tour de France” window.

Maranda St John Nicolle said: “Oxfordshire has a strong Fair Trade heritage, with some of the country’s – and the world’s – Fairtrade pioneers based here. In recent years, we’ve seen growth in the number of Fairtrade Towns, Fairtrade Churches, Fairtrade Schools and other bodies supporting Fairtrade. It’s wonderful that our county has so many people working together for a better, fairer world – and great that so many people from our diocese are involved! The idea for the “Tour de Fair” came from friends of The Oxford Fair Trade Coalition in Carinthia, Austria. We’re glad they shared the idea with us and we had a super time doing this first “Tour.” Next year, we hope to do a longer “Tour de Fair,” taking in more Fair Trade sites.”

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