Sneinton Market played host to Green Hustle Festival – the greener sister of Hockley Hustle. Lucy Robinson took a look inside the event
“Has anyone heard of deforestation before?” asks a man wearing a suit emblazoned with a map of the world, as his sidekick – dressed as the Earth – prances around the stage. “Give us a boo for climate change,” he shouts.
Having spent the best part of a year indoors the crowd is more than happy to oblige, of course. Soon enough, people are up on their feet cheering along to Greenpeace’s lesson in climate change.
Welcome to Green Hustle Festival 2021. If you take away the social distancing, contact tracing apps and bottles of hand sanitiser, you may be tricked into thinking that it’s 2019 again and that events like this are the norm.
“I saw the quote in LeftLion that said we were the first festival since November 2019, but I actually think the last festival was Beat The Streets in January 2020,” says co-director Adam Pickering, 33. “Still, this is the first festival in a long time.”
Today, June 5 2021, is certainly an occasion – not only is this the first festival to take place in Nottingham post-lockdown, it’s also the first ‘in real life’ festival for the organisers of Green Hustle themselves.
Having started its life in September 2020, up until now all it’s known has been a world of Zoom, Twitch and countless livestreams. “It feels like I spent all of last year just running around with different tech and cameras,” says Adam.
Now at Sneinton Market and featuring stall holders from local businesses, organisations and creatives in the city, Green Hustle has a distinct emphasis on bringing environmentalism to the grassroots and dispelling the fear and apprehension that so commonly stops people from engaging in the movement.
“Green Hustle is a festival platform celebrating all the best of the Nottingham green community, and all of our other amazing communities,” he says. “It’s all about bringing together people from different walks of life, from inner city, to out in the sticks.”
From creating community zines on the theme ‘Green Dreams’ to talks from Greenpeace and Nottingham’s own Next Gen Movement, it’s clear that sustainability is not just about living off grid, rejecting all forms of fast fashion or exclusively eating organic, Fairtrade, vegan food.
“You don’t have to be a hard gardener. You don’t have to be an Extinction Rebellion activist chaining yourself to banks and stuff like that,” Adam adds. “It’s something for everyone. We want to make it really fun and positive.”
More so, with cases of climate anxiety on the rise, it was important for the team behind Green Hustle to tackle how we approach the climate crisis and to celebrate the changes that people can make as opposed to dwell on the doom and gloom and apocalyptic visions.
“There’s a lot of negativity [surrounding how we talk about the planet],” he says. “Personally, I have spent years dealing with a lot of eco anxiety and not really knowing what to do about it. This is all about getting people started and giving them options. Giving them easy ways to get involved with it.”
For Hollie Anderson, 28, a volunteer at Green Hustle, and long-term volunteer with the Hustle family, the festival represents a landmark moment for Nottingham.
“Even if people didn’t realise that the event was on, when you’re welcoming them through, they ask what’s happening and you see their faces light up,” she says. “It’s a real event that’s happening in real life. It’s almost like there’s a collective sense of relief that normality is returning, and it’s been really lovely to see.”
With the main stage hosting DJs, musicians and poetry collectives, the attention wasn’t just on revitalising the community and the environment, but also on revitalising Nottingham’s creative scene – something which host venue Sneinton Market, has become synonymous with.
“Part of the reason spoken word became my creative outlet five years ago was because of the community you create and discover when doing gigs and open mics,” says poet Rachelle Foster, 26, part of GOBS Collective. “Not having that connection to community for the last year and three months has been really hard and uninspiring.”
Having joined the group after doing a 12-week online course back in January in order to kickstart her practice again, Green Hustle was the first time that Rachelle had performed with the group altogether.
“Getting the opportunity to perform in-person at Green Hustle has made my heart glow and to know it’s the first out of many times we’ll take to the stage together is so empowering,” she says, adding that, “collaborative festivals like Green Hustle are integral to community. Nottingham now finally feels like home to me after having lived here for a year.”
Fellow GOBS Collective member Cara Thompson, 22, agrees. Despite several lockdowns making her question if she knew how to socialise with people in real life, let alone perform on stage in front of the crowd, the moment she stepped foot in front of the mic, everything fell into place.
“Being back and performing in person felt really special. I think a large part of it was how supportive and engaged the Green Hustle community was during all of our performances, which you could really feel in the crowd and on stage,” she says. “One of the first things I said once I got off stage is that I wanted to do a live performance again.”
With backing from Arts Council England as well as Nottingham BID and the Creative Quarter, hopefully events like this will soon be the norm in Nottingham.
And, in the words of Adam, “we’re really happy to be back. This is what we do.”