TL;DR (too long; didn't read):
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How it all began
Exactly two weeks ago tonight I posted a last night off the cuff post on Facebook outlining my plans to Make Things Happen in Bridport, and to begin work on getting the Bridport bioregion in to the Doughnut.
Here's a quick update of what's happened since then...
The first thing that happened was an overwhelmingly positive response to my post. 80 people have loved or liked the post in Bridport Banter and it generated 110 comments (plus another 40 likes or loves on my repeat of post on my own profile, and another 32 comments).
The first 3 comments were:
"This all sounds amazing"
"Some nice ideas there, good luck."
From Lone Nut to Leader
But then something else happened. Sheri Ahmet asked:
"Brilliant. How can I help?"
And before I had even seen that comment she had messaged me too:
"I love your plan. Do you need some help? I would love to be involved."
And thus, like the Dancing Guy before me, I was transformed from a Lone Nut into a Leader:
Sheri and I chatted away on Facebook. But I really dislike that corporate surveillance hellhole of a site (as useful as it is for reaching people in the local community) and so on Monday night I invited her to have a video chat with me on United Diversity's self-hosted instance of Jitsi Meet and we continued to chat away on there instead.
Then, on Thursday 12 January, after dropping my kids of at Bridport Primary, I strolled through Happy Island to Bradpole to meet Sheri in person. She showed me all the places she's been trying to increase biodiversity and beauty in Bradpole by planting flowers, trees and shurbs. And told me about all the opposition she's faced from neighbours who seemingly don't like trees and flower. Or change of any kind, apparently. And then we went to have a cuppa with her delightful friends Joy and Ivor, local artists whose beautifully colourful home was like stepping into one of their paintings.
Curing my Community Defitict Disoder
As I shared with Sheri, Joy, and Ivor, as we sat drinking tea together: at this stage I was already considering all my crazy/ genius plans to be a HUGE success. Because here I was, with them, my new friends, connecting as humans. Just being able to be alongside eachother when life is a bit pants is of immense value when most of us a suffering from what I call Community Deficit Disorder (more on that later).
And before long, I was in another local home getting to know and connecting with Joe (of Bridport Tree Planting fame) and Jenny Hackett. I'm meeting Joe again at the Bridport Youth and Community Centre (where Joe is a Trustee) on Thursday morning to have a proper look around with an eye to helping more great stuff happen there. Joe, and a few others who commented on my late night post, or who I've spoken to since, isn't too keen on my crazy/ genius idea to buy the old Sunny Days building because there are so many good underused community spaces that already exist in Bridport (others have made the same point, and/or pointed out that the old Sunny Days building is in such a state of disrepair that it'd need about £250,000 spending on it in addition to the £400,000 asking price).
Community-owned land and buildings
I'd still love to see that building become a thriving community-owned hub of community activity, but I have to admit I'm not as keen on the idea as I was that night (although as I pointed out in comments and emails since, I mostly included it as a Bold Audacious Goal to get people inspired, and that seemed to work, so it's all good).
But one way or another (as I just wrote in an email reply to local legend Tim Crabtree), the plan is still very much to raise funds to acquire land and building in the Bridport bioregion in order "to do cool shit with it and help us all move towards the doughnut". So there there is an even more Bold Audacious Goal for you. The intention isn't just to buy one building, but many. And land too!
But back to the here and now.
More Soul Food (aka productive meetings with fellow humans)
Last Thursday morning Sheri popped over to my house, she met amazing wife Gloria, and we chatted some more about all this stuff. Mostly she came over so I could help her get up to speed with the various self-hosted open source collaborative web apps I've installed to facilitate organsing it all, so we can stop rely in Facebook and other Big Tech tools. Now we can collaborate on docs and keep track of tasks etc on United Diversity Bridport's own instance of Nextcloud, and we chat on Signal instead of WhatsApp or Facebook. I also got her started making a new WordPress website for the Friends of Wellfields group she's part of (the ones trying to improve biodiversity, beauty and food security by planting tree, shrubds and flowers - and creating new allotments etc - in Bradpole)
Then, on Thursday evening I went along to Transition Town Bridport's Green Drinks at The Tiger Inn, after they invited me to come along and chat about all my crazy/ genius ideas. It was great to catch-up with some of the group I already knew, and to meet a load more people who I didn't. More good human connection feeding my soul. It's still early days, but it seems likely that we'll partner on a bunch of cool projects such as;
- Rolling out Transition Streets across the Bridport bioregion
- Working with the Bridport Energy Champions and others to do more Community Draught Busting or ThermaBlitz projects to help people save money on their energy bills and cut their carbon emissions.
- Organising regular Transition-related documentary file screenings (with shorts by local film makers before the main feature t00).
I'll probably make their new website too... but nothing confirmed as yet.
West Bay Bus
In another fruitful development, one of the new people I met at Transition Town Bridport's Green Drinks was John Collingwood, Bridport's Town Crier, who is also heavily invovled with WATAG, the West Dorset Western Area Transport Action Group. He invited me to talk about our plans for a new cheap and regular bus down to West Bay at their next meeting at the WI Hall on Thursday evening.
And yet more Community Deficit Disorder-busting meetings in the pipeline...
On Monday I'm having an online meeting with Angus McLeod from an awesome tech co-op called Pavilion who make plugins for Discourse, the most powerful open source forum software. Specifically, we're meeting about giving me a preview of, and beta access to, their incredible new events plugin which will hopefully form the backbone of a new comprehensive events website, Bridport.Events (nothing to see there yet other than a newly installed Discourse forum).
Then on Tuesday evening I'm having a catch-up and meeting with the incredible Deborah Benham, who amongst other things 1) works for the Transition Network, 2) is soon to be moving into Bridport Cohousing, and 3) is keen to help with all my crazy/ genius plans to get the Bridport bioregion into the Doughnut!
And on Wednesday morning I've got a meeting with Hattie Batten at the Bridport Arts Centre who reached out after seeing my post, because they "are really keen to have more community engagement activities and improve our relationship with the town" and are "really keen to have a chat about how we can work together to help engagement with the arts in Bridport". Sounds good. Likely venue for film screenings and other goodness in the pipeline, possibly even the Big Quarterly Parties (unless Joe convinces me we should have them at BYCC instead).
Big Quarterly Parties
But right now I'm thinking perhaps the best venue for the Big Quarterly Parties might by The Lyric. I commented on their most recent Facebook post and copied the comment into an email for good measure, but I've not heard anything back yet.
Here is what I wrote:
The rough plans goes something like this:
Spoken Word from Martin Maudsley, Ged Duncan, Angie Porter, Kevan Manwaring etc
Acoustic music from Aidan Simpson etc
Live music from The Skalatans (and maybe Penny Wigglesworth's Psychadelephant and Alex Green's forthcoming live Drum and Bass act too)
Kathy Kelly on the decks (and may Mitch Norman as well. And I'd actually probably like to spin a few tunes too!)
Likely some VJs and film and wotnot from the likes of Kate Genevieve & co too.
All with a fully organic and as local as possible bar.
I've organised loads of stuff like this in a former life back in London, but mostly did it all on my own and burned out. This time the plan is that this shall be a collective endeavour, do it for the love of it and then fairly split the proceeds from the door and bar.
The goal is 3 fold (at least):
1. Have an AMAZING party! 💃🕺🥳
2. Showcase (AND fairly compensate) amazing Bridport artists
3. All whilst hopefully also raising funds for the forthcoming United Diversity Bridport Community Benefit Society whose goal is to get the Bridport bioregion into the Doughnut (as per doughnut economics) aka make "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society" a reality in our locality (see https://ud.coop/udbridport for my inspired late Sunday night post that kicked that off 🙂 )
I thought The Lyric Theatre might be just the place to host such shenanigans 🙂
I've been to The Lyric loads of times before, but never really with my event producers eye in, so it'd be great to come and have a proper look around, find out what sound system you've got etc, and chat to see how this might work. I'm on 07974 88 88 95 email@example.com and can be booked in for a quick chat via https://ud.coop/quickchat
Looking forward to hearing from you soon! 🙏
I may not have yet heard back from Niki at The Lyric, but I'm very pleased to report that I've been in touch with virtually everyone else mentioned above and basically everyone is up for it.
Simon Hartung from The Skalatans said:
"I like this a lot"
And I think perhaps Aidan Simpson said it best when he said:
"This sounds like a great way to integrate all the different scenes in Bridport - and like a lot of fun"
This update is now getting insanely long, and it's even later on Sunday night than when I first posted that post on Bridport Banter, but as you can see I've been a rather busy be over the last fortnight.
In other developments:
Media Co-ops for the win!
I wrote in my original post that one of the Things I like to Make Happen was:
A Bristol Cable-like community-owned newspaper (90% of the national press is owned by just 3 companies - let's tell our own stories!) and media co-op (radio? tv? a Bridport instance of Mastodon?)
These plans are also coming along quite nicely. Numerous people including local writer and bard Ged Duncan, and Becca Ayling (who works with the Bank of Dreams and Nightmares) have expressed their desire to help out. And quite a few others, like Joe Hackett (a former journalist don't you know) are on my list to rope into the project too.
Moreover, I am writing this very post on the new Ghost-powered newsletter website I've set-up here at Bridport.News - be the first to receive all future updates about these crazy/ genius plans: subscribe to the newsletter now!
And as you can read in this update from my colleague Rowan Gavin at Better Media (which I co-founded), we're already cooking up a guide to creating Local Community Media Co-ops!
On the Media Co-ops front, check out another website I've created in the past fornight (one of many, as you'll have noticed/ or shall see): Bridport.Media
Join the Fediverse!
There (and on a very similar looking site I've created for United Diversity Bridport at Bridport.Coop) you will find links to three more online venues for the people of Bridport to Be the Media, Know the Media and Change the Media:
One of the many cool things about these three sites is that they are all part of the growing Fediverse: they can interact with eachother and all other sites that support the ActivityPub protocol. You can register on one site, and follow people on the other sites. You can comment and like a post on one site using your accounts on the other. Basically, they are exact oppostite of the closed proprietary corporate Big Tech walled gardens we've all become dangerously dependent on.
What about the Doughnut?
Yes, I'm glad you asked, what about it? As I mentioned in that fateful Facebook post two week ago tonight, that's actually the point of doing all this: to get the Bridport bioregion into the Doughnut (as per doughnut economics)
If you've no idea what that is, I strongly suggest following that link to learn more, or at least watching this video:
Downscaling the Doughnut
Doughnut Unrolled is a set of five tools that work together to apply the ideas of Doughnut Economics to your place:
- Introducing the four lenses - an introduction to the four lenses and the set of tools we can use to help our place bring humanity into the Doughnut.
- Community Portrait of Place - a selection of participatory workshop approaches we can use to explore the four lenses for our place.
- Data Portrait of Place - a handbook of approaches for collecting targets and indicators for each of the four lenses for our place.
- Exploring a topic - a selection of approaches to explore a specific topic through the four lenses, whether a sector, strategy, policy, project, initiative, object or idea.
- Dimensions of the four lenses - an overview of each of the dimensions of the four lenses on life.
In short, over the coming months and year we'll be collectively answering the question:
"How can our town/bioregion be a home to thriving people, in a thriving place, whilst respecting the wellbeing of all people, and the health of the whole planet?"
But there is LOADS of other inspirational work being done around the world to learn from and adapt on the Doughnut Economcs Action Lab website, plus stories like this one about Amsterdam that went viral during lockdown.
Even closer to home, the Bioregional Learning Centre in South Devon led the work to create a Devon Doughnut and their co-founder and directer, Isabel Carlisle, recently gave an inspiring presentation during this session on Bioregional Doughnuts at the Bioregional Regeneration Summit:
Public Living Rooms
I mentioned earlier that I'd say more about Community Deficit Disorder, so here goes. I believe that many of us in our culture suffer from it. The Age of Cheap Energy has not only resulted in the climate and ecological emergencies we now find ourselves in, but togehter with years of neoliberal economics, it also enabled us to believe the in the myth on separation: that we can be indepedent and survive as seperate beings. Seperate from one another. And sperate from the web of life in which we are completely entangled. That we can stand on our own two feed and that don't need anyone else. But that just isn't true. And not only is it untrue, it's also deeply destructive to both planet and soul. A large part of what makes humans happy is feeling part of a purposeful commnunity. Belonging.
And one of the best tools I've come across for curing Community Deficit Disoder (aside from the already mentioned Transition Streets, and the not mentioned yet but saved for another day Tomorrow Today Streets and Microsolidarity) are what the Camerados call Public Living Rooms: simple, no agenda spaces, with sofas and fairy lights, where humans can simply be alongside eachother when life is a bit pants.
And so creating Camerados-style Public Living Rooms (and other spaces - both online and off - with a similar ethos) is one of the many ideas I've been thinking about Making Happen in Bridport for a while but that failed to get onto that late night post two weeks ago.
I first learned about their great work via this inspiring talk by Maff Potts at the Meaning Conference on the Power of Friends and Purpose:
I'm also a huge fan of their six principles:
Another great idea, that only really got a tiny sideways mention within the Sunday Days building plans stuff, is Social Eating. It's getting too late now for me to go into much detail, and this update is already way too long, but needless to say research has revealed that the more often people eat with others the more likely they are to feel happy and satisfied with their lives.
This is partly way the main (private, by invitation only) meeting format for these early stages of United Diversity Bridport is going to be pot luck meals in our home, where everyone will bring a vegetarian dish to share and we'll all have a big feast together.
But perhaps we should also be thinking about starting a Bridport branch of the National Food Service, something like the Nottinghamshire Social Eating Network, or a People's Kitchen project, bringing people together, turning food waste into community feasts and sharing skills and stories.
Help make all this happen!
Obviously, Sheri and I can't do all this alone. We need your help. And whoever you are, you can help. Be like Sheri. Get involved. Help turn a couple of lone nutters into an unstoppable movement.
We need to gather teams of properly up for it people who are willing to put their money and time where their enthusiasm is:
Give us your time
If you have a bit of spare time and capacity to get actively involved with making any of these crazy/ genius plans happen, then please complete our survey.
And your money
Please also support these plans financially by chipping in via our completely transparent Open Collective page (where you'll be able to see all money coming in and out - you can see I've already spent nearly £200 on domain names! 🤣) and help us to meet our initial goal of getting 20 locals putting in £5+/mo
That'll give us enough money to cover our basic admin and hosting costs, and the confidence to proceed with incorporating a Community Benefit Society.
Plus with a constituted group of 20 local people we'll be able to start nominating assets of community value, exercising our Community Right to Bid on them before anyone else should they ever be put on the market.
Stay up in the loop
We'll be taking the majority of organising off of Facebook and other Big Tech silos ASAP. Subscribe to our newsletter to ensure you are kept up to date! You wouldn't want to miss out on all the latest developments about all these inspiring plans!
If you got this far. You're amazing and we love you.