Get your allotments involved! UN climate summit – COP26

What’s COP26?

Officially a general term meaning ‘Conference of the Parties’, the most well-known COP is the annual conference officially known as the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

The 25th annual COP – COP25 – was recently held in Madrid (although it was originally planned for Chile, before civil unrest took hold and it was relocated).

It’s a big deal, and it’s coming to Glasgow from 9 – 19 November 2020.

What does it have to do with me?

First up, 30,000 delegates and 200 leaders from around the world are expected to arrive in the city, so you can expect some disruption. They’ll be based around the Scottish Events Campus, so security arrangements and travel around that part of the city are likely to be affected.

You can also expect accommodations to be booked up around that time of year, and with Greater Glasgow’s population temporarily growing by 5% (but likely all packed in around the middle), there’ll be a lot more people all competing to be fed and entertained in the city centre. Worth noting if you have any big events during that couple of weeks…

Secondly, each COP comes with an informal fringe, which is an opportunity for the public to get involved.

What is the COP fringe?

Totally self-organised, and separate from the actual summit, COP fringe events are a place for the public to get involved and talk about climate change issues.

From campaign groups and protests to local food-growing organisations and educational activities, it’s a chance for a wide range of people to have a platform.

The Scottish Climate Change Secretary has arranged that the Glasgow Science Centre – just across the river from the SEC – will be a host venue to some of these activities.

The Science Centre won’t be big enough (or just won’t suit) a lot of the activities people want to run across the city, though, and it’s important that everyone with an idea for a fringe event has a space to collaborate and organise.

So who’s organising it, and what will they do?

Over the past few months, a national group has started to self-organise. Representatives from lobbying groups, environment-focused NGOs (think Friends of the Earth), trade unions, climate justice organisations, and local community groups have all entered the mix.

This group doesn’t go by an overall name, but you can think of it as a coalition of UK civil society groups. Broadly, it’s anyone who isn’t part of the country’s official, governmental involvement.

You can read more about them at https://cop26coalition.wordpress.com/

‘We are working in a broad, diverse and inclusive formation to organise ourselves as UK civil society around COP26 and are in the process of establishing UK-level and Scottish-level coordinating groups, with Scottish representation on the UK group and strong communication between the two groups.’

COP26 coalition

How can I help my allotments / GAF get involved?

Short answer – think about whether:

  • your allotment site could open its doors to the community in some way that relates to the challenges of a changing climate, or
  • you or your allotment members could bring your knowledge of small-scale, sustainable food-growing out to the community at some other venue, or
  • you could help GAF coordinate these kinds of activities between sites, or
  • you know of some other food-growing-type group who might like to be involved

Some of the GAF members were invited to the most recent coalition meeting in November – you can read about what happened and decide if you want to get involved.

COP26 coalition meeting Nov 2019 – a report and a call to arms

On 12 November 2019, Richard, Christine and Scott from the GAF Executive Committee went along to a Scottish meeting of the recently formed COP26 coalition to talk about how we can get involved in Glasgow-based activities.

Over the course of 3 hours, we met representatives from around 40 other organisations with an interest in coordinating local and national events around COP26 in November.

Principles & Structure of the Coalition

The Coalition broadly exists to help coordinate fringe events around COP26 in November. As one attendee put it:

‘we don’t want Friends of the Earth marching through George Square on the same day as Greenpeace because nobody thought to tell each other’

The key principles of the Coalition were agreed to be that:

  • We (the Coalition) want to form one broad, diverse and inclusive coalition to organise UK civil society around COP26
  • The Coalition should represent a range of constituencies including trade unions, direct action networks, climate justice groups, environment and development NGOs, faith groups, students and youth, migrant and racial justice networks, and a liaison to global movements
  • The Coalition should not be dominated by well-resourced groups
  • The Coalition should work in a flexible and open process (particularly in the initial stages) that allows for different levels of access and involvement while keeping everyone informed
  • The Coalition should provide a range of support for international groups.

Lots of discussion followed, and everyone agreed on an organisational structure where a London-based group would head up the UK-wide COP26 response, comprising of reps from a range of working groups:

  • fundraising
  • logistics
  • political strategy
  • international liaison (because people from other countries will want to come and have their voices heard outside this UN event)
  • communications
  • mobilisation (i.e. organising group movements across the city where relevant)

A Scottish equivalent would be formed with a similar structure, and with a representative who then sits on the UK-wide group.

The idea is that attendees at this November meeting (including us, and maybe you!) would essentially organise their own campaigning and climate-awareness-raising activities under the broader organisational efforts of the Coalition.

Where Do Allotments Fit In?

Since 40 organisations will all have very different reasons for existing, we broke up into special interest groups. The three of us from GAF joined the food-growing group, along with a couple of folks from organisations who look at food-growing strategy across the city.

We decided we’d go back to our colleagues across Glasgow’s allotments and look at ways to raise awareness how people can perhaps get involved in food-growing (whether they have an allotment or not!) or perhaps make small changes to improve the sustainability of their lifestyles.

Next Coalition Meeting

On Tuesday 28 January, the Coalition will get together again. If it’s anything like the November meeting, it’ll be a lot of people in a room that can just about hold them and no more! We’ll probably be sending along one or two people to represent GAF, and we’ll report back shortly after.

How Can You Get Involved?

Do you have an idea for an activity on your site?

Could you bring your knowledge out to the community at an official event at the Science Centre in November?

Would you like to help out with coordinating food-growing and food-policy groups across Glasgow?

Let us know or come along to a GAF meeting and we’ll make sure to keep you included.

Volunteer or donate towards Potato Day: Sun 23 Feb 2020

11am – 3pm, Reidvale Neighborhood Centre, Dennistoun, G31 1QW

Grab yourself some seed potatoes, learn a new technique, and even get the kids’ faces painted…

Potatoes, sets and seeds for sale

Potato Day is our annual event to kick-start the growing season. We’ll have over 40 varieties of seed potato, the majority of which are Scottish grown. You’ll find old favourites as well as new additions, and you can buy anything from as little as one tuber, although the day is more about variety than quantity.

There’ll also be onion and shallot sets, garlic, fertiliser, potato planter bags, as well as seeds for vegetables, herbs, flowers and green manure.

Other activities

Once again, we’ll be joined by the Glasgow Food Network & Urban Roots who’ll will be running a seed-swap table, so bring along whatever you don’t need and see if you can pick up something interesting from someone else.

The Tattie Bash, our famous annual potato-growing competition, kicks off each year at Potato Day. For the princely sum of £2, you’ll be given a pot and one seed potato tuber, returning in August to one of our weigh-ins to see who’s managed to grow the heftiest crop of tatties. All proceeds go to the charity WaterAid; from a land of plenty water we’ll be helping people in parts of the world with little access to any water, let alone anything like the clean, safe drinking water we enjoy – http://www.wateraid.org

There’ll be many other stalls, workshops, and a café too – we’ll post more details here as we get them confirmed.

Stalls for the kids

We’ll have activities for children in the youth suite – some are yet to be arranged, but we’ll definitely have a puppet-making area with the Scottish Mask and Puppet Centre. We’ll also have face-painted by the wonderful Angelina of Fab Faces in Hamilton.


Request for Volunteers & Donations

The event simply wouldn’t be possible without a gang of helpers, so every bit of assistance is valuable. (If you do come along to help out, please bring your own lunch!)

We’re looking for help with a few different aspects of the day, so let us know if you’re keen to get involved, and whether you’re a first-aider.

  • Setting-up: 9am – 11.30am

    The Reidvale Centre will be open at 9am; stay and help for as long as you’re able.

    There’s a lot of lugging about of potatoes & other heavy things, so strong fit folk will be in high demand. We also need help with general setting up and putting notices up etc. for those who aren’t quite ready for the Olymics just yet.

  • Manning stalls & helping customers: 10.30am – 3.15pm for as long as you are able

    You don’t need to know a lot about potatoes, but it helps! Most important is a willingness to help people negotiate the Potato Day process of choosing and buying, telling people where to pay, directing them to the loos, etc.

  • Manning the front desk: 10.30am – 3.15pm for as long as you are able

    This one involves greeting folk and giving general information about the day and how it works, answering any other questions about GAF etc. It’s February, so warm clothing required!

  • Clearing up: 3.00 – 4.30pm

    We’re due to be out of the building at 4pm.

    GAF is proud of its reputation for leaving the venue clean and tidy, with minimal work for the janitors. Again, strong fit folk will be in demand.

Donation of home baking, jams chutneys etc.

All donations are very welcome! Please take baking directly, as early as possible, on the day to the café. Please label what the item is and mark clearly if it contains nuts or other allergens. Please take preserves to the stall in the 1st floor hall.

It’s always a really fun day, and it’s a great way to kick-start the season. Spread the word, let us know if you’re willing and able to help out for a bit, and hopefully we’ll see you there!

Hello 👋

I’m Scott Ramsay, the newest member of the GAF executive committee and the person who’ll be updating the website from now on.

If there’s anything you’d like to see that isn’t already here somewhere, or if you’ve got suggetions on how we could develop our communication with plotholders, we’re all ears!

About me

I’ve been at the Sir John Stirling Maxwell Allotments since 2014, where I’m currently the Treasurer.

I studied the genetics of heat tolerance in crops in a past life. The science was interesting, but sadly it didn’t give me much of a green thumb. I take a try-it-and-see approach to my plot, so if you have any tips, send them my way and I’ll stick them up here while I give them a go!