With thanks for the recordings to community media producers Alice Armstrong and Lucinda Guy of Stellaria Media.
Talks and Workshops
Introduction (Hannah Drayson, Chris Taylor, Claudia Marcos Sanchez Manrique, Ian Hare, Alex Toogood)
Food, Ecology, and Community (Sarah Wood—Braziers Park). A learning journey through the grounds and gardens of Braziers to explore issues of food growing, land management and regenerative ecology. This covered the practical aspects of No Dig, permaculture, biodiversity, and water conservation (amongst other things!). Led by Sarah Wood, chief grower at Braziers Park.
Introduction from Hilfield Friary (Brother Hugh Cobbett—Hilfield Friary). The Hilfield Friary Community in West Dorset is an intentional religious community of Franciscan brothers, families, and international volunteers. Our work is to live community life, revolving around the timetable of chapel and meals, with our many guests and visiting groups and the creatures with which we share 50 acres. www.hilfieldfriary.org.uk
Introduction from Hermitage Community Moorings (Sally Sutton—Hermitage Community Moorings, River Thames). In this session, Sally Sutton, a former member of Hermitage Community Moorings co-operative, talked about the knowledge and skills needed to enable a small group of people to achieve their dream to build a new residential mooring on the Thames. Drawing upon her experience of dwelling on the river and her recent PhD study, she shared the vision and practicalities needed to produce an infrastructure designed to reflect community ideals predicated on a passion for living on water. Sally suggested that if citizens wish “to participate and engage directly with the production of space” in the 21st century, they need to consider “the power of knowledge and the knowledge of power”.
Writing an Environmental Policy For Your Community (Penny Clark—Diggers and Dreamers). This was a talk and discussion about writing an environmental policy for your community. It covered: 1) Why have an environmental policy?; 2) What kind of things might be in an environmental policy?; 3) Poor, good (and great) practices for creating a policy; 4) Relevant examples and resources. Penny Clark has worked with several communities to measure their environmental impacts and to inform environmental impact/strategies and policy. Her PhD explored environmental sustainability in shared living, including in intentional communities. She is the co-founder of a consultancy focused on ESG/impact in coliving.
The Planning System: Supporting or Inhibiting Utopia? (George Rowland—UWE). Planners and the planning system are seen by many intentional/off-grid communities as barriers to achieving the lifestyles, livelihoods and developments they desire. Caricatures of unresponsive and unbending bureaucrats abound. This talk sought to unpack some of these assumptions by discussing who ‘the planners’ are, how they think and frame understandings of acceptable development, and the legacies and possibilities of planning as a form of ‘utopia as method.’
Values In Organising (talk) and What We Withhold (discussion) (Alex Toogood—Tinkers Bubble). Underlying what is visible and communicable in community are other threads, unseen, or perhaps visible to some, some of the time. These deeper dynamics can create coherence or stress depending on whether the forms we use to organise support them or not. In a short presentation introducing the ‘interpersonal skills’ stream of the conference, Alex spoke about how our values influence the forms of organisational structures we use, including how we interact with hierarchy. A discussion space was also held on Sunday to explore and express things that may otherwise remain invisible in intentional communities (including during this weekend), where we acknowledge that our community ideals can still reproduce systemic silences and withdrawals.
Nature Constellations (Chris Taylor—Canon Frome Court). Do you have an unanswered question about the natural world? Maybe it’s about how to care for your land, how to slow the pace of climate change, or how to repair the damage to a river near you. Using embodied approaches, the session demonstrated how we can all tap into our intuitive knowledge of natural systems to find real answers. Led by Chris Taylor, poet, facilitator, and member of Canon Frome Court.
Self-Organising Systems (Amaragita—Triratna/Buddhafield). A look at the process of introducing sociocratic-inspired decision-making into the Buddhist Charity Buddhafield. The joys and challenges of culture change.
Diggers and Dreamers Open Space. The editors of the Diggers and Dreamers team explore questions about community life from conference attendees.
Growers’ Question Time (Chris Taylor, Mike Ingram, and Sarah Wood). A roundtable Q&A session to use our collective wisdom to answer your practical questions about growing and caring for the land. Space held by Chris Taylor, composter and orchard keeper at Canon Frome Court. Panel members: Sarah Wood, chief grower at Braziers Park and Mike Ingram, ecologist and land management advisor to multiple communities.
Student Co-operatives and Housing Justice (Kay Sentance—Thames Valley Collaborative Housing Hub). Community-led housing initiatives are characterized by democratic ownership and community-driven decision-making processes, and are typically focused on providing affordable, sustainable, and socially responsible housing solutions that meet the needs of the community. Can student cooperatives improve overall housing for the wider community in university towns by collaborating with local organisations, providing affordable housing, supporting local businesses, hosting community events, and advocating for housing justice? By operating under the principles of democratic ownership and social responsibility, cooperatives can create a more just and equitable housing system that benefits everyone in the community. Kay Sentance is a community-led housing advisor and as such is keen to explore the benefits and impact that student cooperatives can have on community-led housing initiatives generally as well as on housing justice more specifically.
Skills in Community at Canon Frome Court (Ben McCarthy and Wendy Glinski). Wendy and Ben shared their experience of the skills required to navigate the highs and lows of community living. Long-term members of Canon Frome Court, a productive mixed farm cooperative, they reflected on what’s powered this successful community for the last 40 years.
Closing Panel. Chaired by Hannah Drayson, with panellists Wendy Glinski, Isaac Mear, and Jonathan How, the closing panel delved into the topics raised during the weekend, including art and creative expression.
Do You Want to be Right or Do You Want to be Happy? — Skills for Making Community Life Work in the Long Run. (Kirstin Heidler; Tipi Valley (Wales) & NVC Matters UK). In her software engineering education, Kirstin discovered that she wanted to work at the place where the real, juicy problems are: relationships between people! Kirstin’s studies and work since then have been guided by nonviolent communication (Marshall Rosenberg), scientific research in neurobiology, restorative circles (Dominic Barter), and fundamental principles of nonviolence. In this workshop, participants were invited to discover what makes relationships, and therefore community, challenging, as well as to learn skills and perspectives to guide them towards more fulfilling and intimate connections. This was a session of self-discovery and playful exploration with others, and everyone was invited to bring their curiosity.
Community and Anti-Oppressive Practice (Karl and Alima). This workshop looked at why social problems such as classism, sexism, racism, etc., can show up within our communities, despite our best intentions. This was an interactive workshop. It included space for personal sharing and practical tools to help participants move forward. This workshop grew out of the climate movement; Karl and Alima have run it hundreds of times, with over 2,000 participants from 47 countries.
Learn to Scythe (Mike Ingram). A hands-on introduction to using a scythe with expert tuition from ecologist and land management advisor Mike Ingram. The session also covered the principles and practices of managing meadows for bio-diversity.
Composting and Soil Health (Chris Taylor and Mike Ingram). A practical demonstration of the main points of successful composting – how to incorporate food scraps and garden waste into a holistic composting system. The session also covered some key aspects of soil health and microbiology and how soil can help to combat climate change.
Active Listening and Conflict (Malcolm Holmes—the Odoki Method). This workshop explored “active listening”, a way to engage with others that tends towards connection and away from conflict. It touched on conflict, how active listening helps, and how to use it when you, or people around you, are in conflict. Malcolm is a meditator and Buddhist of 30 years. As well as developing innovative approaches to reducing suffering, he is also developing a conflict reduction process at his workplace.
Identity and Power (Amaragita—Triratna/Buddhafield). What do these words mean to different people? What are their effects on communities? How do we investigate to liberate the tensions that are raised in ourselves when navigating this topic?
Reflecting on how we reflect! Sharing and cultivating self-awareness for self-nourishment when living and working in groups. (Gwen Sanderson—Ty Brethyn). Using tools from self-coaching, self-facilitation, and reflective practice, this session was crafted to offer a kind, collaborative environment a few tools and exercises, and a little space and time. It considered questions such as:
What tools and methods are at my disposal already?
Are there new tools I can add to my repertoire?
Am I looking after myself?
What’s aligned and what’s not?
Why can’t I get that need met?
Gwen lives at a small housing co-op in Wales where she has learned a lot about her place in nature, deep listening, and the practice of humility in groups. She offers this workshop not as a professional coach but in the spirit of self-help and skill-sharing, in line with co-operative principles.
Cooperative Communication: Secrets of Living Well Together in Community (Raines Cohen—Cohousing California). Living in, advising, and visiting hundreds of cohousing neighbourhoods, ecovillages, and other intentional communities over the past quarter century, Raines has noticed some patterns that emerge. There are lessons to be learned from both successful communities and failed ones in how human dynamics affect our relationships, commitment to one another, and progress towards our shared goals. Join him in exploring aspects of community you have experienced or hope to find, using the Group Works Deck pattern language playing cards. Let’s examine together how we can get past assumptions about each other and together build capacity for facilitation, delegation, and cooperation.
How to Create Healthy Human Culture—And Why We Often Don’t (Sophy Banks—Healthy Human Culture). Creating health in our relationships to self, others, and communities is possibly the greatest challenge of these times. Drawing on insights from neuroscience, group dynamics, and power and oppression work, this workshop introduces a clear map, principles, and tools for creating spaces where everyone can thrive. The session will be playful, embodied, and offer key insights harvested from decades of working with individuals, groups and organisations. Sophy has been an engineer, radical footballer, therapist and more. From 2006 she anchored insights from a wide range of inner practices into the global Transition movement, starting the Totnes Heart and Soul group and co founding Transition Training, which she has shared around the world for many years. She lives in Devon in a small community.
Angie Interview. A participant talks about her experience at the conference and what community means to her.
Alex Interview. Alex Toogood, conference co-organiser, talks about his involvement in the event, how it has grown since 2022, and why community matters.
Intergenerational Living. Interviews with participants in the open space discussion on intergenerational living.
Would I Lie to You?
The Diggers and Dreamers team returned with Would I Lie to You, with panellists sharing strange and surprising stories of community life. In a commercial break, we unveiled the latest Diggers and Dreamers book, Urban Communal Living in Britain.