To paraphrase a line from Dylan Thomas’ poem, Poem In October, August 31st is our 20th anniversary of being a shop and charity in Paisley, Renfrewshire. We have had an incredible journey over these last 20 years and it’s amazing that we’re still here.
We started back in 2002, when four friends – Liz Cotton, Phil Cotton, Kate Cox and Alison Patrick – had this exciting idea to move from running stalls in church halls to open a fair trade shop in Paisley. Those early years were about stepping out in trust, not knowing what the outcome would be.
We went through the heady years of growth, when we had a warehouse in Paisley and shared it with JTS, the importer and distributer of WFTO foods. Then our periods of financial difficulty when we looked like closing and had to pull back to just the shop again. Days when we were deep in our overdraft and didn’t have enough to pay the staff the next day. There was the impact of Covid when we didn’t know if we’d open again…
And yet we are still here, selling fair trade goods from our delightful Paisley shop and educating the young people of the west of Scotland about fair trade. We’ve welcomed rice farmers from Africa, honey producers from Guatemala, clothing makers from India, and who can forget Foncho our banana farmer from Colombia? We’ve even helped in making Paisley a fair trade town and Renfrewshire a fair trade zone. Last year we hosted Mauro Pereira from Brazil, a delegate at the COP26 conference in Glasgow who gave an impassioned talk on our podcast.
With all our ups and downs, recently one volunteer described Rainbow Turtle as the Miracle Shop. It’s been a constant theme throughout our existence, that when we’ve been at our lowest, and everything is bleak, something miraculous happens to revitalise us.
Along with our miracles we wouldn’t be here without the assistance of so many people and organisations. Primarily we’re grateful to our volunteers who bring their smiles and their enthusiasm to the shop. We particularly remember those who have passed away and are no longer with us. Many’s the time we’ve had positive feedback for the helpfulness and friendliness of a particular volunteer.
We’d never have started without the vision of Liz, Phil, Alison and Kate and the help of the Paisley Methodist Central Hall, who kindly offered us accommodation on a very low rent. We’re grateful to all the schools and church groups who’ve supported us by ordering fair trade stalls or inviting us in for talks and conferences.
Finally, we can’t forget the people of Paisley and the west of Scotland who’ve embraced us and shopped at 7 Gauze Street. It’s by buying our fair trade goods that we can help farmers and producers in developing countries. Through them we create this global bridge between Paisley and other parts of the world. The tiny actions of individuals here make a massive difference to others elsewhere.
What’s next? To celebrate our anniversary, we’ll be holding a cake cutting in the shop on the 31st August 2022, and a ceilidh (but of course!) in the Paisley Methodist Central Hall on Saturday 3rd September. Watch this space for more details and how to book for these events.