Monthly Archives: May 2013

The new economic frontier is a chance for community resilience

Transition Voices

hayley

I spoke at the Hay Festival last week, a very well-attended and enjoyable session.  Every day during the Festival, the Daily Telegraph produces ‘The Hayley Telegraph’, a free magazine given away at the Festival, which includes articles by, or about, some of that day’s speakers.  Here is the article I wrote for the edition published the day I spoke.

The new economic frontier is a chance for community resilience

There’s a TV advert I remember from the 1980s that has stuck with me. It features a recently unemployed man telling his wife that he and his friend are “going it alone”, that “the bank says yes”, and that they are going to set up their own business. I think the ad was for a car or something. It captured the spirit prevalent during that decade, where business was the new frontier, anything was possible, and there were no limits.

I’m starting a brewery. I don’t know much about brewing, but with other driven and skilled people from the place I live we’re going to do it. We’re not going it alone, though: we are bringing our community along with us and inviting their support. We don’t need the bank, thank you very much, we have a local person investing in us, and plan to do a community-share launch so that the community gets the chance to invest in us, too. I think our brewery also captures a spirit that’s increasingly prevalent.

It is the spirit in which we don’t wait for an imaginary cavalry to come riding to our economic rescue, a spirit visible across the country in the explosion of local food businesses, pop-up shops, craft breweries, crowdfunding, community energy projects, and the revival of independent record shops. It’s a different, more suitable approach to economic regeneration than most, recognising that anything is possible, but within the limits of energy scarcity, austerity, and the reality of living on a finite planet.

Our brewery is part of a wider story. My town, Totnes in Devon, where it will be sited, is the UK’s first ‘Transition Town’ (there are now thousands around the world), a project I, along with others, initiated in 2005. It’s an experiment that shows a more localised and lower-carbon economy can be an opportunity for huge creativity and entrepreneurial spirit.

A coalition of our town council, the local Chamber of Commerce and the Development Trust recently published an economic blueprint showing how shifting just 10 per cent of what we spend on food, installing just 10 per cent of the area’s potential renewable energy-generation capacity, and starting to retrofit the most energy-inefficient housing could bring £5.5 million into the local economy each year. It’s a shift from dreaming of inward investment to a focus on internal investment, where we build more economic resilience in the local economy. We become our own cavalry.

This is already visible in a number of projects. Totnes now has its own community-owned energy company, the Totnes Renewable Energy Society, which is initiating a variety of renewable energy projects in and around the town. Transition Homes, a community land trust, now has a site on which it plans to build 26 pioneering affordable homes using local materials. The Atmos Project, a community-owned industrial and provident society, is close to bringing an eight-acre derelict former milkprocessing plant into collective ownership. The town’s local currency scheme, the Totnes Pound, which inspired the successful Bristol Pound, is preparing for a summer relaunch with a full set of denominations.

In my book, The Power of Just Doing Stuff, I draw together the experience of people trying to catalyse this new economy around the world, from Brazil to Brixton, and from Sarasota to Sydney. It’s a thrilling tale. Our brewery might well turn out to be a sign of the times, just as much as that 1980s advert was.

You can now pre-order The Power of Just Doing Stuff here.  

The new economic frontier is a chance for community resilience

hayley

I spoke at the Hay Festival last week, a very well-attended and enjoyable session.  Every day during the Festival, the Daily Telegraph produces ‘The Hayley Telegraph’, a free magazine given away at the Festival, which includes articles by, or about, some of that day’s speakers.  Here is the article I wrote for the edition published the day I spoke.

The new economic frontier is a chance for community resilience

There’s a TV advert I remember from the 1980s that has stuck with me. It features a recently unemployed man telling his wife that he and his friend are “going it alone”, that “the bank says yes”, and that they are going to set up their own business. I think the ad was for a car or something. It captured the spirit prevalent during that decade, where business was the new frontier, anything was possible, and there were no limits.

I’m starting a brewery. I don’t know much about brewing, but with other driven and skilled people from the place I live we’re going to do it. We’re not going it alone, though: we are bringing our community along with us and inviting their support. We don’t need the bank, thank you very much, we have a local person investing in us, and plan to do a community-share launch so that the community gets the chance to invest in us, too. I think our brewery also captures a spirit that’s increasingly prevalent.

It is the spirit in which we don’t wait for an imaginary cavalry to come riding to our economic rescue, a spirit visible across the country in the explosion of local food businesses, pop-up shops, craft breweries, crowdfunding, community energy projects, and the revival of independent record shops. It’s a different, more suitable approach to economic regeneration than most, recognising that anything is possible, but within the limits of energy scarcity, austerity, and the reality of living on a finite planet.

Our brewery is part of a wider story. My town, Totnes in Devon, where it will be sited, is the UK’s first ‘Transition Town’ (there are now thousands around the world), a project I, along with others, initiated in 2005. It’s an experiment that shows a more localised and lower-carbon economy can be an opportunity for huge creativity and entrepreneurial spirit.

A coalition of our town council, the local Chamber of Commerce and the Development Trust recently published an economic blueprint showing how shifting just 10 per cent of what we spend on food, installing just 10 per cent of the area’s potential renewable energy-generation capacity, and starting to retrofit the most energy-inefficient housing could bring £5.5 million into the local economy each year. It’s a shift from dreaming of inward investment to a focus on internal investment, where we build more economic resilience in the local economy. We become our own cavalry.

This is already visible in a number of projects. Totnes now has its own community-owned energy company, the Totnes Renewable Energy Society, which is initiating a variety of renewable energy projects in and around the town. Transition Homes, a community land trust, now has a site on which it plans to build 26 pioneering affordable homes using local materials. The Atmos Project, a community-owned industrial and provident society, is close to bringing an eight-acre derelict former milkprocessing plant into collective ownership. The town’s local currency scheme, the Totnes Pound, which inspired the successful Bristol Pound, is preparing for a summer relaunch with a full set of denominations.

In my book, The Power of Just Doing Stuff, I draw together the experience of people trying to catalyse this new economy around the world, from Brazil to Brixton, and from Sarasota to Sydney. It’s a thrilling tale. Our brewery might well turn out to be a sign of the times, just as much as that 1980s advert was.

You can now pre-order The Power of Just Doing Stuff here.  

Webinar: ‘Local Economic Blueprints: pioneering or pointless?’

Transition Voices

A couple of weeks ago, Transition Network and Resilience.org held a webinar that looked at Local Economic Blueprints.  I chaired it, and it featured Tony Greenham, Nigel Jump and Fiona Ward, and tried to feature Molly Scott Cato, but technology got the better of us there, although as  you will see, she does dip in intermittently by phone and by typed-in comment (for biographies of the speakers click here).  Here now is the video of the webinar, and I hope you find it interesting and useful.

Webinar: ‘Local Economic Blueprints: pioneering or pointless?’

A couple of weeks ago, Transition Network and Resilience.org held a webinar that looked at Local Economic Blueprints.  I chaired it, and it featured Tony Greenham, Nigel Jump and Fiona Ward, and tried to feature Molly Scott Cato, but technology got the better of us there, although as  you will see, she does dip in intermittently by phone and by typed-in comment (for biographies of the speakers click here).  Here now is the video of the webinar, and I hope you find it interesting and useful.

Sir Quentin Blake and the power of illustration

Transition Voices

qb

I was at Hay Festival last week and had the pleasure of spending an hour listening to one of my great heroes, the illustrator, Sir Quentin Blake.  His lecture was entitled In and out of the book – the uses of illustration (you can see the transcript of his talk here).  The first part of his talk looked at the role of illustration in bringing stories to life and in introducing children to the joys of reading.  It was the second half of the talk though which I found most fascinating.  He talked about the work he has been doing most recently in hospitals, and the power of illustration to help people in a variety of therapeutic situations and life transitions.  It really got me thinking about what role illustration could play in Transition in its widest sense.  

To start with, here is a film about an exhibition called As Large as Life which ran recently at the Foundling Museum which featured all of Blake’s work which I am about to discuss in more detail:

The work that touched me the most was called Mothers And Babies Underwater, completed last year.  It is a series of 50 large drawings for the walls of Centre Hospitalier in Angers, France.  Blake describes them thus:

“These were done for a newly-built hospital, and the illustrations are a way of saying ‘it’s going to be alright in a minute’”.

The drawings are celebratory, joyful, showing mother and baby swimming, or possibly flying, relaxed and free, and capturing the first moment they “meet each other at last as individuals”.  Blake refers to them as “a celebration of what’s going to happen and a reassurance that it is going to happen”.

He told a story of being called into a meeting with the Treasurer at the hospital to discuss the project.  He was expecting the Treasurer to tell him that there was no more budget or something, but he was told with enthusiasm that “what matters about this project is the exchange of looks between mother and baby”.  A pretty enlightened Treasurer I’d say, and these pictures capture that moment you first meet your new baby so beautifully… here’s a selection of them:

Quentinblake1_2106243b

From-the-series-Mothers-and-Babies-Underwater-Quentin-Blak_482

Screen Shot 2012-08-09 at 01.19.10

qblake_aslargeaslife_14_full_570x417

The next series of pieces was called You’re only young twice, and was painted for elderly mental health patients, to adorn the walls of the unit.  For these, Blake uses metaphor rather than being literal.  Here’s how Blake described them in his talk at Hay:

“[This] project was for a residential unit for elderly mental health patients, and I hoped that, as I was of their age group, they would not mind a little mild teasing. So I drew a parallel world, mostly in trees, where they could not only dance and sing and eat, but swing from branch to branch if they felt like it. I think they liked it: at least one patient exclaimed, “They are wonderful. They encourage us to do all the things we are not supposed to.”

haymusicals_2571171c

A third series, Planet Zog, begun in 2007, was for a children’s hospital.  Again, it used metaphor, based on the idea that for young people going into hospital, away from home and family, can feel like an alien world, so Blake drew it so that it features a friendly alien planet and aliens and young people cheerfully swapping doctor and patient roles.

fill

planet zog

The last series, and perhaps the most extraordinary and thoughtful, was produced for the Vincent Square Eating Disorder Clinic in London which works with adults with eating disorders, described by Blake at Hay as being for people who “needed to be reminded of the comfort of ordinary life”.  Entitled Ordinary Life, they take a different approach, based on lots of discussions Blake had with former sufferers from eating disorders.  They celebrate everyday life in subtle yet familiar ways, identifying the things that give everyone pleasure, with food playing a peripheral role.

Blake says of these drawings:

“Most of these pictures are what I call metaphorical in the sense that they are not real life. But these are for people who I think really want to be relaxed. They are people who are very tense about food, about their own appearances and tense about where they fit into things.  So what I wanted to have was pictures that were fairly relaxed and soft and slightly scruffy. The drawings don’t insist on food but there is food about as part of everyday life. I hope they are optimistic. There is a lot of humour in them but they are not making fun of anyone. They are a form of praise.”

In his lecture at Hay, Blake talked about Paula Brighenti, a former eating disorder patient and artist who said of these drawings:

“When an eating disorder patient withdraws from social contact, feels isolated and unable to trust others, it is enormously beneficial to be reminded of the possibility of a positive interaction with non-judgmental creatures. The association between being offered food and love, accepting food and trust, works to a very profound yet unobtrusive level”.

Here are a couple of them:

quentin5_2384630b

Quentinblake3_2106258bFrom-the-series-Ordinary-Life-in-Vincent-Square-Quentin-Blak_482

original

One example is the image below showing a young girl and a young woman trying on dresses together.  Brighenti picked out this image as the one that affected her the most.  She told Blake:

“It is this little girl that stays with me long after I move away from the picture. She talks to the girl I was and who somehow went missing as I was trying to imprison her body. It was her mind and heart that were eluding me. It was her joy I could not hold on to… She shows me that it is not perfection but imagination that nourishes our dreams.”

LP135_130_EDU__1

Blake is much praised, and rightly so, for his work’s power to inspire young people to read.  But what struck me from the work he described above, was the power that illustration has to also engender empathy and to support people at a range of depths.  There is such compassion in his work.  I guess from a Transition perspective the ongoing appeal of the front cover drawings on The Transition Handbook perhaps offer us a taste of how illustration can bring an idea and a vision of a different future to life.  I was very moved by Blake’s work, and it really stimulated for me an enquiry as to how illustration can better be used to bring Transition and what it hopes to be moving towards, to life.

I’d like to close with a small taste of perhaps how illustration can work in a Transition context to shift things in unexpected ways.  The Transition Handbook featured the article below, a vision from 2014 of a TV show where celebrities were locked on an allotment in Crouch End and not allowed off until they had learnt to grow vegetables.  The picture was the result of a giggly session in front of the book’s designer’s computer, combining a stock image of a model with one I had taken on some allotments in Bradford-on-Avon a few months before.  Here it is:

letitia1

A silly story perhaps, and clearly from an illustration perspective not even worth mentioning in the same sentence as the great man Quentin Blake himself, but roll forward to 2013, a year ahead of schedule, and according to the BBC:

“[TV reality show] Big Brother housemates will have to grow their own food this year, the show’s producers have said.  The 16 contestants will have to cultivate their own potatoes and carrots and season their food with herbs from the garden”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sir Quentin Blake and the power of illustration

qb

I was at Hay Festival last week and had the pleasure of spending an hour listening to one of my great heroes, the illustrator, Sir Quentin Blake.  His lecture was entitled In and out of the book – the uses of illustration (you can see the transcript of his talk here).  The first part of his talk looked at the role of illustration in bringing stories to life and in introducing children to the joys of reading.  It was the second half of the talk though which I found most fascinating.  He talked about the work he has been doing most recently in hospitals, and the power of illustration to help people in a variety of therapeutic situations and life transitions.  It really got me thinking about what role illustration could play in Transition in its widest sense.  

To start with, here is a film about an exhibition called As Large as Life which ran recently at the Foundling Museum which featured all of Blake’s work which I am about to discuss in more detail:

The work that touched me the most was called Mothers And Babies Underwater, completed last year.  It is a series of 50 large drawings for the walls of Centre Hospitalier in Angers, France.  Blake describes them thus:

“These were done for a newly-built hospital, and the illustrations are a way of saying ‘it’s going to be alright in a minute’”.

The drawings are celebratory, joyful, showing mother and baby swimming, or possibly flying, relaxed and free, and capturing the first moment they “meet each other at last as individuals”.  Blake refers to them as “a celebration of what’s going to happen and a reassurance that it is going to happen”.

He told a story of being called into a meeting with the Treasurer at the hospital to discuss the project.  He was expecting the Treasurer to tell him that there was no more budget or something, but he was told with enthusiasm that “what matters about this project is the exchange of looks between mother and baby”.  A pretty enlightened Treasurer I’d say, and these pictures capture that moment you first meet your new baby so beautifully… here’s a selection of them:

Quentinblake1_2106243b

From-the-series-Mothers-and-Babies-Underwater-Quentin-Blak_482

Screen Shot 2012-08-09 at 01.19.10

qblake_aslargeaslife_14_full_570x417

The next series of pieces was called You’re only young twice, and was painted for elderly mental health patients, to adorn the walls of the unit.  For these, Blake uses metaphor rather than being literal.  Here’s how Blake described them in his talk at Hay:

“[This] project was for a residential unit for elderly mental health patients, and I hoped that, as I was of their age group, they would not mind a little mild teasing. So I drew a parallel world, mostly in trees, where they could not only dance and sing and eat, but swing from branch to branch if they felt like it. I think they liked it: at least one patient exclaimed, “They are wonderful. They encourage us to do all the things we are not supposed to.”

haymusicals_2571171c

A third series, Planet Zog, begun in 2007, was for a children’s hospital.  Again, it used metaphor, based on the idea that for young people going into hospital, away from home and family, can feel like an alien world, so Blake drew it so that it features a friendly alien planet and aliens and young people cheerfully swapping doctor and patient roles.

fill

planet zog

The last series, and perhaps the most extraordinary and thoughtful, was produced for the Vincent Square Eating Disorder Clinic in London which works with adults with eating disorders, described by Blake at Hay as being for people who “needed to be reminded of the comfort of ordinary life”.  Entitled Ordinary Life, they take a different approach, based on lots of discussions Blake had with former sufferers from eating disorders.  They celebrate everyday life in subtle yet familiar ways, identifying the things that give everyone pleasure, with food playing a peripheral role.

Blake says of these drawings:

“Most of these pictures are what I call metaphorical in the sense that they are not real life. But these are for people who I think really want to be relaxed. They are people who are very tense about food, about their own appearances and tense about where they fit into things.  So what I wanted to have was pictures that were fairly relaxed and soft and slightly scruffy. The drawings don’t insist on food but there is food about as part of everyday life. I hope they are optimistic. There is a lot of humour in them but they are not making fun of anyone. They are a form of praise.”

In his lecture at Hay, Blake talked about Paula Brighenti, a former eating disorder patient and artist who said of these drawings:

“When an eating disorder patient withdraws from social contact, feels isolated and unable to trust others, it is enormously beneficial to be reminded of the possibility of a positive interaction with non-judgmental creatures. The association between being offered food and love, accepting food and trust, works to a very profound yet unobtrusive level”.

Here are a couple of them:

quentin5_2384630b

Quentinblake3_2106258bFrom-the-series-Ordinary-Life-in-Vincent-Square-Quentin-Blak_482

original

One example is the image below showing a young girl and a young woman trying on dresses together.  Brighenti picked out this image as the one that affected her the most.  She told Blake:

“It is this little girl that stays with me long after I move away from the picture. She talks to the girl I was and who somehow went missing as I was trying to imprison her body. It was her mind and heart that were eluding me. It was her joy I could not hold on to… She shows me that it is not perfection but imagination that nourishes our dreams.”

LP135_130_EDU__1

Blake is much praised, and rightly so, for his work’s power to inspire young people to read.  But what struck me from the work he described above, was the power that illustration has to also engender empathy and to support people at a range of depths.  There is such compassion in his work.  I guess from a Transition perspective the ongoing appeal of the front cover drawings on The Transition Handbook perhaps offer us a taste of how illustration can bring an idea and a vision of a different future to life.  I was very moved by Blake’s work, and it really stimulated for me an enquiry as to how illustration can better be used to bring Transition and what it hopes to be moving towards, to life.

I’d like to close with a small taste of perhaps how illustration can work in a Transition context to shift things in unexpected ways.  The Transition Handbook featured the article below, a vision from 2014 of a TV show where celebrities were locked on an allotment in Crouch End and not allowed off until they had learnt to grow vegetables.  The picture was the result of a giggly session in front of the book’s designer’s computer, combining a stock image of a model with one I had taken on some allotments in Bradford-on-Avon a few months before.  Here it is:

letitia1

A silly story perhaps, and clearly from an illustration perspective not even worth mentioning in the same sentence as the great man Quentin Blake himself, but roll forward to 2013, a year ahead of schedule, and according to the BBC:

“[TV reality show] Big Brother housemates will have to grow their own food this year, the show’s producers have said.  The 16 contestants will have to cultivate their own potatoes and carrots and season their food with herbs from the garden”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New look and feel

Some of you might have noticed that there has been no web presence for Transition Town Market Harborough for nearly a month now. This is because we previously had a community page with www.spruz.com who have now deleted all of their free accounts due to spamming.

They claim to have emailed all of their users before doing this but unfortunately our message got lost in the E-post… Well thank goodness we have been working on this new feel site or we would have lost all of our content!

So here it is, I hope you enjoy it and my apologies to our registered users on the previous site… we have lost your details.

Many gratitude’s go to Steven Irons the proprietor of @Codestring Code String at the innovation centre for all of his help and more remarkably, patience in getting us back online.

Transition Network conference news for 2013

Transition Voices

LaurelAndHardy-NoTransitionConference

Transition Network has put on a big conference every year from 2007 onwards – first in Ruskin Mill near Stroud, then the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester, in 2009 it was Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) in London, then Seale Hayne in Devon, next heading North to Hope Uni in Liverpool, and finally back to BAC in 2012. We are about to break that pattern, so brace yourselves for the news that 2013 will not see a big Transition Conference. There are a couple of reasons why we’re doing this.

First, our little charity is right in the middle of a restructuring and expansion process that makes it really hard to devote the relentless focus needed to put on one of these events. Second, two important trends are pushing us to really question whether one big UK conference is appropriate:

  • we’ve seen a massive increase in European and wider international involvement in our conferences (and in Transition in general)
  • we’re hearing increasing number of requests for regional events rather than a big centralised conference

LaurelAndHardy-TheyThinkOfSomething

Consequently, for 2013, in terms of events for transitioners, we’ve decided to devote our limited resources to piloting a small UK-based roadshow – aka “Transition Thursdays” – over the summer, and to an event that gathers together all the National Hubs coordinators later in the year.

Transition Thursdays

In a nutshell, a Transition Thursday is an event hosted by a Transition Initiative (or group of Initiatives) at which Rob and perhaps others from Transition Network provide talks, inspiration, facilitated meetings, stories, Q & A’s. There’s also the option of including a training course or “support surgery” the following day(s) as required. Each “Thursday” will be co-designed with us to figure out what works best for your local circumstances.

LaurelAndHardy-TransitionThursdays

Thanks to your responses to our call out for this event, we’ve planned seven of these events in 2013, and we’ll announce where they’ll be very shortly. The launch of our new book The Power of Just Doing Stuff coincides with this set of pilot Thursdays, so it’ll be a perfect opportunity to introduce this new material, our hopes for it and how that may translate into additional interest and involvement in your local initiatives.

National Hubs meeting 

In many countries around the world, there are National Transition Hubs doing an amazing job of catalysing and supporting Transition in their countries. The people who stepped up into these coordination roles understand just what an intense experience it can be, and how the pressures doesn’t really let up at all. This network of National Hubs is a crucial mechanism for spreading our Transition work, supporting local initiatives and for bringing learnings from other cultures into seasoning the Transition Stew. We’re planning a National Hubs meeting later in the year in France aimed at strengthening and resourcing this network so that local initiatives can benefit. It’ll be a closed meeting rather than an open conference, but I’m sure we’ll find time for some music and celebrate (particularly if the Spanish and Portuguese are there!).

So we’re very sad that we won’t be having our great big gathering in 2013 – they really have been a joy and inspiration to all of us. And we’re exploring whether these Transition Thursdays will expand into 2014 and help us engage more at the local level around the UK. Furthermore, with the growing internationalisation of Transition Network (and Transition generally), we’re hoping that by strengthening the network of National Hubs we can help a more geographically diverse range of local initiatives to flourish and spread. So what happens in 2014 is all up for grabs.

By taking these approaches, we reckon we’ll be getting up close and personal to more transitioners than if we had a single central conference, but of course the conference offers something wonderful and perhaps irreplaceable.  So watch this space, and it would be good to hear you thoughts: one centralised event or several decentralised ones? We’d love to hear your thoughts and what you’d like to see.

Transition Network conference news for 2013

LaurelAndHardy-NoTransitionConference

Transition Network has put on a big conference every year from 2007 onwards – first in Ruskin Mill near Stroud, then the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester, in 2009 it was Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) in London, then Seale Hayne in Devon, next heading North to Hope Uni in Liverpool, and finally back to BAC in 2012. We are about to break that pattern, so brace yourselves for the news that 2013 will not see a big Transition Conference. There are a couple of reasons why we’re doing this. Continue reading

Please help … some homework for the weekend …

Transition Voices

pojdsclip

We are currently making a short film to promote The Power of Just Doing  Stuff in advance of its publication next month.  And we really need your help.  We need short clips of you, or anyone, saying what the Power of Just Doing Stuff means to you/them.  You could film it on your phone, or any kind of video camera, but what we’re after is what you get out of doing practical projects rather than just sitting watching passively as the world unravels around you?  What kind of power do you feel you reclaim or discover through it?  Just one sentence, speaking to the camera, would be brilliant.  ”Doing stuff makes me feel like we can change the world”, “doing stuff brings the world around me to life”, “doing stuff is far more fun than dusting my collection of celebrity thimbles” … things like that.

We need them by Tuesday next week (May 21st).  Please contact Emma Goude (emmagoude (at) hotmail.com) and she can give you details of the DropBox account to upload it to.  We want to capture passion, spirit, vision.  Please help!  There, and you were just wondering how you were going to spend your weekend … thanks!