Fruitful labours

Hello dear supporters – Thank you all for all your wonderful cheering and backing for The Grassroots Directory during the year. Unfortunately, in spite of the enthusiastic response from many quarters, we are short of our funding target and so will not able to deliver the book into the world and into your hands.

Our aim was to create a portrait of grassroots Britain in rocky times, to show that, in spite of the individualistic market culture, there are people everywhere working together for an Earth-friendly future. We have been told that the Directory would be better on line, that everyone uses apps these days. But our feeling was that books are like small ecosystems, like a forest, where you can explore unknown territory and come across connections that are impossible to see on the flat monocultural sceen. It’s true, you can get information and prices and opening times from websites but this has little to do with lived experience, the look and feel of places and people. Those are what we were looking to convey.

Last weekend Mark and I went to see the grassroots show about the history of land rights and protest in Britain called Three Acres And A Cow. It was hosted by one of our CSA entries, Norwich FarmShare, spearheaded by Transition Norwich’s Food and Farming group in 2008. The church was packed out and the potluck meal beforehand had a table piled with delicious dishes people had grown, cooked and brought. This was the place where the idea of reporting on downshift culture first happened, with a blog we started called This Low Carbon Life (see picture above from a Reskilling event on Magdalen Street). And the people were still there, even though some of the projects we had all been involved in were no longer up and running. Norwich FarmShare were still there, even though their land is now being bullozed to make way for a major new road. All of us still holding out for another story to take root.

Sometimes this story can only be heard when people gather together and start communiticating. The week before I went to Denmark to give a talk and workshop based on the Directory projects (see above) at Ry’s Volk Højskole (folk high school). Their teacher Jeppe Graugaard, a fellow activist in Norwich, had recently given a talk called The Future Is Cancelled and afterwards all of them were clamouring: what can we do? Only one out of 90 students had heard of grassroots activism – Transition or Occupy movements or Community Agricultural Schemes. So I showed them the Directory map. OK, I said, The future begins here. They knew exactly what to do and in 40 minutes had sketched out how they would repurpose the school, their communities and their own households. Afterwards one of the students who had been organising ‘Community Energy’ rushed up and flung her arms round me : ‘It’s so exciting to know these projects are happening!’

You won’t read about these things in mainstream media. You are unlikely to find reports or reviews of such events, even on line. But they are happening. They are happening in cities, in villages, in estates, in gardens, in schools, in difficult circumstances and difficult times. People are sharing stuff (see Share Shops), people are caring about waste (see Real Junk Food cafes), repairing the damaged and broken, restoring the land and our relationships with our neighbourhoods and each other. Most of us know what we can do – given the chance, the space and the goodwill of our fellows.

So even though the book that would have shared these stories is not happening, the projects and enterprises are still out there. This post is also a big thank you to all our Directory contributors who have sent in texts and images and great tips all about Britain’s tool libraries, orchards, alternative currencies, bakeries, bike schemes, seed swaps, hackspaces, hydros, potato days, and a whole A-Z of future-thinking projects. We are hoping to be able to use the material you generously gave us in another form. Do keep a look out on our website for news of this (www.grassrootsdirectory.org) or follow us on Twitter (@grassrootsmap). Heartfelt thanks too to the ace team at Unbound who helped us get the project going, to Georgia and Phil and Jimmy; to Laura and Raphael who created the Grassroots map; and to Martin who made the video with us at Norwich’s Bluebell Allotments on a fearsomely cold February day. It was great working with you all.

Meanwhile on a practical note Unbound will be writing to you all soon to ask if you would like to either be refunded or to purchase another book from Unbound’s mighty shelves. Lots of marvellous titles to choose from!

Thanks again everyone, keep warm and have a wonderful winter.

With best wishes, Charlotte and Mark

Transition Norwich’s Reskilling group get knitting (photo: helenofnorwich); mapping the future at Ry (photo: Jeppe Graugaard); wassailing the trees with Transition Kentish Town (photo: Jonathan Goldberg).

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