Informing the Campfire Community every day

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Pete Lawrence - 14 Feb 2016


Keynote speaker Brian Eno joins a music line-up that includes English roots fusioneers Edward II, guitar wizard Adrian Legg, US musicians Anna and Elizabeth and dynamic folksters Will Pound and Eddy Jay as well as broadside ballad singer Jennifer Reid.

Campfire Convention 001.UK is starting to put together its line-up of entertainment for its first weekend event. The Black Mountains Jamboree takes place over the weekend of August 12-14 in the beautiful spot in Herefordshire's Golden Valley on the English side of The Black Mountains (just a few miles from the first Big Chill Gala event which created history 21 years ago) and utilises one of the most spectacular pub settings in the UK, surrounded by a stream and open fields leading to the Cat's Back and the foothills leading to Offa's Dyke - a perfect location for taking an extended holiday.
Come and experience and contribute to a lively mix of talks, debates, workshops and discussions, with a Saturday evening knees up with live music and DJs with the first names just announced - Keynote speaker Brian Eno joins a music line-up that includes English roots fusioneers Edward II, guitar wizard Adrian Legg, US musicians Anna and Elizabeth and dynamic folksters Will Pound and Eddy Jay as well as broadside ballad singer Jennifer Reid. 

PANEL 1  Let The Grand Correction Commence. Digital democracy and social change.

Aaron Bastani, Marva Jackson Lord, Ed Dowding, Richard Thanki

BRIEF : We are at a crossroads in a time of fundamental change. People who have felt disenfranchised are re-engaging with politics and asking themselves what do we want and how do we make it real? The process of change starts with ideas, articulating big visions and bringing people together around a consensus. 

Social change is about movements and we ask what role technology is playing in these movement, whether Syriza, Corbyn or Sanders. As more and more people look to social media for their news, particularly when they are seeking opinion, what does the future of media offer?

How do we define true democracy in the age of the information economy, when what we mostly see is a dressed up corporatocracy, extracting power and wealth from us all. A more radical, direct democracy with online voting on major issues with a reformed and truly free media must surely form a cornerstone of such change. From a broad policy perspective many of us would like to see national infrastructure run, used and owned by the people, not the state, not private enterprise, a concerted move on a national scale to renewable technology, and sustainable business and the ideas of permaculture being given a much higher profile than superficial consumer capitalism as we progress from a top-down society. 

We ask what are the signs that we have reached an era of postcapitalism and what does the future look like as it starts to play out?

How can Campfire play its part?


PANEL 2 : Homegrown activists : The refugee crisis

Caroline Kerr (Bras not Bombs), Neezo Swansea Dhan (Iokasti's Kitchen, Samos), Rob Lawrie, Lea Beven (Caravans for Calais) 

Early morning September 2015 the world woke up to images of a small child washed up on a beach in Turkey. His name was Alan Kurdi. He was 3 years old, Alan had drowned along with his mother and siblings fleeing the war in Syria. For a lot of people at home and overseas, that image changed their world forever and prompted a social media explosion that lead individuals to the ‘People to People Solidarity’ Facebook page.

The grassroots movement has swiftly mobilized individuals across the whole of Britain and Europe to become involved as volunteers in the refugee crisis, in the face of minimal and often inappropriate action by the authorities. This social media group has become pivotal in sharing information, routes for refugees and collecting aid, rallying multiple solidarity groups connected to the cause all across the country.

This panel brings together individual activists who turned their lives inside out and became driving forces in the continuing crisis. We hear the personal stories that make all the difference.

Rob Lawrie is a former soldier who headed to Calais Jungle in his van equipped with food, tents and sleeping bags, only to find himself weeks later arrested for attempted child smuggling. Rob talks about how his life has been changed by ‘a crime of compassion’.

Lea Beven’s transformation from ‘shoestring mum’ to a juggernaut of humanity is another poignant story. Lea created ‘Caravans for Calais’ and ‘Mobile Crisis Support Units’ and is now the proud owner of Shropshire Loves community interest group.

Nizar Dahan (Neezo Swansea Dhan) is a tour-de-force of fundraising and project manager of ‘Iokasti's Kitchen’ in Samos. He talks about his journey from property developer in Wales to human rights activist and feeder of the thousands.



PANEL 3 : Universal Basic Income :  A Utopian Vision or a Viable Reality? 

Barb Jacobson, Frances Coppola, Imandeep Kaur, Daz Long

BRIEF : Basic income for all - a universal weekly payment all eligible citizens -  can lead to the kind of creativity needed in the sort of world we would all like to live in.  Would we all qualify and how would we fund it? With rapid technological change and its impact on the number and quality of jobs, we need to reassess our expectations concerning work and its impact on the human spirit. How could BI facilitate a spirit of co-operative intelligence that emerges with thriving creative environments. How do we free people up from having to earn a living through bad jobs and to use the time most productively to create the space where we can do the things we want to and earn a living from our ‘art’?


PANEL 4 : Protest, counter culture and the role of comedy and satire

Greg Wilson, John Higgs, Heydon Prowse (tbc), Artist Taxi Driver

BRIEF : The same radical progressive momentum that’s swept Greece, Spain, Scotland and the British Labour movement over the last two years or so has now hit America. The pattern is protest movements against austerity and financial power in 2011 were heavily repressed: they did not peter out, but simply worked their way into mass consciousness and were manifested in movements against the established order. Whether through demonstrations, fashion choices or satire, protest has appeared in many forms in recent times and each method has, in its own way, permeated through to mainstream culture. After 25 years or so of relatively still waters, we are seeing a global uprising of people power building towards true democracy, much of it reinforced by social media, direct action protest and satire from the likes of Jonathan Pie, Mark Steel and Stewart Lee. What has happened to protest in recent decades? How does counter culture and satire best play its part in effective protest?


PANEL 5 : Keeping the fires burning - Campfire resolutions

Pete Lawrence, Ed Dowding, Sharon Prendergast, Gregory Thompson

We are hopeful that the weekend will produce a brainstorm of ideas, initiatives and campaigns, but how do we best ensure that we carry through this energy and make the most of the coming months? What kind of events would members like to see and how can we make best use of the social network platform to attract new members? What do we want to happen? How do we organize ourselves?





Our workshop sessions will take place in the Cafe tent.. 

Until the lion learns to write, every story will glorify the hunter.  Storytelling and seizing the narrative.

John Yorke, Lucy Langdon  

BRIEF : Children love stories. Grown ups love stories. We all enjoy gathering around the campfire for storytelling or song. Everyone has a story to tell but many don’t feel enabled or have the confident to step forward. Human progress and political advancement is built on storytelling. We focus on the narrative which we use to accompany and explain events and to persuade ourselves and others, round to our view.

Most major political successes (and failures) have been built on that simple premise. If we lose the narrative, we lose. Labour’s Liam Byrne's crass 'I’m afraid there is no money' note, left for his successor in the Treasury was a classical example of losing the narrative. The Tories have a ruthless mainstream media machine and repeat their mantras over and over, often based on fear rather than hope. Headlines lodge in the consciousness of those who are unwilling or unable to understand the whole story or look at facts critically. Storytelling is not the same as spin, which is often more like advertising. It is time to seize the narrative.

American writer Elizabeth Gilbert used the African proverb after which our panel is named to highlight that ‘writing a story’ can go much further than putting words on paper or fingers on a keyboard. Writing a story can also mean living your life intentionally, independently, brazenly and out loud. Not remaining quiet and small. Whether that means starting a business, running for public office, launching a non-profit, buying property or opening bank accounts in your own name, becoming an activist, joining a group, making music, books or art.

We all have a right to be seen and heard and respected. It’s time for us all to have a public voice, a say in some important stuff that’s going on, to speak up and be counted. To seize the narrative and make some noise in this world.

Punk Religion

Nina Lyon, Soma Ghosh, Alan James 

Church pews might be gathering dust, but people never stopped engaging with the timeless questions of the universe. From yoga practice to neodarwinism, pagans to wellness gurus, religion is ripe for ripping up and starting again, and the field of religious endeavour has never been more complicated. 

Are you as much of an atheist as you think you are? Is enlightened religion a real possibility or a veil for power and abuse? Do we get to start a cult? Big ideas and provocations welcome in an interactive panel discussion about where our belief systems go from here. 

Nina Lyon is a writer and academic. Her first book, Uprooted: On the Trail of the Green Man, was published by Faber in March and explores the curious tale of the Green Man myth from  the depths of the Golden Valley. Her essay Mushroom Season, an exploration of magic mushrooms and the Black Mountains, was runner up for the FT/Bodley Head Essay Prize and is published by Vintage. She is working on a book about strangeness and finishing a PhD thesis about nonsense and metaphysics in Lewis Carroll. She lives near Hay-on-Wye. 

A good life and a good death:  The fourth quarter

Elizabeth Carter, Nadia Chambers

During this interactive workshop you are invited to help create a conversation about what it means to live the fourth quarter of your life.  Over the course of 75 minutes the aim is to take a lighthearted and yet profound look at our attitudes to life and death as we journey through the years of our life towards the inevitable end of life, as we know it.  Stories, provocations and exhortations will be used to develop an engaging conversation through which growth to produce a new and potentially life-changing perspective through shared.  

Elizabeth Carter and Nadia Chambers are expert coaches in narrative who will lead you through the workshop. They will share some of their stories with you, opening a safe space for surprise, shock and compassion. They will work to build a narrative for the future that is uniquely and beautifully your own.  They will challenge, tease and help you to connect to the values that matter to you and to articulate them in a way that will guide you and your loved ones through a fourth quarter that will really count.

Slaying the Dragon or Don’t Go into the Den

Gregory Thompson

A conversation based on the experience of applying creative and collaborative practises to enterprise activities in a university setting.

Gregory Thompson is an award winning theatre director creating productions that combine ensemble performances with innovative stagings and actor-audience relationships. He’s directed for the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Young Vic amongst others in the UK and his own company AandBC has performed Shakespeare all over world. At UCL he matches scientists with performing artists to enhance, extend and disrupt academic activities to yield deeper or more surprising research outcomes.

Broadside ballads

Jennifer Reid

Jennifer is a young Lancashire folk enthusiast, having volunteered at Chetham's Library, the Working Class Movement Library and various other local institutions. Since completing an Advanced Diploma in Local History at Oxford University she is gaining a reputation for her excellent singing of Manchester Central Library and Chetham's broadside collections. Her workshop talks about the tradition of broadside ballads and Industrial Revolution work songs, which arguably represent an early form of social media, or the 19th century version of Twitter. At the time, printing, listening to and singing broadsides was the only quick, cheap widespread method of disseminating news, opinion and comment being possible without the permission of (London based) newspaper publishers. This freedom to discuss events and express opinion is a vital part of identity of Mancunian working class society.  From the stories contained within these historical sources, we can confirm that it is largely true to say that ‘Manchester’s Improving Daily’ (which is the title of the new Edward II album on which Jennifer contributes). 

More on Jennifer and broadside ballads here

Clean Language and developing Collective Trust

Caitlin Walker

Listening is a complex process. The big question is “What are you listening for?

Listening to find holes in their arguments? Listening to make your point? Listening to have your prejudice confirmed? Listening to people you already know agree with you? Listening for what is in your own interest? Not even listening, keeping time until you can say your piece? Or are you listening for unexpected information? Listening to have your deep held views challenged? Listening to have your prejudice updated? Listening for what’s best for the wider group? Listening for what’s possible? Listening without an outcome, waiting for new information to emerge?

The more attention you have on what you’re expecting to hear, the less you attention you have available for new information.

Clean Language is a technique for training listeners to ask open questions to which they can’t predict the answer. Originally developed by David Grove for use in person centred therapy, Caitlin adapted the process to bring together teenagers, outside of the school system, to get interested in what they wanted to have happen and then to develop the skills and strategies to help one another get what they needed. This peer mentoring had fabulous, unexpected results and the children quickly moved from passive, angry young men to articulate peer mentors able to advocate for one another’s needs.


Caitlin realised quickly that the process could be adapted for use in business, education and community development. She used a Zen form of business development that essentially meant she said ‘Probably!’ to every project that came her way. She’s spent 15 years honing it and has used it to support diverse groups to inquire into what they would each like to have happen. From ending female genital circumcision to increasing student attainment to improving collaboration between human rights activists in Malaysia.

During this hour she’ll introduce the Clean Questions, get you asking them of each other and get familiar enough that you can use them whenever someone needs a damn good listening to.



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