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Hebden Bridge Pumpkins take on climate change!

In Pumpkin Carving by Liz WarringtonLeave a Comment

This year marked the fourth Hebden Bridge Pumpkin Festival – an annual occurrence every October half term.

In previous years we have run the family event featuring carved pumpkin displays, live pumpkin carving, pumpkin carving workshops and music and stalls adding to the atmosphere and it had quickly become a mainstay on the calendar for locals, visitors and families looking for something fun to do at Halloween. Sadly last year because of the Coronavirus pandemic the pumpkin trail was on hold and the pumpkins had to miss a year.

So, this year we were determined to bring back the fun in a safe way – incredibly, in a town well known for it’s events and festivals this was only the second event Hebden Royd Town Council have put on for nearly two years! Time for Sand In Your Eye to get their pumpkin carving tools at the ready and set about planning the next pumpkin festival!

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We’re all concerned about climate change and what can be done to combat it, whether it’s pressuring world leaders to do something, reducing our plastic waste, recycling, or switching to a green energy provider we can all make changes in our day to day lives and hopefully make a bigger change to the environment. At Sand In Your Eye we are concerned with our own carbon footprint, especially when making our work. For example we buy our pumpkins from Yorkshire Pumpkins, a family run pumpkin patch near Ripon and when we have finished carving them they go to a farm less than 2 miles from us who feed them to their pigs or put them on the compost heap. We even take some of the uncarved ones home and make them into pumpkin soups and curries. With COP26 coming up the week after the pumpkin trail, we had an idea to bring the message of climate change to the public through the medium of pumpkin carving!

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Hebden Royd Town Council was the first town council in Yorkshire to declare a climate emergency in 2019 and now have a Climate Emergency Committee who are working with the council to implement strategies and changes to reduce the carbon footprint, impact of flooding, and improve the environment for us all. 

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The pumpkin trail would lead the people through a tale of imminent peril, through to hope, action and (fingers crossed) a happy ending. Our bold, brash and silly pumpkins had a serious message and they did their best to communicate this to a wider audience, some of whom may not have climate change at the forefront of their minds.

The mix of a light hearted medium such as Halloween pumpkin carving and a more hard hitting and complex message was a great hook for getting media and press attention and we had lots of local and national news very interested with photos appearing in the Yorkshire Post, interviews about the pumpkin trail on ITV Calendar, BBC Look North, BBC Radio Leeds.

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This was kicked off with an early start appearing on BBC Breakfast with weather presenter Matt Taylor looking at some of the pumpkin carvings we had made for the upcoming trail, interviewing pumpkin carver Jamie Wardley, local climate activist Jude Walker, challenging Jamie to a pumpkin carve off as well as predicting the downpours that we were dodging all morning!

It was all great publicity for the event and the message of climate emergency.

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Luckily the weather brightened up for the weekend so lots of keen pumpkin festival visitors could enjoy the pumpkin scenes in the fresh air, including a live carve of a cheetah. This is as far as we know, only the second pumpkin sculpture ever done in the UK, after our boar last year for the Bradford Pumpkin Trail.

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Using around six pumpkins, including the skin of a green pumpkin for the cheetah’s spots – it took Jamie all weekend to make. We think it was well worth all the effort, it looked fantastic and certainly drew people in, who came back to watch it evolve and finally emerge as a magnificent, athletic cheetah running at full speed across the savannah. Sadly cheetahs are an endangered species and vulnerable to climate change because of their small population and their habitats in Africa being threatened. Even cheetahs can’t outrun climate change.

This pair of 3D carved pumpkins are playing the most dangerous game of dominoes ever! Factors such as a rise in global temperatures, thawing permafrost, and melting ice caps are tipping points from which there will be no return with weather patterns and even ocean currents being changed irrevocably. 

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Another, more clever pumpkin was conducting a scientific experiment in the Memorial Gardens in Hebden Bridge, demonstrating the implications of the acidification of the oceans.

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A rise in ocean temperatures will increase the acidity of the seas, this will have effects such as dissolving shellfish, crustaceans and coral reefs – as shown in the pumpkin’s experiment. 

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Hebden Bridge sadly has first hand experience of climate change, with catastrophic flooding events becoming a more regular occurrence in recent years – a family of pumpkins found themselves sat on top of the roof of their house. Luckily the pumpkins had their arm bands on and an umbrella to protect them from the worst of the weather.

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It wasn’t all doom and gloom, there are people around the world trying to make a difference such as the internationally renowned climate activist Greta Thunberg, the politicians and world leaders at COP26, which this year will be held in Glasgow. As well as a pumpkin on school strike dressed like Greta with her iconic plaits and yellow raincoat, we invited local school children to make their own pumpkin carvings and bring them along to join the protest.

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Hebden Bridge is well known for it’s community spirit and activism and 11 year old local boy Jude Walker chose to spend his summer holiday in 2021 walking with his family from Hebden Bridge to Westminster, London to raise awareness of the need for a carbon tax to persuade companies to find green solutions and achieve carbon neutrality.

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We were so impressed with Jude’s efforts that we immortalized him as a pumpkin carving. We hope he found it flattering, but it was a really fun way of introducing his story and his aims to other people. Well done Jude!

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We can each make a difference ourselves, whether that is making green choices at home, encouraging companies we use to find alternatives and reduce their carbon output, and capturing carbon from the atmosphere through a variety of methods. 

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We can all plant more trees and local organisations in Hebden Bridge and Calderdale, such as Slow the Flow and Treesponsibility are trying to plant more trees to not only soak up carbon from the air but also water when it rains. If the hillsides are forested, less water will make it down to the valley floor and will help reduce flooding. Hebden Royd Town Council are also planting trees on their land with a community orchard being cultivated at High Hirst Wood Meadow

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In West Yorkshire we are surrounded by peat moorland – a little known fact is that peat can capture much more carbon from the atmosphere than trees. We decided to celebrate this amazing fact with the fantastic King Peat, the king of carbon capture.

The cheerful monarch beamed down from his boggy throne and trail goers queued up to have their photo taken smiling next to him. He held in his hand a gold watering can, keeping the peat moist so it can do it’s job and soak up and hold onto carbon. Draining, cutting and burning peat can destroy this capability so we need to make sure it is looked after. The conservation of peat moorlands is also instrumental in protecting areas from flooding.

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We will need to keep producing products such as steel, cement and plastic for a long time still but carbon and heat can be taken from industrial processes and stored in the ground. 

Other green choices we can all make easily are following the phrase reduce, reuse, recycle. This highlights the order of importance. Firstly we should do what we can to reduce the amount of waste we produce, such as cutting down on single use plastic. Then we should look at reusing what we have e.g. taking containers and using zero waste shops, and finally recycle as much of what is left as possible.

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The Picture House in Hebden Bridge has long been a great place for a cuppa and some cake whilst watching a film but it now no longer uses single use plastic in their bar.

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The pair of pumpkins here on the steps of the Picture House are being visited by a cheeky pumpkin milkman whistling a tune. Using glass bottles, that are then handed back and refilled is a perfect example of a circular economy with minimal waste. It might be an old fashioned idea but sometimes the best ones are!

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Alternative energy is also something that can start at home – literally. Choosing a green energy provider, who funds and uses wind and solar energy will make a difference especially as the reliance on coal powered power stations becomes less common. Their tariffs are comparable to the big energy providers and in some cases more favourable.

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One of the original proponents of renewable energy was Dr Frankenstein who brought his monster to life using the electricity produced in a lightning storm!

One of the biggest polluters are cars that use petrol and diesel, we have become so reliant on the internal combustion engine it can be hard to see a viable alternative transport and electric vehicles have a reputation as being expensive and difficult to run with short ranges and slow charging. However advances in technology have come on in leaps and bounds in recent years, with new models being more affordable, cheap to run, with longer and longer ranges, more charging points popping up and a lot of fun to drive! Peugeot kindly donated an e-208, one of their latest models and the pumpkins had a lot of fun taking it for a drive and having a picnic alongside. One of the carved pumpkins was so proud of the shiny electric vehicle, they gave it a wash and polish!

Eating locally sourced and grown food can be a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, whilst supporting local businesses. A lot of meat comes from faraway countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Argentina – that’s a lot of air miles to eat something that may be grazing in fields not that far from your home. If you can reduce the amount of meat in your diet you will also reduce your carbon, as vegetarian and vegan diets account for less carbon than meat based ones. Again, look to local greengrocers and farmers rather than big supermarkets and pick locally grown produce in season rather than fruit and vegetables intensively farmed abroad and you will also be looking after the local economy.

This hungry pumpkin seems to have taken “eat local” to heart and is chasing some locals including Daisy the cow!

If we can all make changes where possible, and encourage and pressure companies, councils and our leaders to do the same – we can have hope of a green revolution and a prosperous world future.

Improving the environment can have positive consequences all round, with an improved economy brought about by the new jobs and businesses created by green developments, technologies and industries, fewer demands and competition for natural resources, health benefits that reduce pressure on health infrastructures, fairer, more equal and greater access to education, as well as a more pleasant world to live in.

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Thanks to Hebden Royd Town Council, the Rotary Club of Hebden Bridge for their support, Peugeot for the kind loan of the electric car and the European Regional Development Fund for funding the pumpkin sculpture.

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