May 11, 2014, 7:21 p.m.

Portals & Continuum Of Alternativeness

Portals To An Alternative Dimension

The north-western Transeuropa Caravan started its trip in Birmingham, UK, on April 23d and spent 2 days at the Futureshift festival, a changemaker networking and inspiring time & space, if you will.
As part of the festival, spokespersons representing a few organisations or movements delivered talks – all having at their core key lessons learned in the process of birthing and growing a project. You may have seen our illustrator Laura's account of Pam Warhust's talk about the incredibledible (and the link was there in case you haven't!).

Here, I want to start with another talk because it was the first 'portal' moment of our trip – moments when one initiative or group we visited introduced us to a few or lots of others projects. Megan Deal, from, was touring us through projects reclaiming urban spaces and district and a sense of community who they had helped review their progress, aims and methods. I used their poster of 10 rules for a successful and liveable project as a header for this post – mind her emphasis on « staying small » and setting boundaries. You can find those 10 rules in their longer version here.

Box Of Extraordinary, Universe of Sameness

I don't know about you, but I for one (still) have this thing where anyone that created anything from a piece of art to an entire festival or  (even) a blogpost is automatically a hero/magical type person. Even after I've met the 200th creative person in my life (I did not count), that is still my first reaction. Because it's magic into this world, and that feels good. But that has a big down side: it keeps each one of those people in the « extraordinary » box, and lets the uncreative, boring and desincarnated Same all of the remaining universe space.  And this is why the « portal » moments were important moments in our caravan journey (newsflash: every single moment was an important moment of our caravan journey) - because they underlined a continuum of what I and many still deem extraordinary, and make it more of a new norm.

Invading Space And "Fighting Resignation"

I wonder if this is close to what Harriet Wild from WREN Wadebridge meant when she entilted her talk «On becoming the new norm ». WREN's project is about fostering renewable energy use in Wadebridge and Cornwall. As part of their action, they opened an energy shop in Wadebridge main street, where people can come in for anything regarding energy – their bills, infrastructure needs, alternative sources and so on. I found that a brilliant idea: « alternative » energy just as physically available, and as real, as bread or soap or shirts in your town...

I had at least two other 'portal' moments on the north-western route – one I've refered to in this post, in Norwich Common's room, and the other in Lille, talking with Mélanie Gabard, one member of the Alternatiba Lille collective: she alone pointed me to about 6 different projects or initiative. Alternatiba is a movement started in Bayonne, in the french basque country, last october. 12000 people visited an 'alternative village', where invited   organisations displayed their projects, products, ideas for a different, sustainable future. At the end of the week-end, the local collective issued a multi-lingual call for 10,100, 1000 Alternatiba villages. That call was heard: in France and Belgium, groups are planning Alternativa villages in dozens of cities, including, on our route, Lille, Paris, and Brussels.

Alternatiba Lille is planning its village around alternatives to current daily practices and needs – housing, clothing, food, transport... the list is apparently constantly growing. Granted local authorities provide the space, the village ought to set up in the city's actual center. That, as also the effort put in collective and consensual planning and decision-making, is symbolic of the group's aim. A core motto, so Vincent and Mélanie, is to 'fight resignation', by demonstrating the availability of alternatives.

Just before the trip, I was speaking to Vanessa of the Iberian Caravan about the Common Room in Norwich, which I was yet to discover physically but she had co-founded, and about that bitter-sweet feeling (at least) I get when I leave such a space, or any alternative spacio-temporal continuum such a festival (or a transeuropa caravan)... I don't think we can ever tackle that one. But it seems, it appears, it looks like, maybe, we actually can and want to make the "extraordinary boxes" content invade "boring Same"'s territory. To  finally quote the Darjeeling Limited (a film I've thought about a lot during sometimes tricky decision making in the caravan): « Can we agree to that? ».

By the way, we will publish a first list of the projects the north-western caravan visited or heard about next week!



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