Thursday, May 03, 2007


This is traditionally a month for sowing hemp in northern countries. With quite a bit of that going on, and Hemcore gaining approval for its new facility in England, which the local council granted after they agreed to widen the road, we are looking forward to harvests later this year.

We can also look forward to more consumer awareness, as the bagwars, which took place in posh parts of London, have sparked major newspaper articles about the Anya Hindmarch cotton bags that people were buying for £5 to sell on E-bay for £100. On 25 April, thousands queued at Sainsburys all over the UK, but by Friday, two major publications had questions about that; the first was The Ecologist, whose May issue hit the stands that day with a mention of the protest outside the Camden Sainsburys (p.8). That same day the Evening Standard trashed the bag on their front page. Saturday somehow all the major papers had journalists who had sudden inspirations to also trash the bag, noting that it was made in China, not fairtrade, and made of cotton. They all seem to have received uniquely personal inspirations all at the same time, and so they wrote much the same thing. Poor Anya Hindmarch, whose side I was definitely not on to start with, was being blamed for it all, and Sainsburys was not happy to answer questions. It may be that she listens to some real environmentallists and pulls out of this OK, as after all, I have to say I think she was trying to do the right thing, but got bad advice from We Are What We Do, whose website I won't bother to link to.

But for all that press, it seemed at some point that the press gang were now a bunch of bullies; one paper even tried to sell its own cotton 'ecobag' after they gave her bad press. Neither side said anything about hemp, and this was after I had called the papers, especially the Independent and the Guardian to get them to cover our protest on 25 April. The former, ironically, covered the story not only without any mention of hemp, but without even bothering to spell 'Hindmarch' consistently. So much for lazy journalists.

Much more on the ball is Baroness Tonge, who sent to me an answer from Baroness Amos regarding her question about hemp as a replacement crop for heroin in Afghanistan (posed 29 Jan.). She lamented in her letter that they seemed to not know much about the subject, and ironically, I read this the same day (2 May) that Richard Bacon on BBC5 Live had a panel of 'eco-experts'. These worthies got one question about hemp from a call-in, and they could not answer it, so Bacon said that perhaps we ought to read up about hemp. I tried calling 5 Live but it was by then a dead issue with them, on to silly stuff, such as Question Time in the House of Commons, in which someone asked the Prime Minister if he grew his own.

Maybe the 'eco-experts' on 5 Live will know the answer. May may bring some enlightenment, if not from 5 Live and the other press gangs, at least from Positive News and The Ecologist, which are working with us to provide customers with 100%, made in the UK, organic hemp bags. Already I am carrying my own, courtesy of Bobby Pugh of The Hemp Shop, and people are noticing a bit self-consciously as they reach for their cotton bags) or, in Primrose Hill, simply use the plastic bags. PH is a 'hood where 4x4s are the norm, and dog owners foul the streets because they are too cool to care. Some of them get their kicks from cocaine (because they think that is very cool), but I get mine from cannabis, in the form of my bag. Look for me, and my bag, which I am proud to say is grey and of 'uncomplicated design' at posh places like Harrods, Harvey Nichols, and Anya Hindmarch.

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