IPCUK, Social Permaculture & Moroccan Dreams

The weather was changing, we could feel the cool night air seeping in under our duvet while the three of us slept in our van, Arvan. It was time to make another change. We were becoming more open to our surroundings and  opportunities. We decided to take our friends from Keveral up on their offer of a place to stay with them in Morocco. We thought a trip through Southern Europe would be a kinder place climatically to spend some time. We had friends along the way that were practicing permaculture so we could also continue our quest for sound ecological knowledge. This felt like the right thing to do. The longer we were away from such niceties as water on tap, power, central heating, the easier it was to be without it. We were slowly but surely rewilding. Though before we could get going there were two opportunities in England that were too good to pass up.

Moroccan sunsets were calling us
Moroccan sunsets were calling us

The first being that the International Permaculture Convergence (IPC), which appears in seemingly random countries bi-annually, was going to be held just outside London. It was listed as being, “a unique global gathering of some of the most inspired permaculture designers and practitioners from around the world, hosting over 500 participants from over 60 countries.” In short we couldn’t miss it.

David Holmgren's permaculture flower
David Holmgren’s permaculture flower

The second being an event which was one of the first ever Social Permaculture Courses, with a line up of educators that would make anyone interested in permaculture excited to say the least. The course was taught by five facilitators considered to be pioneers in social permaculture; Looby Macnamara, Peter Cow, Starhawk, Robin Clayfield and Robina McCurdy. We very nearly had to flip a coin for this one but as Fionn had returned to Australia to do his PDC with Geoff Lawton earlier in the year, it was now his turn to be with our little one and prepare the van for our future adventure.

This course opened up Laura’s eyes into a world of permaculture that was far deeper than she was expecting, something she is still digesting to this day! Some of the broader aspects covered were how to make our culture, our interaction with each other, and our groups sustainable, self perpetuating; How we can and will live together in an uncertain future; How to have better conversations; How to ask better questions of each other. Stories were told, songs were sung and emotions were felt. Something was happening, a shift, a movement, an optimism.

Robyn Francis - permaculture pionneer, and one of both Laura and Fionn's future teachers. just one of the amazing people we were lucky enough to meet at IPC
Robyn Francis – permaculture pionneer, and one of both Laura and Fionn’s future teachers. just one of the amazing people we were lucky enough to meet at IPC
Straight after this course was the IPC. The three of us drove up to Epping forest and spent 5 days immersing ourselves in PERMACULTURE! (yes in capitals and with an exclamation mark). It was incredibly inspiring to say the least. The people we would chat to, and the projects that were happening were all so up lifting and full of thought provoking actions it was hard not to be moved. Fionn felt in his element networking his way around the world in Epping forest, as Laura just felt a little daunted by the speed and quantity of the knowledge that they both were accumulating! Isn’t there some saying about once you allow the doors to be open you allow endless possibilities to enter into your life?! That was definitely happening to us. And we were becoming less afraid of taking those opportunities.
And with that, we headed South to Portsmouth where a ferry was waiting for us.

 

Seize The Day

After our volunteering in Cornwall we moseyed through some national parks, namely Dartmoor, Snowdonia and Brecon Beacons. Upon visiting these national parks we were naturally impressed with the landscape, they were beautiful, and still are. Yet a recent comprehension of ecological succession and land use practices throughout the UK, helped along by one George Monbiot and his poignant and revealing book, Feral, it was difficult at times for us not to dream of what these landscapes could be if managed more effectively, be they left to re-wild completely or otherwise.

Whistman's Wood, Dartmoor. Saved from grazing and the plow by the Granite boulders the ancient Oaks grow through
Wistman’s Wood, Dartmoor. The ancient oaks saved from grazing and the plow by the granite boulders that surround them.

After all this time in the greenery it was time to take on another of our little plans; a family pass to the Green Gathering festival. We’d organised this one once we’d came out the other side of our ‘Trouble in Paradise’. This is a festival with the tag line, ‘a sustainable festival for all our futures’. Every festival since it’s inception has been powered by wind, sun and people, and this year the festival was branded as ‘Performance Meets Permaculture’.

All set
All set

As with so many festivals of this nature, where we’re attempting to re-imagine the future, and are surrounded by strong, intelligent and active people, there’s such a strong sense of what could be if only we’d all be open and willing enough to completely reassess, acknowledge and act upon all the mistakes we’ve made. In short, along with Laura’s brother and family from Hedgehog Hill Farm, this experience felt like the breaking of a dam wall of inspiration.

Green Gathering
Beyond Hedonism

The highlight of the festival, besides meeting the ever charismatic Charlie Mcgee of Formidable Vegetable Soundsystem, whilst engaged in a Children & Permaculture workshop fronted by Robina McCurdy, was getting to watch Seize The Day. This band is the musical actualisation of what you wished Bob Dylan would have done, could have done, if he’d maintained his protest edge. They’re like a combination of the political side of Billy Bragg (on fire), the spirit and get up of Fela Kuti in his Afrikan Shrine, mixed with the truth, honesty and folk of an old weathered, leather-faced, drunken Scotsman playing his heart out for just one more glass of whiskey all the while revealing the harsh brutality of our world with a smile.

Now that we had a soundtrack it was time to ready ourselves for a trip across a continent.

Seize The Day

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