The Alternative UK at Noisily Festival: a new understanding of politics needs "wokeness"
We were delighted to be invited. We believe that conviviality and creativity (of all kinds, from arts to tech to food) are the best circumstances in which to reimagine what we mean by "politics".
Or if not that "p"-word - and quite a few of the attendees were averse - then to find ways to identify all the powers and capacities that modern people have (not just their economic power). And then seek occasions and processes whereby we might exercise those diverse powers together, in the most direct and satisfying way possible.
A free-wheeling festival like Noisily, where technology and music blends with landscape and joyous people, is a great place to have that discussion (as it turned out).
The audiences we met at Noisily had already made a commitment to being in this "temporary autonomous zone", as Hakim Bey once wrote. So when it comes to thinking about their powers to act, and what structures those actions could build, they were already very much in the spirit of A/UK.
If you see the summaries for the three lunchtime sessions below, you'll get a sense of how we approached the Noisily context:
Friday: Who is the human being at the heart of politics? Is all I need a job and a tax cut, or is it time to recognise my emotional and spiritual needs too? Find your political calling as Artist and Ritualist Gaia Harvey Jackson leads us to dance, drum and chant our way into a new experience of power and possibility.
Saturday: We all dream of a new world, but how can we begin to make that a reality? What are the new cultures and ways of being together that are going to lead to a genuine transition? In this workshop Artist / Priestess Sarah Zaltash will be using a collective visualisation manifestation to imagine the changes we want to see in the world.
Sunday: Can our transformational cultures and practices have any impact upon the the multiple crises of climate change, poverty and mental illness? Join Indra Adnan and Pat Kane, Co-initiators of The Alternative UK in a fishbowl conversation. As they connect their personal and collective awakening to a radical new politics for the future, you connect yours.
We explored (and answered) some excellent questions:
- "How do questions of class and race trouble the idea that local communities can readily come together to assert their power?" We replied that one of the ambitions for our collaboratories is to try to build brand-new common ground between different sectors of the community, largely by focussing on the undervalued strengths and assets of those communities. For example, highlighting an area's caring/compassionate networks (which deal with a range of vulnerabilities, including race and class). Or we might ask a collaboratory to imagine a desired future - but a really big one (eg, how we might together deal with giant forces like automation or climate change). The future challenge might be so large that it can bring people together, and build common purpose, no matter the structural inequalities. (See how things went with our Plymouth "Friendly").
- "How does the bottom-up approach link with the standard processes of political representation and parties? Do we engage with or just ignore them?" Our answer was that one of the ambitions from localities was that they should try to establish "models" that other areas could copy - and that representative politicians could learn from. The way that Flatpack Democracy from Frome put their democratic experiments into a handbook; or the way that the new city/municipal politics is so keen to spread its world (see the Fearless Cities conference backed by EnComu in Barcelona); or the spread of Transition Town models: or the Barnsley or Preston models coming from radical Labour councils).
We also had great contributions about how we might use blockchain or secure technology to put digital tools back in the hands of communities, rather than have our usage of them just be fodder for Facebook's servers.
And there was much nodding and agreement to our notion that a much better politics required "wokeness" from everyone. This means an awareness that we run our lives on often unacknowledged stories in our heads, both our personal stories and ones placed there by grander forces. And that some level of mindful awareness or mental power needed to be increased, for ourselves as citizens - in order that we can perceive the framings (and self-framings) that limit our sense of what can be done, or what we even we might regard as our power and assets.
Our friends at Noisily have some diverse and experimental routes towards achieving that "wokeness"... We found this community a delightful, enthusiastic and ambitious group to be with. We'd love to bring our collaboratories to more festivals like this!
If you were there, and participated (either in the exercises or at Indra and Pat's presentation) we'd love to hear from you. Please sign up to be a "co-creator" here, or otherwise mail us at email@example.com. We'll leave you with the Noisily ambition for:
Our open-hearted thanks to those who helped pull the Noisily events off: Gaia Harvey Jackson, Sarah Zaltash, Maria Dorthea Skov. And to Lachie Gordon for inviting us in the first place.
If you want to follow A/UK for more like this, go to our Twitter or Facebook pages. Or mail us here. If you want to sign-up to be involved, you can go here and become one of our co-creators. Come and join the friendly revolution!