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Green Leaders Q&A #8: Lara Deffense – Walthamstow Garden Party (Beyond Barbican)

This month we meet Lara Deffense, as she shares her thoughts in our Event Industry Leader Q&A. Lara is an inspirational young producer for Beyond Barbican, working as lead for Walthamstow Garden Party (WGP) which attracts 30,000 visitors.

In 2019, Lara pioneered sustainability initiatives that saw the festival nominated for two UK Festival Awards (Best Green Festival & Best Family Festival), shortlisted for two International AGF awards, and win an AGF ‘Commended’ Award. WGP is also currently on Julie’s Bicycle Accelerator programme. She is passionate about food growing, permaculture, biomimicry & cultural democracy. Read her answers below:

1. What is the proudest sustainability achievement or moment of your career?

Waltham Forest (our partner local authority) declaring a climate emergency was a proud moment for us at WGP. 

2.  What was your worst ever sustainability-related decision, project or initiative and why?

Dating promotional materials so they can only be used once and not finding another use for it (e.g. bunting/ bean bags!).

3.  What are you (or were you) excited about implementing this year/in the future?

Walthamstow Garden Party 2020 would have served local craft ale all sourced within a few miles of site.

4.  Which environmental issue do you most care about?

Organic food growing.

5.  What sustainable change have made in your personal life that you are most proud of?

I live on a narrowboat and use solar panels (incredible on sunny days).

6.  What do you read to stay in touch with green issues?

 The Guardian (newspaper)

 7.  What is the most memorable live performance in your life?

 Not a performance, but… An interactive talk with Rob Hopkins (founder of the Transition movement) discussing  his new book “From What Is to What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create the Future We Want”- wow, powerful insight into the power of collective imagination! 

8.  Was there a moment you committed to taking action on climate change?

 We decided to ban the sale of single use plastics at Walthamstow Garden Party 2019.

9.  What are the most important issues to tackle at your event?

Power, water and waste.

10. What do you think is the most significant challenge for the events industry becoming more sustainable?

We need to reimagine how we gather and celebrate.

11. Can you share something sustainable about/from another artists or event or company that inspired you to make a change?

Shambala Festival’s waste deposit and separation system which includes the audience in the process as a way to create long-term behaviour change.

12. What is the secret to your sustainable success?

At Walthamstow Garden Party we prioritise local. In 2019, 72% of the line-up was local, over 60% of audiences were local (and 49% walked/ cycled to the festival).

13. Tell us something you feel positive about right now that relates to the environment

Trump is out (almost)!

14. Tell us a book, film or recent article you feel others should watch/read and why about positive change?

Watch “Inhabit: a permaculture perspective” here – an inspiring look at solutions to help shift from destructive to regenerative.

15. Can you give people new to sustainability in event a top tip?

Start measuring everything you do- once you have numbers you’ll know what to focus on.

16. What is the favourite festival moment of your career?

Walthamstow Garden Party being nominated at the UK Festival Awards (in the same category as Shambala, Boomtown, Bestival & more). That was a proud moment!

17. What habit or practice has helped you most in your personal journey in life?

I consciously practice kindness and regularly do “visioning” sessions.

18. Is there anything new or exciting you are planning or changing for the future that you can tell us about? Even a hint!

We’re asking a lot of questions right now. How can we collectively re-design what a “future-proof” neighbourhood festival looks like? What does a regenerative festival for people and the planet look like? How do we get there? Watch this space!

19. Will we save the world?

 Yes. We have no choice.

20. What would your sustainable super-power be?

Controlling the minds of global leaders.

Find out more about WGP at Walthamstow Garden Party or The Barbican

This Q&A originally appeared in our December 2020 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your inbox using the form below.