The start of my trip to the UK seems so long ago…
July 5 Lorrie Hurckes – friend, Ladyscissors bandmate, and Co-Director and Youth Court Coordinator of the Dane County TimeBank – and I set out for a nice little work/music/fun tour of the UK. The impetus for the trip was the Leading Wellbeing research festival hosted by the Institute for Leadership and Sustainability at University of Cumbria in the Lake District. I was invited by event host Prof. Jem Bendell to present about Mutual Aid Networks and play some music. Of course! The event was great, as I’ll get to in due time, and was also a fine excuse to book a little UK tour.
It was great to have Lorrie with me. She presented a lot on our restorative justice Youth Courts and really inspired people, including many who have the capacity to make things happen in their locales (youth justice workers, local council members, organization representatives). And it was cool to have her recognized as the great leader and speaker that she is.
First stop was London. We just kicked around the first day and a half, then went to Lewisham to get together with Philippe Granger and timebankers from Rushey Green. Plus people from the council and the juvenile justice systems. Everyone was interested in restorative justice at each stop we made. Pretty cool.
Then we went to Milton Keynes to Anna Peters’ (we met when she was in Kent, Ohio on a learning tour of timebanks) teen center (well, it’s not Anna’s personally, but she does a lot to run the place, along with her amazing co-workers at Making a Difference), the Buszy. I’ve posted about this place before. Last time I visited, Matthew Slater and I helped Anna set up a timebank. Now it’s up and running solidly, the kids are using it, and the whole center just gets cooler with time. And we got to shop in the thrift store, which had exactly what I was looking for for stage clothes. Plus the guy who was working at the shop might get connected with a New York tour guide, through a timebank partnership.
After that, much fun with Anna and her friends/co-workers. We’ll be taking a trip to New Orleans together soon…
From there we drove to the southwest, to Totnes, where we’d been invited to stay with the wonderful Inez, and attend Three Acres and a Cow, a really cool performance described as “a history of land rights and protest in folk songs and story.” Going in I have to admit I thought it really might not be my kind of thing. But it was super cool. I learned a lot about the history of various forms of oppression, and effective resistance movements and how they worked. And part of the story was told through the songs people were using to communicate at the time. It ended up feeling extremely relevant to me in many ways, and the history lesson was a perfect early step in this trip.
And then of course Totnes is beautiful and old, and it’s very near a gorgeous seashore. We went to Blackpool Hills and it was absolutely lovely. The beach was made up of smooth little pebbles, each one beautiful on its own, and you can dig your body into it so it feels like a nice little massage as you lie in the sun. It was a perfect way to spend a warm sunny day. Afterward Inez hosted a potluck so we were able to meet many of the other cool people in Totnes too.
From there, Bath where we stayed with Carmen Smith, a PhD student who came to study DCTB for a month and has now finished her PhD which includes us, and which she presented at the Leading Wellbeing Festival (DCTB was well-represented there!)
We mainly relaxed and touristed around Bath. And then Carmen and I met with the director of Bath’s Time Bank Plus, which is doing great stuff. Like most other thriving timebanks I’ve visited, Time Bank Plus focuses a lot on group activities. We learned about their history and what they’re focused on now, and talked about ways the Mutual Aid Network structure could help timebanks with self-sustainability.
After a quick stop in Bristol just to marvel at the awesome street art, we headed to the Lake District for the research festival.
So, the Lake District… So much happened there and it feels like long ago. I’ll just write up the highlights (and not all of them, there were too many)
The place itself is stunningly beautiful. And serene. And the Leading Wellbeing Research Festival was really cool and inspiring. I’ve thought of it a lot as I plan the MAN Up summit.
We arrived on July 14 to have a little time to chill out and see friends. Leander Bindewald, who some of you know from when he was here working with Time for the World, or from New Economics Foundation, or from his help with Knit a Network, or various and sundry, has just moved up there to pursue a PhD at festival host Institute for Sustainable Leadership at University of Cumbria. He was one of the festival organizers alongside a team led by Prof. Jem Bendell.
Charles Eisenstein was a keynote speaker on Day One. There were excellent talks and panels throughout. As usual, I’m going to count on other people’s reports for detail (check out this blog) and I’m going to detail just the things I helped lead.
On July 16 I played a short set of music as part of the evening festivities, following the great Cate Ferris. Lorrie joined me on a few songs, which was really cool. I had the fortunate misfortune of having no drum available (apparently there are NO DRUMS in the Lake District!) so the sound guy suggested playing the podium. Brilliant. Worked like a charm. It was nice and loud with several different tones easily available, and a nice lip to contain the tambourine I was using as a cymbal. We used this set-up for To the Nines and Mama’s Little Baby. Very fun.
July 17 was my big work day. It started with a workshop that was structured as a half-hour conversation between me and Leander about the Dane County TimeBank and how its lessons can be applied globally. That was pretty easy! And fun.
Next Lorrie and I presented our paper, The Creative Destruction of the US Prison Industrial Complex: We Can Do It! That was really cool. It was a bit intense to bring the kind of dark realities we were bringing into this particular setting that had so far focused on healthy trends in residential learning. But people were very receptive. And our paper ends on a pretty positive note, sketching an achievable way forward. The gist of the paper is that the US economy is built on exploited labor, and dependent on it intrinsically, with the prison-industrial complex and its many tentacles at the center. And that in order to dismantle it we need to take an approach, somewhat akin to a demilitarization/retooling/retraining campaign, that builds a new economy on precisely the work needed to dismantle it and to reintegrate its victims and perpetrators into a healthy society. If you can dream it you can do it.
Finally, I had the opportunity to serve on a panel about community well-being. This was a cool opportunity to address the whole group (other sessions were breakouts). And the group was quite diverse in perspective, from around the world – executives of large companies, owners of successful large-scale sustainable businesses, non-profit sector leaders, small community project leaders, academics, activists, radicals, consultants to corporations, managers looking to instill wellbeing in their corporations, film stars, music producers, hard core human rights lawyers, philanthropists, investors, etc etc etc.
For my 5-minute overview I talked about how timebanking applies to community well-being, especially by reducing social isolation but also by providing economic opportunities. In the ensuing discussion, with the other 3 panelists (Professor Margaret Ledwith (University of Cumbria), Chris Batten (Francis C Scott Trust), Kim Farr (Incredible Edible), we got to discuss topics ranging from small scale community garden projects to funding dysfunctions to poverty, capitalism, and the need for networks of mutual aid and support. I had some good opportunities to talk about Mutual Aid Networks and made some really valuable connections because of it.
Then work was done! And it was just fun for the next few days in the Lake District..
…and continued to be fun throughout our last stop, Hull.
Hull is a really cool city. And very old, first established as Hull in 1299 according to our tour guide, Steve. I’m not going to write much more about the city other than what we did there, just to finish this thing finally..
We were there at the invitation of Kate MacDonald, the wonderful coordinator of the Hull & East Riding TimeBank. Kate is exploring creating a MAN pilot site in Hull and organized some really great events for our stop.
First, we did a day-long workshop, first half on restorative justice and our Dane County TimeBank Youth Court program, and what elements could be useful in Hull. Second half was on Mutual Aid Networks. It was great. Notes are in these photos and I’ll type them up when I’m not organizing a big summit (sorry for the delay!)…. But in a nutshell, we had attendees from the local gov’t council, juvenile services, human service orgs, Hull Coin (a nascent city gov’t supported cryptocurrency for human service applications), the timebank of course, and much more. And they’ve decided to pursue a small group discussion about pursuing more restorative justice options and connecting them more closely with the timebank and other community partners, and to explore connecting the various exchange and sharing systems into an ecosystem, as we aim to do in Mutual Aid Networks. Hopefully they’ll become a pilot site!
After enjoying the rest of that day exploring the city, the next morning we went on the BBC Radio Humberside show with David Burns. It was a great opportunity to let more of the world know that many Americans resist the violence, racism, and institutional repression we’re witnessing here. And that many of us really dislike guns and their ubiquity! And we were able to talk about what’s working here locally, in the context of being the most disproportionate in an extremely disproportionate prison state. All in all it was a good show. You can listen here, we’re about an hour and 45 minutes in.
And last but not least, the rock show. Kate set up a show at the Adelphi, a super cool classic kind of rock and roll club. Awesome! I played with 2 really cool bands (Nick Rooke and and the crowd was really fun. Lorrie joined me for a few songs again, this time on a proper drum kit courtesy of a new timebank member. We played to the Nines, Down Down Down and Last Lucky Song. Great sound, great times!
After a celebratory last night, the next morning Lorrie and I drove our rental car
straight to Heathrow and got on the plane…
Whew! and that’s that. Done with this report just in time to get started on our MAN Up Summit…
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