There have been a lot more bottoms wearing PICO pants since Christmas! We had a lovely time in the lead up, selling at fairs in both Dorset and London. We met lots of lovely people and it was great to see new & old friends. We felt very grateful for all the positive feedback and support we received.
Our visit to Gram Seva Mandal, in the Wardha district of Maharashtra, was an unexpected delight. After a few hours of being lost in rural Gopuri, in 49.8* heat, we were very happy to have found the ashram and meet the wonderful Tanmay who kindly welcomed his unexpected visitors with cups of refreshing lemongrass chai.
As we sat on his step, listening to him talk about the cotton industry, it’s history, it’s many issues as well as its wonders, we were immediately struck by his in-depth knowledge and passion.
Tanmay had learnt about Karuna & Vasant, and their work at Gram Seva Mandal and after studying he left his home city to live with them in their ashram. Here he has learnt how to grow and produce organically, live self-sufficiently and the art of village-scale production of hand-woven Khadi.
Walking into the workshop was like entering an Aladdin’s cave, a space dedicated to the developing, innovating and salvaging of village scale machines which will allow communities to produce hand-woven cotton, from seed to cloth. There were so many things in the works, from domestic ginning machines, to roving machines, to a wide variety of spinning wheels, those small enough to carry on the train, to larger ones for whole communities to use - a homage to Gandhi and his philosophy.
We were also taken to the weaving unit where we were greeted by three young girls who had recently started to learn to weave from a great master weaver. It was very impressive to see the skill the girls had so quickly picked up and see the master weaver producing fabric of exceptional fineness and quality. It was inspiring to see this ancient and beautiful craft alive and progressing in 2016.
We left feeling blessed to have had this time with Tanmay and to have learnt about the impressive work of Gram Seva Mandal whilst also understanding more about the political relevance and importance of khadi today. We were both inspired and encouraged by their work and hope that we can continue to learn from and stay connected to Tanmay and Gram Seva Mandal.
We are so grateful to Kishore & Vasanti for encouraging us to visit Gram Seva Mandal and all their help facilitating this!
On the night of our launch, with a lot of help from the team at The Yurt Care and our dear friends and family - 120 guests were welcomed with a delicious Autumn cocktail (huge thanks to Sipsmith & Fever-Tree) and the sounds of the wonderful three piece playing soft american jazz.
Everyone congregated outside amongst the flares, candles and chimineas on the warm autumn eve before being beckoned down to the big screen. No one quite knew where they were being taken and were all amazed to find tucked away around the corner was a huge screen with PICO projected on it and an amphitheater dug out the ground. Such an atmospheric spot, in the pitch-black with the sounds and lights of the DLR occasionally flying by in the distance. Here we gave a talk to everyone about our journey so far and showed pictures of our trip to India alongside what we had been learning about conventional cotton & clothing manufacturings and the benefits of organic and fair trade.
Anna from the Yurt cafe’s delicious squash curry was served up in the community Hub which everyone raved about and we got multiple requests for the recipe. The yurt was then filled with folk listening to the incredible tunes and enjoying organic cider from our home county Dorset and Toast beer which is made from left over bread.
PICO then had its first experience of running a shop as everyone was able to buy a pair of PICO pants and postcards and we were so happy that so many people did.
An unforgettable and incredibly special evening and we couldn’t be more happy to have launched PICO at The Yurt Cafe. Thank you so much to all at St. Katharine’s Precinct.
Keep an eye out for PICO's "Gather & Mend" community evenings starting in November at The Yurt Cafe!
Venue: The Yurt Cafe
Music : Whiskey Moon Face
In all our research on the devastating effects of conventional cotton on the farmers in India, Dr Vandana Shiva is always at the forefront of the drive for positive change. So whilst out in India we went to her biodiversity farm, Navdanya, to meet with her. Whilst there we did a course on Gandhi Globalisation and Gross National Happiness. There were some incredible teachers including Satish Kumar from Resurgence (one of the highly regarded magazines on ecology, social justice, spirituality & sustainability) & Rajgopal from Ekta Parishad (a huge non violent people's movement dedicated to social & land reform in India) alongside 40 international students who, each in their own way, are working towards a more sustainable way of living. It was probably one of the most thought provoking 10 days of our journey so far!
Navdanya has so far helped half a million farmers move into organic farming practices. Since corporations took over control of the seeds & introduced GM cotton into India, Navdanya has been fighting for the rights of the farmers, setting up 120 seed banks & encouraging seed saving, natural pest control and an alternative to the unimaginable dept & disaster that the introduction of conventional farmer has had on Indian farmers - which have been largely responsible for the deaths of 300,000 farmers.
Dr Shiva is one of the most influential activists, environmentalists & promoters of traditional farming in India & a complete inspiration to us. We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to talk to her about our project - do have a listen!