The Leeds Global Donut Festival

Bringing the ‘Global Social Lens’ of the Leeds Doughnut data portrait to life through a week of community events

The festival, which lasted from 10th to the 18th Leeds and was held in various venues around Leeds, was organised around the ‘Global Social Lens’ of the Leeds Doughnut Economics data portrait. This lens investigates the impact of Leeds lifestyles and consumption on people living in the Global South and in Black, Indigenous and People of Colour neighbourhoods in the Global North.

The festival was generously supported by Leeds Quakers, and was a collaboration between Climate Action Leeds Doughnut Coalition, Racial Justice Network, Space2 and Otley 2030.

The Leeds Doughnut Coalition completed its data portrait of the city, using the four ‘Doughnut’ lenses, in 2021, and on almost all of the indicators the researchers investigated Leeds was contributing to shortfall in the Sustainable Development Goals in countries overseas.

The festival was built around an online International Donut day on 13th November, when groups from towns, cities and regions  across the world shared information about how they are using Doughnut Economics to frame their climate and social justice action.

The festival started with a bang. Clothing Rebellion, based at Space2 in The Old Fire Station in Gipton put on a Fast Fashion Show to prove that you don’t need to buy new to look totally fabulous. The models chose preloved and up-cycled clothing donated to their shop, then danced and twirled  themselves between tables of cheering local residents, well fed on delicious Montserratian vegetable stew and British mac and cheese, after a fast and furious game of bingo.

The globalised clothing industry is notoriously exploitive, and a lot of new clothing, even ‘high end’ clothing, comes with a massive carbon footprint as well as a cost in human suffering. Clothing Rebellion are leading the way in living the alternative. Doughnut Economics is all about the journey to thriving: Clothing Rebellion, and Space2, are an outstanding example of how a community experiencing high levels of deprivation and shortfall can come together to create a truly diverse, inclusive and above all thriving community.  There were approximately seventy people at this event.

Read the full story of the Fast Fashion Show by Nathan Stewart here.

On Saturday 11th November the Global South came to Otley. Molly from ‘Axe Drax’ presented slides and videos revealing the devastating impact of the ‘pelletising’ industry, in which wood is turned into fuel for Drax, our so called ‘green’ provider of energy situated near to Selby. 

‘Trees are condensed down to pellets in factories placed in predominantly Black communities in the global south. The process is so polluting, that people are left struggling to breath and often trapped in their own homes.’

Melany from Racial Justice Network then led us in a moment of quiet sadness as we thought of all the victims of colonialism and war, including the growing number of victims of climate colonialism. This was followed by a panel discussion; a group of people involved in the  field, including Kate Graham from the Quaker United Nations Organisation, discussed reparation, and the ‘loss and damage’  agenda for a transfer of funds to the global south to support climate change related adaptation and mitigation. We traced the journey of this fund  through various COPs: as yet nothing has been paid, but we are hopeful that we may see the beginning of ‘green shoots’ at COP 28. Together we drew up the beginnings of a ‘Call to Action’ for those of us working within the climate movement. This was followed by a showing of ‘The Thirteenth Recommendation’,the second showing in Otley of this very powerful film by the Racial Justice Network,  which makes clear the centrality of internationalism to the  climate movement, and that colonial legacies, climate debt, and the  struggles, and solutions, from the Global South need to be prioritised. Thirty two people attended this event, many of them have asked to be kept informed of ongoing work in this area in Otley, and so far four of them have expressed an interest in joining the Otley 2030 Doughnut group. 

On Monday 13th November a few of us managed to brave Storm Debi to come together in the Imagine Climate Action Centre, high above the rain and wind, to share some food, and to take online inspiration from the wonderful Doughnut Economist Kate Raworth, and Rob Shorter from the Doughnut Economics Action Lab, as they concluded a long and hopeful day of communicating with towns, cities and regions across the world who are working to make the Doughnut vision a reality. Eleven people attended this event, including three people who were being introduced to Doughnut Economic thinking for the first time.

Our next event was curated by Racial Justice Network, again held at Imagine, on Friday 17th November. Melany from Racial Justice Network  introduced us to Ben and Kongosi Mussanzi, who used video and slides to show us the appalling suffering of cobalt miners and their families in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the devastating, and ongoing, effects of years of colonialism and war in their country. Kongosi spoke particularly powerfully of the terrible damage to the dignity and well being of women and girls when rape and sexual violence are weaponised against people struggling for self determination.  Ben Lowe from Otley spoke of hopeful innovation in the development of perovskites, a technology which should eventually mean that we can have battery power which don’t necessitate mineral extraction and the ensuing cruelty to people and to our biosphere.

The evening ended with more food, conviviality, and expressions of hope that we could continue to work together to the strengthen the voices of those who are marginalised and silenced. About 35 people attended this event.

The final Saturday of the festival, on Saturday 18th November, started slowly as stall holders and participants trickled in, but by 1pm Imagine was humming with about sixty people talking, eating intercepted food and learning from the various stall holders who were telling us about ‘doughnut’ type activities for social and climate justice in Leeds. There was a choice of two workshops, Universal Basic Income and Co-housing, followed by the first of our main afternoon speakers, Laurie Parsons, author of Carbon Colonialism: How Rich Countries Export Climate Breakdown. 

This was a powerful and eye opening talk: nobody thrives unless we all thrive and our extraction and consumption patterns in the global north mean that the chances of living a meaningful and dignified life for many people across the global south are microscopic. The manufacturing industries of the U.K. and much of Europe have been outsourced to global majority/ global south communities with much lower workplace safety standards and much lower wages than ours: companies who tout their ambition to be ‘green’ or ‘carbon zero’ are selling goods which have both a huge emission cost and a huge social cost because the complexities of the globalised manufacturing industry are such that a direct relationship between the brand and the people actually making the goods becomes impossible. A garment bought from a shop in the U.K. may have passed through at least thirteen different countries before it reaches our shelves. 

Our final event was a fast moving conversation between Professor and author Paul Chatterton and confirmed Leeds doughnutter, podcaster and ethical business advisor Tim Frenneaux, about Degrowth. The discussion ranged over terminology, changing public perception, and the challenges of confronting the monolithic power of a GDP obsessed political and business class intent on thwarting a realistic green and just transition through its insistence on ‘growth, growth growth’. It ended, like the other festival events, with a discussion on where we go next.

The festival challenged all of the participants to educate ourselves, to think deeper, to act as interconnected humans embedded in a global neighbourhood. Thinking global and acting local has never been as important as it is now.

Outcomes so far

A presentation on Climate Justice by Yosola from the Racial Justice Network as part of the ‘Program Assembly’ for Climate Action Leeds on 13th December, with the Doughnut Coalition invited to give a summary of the festival and to contribute.

A meeting in early January - date still being negotiated -  with key figures representing community and climate activists in Leeds, and including Racial Justice Network and two of the main festival organisers, with the express purpose of mapping our towards embedding the internationalist, anti racist and climate justice movement into all of our operations.We will then be in a stronger position to engage with decision makers in both local government and in the business community.

Within the Otley Doughnut group: an exploration of how we can take action on exploitation and extractivism in the global supply chain of goods that we consume in our town. Our plan is to replicate this work in other communities within Leeds Climate Action and further afield, and to share our outcomes with the international community represented by the Doughnut Education Action Lab. 

To be decided:

  • Otley Doughnut involvement with the Stop Burning Trees anti Drax group
  • Otley 2030 study group: Laurie Parsons: Carbon Colonialism and Jason Hickel: More is Less
  • The Leeds International Doughnut Festival has planted a seed. It’s up to us to nurture it. 

Written by Shannon Coles 11.12.23

# GlobalDonutDay hashtag_lookup:#GlobalDonutDay 




    Nathan Stewart

    Leeds, UK

    Sustainability practitioner looking to downscale the doughnut to communities in and around Leeds

    Andrew Fanning

    Cádiz, Spain

    Data Analysis & Research Lead at DEAL


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