Friday 14 December 2012

A #shamelessplug for the Transition Free Press, Great British Beans, and some words on Livelihoods

For many of us, at least in the modern UK, the very concept of livelihood is in transition. In a recent week of posts dedicated to the theme on the Transition Network Social Reporting project, a recurrent theme emerged: as the one secure job/career/pension for life becomes less common, some people are developing ‘multiple pathways for meeting their needs’.

Over the past three years I have written consistently on This Low Carbon Life, on Sustainable Bungay's website and as a social reporter about my experience of being an active part of the Transition ‘movement’ and network, and the benefits it has brought. From skill-sharing to learning how to work in groups, from personal carbon reduction to maintaining blogs, bulletins and websites, from helping set up social events to organising a year of talks, walks and workshops on plants as medicine. These are just a few of the pathways meeting some essential needs.

It just hasn’t been very financial yet! I think I have earned £150 so far from my all transition-related activities (and that thanks to Sarah and Alexis from Transition Belsize, and the Plant Medicine workshop they organised for me to teach at the Royal Free Permaculture Garden). But, like Kerry, I’m in transition for the long haul (just not the flight kind!). It takes up much of my time.

So I haven't managed to earn anything near my keep in transition yet, though things may be changing slowly. For this post I spoke to Josiah Meldrum and Charlotte Du Cann who both lead low carbon lives on low incomes, each with several income streams. "The work is consistent but the pay isn't," said Charlotte. "Living freelance in this way would be impossible unless I'd seriously downshifted."

#ShamelessPlug 1 - Beans

Now about that #shamelessplug. This twitter hashtag (and we’re ALL using twitter now despite our derogatory dismissals when it first came out) was first used by Josiah to bring attention to the Great British Beans project. Josiah is a founding partner of Provenance, which “provides supply chain management, marketing, research and consultancy services to food businesses, with an emphasis on supportng, promoting and developing more sustainable and local supply chains.” He is also director of Hodmedod's, which means hedgehog in East Anglian parlance, the company that deals with the equally East Anglian Great British Victor Beans (and now Great British Peas).

I asked Josiah yesterday about his experience over the years with multiple income pathways. First he told me the latest about the beans. “It’s been full-on over the past month,” he said, “We’ve just received the latest order in the new boxes, the design looks great, it’s very exciting.” I asked him whether the beans would make money. “A little,” he said. “Though we’ll never be bean millionaires.” You can tell he’s not in it for the money. He really loves the whole bean thing!

Josiah told me his job is well done if he is able to effect at least some positive change within local food supply systems. To that end his work can vary from 6 month contracts involving half-day to 2 day weeks with local Community Supported Agriculture projects like Norwich FarmShare, more regular work with established farms or occasional consultancy work with organisations like the World Wildlife Fund. And of course those beans. Which by the way make great falafels and houmous and find their way into many delicious dishes on Sustainable Bungay’s Happy Monday’s community kitchen menu.

#ShamelessPlug 2 - SUBSCRIBE to the Transition Free Press

Now to that other #shamelessplug. I have just taken on the task of distribution manager for the new Transition Free Press quarterly printed newspaper (see Preview issue here), first 'proper' edition due out on 1st February 2013. It's a very exciting thing. And if it all works out there'll be some money in it. Not a lot, but something.

From the outset, Transition Free Press has been about doing a proper job: getting the Transition message in physical form around the country and into as many people’s hands as possible. Providing a newpaper with excellent reports and interviews on all the transition news from local food projects to discussions on the latest climate science that you just won’t read in print elsewhere.

TFP is also about contributing to the livelihoods of the people producing it. The newspaper team is made up of professional writers, editors, designers and business people with years of experience in their fields and several years' hands-on experience in Transition.

The Financial structure of TFP is made up of four parts as follows:
3. Grants
4. Advertising

This pays for the all the costs of producing a high quality Transition Free Press from the printing to the paying of ‘staff’ and contributors on a sliding scale. The idea is that everyone who contributes gets something.

The aim is also to benefit Transition initiatives financially. A bundle costs £75 per 250 (30p a copy) and with a suggested sale price of £1 you can more than treble your outgoings. If 250 copies are too many try sharing bundles with other groups in your area or county.

(iv) “Producing a newspaper is skilled work,” says Charlotte Du Cann, TFP’s editor. “And it can be hard going. You need a solid, dedicated team, which we’re fortunate to have.” 

I asked Charlotte some more about working with multiple income pathways. 

“I love writing. I’m not talking about writing as personal therapy or marketing but writing for life, for the world. For three years I was blogging away about transition, no money in sight. In general, people don’t want to pay for communications. Writing is seen as a hobby, not taken seriously. Something that should be done for free.”

But the hard work is starting to pay off. As part of the research for this Social Reporting project, Charlotte went to Dark Mountain’s Uncivilisation 2011 festival, wrote a blog about it and got an article published in the Independent, the first since giving up journalism in the 90s. This led to press and publicity work with Dark Mountain.

After publishing What Do You Do? Writing on the Edge on This Low Carbon Life during the Transition and Livelihoods week last October, Charlotte received an offer from Two Ravens Press to publish her book 52 Flowers that Shook my World and subsequently to become a columnist in their magazine Earthlines.

This all came about by getting totally involved with Transition communications through several years dedicated and unpaid work, setting up websites, this SR project with Ed Mitchell last year, editing newsletters and bulletins.

“You hold out for making things pay. I didn’t want to earn my money from the old world, but from a world in transition,” she says.

An awayday to Totnes to discuss The Transition Companion led to meeting Lucy Neal and getting involved in (and paid for) the “Playing for Time” arts in transition project and book, which is now underway.

“Ideally I’d like to earn my money just by writing,” says Charlotte. “But that’s not how it goes. So I do some editing and admin work, and that’s fine so long as the project is both relevant and something where my real skills and talents are being valued, for example helping to update the Network’s Project Sharing Engine with Ed (Mitchell).”

Charlotte also acts as distributor for the Dark Mountain books and will be co-curating the literary stage at next year’s Uncivilisation festival. “The skill is in the balance. You make sure all the projects, even when they are for different people, are all connecting in really interesting and vibrant ways.

“Most jobs are carried out in isolation from the whole and we're living in a time where we need to join the dots. It’s not straightforward. It’s not 9 to 5 and then the working day is over. In any given day or night I’m on a train to a meeting for Playing for Time, emailing America, packing boxes of books, writing a blog or discussing the TFP front page with Alexis (news ed) on google hangout.”

These are difficult times and we face an uncertain future. Resilience depends on having a good communications network. We need to be network beings, working as a collective. Not just discrete cogs in a machine that’s destructive to the planet.

“As a communicator the network is everything!”

(v) Finally for me, in addition to really getting into the TFP distribuition task, with all the emails, spreadsheets and the huge map of the UK on my bedroom wall (the same one Mike Grenville is pointing to in the photo), I’d like to add that I am totally up for visiting Transition Initiatives and other groups for workshops on plants as medicine, particularly (but not only) connecting with our wild, native plant communities. I charge for my travel expenses plus a negotiable fee on a sliding scale, including payment in kind.

I might even let you into some of my secrets about how to make a medicine jelly or an awesome herbal refresher for any occasion!

The Transition Free Press crowdfunding is now underway, support us here. Thank you! Find out how to subscribe as one or several initiatives here.

TFP 'staff':
Charlotte Du Cann - Editor-in-chief
Alexis Rowell - News Editor
Trucie Mitchell/Mihna Damien - Design
Jay Tompt - Business and crowd-funding manager
Tamzin Pinkerton - Food and Well-being editor
Mark Watson - Distribution manager
with the participation of co-founder Mike Grenville.

This slightly amended version of What has this #SHAMELESSPLUG for the TRANSITION FREE PRESS got to do with LIVELIHOODS?, was originally published on 23rd November as part of the Livelihoods week on the Transition Network Social Reporting project. (MW)

Images: Transition Free Press Open Space session at the annual Transition Conference, September 2012; the original Great British Beans postcard; Mika from Japan reading TFP preview issue on a train in Suffolk; Mike Grenville points the way, Transition Conference 2012; 52Flowers the Shook My World book cover; teaching herbs for resilience at the Common Room, Norwich, November 2012; TFP's Buzzbnk page with Mika on the train

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