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    BAFTS - Fair Trade Network UK Conference

    Thursday, 23 May 2019  |  Joanna

    Manchester holds a special place in our hearts as we traded there for many years - on the Fair Trade market in Piccadilly Gardens, the Christmas market on Brazennose Street and others around the city centre. It's where we cut our teeth as fair trade retailers.

    It was on 22 May 2017, the evening of the BAFTS Conference, that Manchester's Arena was tragically bombed with the loss of 23 young lives, so it seemed fitting to bring the Conference to Manchester this year.

    We've been members of BAFTS since 2006 and have attended the annual Conference every year since 2009. It's a wonderful chance to meet up with the people who make the goods we sell, other people who sell fair trade goods and like minded people who just want to support fair trade.

    This year I was asked to give a half hour presentation based on my experiences over the last 8 years assessing membership renewals. Over the years I have heard the most incredibly inspiring stories from BAFTS members, and I was able to give advice and encouragement to members, to realise they have stories to tell, and how to tell them. Many members came up to me later to thank me and say they really valued my hints and tips.

    I've been working on improving the way members of BAFTS - the UK's fair trade network - report what they are doing, how they are working and what's happening with their producers around the world. Collaboration is vital, with sharing information and ideas at the heart of how fair trade is different from conventional trade.

    We heard from BAFTS member Et games who had a £20,000 shipment of products impounded at Southampton docks for over 6 months due to a paperwork error, how fair trade pioneer Traidcraft nearly didn't get to celebrate its 40th birthday this year, and how the 2004 tsunami devastated some of the workers in Sri Lanka who make our wooden toys.

    But there were lots of positive stories - from Erinch Sahan of WFTO who explained that fair trade is at the cutting edge of global trade, with recycling, the circular economy and reduction in single use plastic being the focus of some of their new members.

    And we heard from Earth Squared, one of our bag suppliers, whose 20 year relationship with their Vietnamese supplier has turned into a strong and happy friendship.   

    The whole thing happened at Bridge 5 Mill in the up and coming Beswick area of Manchester - within penalty kicking distance of the Etihad stadium. In fact our return journey was enriched with hundreds of fans in light blue shirts heading into town to watch the Manchester City team bus parading its unprecedented three trophies.

    I always come away from the BAFTS Conference inspired and enthused. Fair trade stories tell you where your goods are made, but they also connect you with the human beings behind the products. The UK's fair trade network is vital for our business and we're delighted to meet up with our colleagues and friends from all over the country once a year.

    And I got flowers!