Community Technology (COMTEK) Festival 1979

During a 1979 tour of Europe, ham radio expert Copthorne Macdonald visited the Community Technology Festival (Comtek) in Britain.

| March/April 1980

  • 062 comtek - wind generator
    This Cretan sail-type wind generator was built by the Center for Alternative Technology in Wales
  • 062 comtek - sign
    A low-volume water-pumping windmill was also on display
  • 062 comtek - main campground
    TOP: Bird's eye view of the community technology festival. BOTTOM: Crafts vendors at the festival service customers.
  • 062 comtek - three panels2
    LEFT: Constructing a dome. CENTER: A metal stove made at Lauriestone Hall. RIGHT. A six-volt, five-watt wind generator made from bicycle parts.   

  • 062 comtek - wind generator
  • 062 comtek - sign
  • 062 comtek - main campground
  • 062 comtek - three panels2

MOTHER EARTH NEWS' own Copthorne Macdonald recently returned from an extended European trip. During his travels, he attended the U.N. Conference of Science and Technology for Development (UNCSTD) in Vienna, the Non-Governmental Organizations Forum (NGO Forum) held in that same city, and Britain's Community Technology Festival (COMTEK). The following article is the second in a series of reports from Cop on these attempts to determine how technology can best meet the needs of the world's people.  

Though Britain's Community Technology Festival — held in Milton Keynes, England — featured solar water heaters, wind generators from 5 to 700 watts, a paper recycling operation, and wood-burning stoves, the most exciting aspect of the fair (to me, at least) was the help-others-do-it-themselves attitude that pervaded the event.

Make It and Take It Home

For example, one group that championed this concept was Laurieston Hall . . . a community of 15 adults and 10 children who live in a large country mansion in Scotland and are involved in working with sheet metal and building stoves. If such metalwork interests you, you could — for about $10 a day to cover room and board — live with these people, use their shop, benefit from their advice, and build your own  wood-burner. The average cost of materials ranges from about $45 per stove to nothing at all if you bring your own oil drum or sheet metal with you. It's hard to beat the organization's "learn by doing and take the finished product home" approach!

Or perhaps your community could use an institution like London's OK Garage, which is sponsored by the Mutual Aid Centre. It's a consumer cooperative, providing tools and other facilities which allow folks to repair their own cars. (The garage stocks spare parts and sells gasoline, too.)

The Alternative Technology Group (Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, England MK7 6AA ), on the other hand, offers four workshops equipped for metalwork, woodwork, pottery, jewelry-making, and weaving. In addition, the group has a media center with offset printing, typing, and photographic facilities . . . and all of its resources are available for a small "rental" fee.

Cooperative Excellence

Of course, COMTEK '79 had attractions other than such do-it-yourself opportunities, too. For one thing, a big tent was set up to house the talks and slide shows that various groups had prepared. (I even did a show about the aims of the New Directions Radio organization.) Films were shown in another tent . . . anti-nuke theater was staged in the grassy fields ... and excellent meals were served by Bath Civil Aid. (The members of the last-mentioned organization have taken over Bath, England's civil defense program, and they travel around the country serving meals to large gatherings at rock concerts and similar events . . . honing their civil defense skills in the process, of course! )

Mother Earth News Fair Schedule 2019


Next: April, 27-28 2019
Asheville, NC

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters

click me