Tag Archives: Green Gathering

The Green Gathering: a festival beyond hedonism | STIR mag

The Green Gathering: 31 July-3 August 2014, Chepstow

I’m helping to organise The Green Gathering this year.

Why put energy into a festival – something temporary, trivial and hedonistic? Well, because… festivals can be so much more. They can be literally transformative; opening eyes, changing lives. I know people who’ve packed in their unsatisfying, exploitative jobs after a festival; at the Northern Green Gathering, a friend was inspired to set up a radical housing co-operative which is going strong over a decade later. Festivals give us space to experiment with alternative forms of community, energy and infrastructure. They’re also good practice for setting up activist camps – festival people tend to know how to set up a kitchen and compost loos in a field, how to pitch a marquee and keep a campfire going. ‘Networking’ sounds too corporate, ‘tribal gathering’ too hippy-dippy… but having a meeting of minds, rediscovering old friends and making new ones, exchanging contact details and sharing information while drinking scrumpy cider, bouncing about to a band or warming up in a wood-fired sauna – this is the joy of festival, and it has repercussions beyond festival.

Here’s a blog, published a few days ago by STIR magazine (well worth a read and subscription), explaining why The Green Gathering is the festival I’ve chosen to put my life and soul into this year.

Beyond Hedonism

More than three decades after the first Green Gathering was held on Glastonbury’s Worthy Farm, this solar and wind powered festival has forged alliances with the Off Grid College – a free education initiative organised by young thinkers and activists involved with the latest wave of eco-festivals. Radical Routes, a network of housing and workers’ co-operatives, will be hosting a Co-operators’ Camp alongside the College.

The Green Gathering is held annually over the first weekend in August, on a wooded former estate near Chepstow, on the South Wales border just 18 miles from Bristol. An award-winning, family friendly camping event, it combines festival entertainment with speakers, skillshares and networking. Themes of community resilience and creative alternatives to both consumerism and austerity pepper the programme.

Following in the footsteps of the Occupy movement’s Tent City University, the Off Grid College takes education out of stuffy establishment buildings into open spaces. As students rail against fee increases and the marketisation of universities, free education becomes ever more radical – and popular. Providing skills and knowledge in a festival environment is a winner. The Green Gathering has always hosted craft and permaculture workshops, debates with key Green speakers and campaign group info-exchange, and will now be hosting Off Grid College courses in low impact development, wild food foraging and renewable techno-wizardry too.

Kaplick b&wDespite the lurid woes of the Co-operative Bank, co-operatives continue to capture the imagination of students, activists and workers across the UK. According to the United Nations, co-ops “improve livelihoods and strengthen the economy”, and provide “a sustainable business model for youth…” . In light of this, The Green Gathering has invited Radical Routes to co-ordinate a Co-ops’ Camp where festival-goers can learn how to enjoy “…housing without landlords, work without bosses, organising without hierarchy and taking financial control away from the banks”.

With spectacular views across the Severn Estuary and Wye Valley, spacious camping fields, eclectic music, solar cinema, organic gardens and ethical markets, The Green Gathering bills itself as a festival “beyond hedonism – where performance meets permaculture”.

The live music line-up includes: Seize The Day, 3 Daft Monkeys, Tarantism, Nik Turner, Billy Rowan, Pagan Love Cult, Rory McLeod and Pikey Beatz. Conscious DJs Libby Lawes and Gary Clail will be on the decks; and there’ll be spoken word performances from John Hegley, Salena Godden, Pete The Temp, Marcus Moore and many more. Activists, campaigners, Green economists and writers – including Molly Scott Cato, Jeremy Leggett, Ewa Jasiewicz, Simon Fairlie and Jamie Kelsey Fry – will be on hand to debate, create and share experiences.

muddy kidThe Green Gathering at Chepstow is the latest incarnation in a long line of Green Gatherings stretching back to early Ecology Party meetings on the Glastonbury Festival site, the Molesworth Peace Camp of 1984, and the Big Green Gatherings of 1994-2007. The BGG grew into a five day event attended by 20,000 people before being unexpectedly cancelled in 2009 after local authorities threatened an injunction – many considered this to be a political act designed to cut funding to activist groups such as Climate Camp, which ran a ‘Last Chance Saloon’ bar at the festival. When police spy Mark Kennedy was outed, Big Green Gathering organisers realised he’d been embedded in the 2009 set-up crew; shocking to discover, and yet perhaps a sign that they were doing something right – that their festival genuinely was raising consciousness, transforming lives and making those in power nervous about what a skilled-up, collaborative bunch of co-creators could do.

In 2011, a Green Gathering phoenix rose, demonstrating the kind of resilience that activists know and need. A Green Gathering Charity was established in 2013, with a remit to promote education for sustainability.

The Green Gathering 2014 runs from Thursday 31st July-Sunday 3rd August.

Festival tickets cost £90 (adults), £50 (youth). Children under 11 years go free. Tickets are available through the GG website (www.greengathering.org.uk) or Bristol Ticket Shop (www.bristolticketshop.co.uk). Booking fees apply.

If you read this far, use this code – EWGG14 – to get a discount of £10 per ticket on up to 6 adult tickets bought through The Green Gathering ticket shop.

For more information about The Green Gathering: www.greengathing.org.uk

Like, Share, Follow: www.facebook.com/GreenGathering.org.uk and @Gathering_Green

email: info@greengathering.org.uk

Photos: I think these were taken by Stone (Kaplick Stage) and Stefan Handy (kid in puddle).

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Evict-iversary

It’s a year since we were evicted simultaneously from the OLSX camp outside St Paul’s and from the School of Ideas. We were ragged and emotional and exhausted then, and jubilant, and disoriented. We tried to list what we’d achieved while occupying and did our best to sound confident about future incarnations and plans, but there was genuine grief alongside some genuine relief that Occupy #1 was over. (Here’s Inka’s eviction film for a reminder of that night: http://vimeo.com/38035802)

Last week I saw my dad for the first time in two years. He gave a slight smile as he asked whether I thought Occupy had made a difference and I launched into an attempt to persuade him that it had. He cut me off to tell me that yes, it had made a difference. My dad’s no radical and yet he felt we’d said some things that needed saying and that we’d said them loud enough to be listened to… and that we’d been taken seriously and real things had changed as a result. Wow. I was so surprised to hear him say these things that I let him digress onto another subject without elaborating on exactly what he thought had changed as a result of those cold months of community in the churchyard.

Sometimes it seems that we’re chasing our tails, bogged down in internal squabbles, unable to drum up enough support for our actions to make an impact. Ten years ago millions marched against the Iraq war but Bush and Blair launched the bombs anyway; so even numbers, even mass global popular support, doesn’t necessarily win the day. But… ten or so years before that we won the poll tax battle and now… there are relatively small but significant battles being won again.

Here’s a video showing what happened with that squatted library – Friern Barnet. The ‘polite revolution’ – a collaboration between Occupy and the local community – eventually came good. However, Occupiers at Battersea Adventure Playground had less success. After camping in the snow they were summarily evicted; and very soon the quirky, much-loved playground had been destroyed.

Looking at the bigger picture, Shell has backed away from its Arctic oil drilling venture for now, Cumbria has rejected the idea that nuclear waste should be stored in stunning, geologically unstable Lake District countryside, and the fight against extreme and polluting energy – dash for gas, fracking, tarsands – and against free-for-all genetically-modified farming continues. Increasingly, it becomes apparent that corporations lie and spin, politicians are in their pockets and ‘science’ is twisted to suit the moneymen. Spinwatch blogs on the Mark Lynas affair illustrate this pretty well and EDF Energy’s cynical attempt to quash dissent via means of bankrupting ‘No Dash For Gas’ climate activists shows how low they’re prepared to go.

The usual “ok, that’s what you’re against but what are you for?” question can increasingly often be answered (it seems to me) with some combination of the words ‘community’, ‘co-operation’, ‘mutual aid’, ‘solidarity’, ‘self-organistion’, ‘real food/farming’, ‘local’, ‘permaculture’, ‘organic’ and ‘return of the commons’.

I’m leaning towards an anarchist, rather than socialist, approach… and yet there are things that I’d like to see organised by the state or government via the levy of fair taxes, and a decent National Health service is the first amongst these. It was good to hear a few days ago that the closure of the Accident & Emergency departments at Hammersmith, Charing Cross, Central Middlesex and Ealing Hospitals is to be halted, pending an independent review. As campaign group Save Our Hospitals points out, this temporary reprieve is just the beginning of a long battle.

I wonder whether we couldn’t sort out housing ourselves, without so much government input, if we weren’t strangled by bureaucracy. I’d like to see more co-ops, more co-housing and eco-housing projects that don’t have to get tied up for years jumping through inappropriate planning hoops. It should be made easier, not harder, to build low-impact dwellings on disused land, as the latter-day Diggers have done at Runnymede, and putting disused buildings to use as short-term housing stock or social centres should be seen as regeneration, not criminality. Self-Organised London instigated a whole programme of free educational and social events at Eileen House with the tagline “Reclaim Regeneration”; but within days a possession order was granted by a high court judge. The authorities would rather see neglected buildings filled with empty echoes than the buzz of community camaraderie.

Which brings me to the Occupy squat crew, who’re still going strong and building their own community – the relationships forged in tents have lasted through moves into, and evictions from, about a dozen disused buildings across London during the last eight months.

Meanwhile, Earthian’s journey seeking peace for the Middle East continues and I very much recommend his blog.

If you ever wonder what else ex-Occupiers are up to, the Occupy London fortnightly newsletter is worth a look; it contains a wealth of information and news on a wide range of subjects interesting to those of a radical or Occupy-friendly nature, and future editions can be emailed to you fortnightly if you sign up via the OL website (sign up box is in the right hand column).

For an even more massive range of news and opinions from around the world check the Occupy News Network which recently put out a shout for more material: “Local struggles to international ones, technology to revisiting the simple life, commentaries and first hand experience… all welcome. If there is a burning issue you wish to address, please bash it out and relieve the stress and we will look at publishing it.”

It’s four years since The Big Green Gathering was cancelled and bankrupted in an apparent attempt to stop grassroots organisers and climate activists enjoying themselves too much in the Mendip Hills. The smaller, phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes Green Gathering will be held on a stunning site just outside Chepstow on the weekend of 1-4 August. Last year Occupy made a big impact in the Speakers’ Forum at the Gathering and there was a great atmosphere throughout the festival all weekend long, but participant numbers were on the low side. I’m hoping this year will be the one that really recaptures the Big Green Gathering spirit. I’m helping look after the Green Gathering twitter account; if you think you might be interested, please follow @Gathering_Green 😉

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