The first international conference of the transition network, in September 2015, came after the UK-based International Permaculture Convergence and included workshops and local visits as well as a weekend conference attended by 350 people from around the world.  For a comprehensive account, see the transition network website here

Frome was well-represented at the conference. Here are some personal reflections. Our contributors are: Peter Macfadyen (PM) who founded Sustainable Frome at the same time as the Transition Towns Movement emerged – as Leader of Frome Town Council he now attempts to use local politics to push the same agendas; Rachel Bodle (RB) a current director of Sustainable Frome who first encountered transition in West Norfolk; and Celia West (CW), who has been a seeker of sustainability for many years but for whom this was an introduction to the Transition Network.

RB: I’m in my late 60s and in the welcoming ceremony I was invited to identify myself as an ‘elder’. Wasn’t sure what that was about … but later I joined a thoughtfully facilitated elders’ breakfast and over the weekend had several conversations around how participation in transition might be different at different life stages. It was an enlightening and personally-rewarding dimension of the conference for me and I’m still wondering what this might mean for life back in Frome…

CW: I arrived on the Friday evening and from the moment of arrival felt welcomed included and inspired. Like Rachel I identified as an ‘Elder’, being on the cusp of the stated age. I did not attend the breakfast, but was struck by the diversity of ages and the enthusiasm and commitment of so many young people from all over the world. A hall full of people of all ages, cultures and belief systems all committed to hope and positive change, and already walking their talk. Inspiring.

PM: I missed the first day so arrived into a community well settled into superb interaction which I’d describe as politics at its very best.  Many of those there are key members of established TT groups, so Open Space and other facilitation techniques are things they know and breathe.  All of which is so refreshing – a million miles from the “participation” and “engagement” we are so often subjected to.

RB: My concerns about inequality and activities with Mendip Community Credit Union were behind my workshop choice on Saturday morning. ‘Transition in post-crash economies’ brought home to me the scale of Spanish indignation about wide-scale evictions of people from their homes and the social and political impact of their protests. I resolved to be more proactive in sharing information about the thoughtless and unfair treatment that some people using the credit union have encountered.

CW: I attended a workshop on Conflict Resolution and how to achieve change, mapping out different levels of hierarchy and how they are linked and impact on each other. It was clear to see in this exercise how a minority hold so much power and we reflected on how to influence the bigger picture and work together more to influence change.

PM: I ran a workshop on ‘Flatpack Democracy’ which was essentially on why I think the TT movement sometimes confuse politics and Party Politics.  I think they are right to avoid the former, but the latter is what they do.  And I think they should look harder at ways to integrate their energy and action with the largely dysfunctional lowest levels of councils (Parish and Town) through becoming independent councillors.  I enjoyed doing it greatly!

RB: In spite of a healthy level of innovative business activity in Frome, our own version of Totnes REconomy’s Local Entrepreneur Forum could perhaps achieve more. Jay Tompt led a workshop where he described annual events that have brought together a ‘community of dragons’ to decide how and which business ideas to support. The formula has already been transferred to Gothenburg and Brixton … Frome next?

CW: I also attended a ‘Truth Mandala’ which provoked a huge amount of emotion and recognition of two sides of the same coin. Difficult at times, but it created a feeling of community and one-ness.

CW: In the Open Space I attended a workshop run by 2 young people from South America and reflecting on how to positively influence Transition, and a session on Dance in Transition.

PM: I joined an Open Space group on how we can learn from recent initiatives in Spain and Greece.  A young Spaniard made this informative and interesting… but the presence of an Italian 5*Party MP made it really fascinating.  The 5* movement is made up of ‘accidental politicians’ – astonishingly with 150MPs.  They spend nothing on advertising and take half their salaries – among some other seriously radical moves!

RB: An Open Space session gave me chance to meet Peter Cow who was advocating permaculture design tools in the context of culture change. Would love to take this further and came away resolved to make more effort at collaborative permaculture connections in Frome…

RB: I loved the variety of opportunities to unwind, from meditative exploration of the grounds and art works around the site, to informal encounters in the bar, to the whacky humour of singer/songwriter Bert Miller and more …

CW: I left the Conference feeling a renewed sense of Hope and Community … and a recognition that I don’t have to be all things to all people, I don’t have to know ‘everything’… I just need to know my place, my passion, and do my bit. We all do….and we can.

Out of Darkness, Flowers emerge