by Donna Simpson, Press Officer at the Fairtrade Foundation
The weekend saw the face of Fairtrade Fortnight, Foncho, visiting Scotland as the final leg of the Fortnight producer tour. Donna Simpson, press officer at the Fairtrade Foundation, witnessed the strength behind the campaign with him.
Standing in front of Edinburgh Castle in 2.5 degrees, Foncho reminded me that less than 24 hours ago he was eating an ice cream on a beach in Southend. This is the final leg of his journey during Fairtrade Fortnight, and Scotland had greeted him with sleet and wind, but an otherwise warm welcome.
It was a whistle-stop tour, with just one full day in Glasgow before heading back to London, and the first time I had been out on producer tour. The reception Foncho and the rest of the team received in Glasgow is one I won’t forget in a hurry, and showed the strength of feeling behind the banana campaign, not to mention the dedication of supporters across the area.
Our first stop was Partick farmers’ market, where we heard from Martin Rhodes, director of the Scottish Fair Trade Forum. The event – a fantastic banana stall complete with banana smoothie bike as part of the farmers’ market – allowed Foncho to meet local farmers and producers, who told him they would happily back the campaign. The session that followed allowed Foncho to talk with supporters and school children, who were eager to find out who Foncho’s favourite football team is, and whether his son is good at football or not!
The next stop was Johnstone, near Paisley, where the surrounding Fairtrade groups had come together to celebrate all things bananas. Foncho told me later the welcome he received in Paisley was one he never expected, or could have imagined.
As we walked into the town square, we immediately saw the effort put in by the Fairtrade groups in the area. The bandstand had been decorated with balloons, banners and bunting, and Foncho got his first glimpse of a man in a kilt, when he was piped into the square where at least 60 people were clapping and shouting his name. The local Fairtrade groups had completed a ‘banana relay’, with one woman telling me she had walked three miles with an inflatable banana to greet Foncho. The town’s Provost welcomed him, while dozens of children in home-made banana costumes crowded him for photographs.
Foncho told me afterwards ‘The welcome I received in Johnstone really touched me. It really had an impact on me. I feel very grateful to all the people who organised my visit, who came along today and who brought me to Scotland. Although the weather is very cold, the people are very warm!’
Following a Q&A session at the church hall, Foncho spent most of the afternoon chatting with locals and signing at least 30 autographs – the quest to make Foncho famous, and spread the story about unfair bananas, really has worked.
On the train back to London, I asked Foncho what he thought about his time in the UK. He said again it was unexpected, and the reaction from the people he met was wonderful and touching. He talked about a large school in Southend, where the young people had a real impact on him, or chatting with children in Wales where he talked to them not just about Fairtrade, but learned about what life in general is like for them.
And, he said, the unexpected came from the number of people across the UK who are standing by him, and the millions of other farmers across the globe. Those who have turned up in banana suits, who have walked miles to see him, baked cakes to raise money and understanding of the issue, or learned about him in school or at university.
‘I hope the campaign achieves change,’ he added.
You can still sign the petition to Make Bananas Fair here.