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6 Oct 2008

The 2030 School Reunion: a powerful tool for visualising the future

We are always on the look out for, and developing, new tools and activities for helping people to look forward and vision the future. At the recent launch of the Energy Descent Pathways project, a great activity developed for the evening, used a very creative way of enabling people to imagine themselves in a Totnes that had successfully made the Transition away from oil dependency. The exercise used role play and drama, and staged a school reunion in which four characters told their stories, with the help of everyone else attending, of what had happened to them in the 22 years since 2008.

The 2030 School Reunion Exercise

You Will Need:

  • 4 actors (prepared in advance about their characters, and dressed in character)
  • A set of pre-prepared cards (see below)
  • An audience

Introduction:

“Here we are in 2030, looking back over the years at how society in Totnes & district emerged from the great economic crash of 2010”.

The story so far (told by the narrator to all)

“Back in the winter of 2012, the credit crunch finally bit so hard that even Marks & Spencers went under, closing its doors and making the last of its loyal staff redundant, just 2 weeks before Christmas. 80% of long term pensions became worthless overnight on November 30th while home fuel bills hit an all time high; so high in fact that many families used their holiday savings to pay the bills. The housing market which had already suffered many hard blows crumpled badly the following Spring, leaving a lot of local people with their investments gone and many others had their homes reclaimed as negative equity took its toll.

The town and rural lanes started to look like a industrial graveyard, abandoned cars littering the fields, derelict half finished building developments & empty commercial sites. A lot of waste was being left uncollected. Many fields had long been abandoned with farmers giving up on what seemed to be a dying trade, squatters in caravans had parked in the laybys. The hospital was expected to shut its doors as supplies of medicines were running too low to keep services viable. Many people stopped paying their council tax because they couldn’t afford it. Nobody seemed to smile anymore.

A tale of doom and gloom…

But we have a new story, how things got better. We jump forward to 2030; 18 years after our terrible tale here we are. Society did come through. We made it. But how? In the community people found new ways of working together to help themselves and others. The business community emerged in a creative and enterprising way. Local Authorities had to start managing on much lower incomes as their revenues plummeted, but the local services got much better as the community got more involved. Now in 2030 farmers have emerged as the local heroes.

The local school leavers of 2000 are now about 50 years old. At their get together in September 2030 for a school reunion, 3 of them and their former school dinner lady shared their stories:

  • Former city banker Nancy now sells refurbished IT hardware from a small premises in Totnes; she tells us why she has invested locally.
  • Former senior planning officer, Derek was relocated to Totnes & District Community Plus, his story tells us how the local services improved on smaller council taxes.
  • Enrico, known for the best beef in Devon 2005, almost lost his farm in 2010 when the meat marketing agency went under. He went organic, placed an ad in the lonely hearts column and has been highly sought after ever since.
  • Thelma, formerly a school dinner lady recently retired as a home help is now living in Harbertonford with her disabled partner. Her 2 sons have both flown the nest, she is here with her story.

What kind of lives have this class of 2000 had? We are going to divide up into 4 groups in the sections you are sitting in. We want you as the audience to look at the cards on your seats in pairs with the person sitting next to you. Use the cards on your seats & your own ideas, to build up the life stories with our former Keviccs students standing in front of you. We want each group to create the life story the former students & dinner lady are going to share at their reunion..

We will come back together in 15 minutes to eavesdrop on their conversation when they meet up at the school reunion 2030

Nancy’s story

(told by actor dressed up as Nancy: smart suit, high heels, painted nails, briefcase, newspaper, brolly etc)

Reiterates the intro paragraph about her:-

I’m a former city banker called Nancy. I now sell refurbished IT hardware from a small premises in Totnes; I’ve invested locally. The business community emerged in a creative and enterprising way.

Facilitator asks / broken up by replies from those with ideas or cards which fit in and build the story:

What kind of life did Nancy have in the 2000s? What challenges did she and her family experience around 2010. Where was she living at the time? Why did she change her job? What happened to other businesses in Totnes when the crash happened? Did the business community expect this to happen? What kinds of market does Nancy have for her business? Did she need to retrain for her new job? How secure is her job? Where do people in the Town and villages now shop, what can they buy, how much can they afford. How do people travel in 2030. Where does Nancy now invest her savings? How big is the market for Nancy’s hardware? Does she miss the jet setter lifestyle? Has anyone anything else to add to this life story?

Nancy’s Cards (which will be mixed up around the seats):

  • Nancy earned £100K p/a in 2009
  • Nancy earned £20K p/a in 2003
  • Fancy Nancy IT had a turnover of £100K in 2025
  • Nancy got married (had to) in 2000
  • Nancy’s twins arrived in 2001, Joe (hubby) left in 2002
  • Child benefit was increased to £100 p/m in 2004
  • The CSA was finally abandoned in 2007; still Nancy didn’t get any help with child minding costs
  • The bank job in Exeter started in 2003, Nancy’s Mum minded the kids ‘till they started school
  • It was a tough decision to put Nancy’s children into weekly boarding school, but they did enjoy it
  • The job of senior executive was an opportunity not to be missed
  • Nancy was home weekends with the kids
  • It was strange how quickly things changed around 2009
  • First the airline companies nosedived, then the big banks started to crash
  • The politicians must have known how bad things were
  • It was really difficult at the time to imagine how life could be any different
  • A lot of businesses went under just because they couldn’t pay the high fuel bills
  • Nancy had 10 different credit cards in 2008
  • Nancy had 1 credit card in 2009, with a big debt
  • Nancy bought a house in 2005 with help from the bank she worked for
  • When Nancy lost her job, the bank demanded she get another mortgage
  • Nancy downsized her house in 2010 to pay off her mortgage with borrowed money from her parents for the rest
  • Nancy’s parents are very pleased they pulled out their pension fund invested their savings in Nancy.
  • When she started using the train to distribute her goods to clients, only a few others were using the new service
  • Many people thought Nancy was mad to rent a local rail freight box back in 2015, now there’s a waiting list for them
  • Fancy Nancy IT Hardware now employs 2 service engineers to fix up the machines and keep them going
  • Nancy’s twins have both become engineers, they install and maintain solar fittings and fixtures.
  • The twins fitted their first solar systems at Nancy’s house
  • Nancy gets to see her grown up children a lot, she loves working close to home
  • A day-off for Nancy is spent reading, out with the local historical society or with the cycle club or just in the garden
  • Nancy grows enormous globe artichokes, they made a very nice starter
  • Nancy enjoys cooking for friends at her dinner parties.
  • Nancy is planning a big holiday to celebrate her 50th, she’s taking a world train tour with her new man
  • Who would have thought she’d meet up and be dating an old school friend

Derek’s story

(told by actor dressed as Derek, suit, open neck shirt, bike clips, smart hat, stylish back-pack)

Reiterates the intro paragraph about him:-

The local Authorities had to start managing on much lower incomes as their revenues plummeted. I’m a former senior planning officer, but was reassigned to run Totnes & District Community Plus. The local services improved on smaller council taxes.

Facilitator asks / broken up by replies from those with ideas or cards which fit in and build the story:

What kind of life did Derek have in the 2000’s? What challenges did he and his family experience around 2010. Where was he living at the time? Why did he change her job? What happened to local authorities in Totnes when the crash happened? How many jobs were lost? How did the services get managed? Did he need to retrain for his new job? How secure is his job? What kinds of services do people in the Town and villages now get, how does the local authority make sure it gets enough income? Where does Derek work? How does he get to work? How different is his job to his previous one? Does he miss the 9-5 life? Does he get out much? Has anyone anything else to add to this life story?

Derek’s Cards (which will be mixed up around the seats):

  • Derek went off for an extended gap year after he qualified as a planner in 2003
  • Derek’s first job as a planner was in Australia, he came back to UK in 2005
  • Derek worked for a London Borough Council for 2 years, coming back to Totnes in 2007
  • Derek got married in 2007, (Shelia had been very patient), a lot of guests flew in from Perth
  • Derek and Shelia had a late honeymoon in 2008
  • In 2008, XL airline went bust; Derek and Shelia were stranded in Thailand for an extra week
  • Derek and Shelia adopted a Chinese baby in 2008
  • Developers started getting jumpy when the housing market went quiet.
  • It was very difficult to be a planner just before the crash
  • In 2009 everyone had such different ideas about development, no-one could agree
  • Derek and Shelia moved into a bigger house in Diptford with a huge garden in 2009
  • Shelia has always been a keen gardener. She used to grow a lot of flowers
  • When Derek’s job went compulsory part-time, Shelia started growing and selling veg.
  • It was hard to listen to all the complaints from the public, no-one liked windmills much back in 2010
  • 2011 was crunch time for the local authority, a lot of staff were laid off
  • The Local Authority were really creative to start the Community Plus scheme in 2012
  • “Community Plus Co-operation Officer required”, Derek applied for the job straight away
  • Derek knew that working with the community was very different to listening to lots of complaints
  • Derek didn’t mind when he found out he’d get an electric push bike with the job, he was pretty fit anyway.
  • The neighbours had a good laugh at first at Derek wobbling along on his bike, now they’ve all got them
  • Even Derek was surprised when the Community Plus recycling company turned a profit in the first year
  • Helping people to work together on waste recycling, travel schemes and setting up allotments is so rewarding
  • 5 years ago Derek was awarded Community Plus UK officer of the year, he hung the certificate in the hall
  • Derek never expected to have his parents living with him. It cost him his so called office / junk room
  • When Shelia’s Mother turned up from Australia they noticed how it helped to pay the bills.
  • Juni (Derek’s daughter) was thrilled when her grandma from Australia arrived to live with them
  • Derek still has lots of ideas for what the Community Plus scheme can do
  • At least Local Authorities are a lot less bogged down without all those private companies.
  • Getting the job done is much simpler when a local authority works more locally and closer with the public
  • Derek and Shelia take it in turns to mind the Grandmas, in return they mind all Shelia’s houseplants
  • Both the Grandmas go to bed early and then the neighbours listen out for them on the Smart house system
  • Derek & Shelia enjoy their busy social life with the drama group.
  • Derek and Shelia find life is a lot more rewarding and stress-free now.
  • In 2009 there was so much to worry about.
  • Derek & Shelia went on the local community twinning holiday to Vire in France last year
  • He has been learning French at evening classes in the community hall

Enrico’s story

(told by actor dressed as Enrico, good jacket jacket, cravat, flatcap, Earming Times newspaper)

Reiterates the intro paragraph about him:-

Farmers seem to be the local heros. Enrico, known for the best beef in Devon 2005, almost lost his farm in 2010 when the meat marketing agency went under. He went organic, placed an ad in the lonely hearts column and has been highly sought after ever since.

Facilitator asks / broken up by replies from those with ideas or cards which fit in and build the story:

What kind of life does Enrico enjoy now? How secure is his income; does he need much cash income. What kind of social activities does he enjoy? Where does he sell his produce? How does he travel in 2030. What kind of life did Enrico have in the 1990’s? Why did he never marry? What challenges did Enrico and his family experience around 2010. Where was he living at the time? How bad was the crash for him in 2010. What kind of changes did he make to cope with these difficulties? What did he need to get through this? How have the last 10 years been? In what ways does the community in the village now link in with Enrico’s business? How does Enrico enjoy himself? Where did Enrico go on holiday this year? Has anyone anything else to add to this life story?

Enrico’s Cards (which will be mixed up around the seats):

  • Enrico left school earlier than the others as he was passionate about farming
  • Enrico’s father was keen on growing greens, all kinds, must have been his Italian blood
  • Enrico could grow spinach, brocolli, tomatoes and spuds before he started school
  • When Enrico went to Agri-school, he was taught about sprays and weed-killers, not much about manure
  • Enrico’s prize bull won the 2005 and 2006 star prizes, he was called Arnold. Enrico still has the cup
  • In 2012 Enrico went to an organic farm in Italy for a family funeral, it changed his life
  • The organic tomatoes on the Italian farm were the most perfect he had ever seen
  • It was so wonderful to meet people so enthusiastic about how they farmed.
  • He wishes that there had been a local organic college when he left school
  • Enrico would have gone organic much earlier if he had known how
  • So many people were dispirited back in 2010 when the meat marketing agency went bankrupt.
  • He can’t believe he didn’t see the crash coming, it was a terrible shock how quickly things changed
  • All that sales talk from the meat agency people, always pushing down prices. Just to benefit the supermakets
  • His family managed to hang onto the farm at Berry Pomeroy, his parents moved into the converted barn
  • Letting out fields and allotments really saved his bacon when things got very tight
  • The smaller shops are so much nicer to work with, they appreciate his produce
  • Enrico has just started filling the organic boxes at his farm, but most of his produce supplies local shops
  • The school bus collects the organic boxes and drops them off with the school children in the afternoons
  • Enrico almost tied the knot with Jane in 2010, but things got too difficult and she wasn’t patient
  • Jane his old girlfriend rang him recently, she has 4 children, that was a lucky escape
  • Louise from Bodmin cycles half way most Sundays and they meet on Dartmoor for lunch
  • Who would have thought he’d be buying himself a bike for his 40th birthday, that was 10 years ago
  • Riding a bike will never be as thrilling as riding a horse
  • Charles the stallion is nearly 18 years old, Enrico trained him. He rides him everyday
  • All the new produce Enrico grows means he has to employ a lot of extra help.
  • A lot of the people Enrico employs are from the allotments he rents out
  • It is wonderful to see so many people working in the fields, they are much less noisy than tractors
  • Farming is so much more enjoyable these days, its so very sociable
  • Back in 2012 he put an ad into the Totnes Times lonely hearts column, a lot of women found farming attractive
  • People seem to know so much about all the different crops. The old varieties are very interesting
  • The field lunches are wonderful, everybody brings something. If its raining they go in the glass house
  • The chickens are a lot smaller than the bulls, they are much easier to handle. They still win prizes.
  • It was Enricos prize Bantam that got him shortlisted for the Totnes Farmer’s calendar, but he posed with potatoes in the end

Thelma’s story (told by actor dressed up as Thelma: neat hair, warm coat, hat or scarf, good shoes, sensible bag)

Reiterates the intro paragraph about her:-

Thelma, is a former school dinner lady now retired and living in Harbertonford with her disabled partner. Her 2 sons have both flown the nest, she is here with her story. The community has survived the crash, people found ways to help themselves and others.

& asks / broken up by replies from those with ideas or cards which fit in and build the story:

What kind of life does Thelma enjoy now? How secure is her income; does she need much cash income. What kind of social activities does she enjoy? How do people with challenges such as disability, those who need hospital care, the elderly manage on small incomes. How do people travel in 2030? What kind of life did Thelma have in the 2000’s? When did she have her children, Does she have a story for this? What challenges did she and her family experience around 2010. Where was she living at the time? How bad was the crash for her in 2010. What kind of changes did she make to cope with her difficulties? What did she need to get through this? How have the last 10 years been? How does the community in her village now manage to feed themselves and their families, get the kids to school, socialize? Where do people in the Town and other villages now shop, what can they buy, how much can they afford. Where did Thelma go on holiday this year? Has anyone anything else to add to my life story?

Thelma’s Cards (which will be mixed up around the seats):

  • Women earn less than men (~80%).
  • Thelma earns around £200 per week as a school dinner lady
  • Thelma works part-time as a home help & earns £ 200 per week.
  • In 2000, both of Thelma’s children (Jonny and Mark) were getting overweight at ages 8 & 10
  • Michael (husband) was laid off disabled at 45 due to diabetes
  • She took the children to school by car in 2005
  • Thelma & the children went to school by the local bus
  • Riding bikes is much safer now
  • A local shop opened in 2009 selling refurbished bikes, its always selling out
  • The morning bus is always on time
  • The shuffle shuttle bus brings people right to the hospital
  • There are walking paths everywhere
  • Village shops were closing all the time
  • The post office went in the 2008 reshuffle
  • The Post Office reopened in 2020, and about time too.
  • The new Post Office has a lot of extra facilities
  • Thelma lost her house in the credit crunch
  • Harberton social housing group bought an abandoned farmhouse in 2012
  • Thelma and her partner live in the old farmhouse with 3 other families, they often share meals together
  • Local cookery classes are very popular
  • Its difficult to avoid burning cakes in a solar oven
  • People are still surprised how well solar panels work
  • Harberton now has 2 wind turbines
  • People really didn’t like windmills back in 2010
  • Thelma has converted their garden into a veggie patch with flowers around the edge
  • The local allotments group now grows 50% of the village food
  • The gardening club has a member’s waiting list
  • A farmer’s market started coming to Harberton in 2011
  • The local farmer’s market is very popular and there are a lot of craft stalls too
  • The market is held in the community hall in the winter
  • Its wonderful to see how well people have revived many of the old skills
  • Michael, Thelma’s husband has learnt to carve, he is in great demand for the kitchens
  • Harberton recycled kitchen’s have created a new fashion with Michael’s carvings
  • Many old school friends have moved back into the villages
  • Brian, Thelma’s neighbour is a brilliant plumber

Then the 4 actors stage their meeting at the school reunion and chatting about the last 22 years.  I had no idea how this exercise would work when it was being planned, but it was really successful.  It really got people thinking about these issues in a different way, and was very dynamic and engaging.

Categories: General

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2 Comments

Finn Jackson
6 Oct 10:02am

Wow!
Looks really powerful…

My brain is immediately running away with how we can get this to work in my home town…

Alissa
8 Oct 10:02pm

This looks like it could be an incredibly powerful tool. A reunion is a really clever way of getting people to think about the future and could be real turning point for some. A clever way to shift thinking.