A festival for the environment?

By Reniera O’Donnell, assistant director of regeneration, Isle of Wight Council.

Reniera ODonnellWhat an amazing festival weekend the Island had! Showcased in all its sunny glory, the Isle of Wight gave the festival-goers a real treat. This was my second festival and it really was great fun. It got me thinking though. There we were, enjoying some fantastic music and great atmosphere, whilst watching the ground get more and more littered with plastic and rubbish. People were letting balloons fly free, and any wildlife stood no chance of surviving the footfall of tens of thousands of happy humans. The fact that I was also a keynote speaker at the Environment conference on Tuesday made the realities of the environmental impact of us humans even more stark.

It’s a fine balance to be struck. The festival is an iconic Island event, bringing thousands of people to the Island and putting us on the map. This is great when we are trying to regenerate a place and can build on events like the Isle of Wight Festival to bring in investment and tourism. It’s also lovely when you live here and can head home to a comfy bed and clean showers every night!

It was these sorts of balancing-act issues that were discussed at the Environmental Conference. It was an outstanding event with over 170 people attending and debating important topics like energy, water, local produce and conserving our natural environment. Excitingly, the Island has applied for Biosphere Reserve status which would make us only the third Biosphere Reserve in England. A brilliant interpretive dance show and Biosphere Song by the New Carnival Company sealed the application!

As well as giving a keynote talk, I led table discussions on regeneration and the environment. We cantered through topics such as how to make our roads more pedestrian and cycle friendly, as well as some of the smaller projects we might undertake to lift our town centres. One discussion I particularly enjoyed was how we could use car shares or taxis to offer more frequent transport in and out of rural areas. Imagine going to the taxi rank in Newport and finding a minibus with a ‘Brighstone’ or ‘Chale’ sign that left at certain times so you could taxi share with others? There’s got to be some legs in these ideas. I am looking forward to helping take forward the action plan my colleagues will be developing.

I love getting the chance to discuss key regeneration topics with a variety of people and get a range of different viewpoints. The thoughts and suggestions we talked about at the event will give us in the council a lot to think about as we develop our regeneration strategy, and as we work to ensure growth and development doesn’t have a negative impact on the natural environment and landscape that makes the Isle of Wight so special.