On Wednesday 2 March, Just Fair Trade will mark twenty years as a retail presence in the centre of Leicester with a service in Leicester Cathedral.
‘Just has become a well-established part of the city centre’s independent retail scene; celebrating this milestone at the Cathedral – our local church – will enable us to acknowledge two key elements of our identity: our commitment to local retail and our Christian roots,’ said Louise Davis, Just’s Development Manager, while the Acting Bishop of Leicester, John Holbrooke remarked that ‘fair trade is an essential step in creating a world that is more just and compassionate: this service is a special way to mark a shared commitment to the welfare of some of our poorest neighbours.’
In the last twenty years, Just Fair Trade has both survived a major recession and thrived in an often volatile high street retail environment. As well as seeking to benefit producers in the developing world through creating a welcoming and stimulating retail environment, it strives to support and encourage others to better understand and embrace ethical approaches to retail and consumption.
John Riches, founder of fair trade importer JTS, said, ‘Shops like this – Just is such a beautiful, imaginative shop – have made a huge contribution to the fair trade movement, showcasing crafts and food in ways which have enabled people to see the quality and range of fair trade products.‘
While Just is now staffed by a team of six plus a large team of volunteers, it began as the personal passion of one local woman. Sarah Shepherd first encountered the fair trade movement as a teenager in the 1980s but her commitment to ethical consumption found new momentum after she spent two years working as a medical missionary in Tanzania with her husband David.
Returning home, her new-found insights into life in the developing world became the catalyst for a more intentional commitment to promoting fair trade in the life of her local community. In 1996, Sarah, along with a group of friends, held the first of four Christmas ‘pop-up’ shops in a vacant retail unit in the city centre. By early 2000 it had become clear that Leicester was ready for a permanent dedicated fair trade shop and Just Fair Trade began to resemble the established retailer it has become today.
Alongside their retail business, Just has established and developed links with many faith groups, schools and community groups in both Leicester and Leicestershire and it is this broader commitment to the fair trade movement which has recently been marked by the successful renewal of Leicester’s Fairtrade City status.
Rachael Sweet, the Fairtrade Foundation’s Communities Campaigns Manager, said ‘Just Fair Trade is a brilliant advocate for Fairtrade in the community; it is clear that a lot of time and energy has been put in to make Fairtrade a part of the community.’
Lee Jowett, Leicester City Council’s Environmental Education Officer, reflected that ‘Just Fair Trade has been instrumental in supporting schools to develop their fair trade ethos. They are a driving force behind the fair trade movement in Leicester.’
The service, at 7pm on Wednesday 2 March, will feature music, readings and interviews with members of the Just community, as well as short address from Rob Freeman, Bishop of Penrith. While it will be a Christian act of worship it will acknowledge and celebrate the contribution of those of all faiths and none.