The first Selgars Mill Campfire Trailblazers weekend exceeded all my expectations. It was beautiful, joyous, educational, connecting, nourishing and at times, ecstatic. Special thanks to Sarah, Ben and the team for making it happen.
In the words of Lara Eidi :
"Four days .. four days that have truly moved , inspired , pushed and surprised me in what I knew I had been seeking for a while now .. change is truly within us : we can , as people , no longer be silent about our planet, our community, and our role to sustain and maintain quality of life and well being . I met some of the most incredible people here at Trailblazers - Campfire's Active Citizens Weekend and Campfire Convention and felt a connection with what we all had to say and feel shout how to change the world , one small step at a time .. a few moments of music and life to capture some exciting projects in the making"
It was also a weekend of exploration, of contemplation, of surprises, of self-examination, of change, of collective joy, of working with others and ultimately of resolution and of mutual empowerment.
We talked a lot of empowerment, of mutual support and of moving from a world where the 'what's in it for me, Jack' mentality that has been so espoused in neoliberal ideology over the last few decades gives way to a different paradigm - one based around mutual support and new co-operative business models.
As a facility for giving life and energy to creative ideas, Selgars Mill is second to none, situated in a green and remote area of central Devon but with easy access from Tiverton station and M5. The Mill is run by Sarah Jewell and her partner, Ben, with much help, support and love from a great team of inspiring people – ranging from members of the London choir, Songlines, that she ran for over 20 years, to herbalists, ecologists and friends who somehow find the place and stay for a while.
As Steve Thorp, who I met on the weekend, remarked in his ecellent article "Its the sort of place that should, and does, inspire. It’s not only the artful combination of wilderness and permaculture that Sarah and Ben have created, but the events that happen there: this past weekend it was Pete Lawrence’s visionary Campfire Convention Trailblazer’s weekend; in the recent past it's been the meeting place for the Soulmakers community that I have been involved in, and, of course, it has the spiritual home of Sarah’s Songlines Choir, where they've held their amazing retreats."
This was an amazing retreat. So many things to consider, to develop, to inspire. Jamie Kelsey Fry was inspirational and talked with gusto, passion and enthusiasm about his life of activism, his inspiration to action. If one quote summed his session up for me, it was Buckminster Fuller :
We foraged around the glorious, lush green gardens with Jonas, a young man erudite beyond his years and tuned in to the point where it was truly inspiring to hear him impart his extensive knowledge of nature and the herbs with verve and zest.
On Sunday morning we got stuck straight in to the thorniest of topics and one that, like climate breakdown, is emerging and gathering clarity and resources - the campaign against surveillance capitalism.
For me, my most memorable moment - and lone that will live with me for the rest of my life - was during the closing ceremony when I received the most amazing example of support and empowerment
I received the gift of empowerment and support from this new community, feeling held in a way I have never felt it before. In the closing ceremony, Sarah finished with an exercise. As she explained "We don't know what's coming, we don't know how to react and as Alison says, often we don't have the language - so we have to improvise. Pete is starting something, he's two years in and he needs some nourishment" I was beckoned to the centre of the circle and Alison, who I chose to support me initially and rhythmically started the pulse, the heartbeat.
Every person then each found their place in this improvisational circle and we co-created something unique - every person brought a sound, a word, a vibe, a movement and together a musical machine was created. It was exhilarating, uplifting and ecstatic and totally energising.
The original concept of the Trailblazers weekends had come out of discussions a couple of years ago with our team member Ruth Wallsgrove. At the time we were playing with the idea of calling it an Activism Shoecamp. Click here for the original inspiration:
As it eventually turned out, the Devon weekend was exploratory but, many felt, a good balance between 'how to' sessions and freeform exploration and fun
As ever, many who came weren't quite sure what to expect. I find that's often a good sign, though it may limit the initial number who attend. By default, they become 'trailblazers' - the early inspirers, the carriers of the flame.
The challenge now will be where to take things from here and how this new community of trailblazers moves forwards individually and collectively, organically but with purpose, how it chooses whether or not to keep the conversation going and how individual choices and collective actions unfold to change lives.
I can't help feeling that it's important to follow this up and do another. Feedback and engagement is what keeps the Campfire lit, so feel free to join the discussion.
The last word is from our host, Sarah "We take food seriously here. We want you to remember your time in this house on every level - on a mental and a sensual and sensory level. It is a return to a traditional point. You can't choose your love family but you can choose your extended kinship family as you get older. Rituals are often based around the sharing of food. Traditionally around meat, but we've taken the slaughtering of the lamb out of the equation and one of the reasons why I spent much time on flavour is to satisfy the palate of those people who used to be satisfied by intensely saturated animal fats or the monosodium glutamate culture. There's a re-education of the palate that is absolutely crucial for our society. We're trying to do that with freshness and vibrancy. I am also very isolated from culture and art down here so I guess what I'm trying to do is create art in the kitchen and share it with people who recognise it as a creative act."
MY GALLERY :