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Transition Network Conference 2012 - The Week After (Part One)

My original intention was to publish one post on Saturday 22 September having had a week to assimilate some of what I experienced during this year's extraordinary Transition conference. But in order for the post not to become massive and inaccessible, I'm publishing in two (or three?) parts. This is Part One.

Friday 14th September, Reydon, Suffolk

Mika reading the Transition Free Press

I'm standing on the platform of Halesworth station in Suffolk waiting for the 13.40 train to London. An hour ago we lugged our four bags filled with heavy books and luggage the mile and a half from our place to the bus stop by foot, it feels like I haven't sat down or slept for a week, and what with preparing for this trip and getting the house in order for friends coming to stay whilst we're away, part of me wishes I'd stayed behind to hold the fort. What if my six thousand (well two hundred) plants dry out? What if our friends can't cope with the idiosyncrasies of our house?

But staying behind and caretaking is my default choice. And I soon become aware that this weekend at the Transition Conference 2012 is not about my reverting to default choices. 

On the platform we meet Mika, a community organic grower from Japan in the UK for a month. Oh No! I was planning to rest on the train. But at home, Mika is part of a group working to redress the rural exodus that's left so many villages in Japan with an ageing population and few young people. She lights up when I mention Transition. I push my sleepiness and desire to keep myself to myself aside, give her a copy of the Transition Free Press, (which will be launched at the Conference this evening), and discover she’s on her way to Findhorn. She’ll return to Suffolk and some Wwoofing next week, as well as a visit to Wakelyn’s agroforestry.

Mika loved the newspaper. We swapped emails.

ARRIVAL At Clapham Junction I shouldered three of the four bags and lumbered up Lavender Hill like an ox before we got the bus for the last 200 yards to the Battersea Arts Centre.

I’ve been intensely engaged in Transition since June 2008 and this is the first annual Conference I’ve been to. The first thing that hits me is I know so many people, half of whom I’ve only met online through the social reporting project or reading them on the various transition websites. Here are Jay and Ann and Teen. And Caroline. Wow! Hail fellow social reporters, well met! Shame Jo (Homan)'s not here, but she's given five of us her flat to stay in and we'll catch up on Sunday when she gets back from forest gardening in Devon.

And here’s Alexis and Sarah, just back from looking after a smallholding in the depths of the Pyrenees and newly moved to Lewes. Sarah tells me that Transition Belsize's Royal Free Permaculture Garden has burgeoned whilst they were away, including the medicine bed I helped start off in May. Newlyweds Ed (webmaster and co-founder of the Social Reporting project with Charlotte) and Trucie (co-designer of the TFP) Mitchell arrive next. I thought I might be overwhelmed by it all but I set to, stirring the herbs!

Mike and Transition Free Press mapTRANSITION FREE PRESS LAUNCH Mike and Charlotte are putting up a map of Britain so the initiatives committed to distributing the paper can indicate where they are. Alexis is stirring fruit into a delicious ‘Pimm’s’ based on a drink made locally in London. I’ve prepared a herbal refresher from 35 different wild and cultivated plants in my garden (well, I am markinflowers, after all) for people who don’t drink alcohol (though Alexis does add some to his Pimms). I’ve been making these refreshers for our Transition celebrations for several years now, including Sustainable Bungay’s 2009 Unleashing and the recent Happy Mondays Noughty but Nice birthday party. They always go down a treat. Mmmmh, this is a really good one. 

Hey Josiah, yes here’s a glass, and you’ve brought all those boxes of Great British Beans along for people to take away. I still love that packaging - and the beans are really good. Happy Mondays will be eternally supplied!

Now I must make sure Kristin and Sim get that glass of herbal refresher (alcohol version) and the lemon balm I promised them on the phone. This plant lifts your energy and spirits even just brushing your hands through the leaves. Kristin and Sim are managing the venue, the people who are there at all times making sure everything is available to everyone - access to the luggage room not being the least of it. This means that some of the buzzy apects of the Conference that others enjoy will pass them by. They really deserve that drink!

I look up from the herbal bowl and ladle to see Kerry smiling at me and we give each other a huge hug. We’ve known each other since the first Heart & Soul, Well-Being, Arts and Culture meetings in Transition Norwich almost four years ago. Kerry is also a social reporter and after leaving Norwich for a year in Scotland and no longer having an established initiative, this weekend she held an open space and a Transient Transitioners group was born. Way to go, Kerry, that is great news! I really look forward to reading all about it on the Social Reporting project. 

Preparing to Launch the Transition Free Press

At 7.15 Alexis brings the octagonal ‘lobby’ to order and he, Charlotte, Mike and Jay introduce the newspaper to great excitement and applause. Designers Trucie Mitchell and Mihnea Damian were there too as were Tamzin Pinkerton (Food and Well-Being editor) along with many of the reporters, and myself, who did the subbing for this preview issue.

There’s just something about things being in print and reaching parts the online world can’t reach that makes the Transition Free Press so...tangible. That and having a publication based on editorial rather than marketing. At a time when the focus of mainstream media is more and more monocultural, you can read transition stories here that just won't appear anywhere else! Over the next month the newspaper team will be busy organising how to pay for, publish and distribute four issues a year. So give them your support! For contact details see here.

On the tube with Josiah, Ann and Kerry

After the cheers, congratulations and release of the press, the main conference was opened in the grand hall and we were invited to choose which workshops and events we wanted to go to over the weekend.

I put my name down for Lucy Neal's Playing for Time workshop the next morning, which I knew nothing about. I would go on the Transition Tooting Well-being Walk in the afternoon. And the cabaret in the evening.

Finally Ann, Charlotte, Josiah, Kerry and I took the bus and tube and a bottle of wine up to Jo's place in Finsbury Park, in high spirits and talking about everything from those Great British Beans to fly agaric mushrooms apparently being edible and non-hallucinogenic if you remove certain parts before cooking them. Josiah said people were staring at us in astonishment on the tube. And I'm not sure I'm ready to try amanita muscaria in any form, even for the Low Carbon Cookbook...there again I'm willing to try anything in extraordinary times to build resilience!

Part Two tomorrow

Pics: Mika from Japan reading the Transition Free Press on the train; Mike Grenville with the TFP map; a moment of calm before the Transition Free Press launch party; Josiah, Ann and Kerry - Passport to Pimlico


Alex Loh's picture

thanks for the update - I'm

thanks for the update - I'm not sure if any of the Ipswich lot went though most of them are occupied with either looking after oak tree farm or building the random camel house, which sadly I haven't been able to help out with due to time pressures.

I did even consider attending the London conference (I'm originally a Londoner) but its gone up from £26 to £40 for the train in just the 6 years I've moved to Ipswich and I balk at spending that sort of money for travelling such a short distance. Plus I'd find many of the workshops "hard going" in a similar way to how Ann Owen described them, and also way too distracted by the architecture of that wonderful building.

Also there was a big psy-trance rave on that same weekend - if I'd budgeted for all the time and money to go to London I'd have been tempted to sidle off early to attend this (as friends from another forum were there) and also tempted into "old vices"... which wouldn't do my attention/concentration span much good for the rest of the days, indeed thats why I gave up those vices..

Although on that note, why on earth harvest Amanita Muscaria without wanting to get some sort of trip out of it? it does deserve respect, but if properly processed and consumed it won't kill you or make you very ill, and they are one of the few mushroom species of that nature that aren't illegal now! (and plenty of other edible species exist which require way less preparation...)