SoC Commons Workshops at Schumacher North
Last weekend June 29th-July1st I attended a three day series of workshops on the Commons, in Mythlmroyd, Leeds and Manchester hosted by Schumacher North. Invited a month earlier I was asked to present an outline of the Commons paradigm and participate in the discussions they have begun around commons and commoning.
Travelling up from London I arrived late afternoon at my first stop in the idyllic rural town of Mythlmroyd. We had a small gathering of local people including members of the food sovereignty movement, and a director from the Red Ladder Theatre Company. In Leeds we had a larger group of diverse people including Friends of Kirkgate market campaigning for preserving Europe’s largest indoor market, and a researcher on the International peasant movement La Via Campesina. On the third day in Manchester we had a nice mix of people including two people involved in the Urban Gardening Project.
Food and Energy
The major theme I saw come out of all three workshops was the issue of food sovereignty and the interrelated issue of energy. Food has come up on several occasions in previous workshops I have attended and to me seems to be one of the first if not the primary resource people think of when considering commons and survival necessities. Faced with the threats of peak oil, climate change, the international land grab resulting from national neoliberal food security interests - food sovereignty has brought together a vast global network of grassroots activists. Food is a perfect example of our predicament as a healthy food supply (and the ecosystem as a whole depends on a diversity of sustainably produced food rather than the endless lines of intensively mass-produced monocultures used for the private gain of a few.
A diversity of themes, ideas and conversations
While the themes expressly mentioned were food sovereignty and energy other themes were either directly or indirectly raised. Here is a list of quite a few we explored: resilience, community, well being with mental health being a big issue, connectedness, consciousness, food, local custom, unemployed, rights of the earth, oceans, boundaries between commons, boundaries between commons and the state, the need to change the law, why haven’t masses mobilized, relationship with production, support network, open source, multi-stakeholder self-organization. As you can see there was a huge amount we touched on together.
Consciousness and support networks
What emerged for me from these days was a subtle support for one another allowing for some very authentic and open exploration into what the commons are and how they might be reclaimed in our lives. It was this support that allowed each and all of us to move deeper into our exploration and represented a mature engagement with one another that is and will be increasingly vital - in times that call for strengthening solidarity with each other.
Update: the slideshow presentation that I used for the workshops in Manchester and Leeds can now be found here.