Monday, 26 July 2010

Ben & Jerry's Nuts about Fairtrade Sundae by Barbara Crowther

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who created their ice cream company with a difference, always say ‘If it isn’t fun, don’t do it’. For the 25,000 people attending this year’s Ben & Jerry Sundae on the Common, that’s certainly true as it tests just how far you can stretch an insatiable appetite for free ice cream whilst simultaneously challenging you to toe wrestling, carousel rides and sack races.
This year, there was a real Fairtrade twist to the whole festival which literally went Nuts about Fairtrade, as a celebration of the company’s commitment to go 100% Fairtrade across all 39 flavours and 121 different chunks, swirls and ingredients across Europe by the end of next year.
Wandering round all the attractions, the passion for Fairtrade is clear to see – not just in the 6 flavours of Fairtrade icecream on offer (Vanilla, Vanilla Toffee Crunch, Chocolate Macadamia, Chunky Monkey, Chocolate Fudge Brownie and new flavour Fairly Nuts) on offer, but the bar is serving Fairtrade wines, spirits, juices and Ubuntu cola, and even the cotton in this year’s festival T-shirt is Fairtrade.
At the Fairtrade tasting tent, a growing queue inches eagerly towards a cornucopia of Fairtrade goodies, from Equal Exchange’s delicious walnuts and brazil nuts to Harry’s Nuts, to the newly launched Sainsbury’s fruit bars – containing delicious pineapple and apricot, or banana and mango sourced from dedicated Fair Trade brand Tropical Wholefoods. There are free samples of Fairtrade breakfast muesli from Traidcraft and Dorset Cereals, whose chocolate and macadamia crunchy cereal seems less of a breakfast health food to me, and more of a seriously decadent treat. The breakfast theme continues with Cafedirect regular and decaffeinated coffee samples, and I have to stop one particularly eager punter from stocking up for a month!

Most popular of all are the various chocolatey treats on offer, from Traidcraft’s newly launched chocolate coated mixed nuts, and chocolate coated raisins, and of course, the scrumptious range of chocolate bars from Divine Chocolate. Handing out the samples gives us a great opportunity to tell people about how Divine is the only UK chocolate company owned by Ghanaian cocoa farmers, or about the work Tropical Wholefoods have done to pioneer solar drying techniques with the apricot farmers of the Hunza valley in Pakistan. There’s a new rush of popularity on our stall when we start giving people tasters of some fantastic Fairtrade wines, including one of my personal favourite, Stellar Organics, as I have visited the farm and winery, and met many of the workers over the years, who now have a 26% shareholding in the winery and are working towards a 50% ownership of the farm.
Across the field, kids are battling it out in the Banana Wars – using giant inflatable bananas in a symbolic struggle for supremacy in the global marketplace. For us it’s a game, but for Caribbean Fairtrade farmers, the struggle for fair prices and market access is all too real, as my colleague Aurelie recently pointed out in the Guardian. Backstage, hardworking Fairtrade volunteer Amaya is busy charming all the bands with Fairtrade goodie bags, and we’re delighted when the drummer of Frightened Rabbit wears a Fairtrade cotton t-shirt onstage. Afterwards the whole band dons the t-shirts.

All the bands we meet show a genuine interest in Fairtrade, and many of them talk about it in between songs. But the best moment for me comes when the legendary Billy Bragg performs his entire set wearing a bright blue pair of Pants to Poverty y-fronts, and is then joined for a final Drop the Debt version of Bob Marley’s ‘One Love’ by his newly dubbed backing dancers, Pants People!   I bet Ben and Jerry would have loved it too – it’s exactly the kind of fun with a serious social justice message their company was always meant to be about.

Ben & Jerry's video look back

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Watch the Ben & Jerry's dancing cows

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