Celebrating the marvel that is Transition Free Press
By rob hopkins 3rd December 2013
The fourth edition of Transition Free Press has just come out, and it is a Thing of Great Beauty. Transition has long created spaces in which people can engage their creativity, and TFP is one of the shining examples of that. It models a different approach to telling stories, to building networks, and to building a movement. We love it. With its fourth issue published this week, it’s time to pause and celebrate the wonder that it has become. And, of course, we’d love to hear what you think.
The Winter edition of TFP is currently being dispersed around the UK and further afield via its distribution network of Transition initiatives (of which more later). As the paper’s editor, Charlotte Du Cann, writes in the editorial:
“Without communications we remain small, disconnected dots. With our own media we join up and become a new network, a movement, a new story. The future of the people has to be together. You just have to see it. You just have to turn the page”.
I caught up with Charlotte, who describes herself as an editor, writer and community activist, to find out the latest with TFP, and its plans for the future.
Asked what Transition Free Press is (just to bring anyone up to speed who is coming to this article having never heard of it), she describes it as a 24 page newspaper, which follows the conventional look, shape and feel of a tabloid, with a news section at the front and with different features on the arts, books, people etc, even with a sports section! The aim has always been for TFP to be as creative and good-looking as possible, and to have colour splashed throughout. It really is a gorgeous thing.
Over the last year, 4 issues have been produced as the pilot phase of the life of TFP (Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter). As Charlotte told me:
“We wanted to cover stories happening in Transition and in related groups or organisations, all working towards creating a very different and positive world, a world where we can come together and share our our resources and be aware of the challenges of that in our particular time. To look at difficult things but respond creatively and collaboratively. We felt that there was a gap for a paper or medium to cover many of the community-based stories. Our sense was that there were a huge number of great tales out there not being told”.
But surely, I wondered, those stories are being told in blogs, Facebook posts, newsletters and so on? What does a printed paper do that those things can’t? Especially in the context of this month’s theme of “stuff”, do we really need a tangible newspaper as well?
“Our strong sense is that we have created a paper that can be used, particularly by Transition initiatives, as a communications tool. People can grab a paper literally physically in their hand and say “hey look, this is what Transition is about” in a format that is readily recognisable. All those stories scattered across cyberspace are now all in one place so you can hold them in your hand”.
A printed paper has several advantages over electronic media, according to Charlotte:
- You can actually hold it in your hands: it’s a different relationship than with electronic media.
- It goes horizontally rather than vertically: so you read it in a different way. In a blog you can’t get a wide range of stories at once in your hand. With TFP you can hold it and at once get about 30 different voices just by flicking. It gives you a sense of a composite culture.
- It reaches a different audience: as Charlotte puts it, “the kinds of people who pick up a newspaper are not necessarily the kinds of people who will go on line to find a story. A lot of our distributors will put them in doctors’ surgeries, local libraries, in cafes, they’ll sell them at events. You reach a readership you would never reach in reading a blog, which tends to be dedicated readers”.
- It has a longer life. Blogs are gone after a couple of days, TFP can hang around for a lot longer.
I was interested to know what the challenges are of creating such a paper. One of the challenges Charlotte identified is that genuinely reflects the voices of those doing Transition on the ground. As Charlotte told me, the aim has always been to get:
“the stories from those inside, what they felt is going on, but this means you are more subjective than objective which doesn’t always suit a newspaper. Our aim has always been to get a good piece of journalism that is fairly objective but not just a marketing “I’m doing a great project” piece. I think we’ve been successful with this on the whole but not totally”.
So what can you expect from the latest edition? (You’ll find a great A-Z of what’s in it here). Each edition of the paper has a different flavour, and the theme of the Winter edition is “turning protests into solutions”. It embraces Russell Brand’s recent call for a revolution and explores it in very wide-ranging ways. There’s also a story about quinoa being grown in the UK, about the recent floods in Colorado and where to put your money after recent developments at the Co-operative Bank. And there’s Charlotte’s great editorial … let’s have another taste of that:
“Transition Free Press has been about telling that new story. Our aim was to report on the movement, to spread some wild and heirloom seeds in a dominant monoculture, to challenge the orthodoxy that the powerful are in charge of our lives and the ecosystems of the planet. Most of all it was to join the dots and show the emergent culture that is Transition and many other initiatives besides”.
Thanks to the marvels of embeddable files, here is the paper in its entirety!
The last thing I wanted to know was how people involved in Transition on the ground can help ensure that TFP continues to thrive beyond its pilot phase. Charlotte set out two key ways in which, with the support of the Transition community, TFP can thrive into the future. Firstly is for people to contribute their stories and their editorial to the paper, as well as sending in some great photos. The second is to become a distributor. As the map below shows, TFP is distributed through a network of Transition groups, and that network needs to grow some more.
If you become a distributor, you undertake to buy a bundle of 125 copies for £50, which you can then sell and make some money for your initiative. You could also become a subscriber. You could stick TFP buttons on your website. Anyway, yes, that map… impressive stuff …
Lastly I asked Charlotte what would be her dream for the future of TFP. She told me it would be for it to thrive into 2014, and to become a well established paper, reflecting the wider movement of positive change, both in Transition and beyond. There are also plans for a digital edition next year. Over time, building on the strong backbone of Transition initiative distributors, the hope would be to produce a larger paper for a much higher readership. Transition initiatives have shown that they can do impressive and visionary things. Getting behind TFP to help it realise this vision of its future is surely something that shouldn’t be too much of a leap?
What difference has Transition Free Press made to your experience of Transition? Do you have any questions for Charlotte or anyone at TFP? Any feedback you want to share? Please use the comments box below.