Conjuring an Economic Spring
For the rest of Britain, the long winter of economic discontent may linger, but here in Totnes it’s beginning to feel like spring. The movers and the shakers, and those who never thought they had it in ‘em, are starting to buzz about the imminent Local Entrepreneur Forum. There’s also a feeling something bigger is brewing, anticipation and expectancy about what may come after, the new economic beings that may soon spring to life, the new culture of possibility arising. That today has been stellar – sunny and warm, bees buzzing, flowers blooming, buds budding – is like a cosmic validation. May all life blossom and thrive.
The event is three weeks off and Frances and I and a host of others are doing our best to promote it. Rob blogged about it and Ben posted it. We’ll be interviewed on Totnes FM and SoundArt Radio next week, and have just received a little write up in the local fish wrap. There’s a Facebook page, too. We’ve personally invited everyone we know who’s the least bit entrepreneurial or has a penny to invest, and each of us has hung our share of posters around town. Yesterday it was my go, and grabbing a handful, I headed to the top of town and began filling in the blank spots.
I popped into Sacks to visit my friend Rooh and ended up talking to the owner, David, about the event. “This looks like just what we need.” And then I headed up to the Bay Horse, where they’re putting a plan together with a well-known Transitioner to launch a community-owned brewery. Kathy said she’d gladly hang a poster. And then I saw, Nick – “Wow, great idea.” And so it went all afternoon, until I finally met Mark at the Cott Inn, in Dartington, for a pint and a chat about his vision to turn the local credit union into a community bank.
Perhaps this feeling is just wish fulfilment on my part, projecting my desires and expectations, choosing to see the world I wish, rather than the world as it is. As I make my way down the High Street I notice a few more shops closing, from India Connection at the top, down to Terry Dart at the bottom, with a few mixed in between. And there are rumours circulating that BarrelHouse and The Castle are on the block. But then, I see Steve who’s already putting a little group together to investigate what it would take to do a community share offering to buy one, or both.
My enthusiasm is huge, as is that of Frances, Tamar, Naresh, Richard, and other Transitioners working to make the LEFT, as we call it internally, a success. It feels like this will be a coming out party, ushering in a new era and paving the way for a string of regenerative economic projects, laying the foundations for a new economy that will be in place for a couple of generations, at least. That’s how are conversations go when we meet. Nothing at all like the “you can’t do that, it’ll never work” England I was warned about, but rather more like the limitless sunshine of Silicon Valley’s “anything’s possible.”
The event itself is a pretty straightforward affair. The official name is the REconomy Project Local Entrepreneur Forum: Totnes. It’s taking place at the Civic Hall on March 21st, from 8:30am – 4pm. Rob Hopkins will open the morning, giving way to Jonathan Dawson, co-Head of Economic for Transition at Schumacher College, then Jason Mollring, Head of UnLtd. Connect, a charity whose mission is to support social enterprise. Fiona Ward will speak about the REconomy Project, then Frances Northrop will give an overview of what TTT is doing locally. Then there’s ‘Be like a Bee’, a facilitated “un-conference” type session designed to bring the investors, entrepreneurs, and experts together in interesting ways to share ideas and knowledge, and begin building relationships. Naresh and Richard are making that happen. The day then turns to recognising several local ‘Pioneers and Leaders’, before giving way to the ‘Green Dragons’ Den’, hosted by the Guardian’s own, Lucy Siegle. And then, Sharpham wine and cheese.
Perhaps this event will be a milestone that marks a turning point in the history of our transition, that one spring when we began to take hold of our own economic destiny. Maybe a few deals will be done, a new enterprise or two will launch. Maybe not. Though we’re brimming with optimism, we have no illusions that our work will be done with this one event, or the other projects we have planned – incubator, work hub, Atmos, and so on. Meanwhile, there’s a big national chain supermarket here that sucks up two-thirds of the town’s grocery spend. And the global capitalist system is stumbling, crumbling, and leaving most regular people in the rubble. There is plenty to keep us and our children busy for a long time to come. The important thing is that we’ve begun. We know that "we’re the ones we’ve been waiting for", so we’re just doing it.