Ver Players donate £1500 to Sustainable St Albans

Did you see this wonderful news in the Herts Ad: the Ver Players donated £1500 to Sustainable St Albans from their annual charity concert! It is a huge donation that will make a significant impact on the work that we can do locally – we are so grateful to all the musicians – and their supporters – for thinking of us.

They held a really exciting concert for their annual fund-raiser – and its fantastic to see that local musicians can garner such support from around the district – great music and a brilliant atmosphere.

Sustainable St Albans is a charity, and we are run by volunteers – both the six people on the trustee group, and the committed volunteers who work all the year round to provide the Open Food Gardens, the Thermal Imaging Camera sessions, Our Planet, Our Future events, talks and films in the Harpenden area, and the exciting new Playing Out project – where streets can close the road for a day to allow residents to meet and chat, and children to play outside. And, of course the volunteers who make up the SustFest working group, and all the volunteers who help us with running events and stalls.

Fabulous news – Ver Valley chose to gift the proceeds from their charity night to Sustainable St Albans – first time ever that our environmental charity has been selected in this way by a local group – and we hope to do them, and you the local community, proud!


Lets get growing – in our local – Sopwell – community

‘Grow Community – Sopwell’ is a group of volunteers in Sopwell ward, St Albans who want to encourage and enable local residents  to grow their own food at home and in community spaces, to reduce food waste and to share surplus food in the community and with local charity groups. See the delicious Pumpkin soup recipe at the end!

They also aim to promote local wildlife conservation and restoration projects, connect ongoing initiatives and bring the community together through these activities.

In this week’s blog we talk to Kate Swindells, a Sopwell resident who has started this new local growing project – Grow Community – Sopwell – which is supported by Sustainable St Albans and the growing project FoodSmiles.

Why have you started Grow Community Sopwell?

Having set up an eco Facebook group for mums in St Albans (SAMs eco team)  I can see so many people wanting to do better with plastic-free and low carbon emissions living.

“Growing your own fruit and veg is a great step to being ‘greener’ and is pretty easy once you’ve got started.”

Knowing our local community pretty well and being into gardening myself, it made sense to start off a community growing group in the area where I live. Luckily for us a similar group  Foodsmiles have already set up the Incredible Edible community gardens in the city centre, and we are gaining advice and support from them about how to set it up!

Are there any local groups who want to get involved?

We’ve got the support of our local councillors, churches, and some of the local youth groups already. The local primary schools are also very happy to be supported in what they are already doing and we have strong links with the local allotment society. In the wider St Albans community, we have support from Sustainable St Albans and Foodsmiles which we’re really pleased about.

Do you grow food in your garden at home?

I love to grow food at home, it’s my escape! This year we’ve grown potatoes, loads of leafy vegetables, beans, peas, tomatoes, leeks and pumpkins, and we’ve just bought a miniature apple tree. A lot of the veg is grown in our old recycling boxes! They’re a good size, deep, and have drainage holes already.

Find out more about Grow Community – Sopwell

There will be refreshments, kid’s activities and a pumpkin soup demo as part of Hubbub’s #PumpkinRescue food waste campaign.

Looking for a schools co-ordinator for SustFest2020

Could you help us involve schools in next year’s SustFest2020?

Are you experienced in working with schools? Are you looking for some short-term voluntary work at the moment?

Session with Sheila from the Festival

We are looking for a volunteer to help us get schools involved in next year’s Sustainabilty Festival – across St Albans, Harpenden and the villages.

Last year’s Sustainability Festival involved over 30 schools – infant, primary, secondary – (and scouts and guides and brownies) across the district – they got involved with some fantastic activities – and did stuff from plastic-free lunches; school litter pick; pond-dipping; jazzing up junk to reducing air pollution around the school entrances.

We now need to get the ball rolling for 2020 and are looking for someone to join our small team.

We have a small Sustainable Schools group and do have a couple of people already on board to help with Schools SustFest2020 – but we are lacking the experience of a teacher, or teaching assistant – someone who is familiar with how our local schools operate.

recycled materials

What kinds of things will the schools team do?

The team will have  to send out emails and follow these up to get some traction with teachers or eco-staff within the schools – and then passing on information to our communications team.  Some schools ask for someone to come in to talk to the children; that could be one of the SustSchools team. For the festival itself we also need to publicise activities within the schools’  newsletters to parents, and try and get some photos from engaged schools. We also need to make sure the schools get hold of programmes to distribute.

Contact us

Is this something you could help with? Or do you know someone who could help? Do let us know – email us through the contact form here.

SS Alban and Stephen school

Growing using recycled materials

Bird Watching

Ver Players talk to Sustainable St Albans

The Ver Players – a ukelele group playing in St Albans – are dedicating their annual 2019 Charity Fund-raiser to Sustainable St Albans. We were thrilled – and decided to have a chat to find out more about the group…

What are the Ver Players, when did they first get going, and where do they meet?

Ver Players is a community ukulele group based in St Albans. Founded in 2012, the group meet once a fortnight to sing, play and unleash their inner creativity. The group alternates between small, focused sessions in St Albans’ The Courtyard Cafe and larger old-fashioned singalongs in the Rose & Crown, a local pub. It’s a fantastic opportunity for people to get together and experience live music.

How many people involved in the Ver Players?

Ver Players currently has over seventy members of all ages, with an equal gender split* of all ages from fifteen to over eighty. *(Just checked and amazingly the split is exactly: 37 men / 37 women)

Is it only for experienced ukulele players?

No, any ability is absolutely fine. Members typically join as complete beginners before quickly gaining confidence as they realise they can start to produce real music. The open, collaborative spirit ensures a fun and friendly atmosphere to learn, laugh – and ‘lose yourself in the ukulele’!

What is your favourite ukulele tune to play with the group?

It has to be Chuck Berry’s ‘You never can tell’, we’ve been playing this song since we started, and though it’s one of easiest songs we do we haven’t grown tired of it!

What’s the best venue you have ever played?

It was a proud moment to play for the Mayor of St Albans annual ball at Sopwell House Hotel this year.

Ver Players group

Ver Players practising

Can you tell us something about your annual charity fund-raisers?

The annual charity fund-raisers are the high point of our calendar and gives an opportunity for everyone to show of their skills in a concert setting. In recent years we have also brought in professional players on the national or international ukulele circuit. We carefully pick a suitable local charity each year working in a variety of fields from medical: Rennie Grove House, St Francis’ Hospice, Mind in Mid Herts. Herts independent living service (provide a range of services to help older and vulnerable people stay happy, healthy, and independent). Last year’s charity was Earthworks, St Albans (nurturing people with learning disabilities to reach their full potential).

This year we are delighted to support Sustainable St Albans for our charity fund-raiser on 12th October!

We played (a sub-group called Rag House) for  the Market Takeover at The Sustainability Festival 2019 in St Albans, and fully support the ethos of reducing the impact of human beings on the natural world. We pride ourselves in contributing to our community’s well-being in our small way and of course the ukulele is a small instrument so people can walk or cycle to our local gatherings.

The fund-raiser is on Sat 12th October: Trinity Church Hall, I Beaconsfield Road, St Albans, AL1 3RD. Doors open 7pm. Tickets £15: at the time of writing – a few tickets left at the door only!

How do you know about the Hot Potato Syncopators who are heading the bill at this year’s Charity fund-raiser?

They went down a storm at the Grand Northern Ukulele Festival (the UK’s major uke festival) last year. We saw them there and we’re thrilled to have them here in St Albans in October!

Joining the Ver Players

  • Annual membership for 2019 is £25 per person. Non-members are very welcome to our monthly sing-a-along at the pub, meet everyone, and then decide if you want to join us, and join the fun!

Full members get additional benefits:

  • The music is provided for you to print your own copy – so you can practise beforehand.
  • New songs are introduced each month, so you quickly build a up a fine collection of  songs, carefully arranged, with professional quality artwork, including chord diagrams to help you master the songs and improve quickly.
  • You can come to our regular practise sessions at the Court Yard Café and learn useful playing tips.
  • Depending on ability, you can join one of our performing groups.
  • If you need an instrument or new strings etc, go to The Music Dept, 67 London Road, St Albans: – Ver Players Membership Card to claim 5% discount.

For more information, please get in touch:


St Albans District streets celebrate World Car Free Day

Seven streets in St Albans and Harpenden closed for up to 3 hours on Sunday 22nd September  for World Car Free Day.  Neighbours took the opportunity to socialise as their children played on the road with bikes, scooters and skipping ropes. They were all taking part in the trial of a new Sustainable St Albans project called Playing Out.  The project enables residents to apply to close their own road to through traffic for the purposes of children’s play and community building.

The Playing Out scheme is being launched throughout the district including St Albans, Harpenden and the villages. It is being run in conjunction with St Albans District Council and is now open for applications from the public for 2020. 

Sustainable St Albans’ Playing Out co-ordinator, Nicola Wyeth, said:

“Playing Out sessions enable children to play out in the way that we all took for granted when we were young. It is a fabulous way to build communities, for parents to find a support network and for isolated residents to enjoy a cuppa and a chat all while the children get fresh air and exercise. It was wonderful to see multiple streets celebrating World Car Free Day in this way.”

A Playing Out scheme is always run in a way that minimises any inconvenience to residents who need access by vehicle to the closed area. Neighbours volunteer to steward the road closure points and if a driver needs access, they are escorted to their property at walking pace after children have been cleared from the road. 

Sustainable St Albans will help you through the necessary steps of the application and lend you the necessary kit such as high viz jackets and road closed signs. Interested residents can find out more at by visiting our Playing Out page or get in touch by emailing us. There will be free information sessions in November – one at the Harpenden Arms in Harpenden on 11th November at 10.30am and one at The Beech House pub in St Albans on 15th November at 10.30am. Come along to find out more.