Reasons to be Cheerful Part 1

Hello everyone – We are now back on track with The Grassroots Directory after spending the late (glorious) summer on other creative projects. We’re ready for action and aiming to reach our funding target by the end of the year. So, if you know of folk who could do with some cheerful news about collaboration, resourcefulness and reconnection in the UK, do point them in this direction. Many thanks!

This month I’ll be taking the Directory (by train) to a school in Denmark where the students are keen to know about what they can do in the face of ecological and social challenges. It will form part of a course called ‘Space Craft’ devised by Jeppe Graugaard who I met working with Transition Norwich years ago. We were creating a midsummer gathering that could bring people together in a new way and knew that these exchanges, like seedlings, needed the right conditions to flourish. Transition was described in those days as ‘more of a party than a protest’, and although many of the projects in the Directory are deeply practical – bakeries, cider presses, give and take days, alternative currencies – it is the joyful way people engage in them that is their greatest attraction.

Celebration is a core concept in our best summer read, Surviving the Future by David Fleming, whose original thinking around community resilience was one of the inspirations behind the Transition movement. As an introduction to his mighty dictionary, Lean Logic, this slimmer narrative takes you through his key ideas for creating the economics and culture that can weather change and help people and places thrive. You can read all about it in a review I wrote here:

Mapping and celebration were also at the heart of Base Camp, the Dark Mountain gathering at Embercombe last month. ‘In the future there will be a lot of birds,’ announced Finn (aged 6), one of the co-hosts of the Children’s Map. Other subjects included Seeds for the Future, Rethinking Society and Myths and Storytelling.

Our challenge in Norwich  – as is often the case in cities and big urban centres – was finding a venue with green things growing and a convivial space to hang out and speak differently. I’ve just come back from Newcastle taking part in their current Hidden Civil War festival. Our event which mapped out an alternative creative path between the dominant future stories of tech-will-save-us utopia and Mad Max everything-is-going-horribly-wrong dystopia, took place in the wonderful Summerhill Bowling Club which is now community-owned with an orchard (where we had our storytelling fire), apiary, wildlife garden and a great little hall for events and meetings (even got to take home some tomatillos for a Mexican salsa from their community allotment).

These places are vital for fostering a thriving future-thinking culture and we hope to feature some of the best and shiniest in our book, including the ace Green Backyard in Peterborough (see first image above) where this summer artist Jessie Brennan created work to bring attention to what we lose when private development takes over public space.

If you have a treasured communal space near you do let us know about it and meanwhile have a great (and fruitful) autumn! Charlotte Du Cann

Images: If This Were To Be Lost  Installation (painted birch plywood on scaffold) by Jessie Brennan, The Green Backyard, Peterborough. Base Camp mappers by Warren Draper, Embercombe, Devon


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