What do we want from community?
In the Guardian a few days ago, George Monbiot made the case for the role of communities in keeping us healthy in his article on ‘The town that’s found a potent cure for illness – community’.
The town in question was my newly adopted hometown of Frome in Somerset and his hypothesis for universal panacea is based on the evidence of a dramatic fall in emergency hospital admissions since it began a collective project to combat isolation (see downloadable PDF document). Monbiot believes that Frome offers lessons for the rest of the country in that “there’s a buzz of sociability, a sense of common purpose and a creative, exciting atmosphere that make it feel quite different from many English market towns.”
More pertinently, the opportunities offered up by the many groups, societies and local activist organisations all lead to an increased social engagement and from that the elusive social glue that binds us together in connections and creates shared experiences and a common sense of purpose. As Monbiot says “The point was to break a familiar cycle of misery: illness reduces people’s ability to socialise, which leads in turn to isolation and loneliness, which then exacerbates illness.”
Frome might be considered a privileged English market town community without many of the more edgy issues that trouble many urban centres and many here are clearly mindful of that, but there is also a palpable sense that I have picked up in my first weeks here that the way politics is run here is different, which trickles down from the Flatpack Democracy blueprint. It’s here and it’s real. People are more engaged, they talk about how they can make a difference. They talk with passion and enthusiasm about looking after and taking pride in what is around them, in being welcoming and helping others and in reducing their own environmental footprint. Being in Frome has already been a learning experience in how to be a responsible citizen and will continue to be.
With an upcoming first Frome Beacon meeting for Campfire, I’m already thinking about how we can add to or play a useful part in what is already a thriving ecosystem. I’m conscious that no one is wishing to position Campfire as an umbrella organisation but equally I have pondered on how Jonathan Goldsmith recently identified one of our key roles, namely “the network that connects networks”. In that sense, it helps that we are set up as a social network and increasingly I’m hearing questions from a variety of people as to ‘how do we make the information available to people?’
Only yesterday at our steering group meeting, Carmen Hunt identified a primary Campfire role as answering the question ‘Where can I find out about this?” In answering that question there’s a sense that we have to look beyond a Google search, to seek out something a little more tailored or curated, but preferably not algorithm fed.
I’m also thinking back to the wider context of what we can provide as a platform that isn’t being catered for and with that in mind, revisited the responses to the question ‘What can we do together?’ that we asked on our pre-launch holding site two years ago. As part of a never-ending quest to define a capsule USP or elevator pitch, the answers that came in helped to define why people felt attracted to Campfire and what it could provide that wasn’t there already. It makes informative reading and interestingly, some of the people who seemed to want solutions from Campfire haven’t yet joined, so there’s work to do and certainly further questions to be asked!
One of the priorities for many has been the two-track approach that Campfire has made its own. Running the online network alongside the real life meetups.
So, I renew the question: What else should Campfire be offering, getting involved with and what do think are the qualities of a thriving community? What can Campfire do that would make a difference?
Jonathan Tawn "I think we can do things differently. Let’s work towards a greater level of collaboration and discussion, lets drop the singular from our postings and work towards a 'we' instead of 'i’."
Jenny Swindells “It would be great to be part of new developmental ways of thinking and working.”
Kath Cockshaw "I am looking for new ways to bring people and organisations together across communities of interest to address big issues, not least the current defunct political system, resulting in impactful action. Which is why Campfire Convention appeals so much."
Ian Ellison "I was inspired by the parallels and possibilities when I heard about Campfire on 6 Music, and - mixed with Big Chill memories - it got me wondering about the potentially more powerful blend of physical and online network 'spaces' to seed new ideas. I'd like to be part of the experience from the outset.”
Louise Wright "Enabling people to have a meaningful say in their lives and communities. To harness the skills and abilities of all to create power from within"
Rees Wesson "Meeting, chatting, drinking, playing music. What's not to like?"
John Bampini "We've had decades of neoliberal policies destroying the wellbeing of people and redistributing wealth to fewer people. It's time for 'regular' people to unite and tackle the 'establishment'. I see Campfire as a step in the right direction and an opportunity to 'network' and enrich our lives and projects too."
Street Life "Creativity comes from unexpected connections between unrelated concepts or ideas. Collaborating with other people, with different ideas, many coming from different angles and with different goals often makes amazing things happen.”
Craig Edmunds "I pride myself in everything I do, to not take the easy path, to not take the path most attractive or beneficial to me personally and instead to look at everything for what it is, and what it can be for a wider cause."
Clare Hearne "With a grassroots and strategic networking interest in Herefordshire community health and wellbeing, particularly 'social prescribing' healthy alternatives for families and the troubled youth agenda, I'm really hoping campfire and Pete Lawrence, will take the initiative practically locally here on this one and act as a galvanising focus to assist with recruitment and implementation of the compassionate communities (CoCo) model already working in neighbouring Shropshire."
Tom Wilding “it’s an ideal place to meet and exchange ideas & knowledge while finding new friendships and skills."
Grant Read "As an event and gig photographer I see a wide range of styles in music, fashion and business approaches. Most people are taught in a linear fashion unfortunately the brain does not function that way. I would note the work of Tony Buzan as the Inventor of Mind Maps - the most powerful "thinking tool" of our times. Ideal for creative minds. Thinking outside the box of conventionality, inspiring and helping to develop peoples creative dreams. If we can think it, we can create it."
Jon Norris "The right to be heard is not the right to be listened to. Galvanising people in very small communities around an small very local issue, regrouping around the next issue empowers people and helps them take interest in larger but still very local issues. Our present methods of electing "politicians" does not"
Simon Sanders "It's all about exposure. Exposure to new ideas, new perspectives and new people Exposure for one's own ideas, ambitions, dreams and schemes Exposure to the elements - sun, rain, wind, whatever the weather. Expo? Sure!"
Jo King "I don't know what Campfire is, I suppose it is who it attracts. But I know I feel a little excited by it. I think the potential here shines out because there is no overpromising, just a lot of gentle initiative and creativity. I would like to give to that."
Cory Hope "Very excited about Campfire and the potential development of an alternative to commercial social networks.”
Mark Drury "The gathering together of loving people. For years now, the distance between the lives and minds of the materialistic and the spiritual has widened; whereas the arena for materialism has become scandalously overt there has been little sign of unity within spiritual circles. I believe that Campfire Convention will offer us all a place of solitude and community wherein we can relax in the knowledge we are among friends!"
Claire Watts "We need a different solution than mass vigils and twibbons, one that leads to real change. What is it that we can do together to make a difference!”
Jeremy Pearce "Campfire will work for me as a means of connecting with other like-minded people, building and bouncing around thoughts and ideas from as many angles and prospective imaginable. Oaks come from acorns and an idea can turn into a virtual forest and now is the time to plant .!”
Juliet Fay "Looking for opportunities to increase well-being and connectedness in my community & networks on and offline so that creativity can flourish and we can thrive. Eager to collaborate. Always looking towards fresh ideas."
Stephen Mitchelson "The act of writing is by necessity a solitary existence. However, there comes a time, particularly as a playwright, when the writer needs to include others in the process. Campfire offers the opportunity to make this an uplifting, creative and supportive experience.”
Tim Harper "Tech is now available to allow people to connect and build communities and products to support and inspire. I do this professionally and am always on the lookout for interesting, exciting ground breaking opportunities to apply these skills for the greater good.”
Liz Kirby "We love collaborating, especially in projects that have community, music and radical politics at their heart. Love and music.”
Eileen Inglis "I'd like to grow this idea and would love to meet more collaborators! Also keen to share my expertise to help others get their ideas off the ground.”
Baffled Ape "I've been tiring of Twitter for some time and although Twitter has been my main source of news, info and links to like minded folk for several years, I’ve been looking for something to take the many individuals with inspirational ideas and talents to the next level."
Narn "Life is for living, and enjoying what you do. It means finding your passion and using that to inspire yourself and others. The Campfire sounds like the ideal platform for that”
DJ Dub "As a dad of two I am increasingly worried about the world my children (& everyone else's) will inherit & this seems like an excellent place to start to build a new future!”
Bronwyn Oldham "We would love to get involved, maybe host a regional Campfire symposium in Leigh-on-Sea; we have the space, the artists and the audience! Next year will be our 20th Anniversary and we want to encourage the whole town, young and old, to get together and start talking through the medium of art…”
Adrian Josey "Now is the time for a more fruitful and active community to break through, listening to Pete Lawrence on the Cerys Matthews Show made a lot of sense. My Interests are Music production , VJ/DJ, Art and Project Organisation, I would be more than happy to contribute with any of the above.”
Ed England "I find my social world, virtual and real, become increasingly narrow. I crave some new inspiration and new opportunities for collaboration - in music, storytelling, views and opinions. And I hope I can offer the same.”
Anna Broadhurst "Guilds and chapters are my thing. I work in technology and am especially interested in solving problems through lean principles and collaboration. I believe these principles can be applied to any project, product, scheme or event. Active learning and creativity can be at the heart of everything no matter what the genre”
Amy Sheldon "I've just heard Peter talking to Cerys on BBC 6music and I was nothing less than intrigued to find out more. I run my own website network of small businesses like makers and designers who are all in the creative industry, so I'm interested in photography and music and anything artistic and cultural. I'm game to get this site going.”
Jean-Phillippe "I've just heard about Campfire and I feel it would be a great platform to become a digital/sound artist and network or with like minded people or find collaborators .”
Alex Stewart "I am involved in many creative projects and like to encourage others to make changes in their lives. I believe that major political and behavioural changes have to start from the individual up, not from instruction from above and understanding that sharing and asking others for help does not denote failure and weakness as can so often be thought in our present age. I hope to find like-minded people on this adventure. There have been many adventures and crossroads and just possibly this is the time for another.”
Claire Stevens "Intrigued and excited by the concept and the bringing to life of the Campfire. Looking forward to refreshing debate, joining a creative collective, exposure to wider thinking, fresh perspectives as well as the opportunity to be a part of a new enterprise; a place where the fatigue of media manipulation and small mindedness can be banished”
Gavin Sharp "Ideas are the start of everything and conversations can plant the seeds of new ways of thinking and start the process of creating new things.”
Genesis Rowley "Being a self-employed blacksmith I would relish the opportunity to engender collaboration and the sharing of ideas with people outside my normal circles.”
Dave Roffey "An online community free from trolls, or those with nothing to say. A place where debate is welcomed, reasoned and encouraged, where creativity and talent can be celebrated and effort applauded. A place where new discoveries can be shared and enjoyed, and hey, a place where the odd little bit of silliness still has a place.”
Jenny Teasdale "I'd love to see the shaping of a new gorgeous place for like-minded creative souls to connect. I'm excited to see and contribute to user features being created and will connect with people for hopefully fruitful and inspiring conversations for all.”
Paula Knee "I'm interested to keep learning, talking, learning, doing, learning, creating.... Sharing ideas that bridge art, science, politics - photography, human perception, physics, politics of science and technology…”
Liz Hames "I like to think that Campfire will become a welcome and safe environment, that people will return to time and again, to experiment with ideas and concepts before taking them out into the wider world.”
Carol Alevroyianni "I like the idea of campfire being a place, virtual and physical, to network with other people who are making things happen, not just being opinionated but actively agitating and building good projects, events and meet ups. A small step towards making this a better place to be.”
Kate Doody "We all need community to nurture us and enable us to flourish - many are accidents of time and place, but we make them work for us. Deliberately creating a new community, around who we are now, where we are now, what we have come to believe and what of our lived experience we can all offer and share, is both exciting and reassuring and feels one of the most positive things I could be involved in right now: I look forward to the campfire and the conversations sparking around it.”
Elizabeth Carter “I’m in because of old and new friends, Conversation and music and beautiful location. And fire at night! I have lived longer than I am going to live and want to sit around the campfire thinking and talking about how we make this fourth quarter count and as we move towards the certainly of death how we have a great end of life. I want to be part of the generation that redefined the conversation about a good life and a good death.”
Sharon Prendergast "I'm one of the many, many people who found in Jeremy Corbyn a leader who speaks my language and represents the ideals I have held dear all my life, but seemed previously unrepresented. I'm hoping to make connections and share ideas, with a view to making our society, locally, nationally and even internationally, the best it can be.”
Eleanor Miller "In many ways, including literally, I love to sit around a campfire and share stories with likeminded friends and strangers. I'm very interested in alternative communities. I belong to and support all kinds of groups of people who may not be considered mainstream, from authors to Pagans to Paleo advocates to people with alternative experiences of mental health.”
J.P. Ryding "I'd like to keep the embers of the campfire glowing by encouraging debate and artistic endeavour. I find many creators, definitely including myself, are looking for honest considered feedback on the things that they create and are grateful and motivated when someone takes the time to appreciate their efforts or points of view. I hope that this project will offer an alternative to the self-promoting, crowing, aggressive social web that we have at the moment and I would be very pleased to help nurture it and its contributors!”
Neil Lawson "Sometimes you just need to be heard. I see a place where people can post a thought or idea and receive feedback, whether it be support, guidance, constructive criticism or lead to collaboration.”
Robert Wilson "I hope to be able to both contribute to and draw from the collective creativity, be that in my main subjects of interest (audio production and technology) or others.”
Nadia Chambers "I've never been involved in anything quite like this before - and it is ringing so many bells for me.”
Philip Wilson "I am interested in voices and how they communicate ideas. By reading and listening to others, and by writing, I am hoping to find my own voice. This is my strategy for transitioning from a life of traditional work to what comes next. This is something most of us have to face, through choice or imposition. What can those of us in this 'post-career' phase of life learn from each other and from others, and what can we contribute to future generations at a time when society is so fractured and polarised. Can Campfire hear voices that have been exiled by the democratic deafness around us?"
Andie Brazewell "Looking forward to sharing ideas, discussing concerns, realising values and meeting like-minded children. If not for myself, for our children's children, I come to the most loved network on our planet and enjoy with kindred spirits."
Greg Madison "People' need to change if the way we live is to change, otherwise there really is no change. Alongside systemic change we need to learn to listen deeply to what we actually experience and know 'bodily', then we can build new ways of living together that are wiser and more creative than anything we have attempted till now... Psychologists and academics and professional agitators etc are not the experts. We have a lot to 'unlearn' in order to be open to new possibilities."
Debbie Golt "I'm seeking new opportunities and connections and Campfire Convention strikes a chord. Looking forward to dynamic discussions and marvelous music in such a lovely location .... And the fabulous fire …"
Karen Hiorns "I want to be a part of something new and exciting and make new friends and feel good vibrations in a beautiful setting with music and a fire…”
Elizavet Tapini "The world moves towards automation, scarcity of resources will affect our lives more and more, wherever we are. As skills become obsolete, new ones need to develop. This cannot happen if we don’t create a shared knowledge base, which can operate both within and outside the monetary system. People will need jobs and skills to create new social practices, if we are to manage the difficulties we face ahead. From learning to listen to each other to developing sustainable practices and localised networks, we need each other. Let’s do it."