Moving to Frome has been a revelation for me. How I ended up here was fairly random, in that I was on the road for a year living out of my motorhome and was invited to one of the first Campfire Conversation late last May on a glorious sunny evening to open a new venue in town, a converted chapel called The Rye Bakery, which always seems to attracts interesting people, whether its attendees at the many yoga and wellbeing sessions, puts on a variety of public events, offers play space for young children and bakes the best bread and croissants I've ever tasted. I knew then that I'd probably end up living here.
Not to be outdone by the Rye, the Three Swans is also a great venue - a fantastic, friendly pub in the centre of Frome and last night they offered us the use of their upstairs room to host the inaugural meeting of Campfire's Frome Beacon. Picking up on the good work that had already been put in by @Peter Macfadyen and @Annabelle Macfadyen in hosting the Conversation event, we are keen to feel our way gently, to create fertile ground for planting seeds of ideas and seeing what happens from there.
It was heart-warming to pack out the space on a very chilly Wednesday night with a diverse 30-strong mixture of people including many relatively recent arrivals in the town. Even former mayor, and Flatpack Democracy author @Peter Macfadyen reckoned that he didn't know at least half of the meeting attendees.
I kicked off with a brief introduction to Campfire before Jude Claybourne loosened things up with a game in which we all came together to do some thumb fighting which broke the ice nicely.
I'm no great facilitator and usually hand over such skills to those who are experienced but I have a go last night, taking inspiration for Brighton's formative model. It involves the Firegram, christened by Beacon founder @Mads Ryle on the south coast at their inaugural meeting where we fill in a badly sketched fire diagram with skills / resources as the wood and coals, ideas and actions as the flames. There was no shortage of any of these essential fuels or heat from the Frome fire as we went around the room and in turn had 30 seconds to talk about why we were here and what our skills, passions and work involved.
Before the interval I invited each Campfirer to gravitate towards anyone in the room who they felt they wanted to talk to after hearing their introduction and swap ideas with the intention of inputting potential to the Campfire experience, ideas which might play out via our network and future events.
Some inspiring reports and suggestions followed:
Luke Newman proposing an Art of Mentoring in a context of connecting with nature
Ed Green talked about linking up with Alison Murdoch and joining town and country through common spaces and a woodland creation scheme. Alison had earlier mentioned her project 'The Good Heart' a one-year experimental pop up in Palmer St which is an open face-to-face space place for things to happen, underpinned by the Dalai Lama's statement 'My religion is kindness' - it's not a religious space but it has values.
@Daniel Dobbie would love to be involved with helping co-ordinate a monthly outdoor gathering for the summer months, keeping the event simple and spontaneous around a fire. We need a small steering group to help organise.
Sophie Bolton talked about talking out pressure and expectations, about encouraging spontaneity, being 'in the moment'. Ed talked about the pressure of replicating and the glory of the one-off. We don't have to replicate. "create something and leave the hell alone"
Patrick Abrahams urged us to reach out beyond the obvious people, to spread our messages wider.
Alison made the point that "ideas are cheap... I'm interested in cautious, one step at a time action, feet on the floor, really collaborative and really listening". Jude has "hundreds of cheap ideas, and was looking for interesting people to join her into creating actions. She wants to "be on the inside making things happen".
@Peter Macfadyen talked about the wisdom of doing research over not diving in. Having a sensitivity to avoid treading on toes. And also about the approachability of the Town Council and the need to create fertile ground - (we'd like to think that the answer should usually be 'yes'). Peter also suggested the importance of being able to bring things to the table which would be listened to. How to acknowledge that people are being listened to?
@Graeme Holdaway talked about setting up a new Beacon imminently in nearby Shepton Mallet
Renée Daniel was impassioned in her story about the cultural differences but similarities between Patti Smith and the Dalai Lama. What people are doing in the Blue Boar is what people are doing listening to weird poetry around Campfires. It's the same thing!
We ended up with some singing, directed by David Tanner 'Close your eyes and sleep". A fitting end to a lively and productive night.
So Campfire's Frome Beacon looks set to be putting on some regular events over the next few months.. to bring people together and create sparks.
Watch this space!