The Transition Network annual conference was held earlier this month in Battersea Arts Centre in London. The Network's Social Reporting team, including myself, were there covering the week before, the week after and the event itself. Here are some of my experiences and reflections. Mark Watson
The conference was intense. Ongoing formal and informal meetings, workshops, Open Space sessions and group processes with almost three hundred transitioners together for the weekend. So after my rush hour post of yesterday, I've decided to take a more mellow approach today with some abiding images of the event.
On Saturday morning I walked backwards into the future whilst looking at the past in front of me at Lucy Neal's Playing for Time 2013 Arts and Culture workshop and joined in with the Transition Free Press open space session after lunch. By four o' clock I was wondering whether I'd be able to keep my eyes open, let alone go out.
But after a small group of us dipped our feet in the Lido on the Treasuring Tooting Well-Being Walk, and spent a few minutes in silence, I stood up and felt totally relaxed and revitalised. This lasted for the whole of the walk and right into the evening.
Thanks to Charles, Hilary, Alison and Belinda for taking us through Tooting Bec Common to plant elephant garlic in the community garden and think about big time with the Stone Age flint tool found there; for the history of the lido and the common land it sits in; for the story of Ahmed the salvage collector and how his beautiful daughter Jasmina must liberate herself from her imprisoning father. And for providing a counterbalance to the intense activity inside Battersea Arts Centre. As a direct experience of connecting with the living fabric of place, it was superb. Truly a well-being walk to be treasured.
At the cabaret on Saturday night hosted by Totnes poet Matt Harvey, we created a collective composite compost toilet poem. Those of us inspired wrote a line on a strip of paper which some very dedicated people strung together to make this poem. To read it click on the image at the bottom of this piece.
The band who were meant to appear at the Cabaret didn't get there. They were replaced by the fabulous Flanagan Collective, who really are folk you can dance to. The whole room was up on the floor. One slower piece that made my skin tingle with the harmonies and Jim Harbourne's amazing falsetto was called Humans Flying from the Collective's musical 'Beulah'.
On Sunday at the 'group process' of building Transition Town Anywhere, I set up a garden of wild plants and 'cultivated friends' behind the 'Yeast Collective' brewery and bakery. The plan was to use the run-off water from the brewery as irrigation and provide some herbs for the beer and bread.
Having actually curated a Plant Medicine garden this year with Sustainable Bungay made the exercise feel very grounded and at the same time freed my imagination for new possibilities. Other townspeople from Anywhere came to speak to me and several asked whether I'd be willing to visit and speak to their actual initiatives in Somewhere.
The answer is YES by the way.
At some point I realised I needed to get out more and not just spend the whole time being the man with the wild plants out the back.
"I'll do barmaid for a bit at the brewery," I said to Rob.
"That'll be lovely, dear," he replied.
So what was the weekend about for me? What moves did I make? Well, I came to the Conference for a start. I usually stay behind whilst Charlotte goes to various festivals and Transition events outside our local area.
And I love staying at home and keeping house and going to Darsham station late at night to pick Charlotte up. I love to hear about all the people she’s met and the experiences she’s had as we eat tortilla and salad and have a glass of wine.
So just attending the conference meant I had to LET GO OF MY CONTROL as we entrusted our house to a new friend and her boyfriend (whom we hadn’t met) for the weekend. What about those dodgy taps? What if the septic tank backs up?!? And won’t the 100 plants in the conservatory dry out?
Letting go of control and joining in were my two main moves during the Conference. Whether it was going on the Tooting walk despite starting out exhausted, and dismayed that we wouldn’t be back until a quarter to 8, or getting over my initial resistance to the Conference facilitation, or looking into the eyes of people I’d only just met, I found if I just let go, I started to enjoy it all and appreciate the amount of work that went into organising everything.
On Sunday morning I woke up and SO didn't want to do the group process. I'm not very good with all those visioningy things. Maybe I'll get out of it by doing my blogposts, I thought.
I don’t know what made me do it but I’m glad I did. I met new people I got on with, including my ‘next door neighbour' Claudia from Sweden, who helps communities set up Transition initiatives wherever she goes. And I bumped into Hilary from the well-being walk, who agreed to write a Me and My Initiative post on the Social reporting Project.
And having decided not to go with the usual choice of well being or working with wild and medicinal plants as my specific Transition Town Anywhere activity, I made my way to the Goods and Services section to find something I knew nothing about to throw myself into. As if by magic though, staring me right in the face on the 'blackboard' where I least expected it was written: A Wild, Wild Garden. I had to do it. That was a letting go too.
So in a couple of weeks it’ll be me going to the Transition Camp in Sussex and running a workshop on Plants for Life, whilst Charlotte stays behind to look after the house!
Pics: Abiding image: Dipping our feet in the Lido at Tooting (me reporting) by Charles Whitehead; Wild plants and cultivated friends garden behind the Yeast Collective of Transition Town Anywhere (MW); Compost toilet poem - great crap! (MW) Walking Through Woods on a Warm September Evening (MW)
First published on 21st September on Transition Network Social Reporting Project