Tab Meets: Cambridge Ethical Festival

We chat to Sara Stillwell and Poppy Damon, organisers of the Cambridge Ethical Festival

against malaria uk cambridge ethical festival cambridge rape crisis centre charity CUSU hub poppy sara spoken food sustainable investment

We caught up with Sara Stillwell and Poppy Damon over a cup of tea to talk ethical things, charity and spoken food…

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Kettle boiling, we sit in the cosy enclave of Sara’s room, the walls covered with bunting and photos. We’re here to talk about the Cambridge Ethical Festival, which has been curated to “promote, raise money for, or bring together people from ethical networks all over Cambridge.” The idea came to the pair in April, and they’ve since spent months working to help it come to fruition. Their dedication to this “brainchild” cannot be called into question; Poppy has cycled all the way from Homerton to Girton just for this interview.

The programme for the festival is incredibly varied, ranging from a vintage fair to beer pong to a casino night. The event Poppy is most excited for is Spoken Food, which will feature spoken word poetry, a DJ, and Laurie Lewis and the Fat Cats. “The idea is to get people thinking about sustainable food: where you get it, how much you’re throwing away, that kind of thing.” Sara was most passionate about the Asylum Monologues on Tuesday by Ice & Fire, “a company which does performance art based on human rights, and tries to redress the way in which asylum seekers are often misrepresented in the headlines.”

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Events are fundraising for a range of different charities, but the main causes of the festival are Against Malaria UK and the Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre. Poppy describes the latter as being “a bit like Childline… it helps people to get the refuge they need.” Against Malaria UK, however, was chosen for its efficiency; “it’s ranked as one of the most effective charities you can give to in terms of producing quality adjusted life years” says Sara.

Although we sit drinking tea with soya milk out of floral mugs, the pair rally against the suggestion “that to go to ethical things you have to fit into an ethical box.” They’re keen for more students to get involved in ethical ventures across the university, citing the Cambridge Hub and CUSU as the best access points for this. “Hub can get you into volunteering programmes” affirms Poppy. “CUSU can help you be part of campaigns and lobby if you want to change things in the university. We just had the Tab article on socially responsible investment which was fantastic, and we’re about to have a CUSU motion to get the university to actually look at what its rules and regulations for investment are. It’s a very hot topic, and if you want to be part of the SRI campaign, you can.”

Attendance of these happenings, though, comes with no obligations; “there’s an ethical twist to each events, but they should be really great in themselves” explains Sara. With all the care, time, and creativity that has gone into the festival, I don’t doubt they will be. Their posters may proclaim #notwhatyoudexpect, but it seems unlikely that this week will be anything less than brilliant.

The Cambridge Ethical Festival started yesterday and runs until November 7th. For the full schedule of events, click here