The UK Communities Conference 2023

Skills for Community Life

Click here for a full list of sessions and to listen to the recordings in our audio archive.

Organising Committee: Ian Hare, Hannah Drayson, Claudia Marcos-Sánchez Manrique, Chris Taylor, and Alex Toogood

The 2022 Communities Conference raised questions about the different types of skill needed in community, which were touched on in many talks, workshops, and discussions. In 2023, the conference returned to Braziers for a deeper exploration of this theme. We invited contributors to consider skills in four areas: the personal, the organisational, the practical, and the ecological. Responding to feedback from 2022, we created more spaces for participation, with more workshops and discussion groups alongside presentations and talks.

The conference ran from 21–23 July 2023, with attendees from around 30 communities and related groups, including Braziers Park, Tinkers Bubble, Canon Frome Court, Ty Brethyn, Birchwood Hall, Hermitage Community Moorings, Tipi Valley, Hilfield Friary, Landmatters, The Steamship, The Drive, CHIBAH, Buddhafield, Still Green Cohousing, Ganicox Camphill Community, Springhill Cohousing, Forgebank, Carwood Court, Cohousing Harrow, Two Piers Housing Co-op, Earth Heart Housing Co-op, Larkrise Cohousing, Parsonage Farm, The Loke, Embercombe, Bristol Tiny House Community, Berkeley Cohousing, and Trelay Farm, among others. We welcomed many researchers and experienced facilitators, plus three editors from the Diggers and Dreamers publishing collective.

As in 2022, we began with a welcome dinner on the Friday, followed by a ceilidh with live music from the Oxford NAGS. We also screened two short films, Bonnington Square and What’s the Beef About Bonnington, about squatting and communal cooking in 1980s London.

Saturday morning began with an opening session led by co-organiser Hannah Drayson, introducing the theme and setting the scene for the weekend. Next were presentations from Hilfield Friary and Hermitage Community Moorings, followed by talks on environmental policy, planning law, sociocracy, decision-making, and communication in community. In other spaces, there were workshops on healthy human culture, anti-oppression, reflective practice, and skills for relationship and connection. The Braziers cow shed hosted practical sessions on composting, scything, and community food.

In the evening, 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, they unveiled the latest Diggers and Dreamers book, Urban Communal Living in Britain.

Sunday began with a Q&A with Diggers and Dreamers and a “Growers Question Time” for community gardeners, followed by an introduction to student housing co-ops and a talk on life at Canon Frome Court. Elsewhere, there were workshops and discussions on identity and power, taboo in community, nonviolent communication, and nature constellations. The final session was a panel revisiting the theme of skill, before the conference ended with a group song.

Alongside the programmed sessions, we arranged open spaces to explore issues raised by participants; this year’s discussions covered “Inclusion and Diversity”, “Aging in Community”, and “Connecting Beyond the Boundaries of Intentional Community”. We also made space in the programme for morning meditations, qi gong, social games, and an evening gong bath.

Talks in the barn were recorded by Alice Armstrong and Lucinda Guy of Stellaria Media. Listen to them here.