Open Village Call 19 July 2017

Woah, interesting open meeting. Realise you’ve been talking about this for months & I don’t know the web that’s been weaving all this time between you all but my reflections:

Your focus on learning about how to do autonomous healthy caring community through a bold, experiential meeting of people is bang on. Focusing productive engagement at a mobile health village on care, resilience, fitness, mental health, spirituality, communal living + space + wild imagination & hacking + radical economics all sounded needed by the many different community ventures and community interventions that are rising in 2017.

It already sounds like a bold invitation to people to join, collaborate and go for it but the questions about the the precision of the invitation & the precision of the activity feels important. Brought to mind the many excellent social initiatives that has spawned over the years and communicated so clearly.

You asked me about events that I had experience of & I’m not sure I answered that well. But events that combine focused invitation with a mix of supportive structure & improvisation so that people can creatively participate with purpose work for me.  Even better events that through the meeting itself prototype & meet a specific question of care: this shifts depending on the context and where the meeting is.  If you pivot the whole thing to Morocco - then there’s a different care need…

On a Games tip, it made me think of the Brighton Cascade project I set up with Felix & the unfulfilled plan we never found funding for which was first on our list for what we wanted to do after the COP21 had settled  which was “City Game & Action Residency” The aim was an action residency & living differently with each other across a number of days on a different economic exchange whist tying it in with a food lab, sleep lab, creative lab open to the public and sharing tools/ knowledge and supported in the spirit of play by a city wide game inviting people into living differently. But you know what it needed to really make it work was one clearly understood focus.

The reason the went dormant is 1. people had jobs & the workshop aims were easier to achieve 2. people wanted leadership & focus to create in reaction too and give it shape - I didn’t recognise that and kept on seeking to accomodate everyone’s interests & waiting for a consensus which never came 3. (and this is the big one!) it was not clear how, apart from being fun and creative, this would actually actively help the climate situation.

Reflecting on this today I agree with what Nadia said on the call - that a certain state of trust is necessary. To be bold and make the experiment with a leap of faith and make sure to learn from it in an organised way. We never know where any creative act leads. In a very basic way setting up creative healthy spaces that are emboldening, empowering and give people great information, new ideas and a lived sense of new potentials has an effect that is meaningful, rich, valuable.

However what I like about Edgeryders is your pragmatic focus on what is actually of communal use and has actual power to change people’s lives for the better. & care is a vital goal. Enacting possibilities with a sense of play towards a focused purpose of enlarging our skills for care & supportive community is useful.

So a mix of game + pragmatic focus on care + working with aspects of real community (whether it’s living together differently, or working with the realities of the wider city / region) inspired me. & using playful techniques in the city - I don’t personally have time to produce an audio journey but there are more spontaneous acts - like clowning - that don’t need much prep ie. going out on the streets and giving people gifts.

I’ve got to hand my PHD draft in September & will work out what I can bring to this meeting - workshops or VR project & very open to connect with Gehan / Bernard / Frank about health / mental health / spritituality / love .  Available for calls if you need me. I unfortunately don’t have a block of time before the event to build something but perhaps it’s the beginning of a longer journey.

I’ll be there in October - wherever it is held - and participate with all I got.

More about the Cascade project

Hei @kate_g you surely have a way with words - maybe you are up for helping proofread or contribute to the mission statement/ invitation we will launch when releasing the first version of a program?

I’ve browsed through the Cascade website and it’s not clear how your calls for participation were met by the community. I understand for about 6 months you ran events to re-activate Brighton in creative ways (#CascadePortal), then in spring/summer 2016 you attempted the 11 day action residency for which you didnt get funding and it completely stopped? None of the 3 components of the residency happened? (city game, AV nights and workshops)

Community building and nurturing is very hard work even when theres a collective conscience and willingness to go forward together.  I think you and Nadia hit a chord when you mentioned leadership and excitement, so needed in ambitious projects!

Paging @Matteo_Uguzzoni to ask him whether their team in Milan ever designed an urban game which involved building ecosystem of sorts? Matteo, we are considering bringing an experiential activity at the Open Festival - do you think your work could fit?

Happy to read / proofread - though I’m ever impressed by the succinct writing on edgeryders*.

I’m also happy to record interviews at Open Village and bring audio equipment.

The Cascade was a variety of labs in galleries, hackspaces, on streets, with a different people flowing through. Heinously documented, not put online & though I remember saying the phrase “let’s not bifurcate” a lot, ultimately the enthusiasm bifurcated…

The bifurcation had a practical root - to do with resources, time, lack of funds to support it. Others wanted to steward the project but got distracted by their other work, families, health & could not. I did not realise that my leadership and initiation of the group was a vital component of its existence & my over emphasis on everyone’s freedom was ultimately unhelpful to social organisation & cohesion. I took on the workshops and AV and continued carrying the torch - but ran out of money to keep living in Brighton where I was, moved out to the countryside & spectacularly ran out of energy at the CCC 2016. Still carrying this fire but agnostic about where I bring it. Now that I’m in Petersfield UK - finding people who are working towards the area becoming a Transition Town, who are tending the river networks and are standing against the Oil drilling of the Weald. Every place has it’s own needs.

On the plus side of the we didn’t all destroy each other, or fall in love with each other and then destroy each other, which is a certain kind of success in group endeavours. The group experiment did not fall into wounds and trauma, sexual confusion, conflict and resentment. No one was nearly killed by the experience or driven half mad by it. We had a good knowledge exchange and the people it touched seemed opened, enlivened, emboldened.

But… my focus is how to make the impulse & the work stronger & more effective because the intention is creative action & we are living in the context of this crazy risky moment of transition where nothing but completely radical action will do.

So how to give something of real value & help shift a situation from not working or being actively toxic into health… I’m thinking towards 2020 - that that year is a meaningful goal for clearly working together

Here’s some useful stuff on ways of going about Creative Activism

On the subject of planning bold meetings good stuff over at Centre for Artistic Activism

What we have learnt from history -

& great resources here

Nurture & Patience

You are very right about the challenge of nurture and getting a group to nurture itself without needing constant encouragement by particular people. That kind of resilient self organised network comes through time, hard knocks & a shared understanding that if something is not working, that it’s up to the person who is noticing to fix it, rather than complain/bitch/judge. The problem is that everyone is hardwired from how they’ve worked in more traditional companies and notions of “the management”. Sharing leadership & systems for swapping stewardship feel really vital to avoid burn out and for that longterm goal…

One thing that helps is PATIENCE

With ourselves -

the last few years has been an extraordinarily painful personal learning about my weaknesses and ability to destroy my best efforts and not organise energy properly. Naivety is not helpful - I had a tendency to think that i could do many many things because I was animated by the feeling that it was vitally important. This feeling met the crushing realities of difference between people, everyday life, parenthood, resources and my real ineptness to use social media…

& also patience with others

and with how human beings actually are.

I’ve been on a great learning about personality and the limits of change. That well intentioned people might want to change, that knocks & failures certainly help shed naivety, but that changing habitual patterns takes time and support and is rarely complete. There’s this realism emerging - mainly people only partially learn things and have a habit of remembering just a few things… We all tend to get swamped by our own lives sometimes. I like to think that I learnt about the problems of “trying” to make something happen over the last few years, but then I look at my current state of affairs & realise that my tendency to “try” to make things happen and naive enthusiasm that this time it will all work out is still prompting my actions. Habits of action are engrained in our biology - there’s a noticing and re-wiring that’s possible… & difficult. As I (and many others) re-wire ourselves with respect to what we do not do well and work out how to genuinely put energy to good use and work together, there’s a kind of hardcore deathless patience that’s needed. Because we have to keep aware and change ourselves and how we work, whilst keeping on doing.

& If I’m going to be real - I’m not sure I’ve noticed many people get astoundingly wiser about their own weaknesses or completely overcome the bits of their characters that tend to alienate, confuse, splinter, cause trouble for all. & that’s part of the melting pot of being human, making trouble, being part of the trouble…

I wonder what a meeting that has a sense of complete and open welcome to everyone combined with a really compassionate understanding about people’s limits and flaws might be. That feels like what you are aiming at in the Care Conversation. It feels a good place to start and avoids the problem we talked about around carers vs. those who need care.

Mechanisms & sessions to get people creating & flowing

I’m really excited by the move at the OpenVillage to genuinely learn through courageous experiment and in friendship, with all the learning of the last decades.

I’d love to see group mechanisms for getting people to play to their strengths actively & creatively within the Open Village, because social situations can tend to split into spectators and active agents and - often - some of the best people, don’t have any idea of what their strengths actually are or that they are allowed to use them. I’ve packed up the idea that collaboration is going to be a balanced affair - but there’s a joy in friendship, encouragement and acceptance of how other people are in the moment.

I wonder what mechanisms / games / workshops / group actions can be put in place that gets people to flowing together. I’d love to come and do some group dreamwork. Ie. An entirely optional session first thing in the morning to come and share the dreams that were had in the night. I’ve been learning from Apela Colorado about this practice and can only say that although it would take me many years of practice to really say why this is so effective at group meetings, that I have found it to be so. Group systems for mutually holding the unconscious forces of a group might be useful to our tendencies to unwittingly sabotage our best & most concerted efforts. Feel like I’ve said this in the article I wrote, but I’d love to facilitate some dream work sessions. & really encourage the existence of group dance, meditation and other activities through the day.

Surprising ways of getting the web of creativity going is one way of getting through the armour of pessimism. I hear a lot of people these days, burnt by the failures of past ventures, getting bitter and hard and talking about having their fingers in many pies so as to avoid being too troubled if one doesn’t work out. To me, this sounds like a strange new way of “not caring”. We do have to CARE & actively try hard to not make the same mistakes - non-attachment is one thing - but speculative gambling to avoid committing just leads to a whole load of nothing. It’s such an inhibitor of potential. All our eggs are in one basket … and the basket is on fire.

There are many other effective ways of creating together and keeping the flow.

A few from my experience -

Schumacher College vitalises their educational experience with student organised group meetings each morning where different people bring short physical practices & games, readings to bring everyone into the new day & it also serves to communicate a clear map for the day - what’s happening, whose doing the food… It works. And you really notice how sometimes you just wake up negative and need to be heaved back into flow. They also have great healthy hearty habits of building fires, clothes swaps, making puddings, doing ritual, singing together, storytelling, dancing - it has a spiritual cohesion that is rare. On a less good tip - it’s fucking expensive which leaves most people out of it.

COP21 at the ZAD - self organisation that worked well mainly because of the urgency of the climate meeting & a level of care & focus given by the event following so shortly after the bombing in Paris. The thing that made this one work so well was the shared commitment to a greater cause - it gave the space feeling of camaraderie, trust, helpfulness, gifting, community, sharing info.

The Chaos Computer Club in 2015 also had a similar community spirit, loads of people interacting with a will to experiment & hack prototypes, set up spontaneous meetings, share experience, exchange networks, DANCE together - on a less good tip - well, there’s everything about the negatives of technology culture, new elites rising, tech worship that has not yet plugged into wisdom and care…

The Warp Experience in the 90s in London - this one really shifted me with its open, mind bending, hilarious & inspiring concoction of theatre, workshops, talks, wild dance, a hot tub. It was a liberty space of organic flow, wild experimentation and spontaneous creativity. Like all expressions of liberty, liberty lasts a short while and then rots unless it is tended to transform into something else - and these negatives became more visible, there was no real help to those who were vulnerable (except the social radar that sometimes worked well), there was mental fall out, sexual predation, guru culture and power conflicts, hedonism culture always means lots of talk and less action and its got a shadow of addiction and escapism, and no one really understood how hard it would be or how long it would take…

One conclusion I take from all this is that true creativity is the secret ingredient. The Warp may have been wild & chaotic and bitten the dust but it spawned its seeds, to America and the Cosmic Trigger rising in the UK is all part of its growth through time. Real creative experience has organic effects that continue and seed new life, even if you can’t account for them in reports - they often have much more power than really thought-through planned experiences… I’ve certainly been to a lot of conferences and formal meetings which have not shifted me.

Something that keeps coming to me about the Open Village is TIME

The question of - what lasts? what’s useful? how can we inhabit this time with power?

& what’s possible for October? Which is not so long away…

I have one thought that keeps rising on taking this notion of the caring healthy self-organised group out into the city. Few respond well to shouty negative activism. Fear is not the great communicator… Part of the cascade project was around slow culture hacks. Activism that emphasises changing the pace of the city and foregrounding presence, vulnerability and the beauty of the earth. The dance groups on the streets for the COP21 shifted me.

Been thinking about action on the streets & since culture is obsessed with excitement - anything too high paced is likely just to feed the machine and be yet another ride on the wheel… For where there is hectic business, there is all the distraction, blindness and madness of this suicidal culture. This sense that “the time is now” can be met by something present. Instead of putting that intense feeling into multiple short-lived projects, to make energy matter. To use energy with real intention. One way of spreading courage and alternatives is to be in total presence. What about an action that expressed a great slowing down into presence during the Open Village? Slowing down the pace of the streets with movement. Done a few things like this before - I led a slow motion walk up Oxford high street in the last decade to protest the Iraq war. So - what about a short workshop and then an action of dancing slowly (in whatever your style) in the streets? Gifting pieces of fruit to passers by? A way of spreading the invitation. I’ve made mistakes in the past about acting before the time is ripe. Doing too much. In rushed ways. Not preparing long enough to really pull it off. There is a mastery to carpe diem - in plucking the day when it is ripe. If that can tie in with urban game you are working on - great - I’m on for this & looking out for times and places for this creative plan.

Stripping things back. I think it is all about caring, realism and presence, and for me - whatever the outcome - joy. Events can unleash creative energy + knowledge. So I love events that combine enacting purpose with great up-to-date info exchange, tools and realistic sharing of experience & melding that with infinite welcome, friendship and heartfelt (some might call it spiritual) unity. & if we hit the sweet spot, participating in the network can catalyse personal understanding and meaning in the personal lives of all those that come participate - that’s a good feedback loop. Meeting together can open up new potentials for people to see how their own creativity can be part of meaningful radical action if it’s held in a solid creative authentic container. The reason I got drawing chalk doors on the walls of Paris & planting seeds across the city during was to invoke this strength. Doors where we see walls. Might be poetic. But the effort’s so tough, it needs poetry.

& diversity!

Whilst I am attempting to school myself in cybernetics to become a real structural thinker, I still think like a creative and have a lot to learn. A variety of very different kinds of people who share values & can play to their strengths and accept the limits of others, might be more powerful than a group of people who are all exactly on the same page. Functional groups needs the grumpy pessimist, the young & enthused, the spontaneous creative, the radical wild card, the focused logician, the butterfly generalist, the pragmatic parent, the radically honest, the contextualisers and historians, the future-thinkers, an elder and groups desperately needs the people who’ve had it hardest and have learnt lessons most are lucky never to learn. My work - creative, research, teaching - has often kept me in a solitary pattern & I’m trying to break that pattern in myself as I truly come to understand that we not only need to know ourselves but we also need each other - in all our different forms - to make action together & give that action the best possible support.

These years have made me agnostic to style & aesthetics. What moves me is whether someone means it, because then there’s possibility for learning and acting. Commitment and care is a helluva lot more important than uniting over style or even personality. Commitment and care are solid foundations for the humility and superhuman patience to work with people you may not necessarily vibe with all the time…

Ok - that’s my attempt to share some experience.

& wait - my god - if I learnt anything from the Cascade it would be the communication. The project was an attempt to unite behind a purpose, act boldly and tell the story as we did it. But my god, did I discover how terrible at leaving a documented trail I was. Spent a lot of time with sound artist Leah Barcalay who was tweeting for one of the massive eco twitter accounts during that conference. She’d trained herself to tweet every minute or so. Open Village can make it easy for young people to attend and take up this communicative role - that would be a great idea. The social reach. The story told by many different storytellers. I was really naive about this when Cascading.

& beautiful documentation carries the spirit on into the future. Unmonastery felt pretty great at this - I was not involved at all in this project - but through the videos & presentations that project moved me. & this one

Here are some events going on in the UK in August with some similar values -

Balance Unbalance - I’m going to this, it’s great

Earth First!

Intergalactic camp 17th-24th August

& final question

The plan to hold “11 days of living differently” in Brighton & the attempt to live on a different economic exchange, inside an open creative lab, sharing tools/ knowledge & a city wide game did not work because we realised that we needed to provide support if it was going to be a real invitation. ie. more than an arty kinda project. If it was going to be an invite that people could answer and participate in without getting burnt out and becoming penniless in the process it needed some self-funding structure that could tend it & support people who were on lower income… Experimenting with Brighton’s GoodMoney or one of the ethical cryptocurrencies like FairCoin was the idea, but frankly I don’t know enough about this.

My main point here is that it is vital to support people in being able to take up a bold invitation - otherwise it’s a radical possibility for those with the privilege to meet it, in that people live in a radically unequal context with totally different kinds of resources. If it’s an open invite for people to make their own way to the “experiment” that risks only receiving folk who can commit to risks like that (eg. folks on PHD scholarships like me.) That’s not healthy representative variety. & many “utopian” meetings I attended over the decades died because they were basically wedded to capitalism and the inequalities of that system at their foundations. I’m really interested how you guys are going to meet this problem. Nadia mentioned cryptos… & I will catch up with Frank about this next week - about how people can be fairly supported to take up the invitation. In 2017, we all have to take risk. But we also gotta make the effort to try and share the level of risk - something that is a manageable risk to one person, might genuinely destroy another person’s ability to survive. Looking forward to learning from you all on this.

*If I copy edit your copy, can someone consider writing bullet point summaries of mine ; )

Short form writing is not my strength…