The First International Conference of the Transition Network

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

Pedal-Powered Cinema

On Saturday 18th July, 2015, Electric Pedals brought their Pedal-Powered Cinema to Frome, so that we could show Ghostbusters in Victoria Park to raise money for Frome’s Missing Links cycle paths.

We raised a fantastic £800 from the event – some of the funds coming in over the summer from the ‘bike jumble’ sales.

Money raised by the event will go towards creating a traffic-free cycle path from the centre of Frome to the Colliers Way route, which leads to Radstock. For phase 2, £20,000 needs to be raised from the local community to release further funding from Sustrans. The campaign still needs more funds – we’ll post more details of fundraising activities here in future.

SHARE – latest news and wish list

The ‘sharing shop’ is close to being a reality and now has a name: SHARE – A library of things. This excellent venture, led by edventure, working with Sustainable Frome and the Cheese and Grain, is looking for people to get involved – with the first work days on Wednesday 15th April and Thursday 16th April, and then the following week, from Monday to Thursday.

They now have a ‘wish list’ of items to get the sharing started, which you can find here. You can donate items – from the wish list, please – by popping down to the shop on Wednesdays from 10am – 4pm.

SHARE will be in the vacant shop on the bridge that used to be an Age UK charity shop, next door toThe Card Factory. The doors first opened at the Independent Market on Sunday, allowing people to come in and hear about what’s going on and give their views. There were also lots of fantastic suggestions for items that SHARE could have, including a disco ball, invisibility cloak, roller skates – and, of course, gardening and DIY items.

Now is the time to get involved. The small team at edventure need plenty of volunteers to make this work – and they will make it a fun, sociable space to help out in. Contact Charley directly if you’d like to volunteer, or just turn up at the shop.

You can also like SHARE on Facebook to keep up to date.

And for some examples of this kind of thing:

A sharing shop?

What do you think of the idea of a place where you can borrow – possibly for a small fee – items like power tools, decorating equipment and cooking items, that you might only want on a few occasions?

Plans are taking shape on the ‘Sharing Shop’, which will be a joint venture between edventure and Sustainable Frome in the heart of town. The town council, through recycling and energy officer Anna Francis, has secured a lease on the premises for the ‘shop’ on the bridge that used to be occupied by the Age UK charity shop.

The shop may be based on the online service Streetbank, which helps people find the things they need in their local area. Have you tried this? We’d love to hear how it worked out.

Are you interested in getting involved? There will be workdays to smarten up the shop (probably during April), and we will need people to staff the shop (from April – June roughly). Email us at Sustainable Frome to find out more.

There may also be a ‘Sharing festival’ to introduce the idea of sharing to people in Frome. Contact Anna Francis to find out more.

On a related issue, do you have a skill to share? Can you use a sewing machine? Do you knit or crochet? Do you have some basic woodworking skills? or some good upcycling ideas? If you think you have a skill you could share, we would like to start building a list of the skills we have locally to help people get better use out of the stuff they own. Tell us what you can do – you don’t have to have a qualification, but if you do, let us know – by emailing Sustainable Frome.

The Gift Economy

Did you come along to our December meeting? If so, you would have learnt a little about the gift economy and experienced a gift circle. This appeared in the newsletter afterwards and provides some links for you to delve further into the subject.

The Gift Economy

In contrast to the market economy’s insistence that we monetise everything that we do or give, the gift economy works on giving what we can and trusting that we will be able to find what we need from others. And while it might sound radical, it is a system that has been found in some smaller societies around the world, and is already evident here in things like Freecycle, open software, ‘couch surfing’ holidays and, of course, the Incredible Edible movement.

Lewis Hyde’s books The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World and Common as Air: Revolution, Art and Ownership are ground-breaking works worth asking about in your local bookshop.

Mark Boyle has lived without money for some time, and you can read a Guardian article about him, or try his website, The Moneyless Manifesto.

There is also a website, the Gift Economy, with lots of articles, videos and links to explore further.

And I would like to recommend the YouTube video of Amanda Palmer’s TED talkThe Art of Asking, which explores what can happen when you are prepared to ask people to give.