When someone says “off grid”, what do you think about? A family huddled in the freezing darkness in a muddy field? A couple basking in a sunny island villa? A crazy guy living in the woods with a hidden stash of tinned beans and a rifle?
All of the above might have a grain of truth in them, but when we at the Off Grid Festival talk about off grid, we have in mind a lifestyle not too far removed from the one many of us live today, with maybe just a few tweaks. For us, off grid encapsulates a way of being that is closer to nature and more in tune with the seasons. It asks less of the planet and more of us. In this way of life, we take responsibility for the way we use resources. We take a step away from systems which are harmful to us or to the earth and a step towards alternatives. This might mean anything from installing solar panels to growing some of your own food, but one thing is certain, it requires us to learn a new set of skills.
With this in mind, we have made the Off Grid College a part of our annual Festival. A four day, 12 module course in practical sustainability and appropriate technology, this much loved platform has become a core element of Off Grid’s identity. It is self-organised in collaboration with partners such as The Centre for Alternative Technology, Land Matters and Steward Wood Community. Our new curator for 2017 is Matt Lepley, who has some fresh ideas and a range of new faces to bring to the programme. It’s a role Matt tells us he’s excited to take on!
“It’s been a big learning curve for me because I’ve not done anything like this before. The Off Grid College is the practical side of Off Grid Living and that can include alternative technologies such as solar power, hydro power, how to grow your own food, composting techniques but also looking a bit more widely at how to build a community off grid and some of the legal implications and barriers, such as how to get planning permission for off grid developments.
How to harvest rainwater, also specific techniques of growing food, such as no dig gardening (from permaculture) and we’re excited that we’ve got a few representatives from CAT, the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales, which has a reputation for being the best place in Europe for teaching about and demonstrating alternative technologies in terms of harvesting and conserving and creating alternative forms of energy.”
What’s new this year for the Off Grid College?
“This year we’ll have more guided walks around the site. Last year they had an edible forage walk and a medicinal forage walk but this year I’m hoping to set up an ecology walk and to get Tammy from CAT doing a building materials walk. I’ll be setting up a natural navigation walk, which will be all about how you can tell north, south, east and west from what’s growing on the banks and how you can get signs of what weather might be coming by looking at the behaviour of plants.”
What would you like people to take away from the Off Grid College?
“To apply some of the lessons from off grid in their own lives, but also just to stay in touch with each other and network, because I feel people living offgrid lifestyles could do with linking up a bit more and supporting each other a bit more. I would hope this for the whole of the Off Grid Festival, that people use it to create a sense of longer lasting community that goes beyond the Festival.”