John Cossham

Volunteer: online publicity
York, UK
Day job:
Entertainer 'Professor Fiddlesticks', Low Carbon Lifestyle activist, Compost Educator
Dream job:
'Professor Fiddlesticks', Broadcaster/writer, promoter of 'Promession'
The Age of Stupid
Time on the job:
I've been promoting AoS since before the UK launch
Jet, jeep, bus or bike:
My beautiful and very strong custom-built bicycle and trusty (not rusty) trailer
Original connection:
Been a green for 20+ years, York in Transition
Why did you get involved?:
The film seemed to promise something that I've dedicated my life to, but in just 90 minutes!
Memorable moment:
/The bit where the years count up to 2055 move me beyond words. Tears now just thinking about it.
Scared of:
Not leaving a good enough planet for my grandchildren's grandchildren.
Guilty of:
Not being strong enough to give up cheese.
Will we save ourselves now we have the chance?:
Somehow I think that ordinary peoples greed and dislike of change might scupper us. See 'cheese' above.


I had a difficult and hyperactive childhood, was misunderstood and didn't fulfill my potential at school. I dropped out of teacher training college partly due to ingesting 100 Psylocybe mushrooms and have been a deep green since then. I did an Environmental Health degree but then became an entertainer. I use my 'spare' time with much involvement in campaign groups, direct action, local volunteering, composting and managing my logpiles. I heard about AoS through my invovement in York in Transition, and attended the Premiere. I started the Not Stupid facebook page the same night. I co-ordinated a screening at York City Screen and have been promoting the film and it's message ever since./

I'm most proud of some of the voluntary groups I'm involved in. I joined York Local Exchange Trading System in the early 1990s and have been on and off the management group ever since. We enable goods and services to be traded locally using an imaginary local currency, the Yorky.
I became involved in Local Agenda 21 soon after that following the 'Earth Summit' in Rio in 1992. Our group persuaded the City of York Council to employ a Sustainability Officer, and with her and others, I helped develop a set of sustainability indicators. LA21 in York has been superceeded by a less democratic process and I'm not as involved.
My interest in currencies and trading plus one of the mantras from Agenda 21: 'The number one enemy of Sustainable Development is poverty' led to an interest in how local poverty could be reduced. I organised a public meeting about Credit Unions in 1997 and over the next 8 years, the foundations for York Credit Union were put in place. This is now North Yorkshire Credit Union and I'm involved in starting the 'Friends of NYCU', which will be launched in 2010.
In 2004 I read about the HDRA/Cambridgeshire CC 'Master Composter' scheme, and I persuaded the local St Nicholas Fields Environment Centre and the Council to do something similar, and York Rotters was born. We teach home composting and help people with their compost bins. I am on the management group and we employ a part-time worker.
I've been to loads of festivals, and worked at Glastonbury with the litter pickers on 5 occasions. I'm known as 'Compost John' at the Big Green Gathering (RIP?) and the Northern Green Gathering and am absolutely in my element dealing with hundereds of kilos of biodegradable material! I love festivals so much that I founded the York Green Festival in 2006, and this has been held annually with financial support from The Cooperative.
I built myself a compost toilet in 2004 and when BBC Newsnight asked Justin Rowlatt to be 'Ethical Man' for a year, I contacted him with a list of dos and don'ts, and they came to film my composting activities on two occasions. This led to two years writing a column and blog for Community Care Magazine, and I am now fairly often on TV. I'd like to present my own 'ethical dilemmas' programme.
One day, my standing in local elections for the Green Party might result in my becoming a Councillor, but I'm not that motivated to pull out all the stops to achieve change this way... I'd probably find it frustrating.

Age of Stupid has been important for me as it presents an image of the future which I'm working hard to prevent happening. I've seen the film at least 7 times, partly because I have been invited to speak at the launch of Scarborough 10:10 and Northallerton and Villages Transition Initiative, both of which used the film to shock people into action. I now have my own copy and have begun to get myself invited to friends' living rooms to show it to small groups.

My low carbon home life is very important to me: I'm married to a VERY tolerant woman and have two lovely sons. I have a busy and exciting social life. I enjoy finding logs and hauling them home with my bike trailer, and processing them for our two smokefree Clearview woodstoves which mean that we don't need central heating. I also service a greengrocers and a supermarket by relieving them of their unsold fruit and veg, and I make excellent compost as well as hearty soups and loads of dried fruit. My work as Professor Fiddlesticks is fun; I like making people happy and teaching circus skills. I also really enjoy my media work and doing talks or hosting discussions about climate change and peak oil. In the future I'd like to be involved with the introduction of Promession, an eco-friendly composting funeral process.