Around half-a-century ago a movement started to gather momentum to show there is a better way, one which respects producer and buyer, which recognises the imbalance, and which uses the business skills and resources of the more developed partner to help the other partner develop theirs. It’s called fairtrade.
Many people could tell you that fairtrade is about paying a fair price for what is sold and bought. But it’s a lot more than that. The focus of fairtrade is on the people involved and on their relationships. The basis for such a partnership is set out in a comprehensive Ten Principles of Fairtrade developed by the international organisation WFTO. Some people in Headington were involved in this growing movement – promoting “Campaign Coffee” (and even drinking it!), buying fairly traded goods, selling them on church stalls, lobbying elected representatives for wider change, involved in achieving fairtrade status for Oxford City, schools, Oxford Brookes University and Oxford University colleges. Around 2008 an idea developed to set up a fairtrade shop in the Headington shopping area to sell more fairtrade products, and to help spread the fairtrade message.
After signing a lease and a frantic few weeks, we had an official opening event on Tuesday 2nd March 2010. It required a huge amount of volunteer time, was financially very risky, and there was a lot to learn. But the venture was launched, and continues, thanks to great work and support from many people. An enduring memory will be the “surprise” visit of Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 2010, who agreed to call into the shop on his way from Oxford back to London. His delightful character and enthusiasm gave us great encouragement.
Operating a retail shop is not in itself a charitable activity, so we set up as a community co-operative. Being a co-op means that each member/ shareholder can have an equal say, such as in the annual election of a representative management committee. As a community co-op we see ourselves as connecting the communities of Headington with the communities in which the products we sell are grown or made. People are at the heart of what we do, and who we do it for. Many of our volunteers and committee members have been with us since we opened the shop, and quite simply without volunteers we wouldn’t have a shop. We are grateful to those who do a regular shift, those who respond to pleading emails and fill in when needed, and those who step in at the last minute.
For the first five years of our existence we relied solely on volunteers, but in 2015, we took on our first paid manager, which helped to build the growth of the shop, and in 2016 we decided to rebrand from “The Windmill” to “Headington Fairtrade”, which was a great success.
We continue to work hard and grow steadily because the need for fairtrade hasn’t gone away – far from it. Public interest in global warming, the enviroment and supporting the Global South is growing which is heartening news and we continue to supply our local community with the fairly traded and eco friendly products they need, whilst supporting our partners, producers and suppliers further afield.