Sue Milne, Director of Gavin’s Mill won the Special Recognition Award at the Scottish Fair Trade Awards 2021.

“My Fair Trade journey began when I helped to run stalls at church, ordering from Traidcraft at first, then realising that sale-or-return stalls from the Balmore Coach House were a much better option. Little did I realise back then how significant that relationship would become!

I was invited to join the East Dunbartonshire Fair Trade Steering Group as a church representative, and in 2012 some Fair Trade enthusiasts from the Bearsden and Milngavie area founded the Bearsden and Milngavie Fair Trade Group, which we launched with a Fair Trade fashion show on 9 March 2013. After a lot of work, Bearsden and Milngavie both became Fairtrade Towns at the same time, during Fairtrade Fortnight 2015. Everything seemed to be going to plan when in 2016 we heard that our source of Fair Trade goods – the Balmore Coach House – was to close! Three of us from the Fairtrade Towns groups, Margaret Morrison, Liz Ibbotson and myself, joined John Riches from the Coach House to find a way of continuing the supply of Fair Trade products in the local area.

A few months later, in early 2017, we were part of a band of volunteers converting the semi-derelict Gavin’s Mill into a home for our charity, Gavin’s Mill Community Project, and for its trading company, At Gavin’s Mill Ltd. With enormous support from the local community and a willing band of volunteers of all ages, this new incarnation of Gavin’s Mill has so far survived serious flooding and the worst effects of the pandemic. It is now owned by Gavin’s Mill Community Project and continues to flourish despite everything that has been thrown in its path. All through this story, I have been just one member of various groups of Fair Trade supporters who work tirelessly to help our producers in many countries survive, and hopefully thrive, even in the face of climate change which affects them so severely and which they have done so little to cause. I am constantly encouraged by the dedication and enthusiasm of our staff, our volunteers and our customers who are increasingly interested in the provenance of the goods we sell.

My Fair Trade journey is far from over and I will continue to campaign for Fair Trade and for climate justice at Gavin’s Mill, though Baljaffray Church, with the Bearsden and Milngavie Fair Trade Group and the East Dunbartonshire Fair Trade Steering Group. I’m also developing links between the Mill and local schools, providing stalls and tuck shops and helping ensure that our young people grow into responsible and caring global citizens. While my journey has had many twists and turns, more recently there has been a strong shift of emphasis. Although buying fairly traded goods will always be important, the climate emergency and the urgent need for action means that the way we “do Fair Trade” is changing and has a much sharper focus. We need to see ourselves as campaigners with a mission to influence politicians at all levels, to ensure that those who have done the least to cause the climate emergency are supported and have access to fair trading practices which give them greater stability and the resilience required to combat climate change. Nothing less is acceptable.”

Photo credits: Sue Milne