Low Carbon Hub’s Community Group’s Big Get Together at Harwell Village Hall 

It was wonderful to hold our annual Low Carbon Hub Community Group’s Big Get Together 2023 on Saturday 7 October at Harwell Village Hall, Harwell.

It was a joyous event where community groups from across the county met and shared the latest developments in their communities. It was a great chance to meet and get to know some of Low Carbon Hub’s newly elected directors and for them to hear first-hand the achievements and challenges faced by our local community groups. 

This special occasion was our first communities meeting since consolidating Low Carbon Hub CIC and IPS, and Al Kitchen, our elected Communities Director, provided a summary of the recent changes to the structure. He introduced two new Directors, Chris Woolhouse and Mish Tullar, and led an enthusiastic ice – breaking session of ‘Speed Dating at the Grid Edge,’ where everyone in the room got to know each other and chatted with people they hadn’t met before or had only met virtually over Zoom meetings.  

We were delighted to host the meeting in the heart of the Oxfordshire at Harwell Village Hall, where low carbon community group, Sustainable Harwell, have recently undertaken the ambitious task of installing solar panels and a battery, at both the Village Hall and the nearby Harwellian Sports and Social Club. It was especially poignant to be meeting in the hall on a bright sunny day whilst the panels were generating green energy above our heads. 

 Chair of Sustainable Harwell, Giles Barwell, talked us through the group’s journey to renewable energy, starting with an energy assessment from the OxFutures programme in 2019, to the solar installations fully generating.   

Low Carbon Hub were thrilled to be able to contribute to the renewable energy project by awarding Sustainable Harwell a large grant from the most recent round of our Community Grants Fund. Both the Village Hall and the Harwellian Sports Club are regularly used by the whole community but have been hit hard by the recent rise in energy costs. The newly installed solar PV will help to reduce these costs and will help to show how a rural community can begin the transition away from the use of fossil fuels to meet net zero targets in Oxfordshire. 

The event provided a fantastic example of how a Low Carbon Hub grant can help to support a big innovative project that benefits a whole community. Our Large Grant fund is now open and the deadline for outline applications is Friday 19 January 2024. This is a perfect time to start planning for your project. For inspiration and more information visit the Community Grants page on our website. 

Sustainable Wantage Draughtbusters team showed us how they set up the Draughtbusters project in their community with a small, committed team of trained volunteers. They go into people’s homes, assess where the most heat is leaking from, and straight away install simple, effective measures, such as draught excluder round windows and doors. Residents really appreciate the immediate effects of a warmer home. Sustainable Wantage have made it easier for other community groups to introduce the scheme in their area, by sharing their templates and paperwork. It was heartening to hear their message; that it was easier than they thought to set up the scheme! 

The annual get togethers are a fantastic opportunity to exchange ideas. It’s important to all of us at Low Carbon Hub to hear what our community groups think about our plans and to participate in shaping them. We invited everyone to write down a ‘Burning Question’ or a challenge their group is facing and add them to our Burning Questions Box to discuss at tables after the refreshments break.  

We were fortified by delicious food from Down To Earth Community Café, Wantage, ahead of the final part of the afternoon. Low Carbon Hub staff members delivered a presentation summarising our programmes, and support available for our community groups, to help plan the next phase of community – led action on climate change. The slides are available to download or view here

We engaged in a lively discussion of our community group’s Burning Questions. The questions and challenges help to inform how we can collaborate and strengthen our partnerships for a more sustainable energy system for the future. The most popular questions were: 

How do we make sure we have enough skilled contractors to retrofit buildings? 

How can we encourage more volunteers in our communities to take part in our events? 

How can we engage the public in low carbon activities and investments? 

How can we attract younger people and families? 

And the Big Burning Question: 

How do we get our politicians MOVING and not just saying? Pic of that question 

The topics have given us a wealth of ideas for community group events for 2024, where we can debate the questions and explore solutions. 

Look out for our next community events this year: 

Energy Champion Training Day – Friday 17 November at Low Carbon Hub office at Holywell House. Sign up for the training here. 

Low Carbon Transport & Active Travel in Oxfordshire – Wednesday 29 November, online. Zoom link can be found here