Posted by: Mike Grenville | 12 January 2009

From a duckling to a Swan

godalming logo

Tonya Stewart writes about Transition Godalming: from a duckling to a Swan.

We have a great thing going here in Godalming, Surrey. Just six months after our first meeting we have a new logo (a swan, curled up inside the words Transition Godalming); a brochure; a great new website; an email newsletter called The Swan (with nearly 100 subscribers) and an online community forum or ‘ning site’. We’ve held three packed public events, a buzzing Open Space generating new ideas for a new, energy-aware Godalming and we’re brimming with new and exciting ways to involve the local community.

So why has the transition movement caught on so well in Godalming? Perhaps because of the commitment of its 17-strong core team, and because of the group’s ability to allow the initiative to grow in an ‘organic’ way, welcoming others’ talents and not forcing things or allowing that old ‘top-down’ sense of hierarchy.

Perhaps also because there’s something about Godalming. Though definitely not ‘new age’ in a Totnes kind of way – in fact, it’s quite traditional – there’s always been a great sense of community here. With a local exchange trading or LETS scheme that’s been running for 15 years (given a new boost by the transition initiative), a local lottery (‘GOLO’) run by local people, thriving allotment associations and a characterful town center with trinket shops and charming old buildings, it’s got that kind of character that makes it the sort of place you’d expect a transition initiative to catch on.

Seventeen people attended our first meeting at Wood Farm at the end of June, some already brimming over with enthusiasm for the transition movement, others not sure quite what they were getting themselves into. The first challenge  for the former group – not an easy one – was to get everyone else to read The Transition Handbook from cover to cover. Then we had to decide what it all meant for Godalming and decide how to present it to Godalming.

At the event, thanks to a little bit of serendipity, a childhood friend of Transition Godalming’s Chris Frost appeared to help us with the latter task. He had worked in external relations at a senior level at the World Bank and said he would help us develop our message for free (mostly, if truth were told, because Chris had mended his Dinky toys 60 years before).

Tim said that however good our argument was (and however wonderfully we presented it) people would only ever remember three things. After some debate, we agreed on the three elements that were to form the basis of our message (and they have informed everything that we have done since then):

  • The world seems to be running out of almost everything: water; gas; oil; electricity; phosphorous; aeroplanes; food, forests and money (among other things). So we will all just have to learn to live more frugally. There really is no alternative.
  • The Government will try to help, but they probably can’t help much, so we had better try to work things out for ourselves and for our family and friends – in fact for our whole community.
  • If we work really hard at this, then things can be even better for us – and our children and grandchildren – than we ever dreamed possible.

Our first public film screening of The Power of Community in November had a real energy about it – as could be seen from the delighted faces of steering group members. This was payback – and more – for all the hard work we’d put into it up till then. And the Open Space that followed attracted more people to it on a Friday night than an event without alcohol normally expects to achieve.

We have one more film screening planned – with six more talks and screenings to follow – and are building energy and interest every day through talks at local schools and church groups. The time we spent on foundation and team-building is really paying off and we’re hoping to continue our transformation, in much the same graceful way as the image of the swan emerging in our logo suggests. Yes there’s plenty to do, but one thing’s certain, we’re determined to enjoy the process! Onwards and upwards, Transition Godalming!

For more, visit us at

Tonya Stewart

Transition Godalming



  1. Good on you. This initiative fits so well into what a group of us here in northern Tasmania are also trying to achieve. Although our motiviaton was to prevent ‘the world’s largest pulp mill’ being built in our beautiful Tamar Valley by a particularly thuggish timber comapany called Gunns Ltd. You may have heard something about this since the issue has been written about & reported in the UK news. If not, then if you Google ‘Gunns’, ‘Tasmania’ nd ‘pulp mill’ then you’ll soon find out!
    I’ve passed the encouraging details of this article onto others in our own co-ordinating committee at TAP (Tasmanians Against the Pulp Mill) who will be equally interested in what you’re doing in Godalming. Just last night we were discussing a different strategy, including a name change to something more positive, in moving the fight forward. It’s been going five years, and counting.
    All the best

  2. A great sense of energy and optimism comes through here. We in Transition Eynsham Area (just outside Oxford) have just had our first meeting – 8 members present, 2 more on the books. We too have all gone away to read Rob Hopkins’ book!

    I hope that our experience is as positive and friendly as yours sounds…. Good Luck!

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