crowdfunding

The oak tree and the spell book

In my last post, I hinted at a brand-new creative project arising out of the tree felling scandal in Sheffield.

Now, with a fanfare and a drum roll, here it is.

Vernon Oak, the 150-year-old oak in Vernon Road, Sheffield is launching a crowdfunder!

Vernon wants to raise enough money to buy a copy of The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris for every primary school in Sheffield. (And I’ve been appointed Vernon’s agent!)

PROJECT COVER PIC

Book with roots: The Lost Words and Vernon Oak

This spellbinding book is about words that are disappearing from children’s vocabularies. Words that are the names for beautiful, wild things like otters, kingfishers, bluebells and newts.

In The Lost Words, Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris take twenty of these words and infuse them with new life through brilliant writing and glorious illustrations. It’s a magical way of summoning the words back into children’s lives.

Acorn Spread

One of Jackie Morris’s illustrations for ‘Acorn’ in The Lost Words

But why does Vernon want to give a copy to every primary school in Sheffield?

Well let’s hand over to Vernon for the answer.

Vernon April 2017

JD: Vernon, thank you for agreeing to do another interview for this blog. Can I start by asking what made you decide to launch this crowdfunder?
Vernon Oak: Until recently, I’ve lived a very quiet life just doing normal tree-things each year, like producing thousands of acorns and giving food and shelter to hundreds of creatures. But since 2015, when Sheffield City Council decided that I was to be felled, I’ve become an active campaigner, speaking out for the thousands of healthy Sheffield trees that are also threatened with felling.

Wherever possible, my campaign has been creative: I’ve helped people to observe, appreciate and celebrate the natural world all around them, even on a city street. The Lost Words is exactly the right book to make people relish and value those things but also to reflect on what we are in danger of losing.

I wanted to do something positive for Sheffield and I know that those who receive the book will find it inspiring.

child heart

A message from one of Vernon’s younger friends

JD: And what’s so special about this book?
VO:
The Lost Words is for everyone. It is ‘wonderful’, ‘breathtaking’ and ‘exquisite’, just as the reviews have said, but it has special meaning for an oak tree which is in real danger of being ‘lost’ too. Once I’ve been felled, is it likely that people will still find acorns on the street or hear the tawny owl hooting at night? I don’t think so. It’s no wonder that the words for such things are disappearing from children’s speech.

Oh, and of course The Lost Words starts with the acorn spell, which is right up my street.

Acorn Poem

JD: It’s a fantastic idea, Vernon. You’re going to bring a lot of joy to Sheffield. Is there anything else you’d like to say?
VO: 
I’d like to thank Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris for creating such a beautiful book. Also, I know Sheffield’s independent bookshop Rhyme and Reason at Hunter’s Bar is helping you with the logistics so I’d like to thank them too.

Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust are  supporting the campaign too, especially through their Teach Wild Network, which is a brilliant initiative to get children learning outside their classroom.

Thanks as well to The Woodland Trust for backing us, and for giving so much support to me and my fellow street trees in Sheffield and elsewhere in the country.

And thanks to all my friends and neighbours who are fighting to keep me in Vernon Road, and especially the ones who are working on this with you.

JDSo all that remains for me to say is:

GOOD LUCK VERNON!

Please support Vernon Oak’s crowdfunder. The target is £3,200, enough for 150 books, and Vernon has just five weeks to do it!

Full details HERE, where you can also pledge your donations!

And for proof of the magical effect this book has on children, go on Twitter and search for #TheLostWords. You’ll see a veritable explosion of creativity inspired through teachers using the book in their classroom.

For more information about the felling of healthy street trees in Sheffield, see the Sheffield Tree Action Groups website here.

My previous interview with Vernon Oak is here, and there’s more about the decision to put Vernon on the felling list here.

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we all did it!

Screen shot 2013-12-12 at 07.34.59

I may have screamed.

All through Monday, Julian and I watched the counter on our Kickstarter page inch towards its £10,000 target.

If we didn’t make our target, then we wouldn’t receive any of the money pledged towards an initial print run of the book about Incredible Edible Todmorden.

By teatime it stood at a little over £9,600. All rules about ‘no screens at mealtimes’ went out of the window.

After tea we had to go to a meeting. To my amazement, I managed to turn off my phone off for almost two hours, but I was switching it on again even as we pulled on our coats to leave.

£9,828.

Back home, I rushed upstairs to put my boots away. When I came down, our son was holding out his phone and grinning.

£10,002!

(That’s when I screamed. It wasn’t a time for worrying about what the neighbours would think.)

Pledges continued to come in, right up to the project deadline this morning – you can see our final total at the top of this post:

£10,774

This month of campaigning to crowdfund enough money for an initial print run of my book about Incredible Edible Todmorden has been one of the most intense of my life, second only to the weeks after bringing our first baby home. It’s been exciting, exhausting and at times almost unbearably tense.

Screen shot 2013-12-12 at 07.42.36

But we did it – and we did it by riding a wave of overwhelming generosity, enthusiasm and kindness, all qualities that are at the heart of the Incredible Edible movement.

I am so grateful to all the people who supported us, whether that was by pledging money, endlessly pestering their Facebook friends, allowing us to guest post on their blogs, arranging media coverage, or sending us cheery emails just when we needed them the most.

So to any of you who are reading and who backed us in any way  – a huge THANK YOU!

There WILL be a book in the spring and it will be in no small measure down to you!

I had stupidly assumed I would be able to finish editing the manuscript of Incredible! while the Kickstarter was gently ticking away in the background. (Cue hollow laughter.)

I am often wrong about my capabilities but rarely have I been wronger than this. Most of the campaign was conducted over Facebook, Twitter and the blogosphere, and at times I felt as though entire sections of my brain were being colonised by social media.

Twitter in particular is like hanging out in a vast emporium of delights with hundreds of smart, witty and sometimes slightly bonkers magpies who keep attracting your attention with shiny little hyperlinks.

Exciting social action - Jack Monroe's campaign to get food poverty debated in Parliament - AND a cat picture. No wonder Twitter is addictive.
A cat picture AND exciting news about Jack Monroe’s campaign to get food poverty debated in Parliament . No wonder Twitter is addictive.

So I’m about to retreat to a silent library where I cannot access the internet. I’ll spend my days holed up there while I polish the story to be the best it can possibly be. 

It’s always felt a bit daunting, doing justice to the Incredible Edible story, and it seems even more so now that I know how many people have put their faith in the project by backing the book.

But I’ll be giving it my absolute best, incorporating advice from some very insightful beta readers and an excellent professional editor. With that and a sprinkling of the Incredible Edible magic I’m trusting the end result will be something that justifies the brilliant support we have had in raising this money for a print run.

THANK YOU EVERYONE!

90 seconds of Incredible magic

This is fun: a whistlestop tour of Todmorden filmed by Tom Boyden, who’s been cycling around Europe looking at sustainable food projects. It only lasts a minute and a half and it’s sure to give your day a lift.

Julian (my partner) and I are currently crowdfunding to raise money for an initial print run of the book about Incredible Edible Todmorden that I’ve written with co-founder Pam Warhurst. There’s only ten days to go – will we make it? Maybe with your help! You can pledge from as little as £1 and it’s perfectly safe: if we don’t make our target, nobody pays a penny. I’m not making any money personally from this campaign – we just want to get the book out there and spread the Incredible Edible magic even further. You can find the campaign here.