5 Dec 2011
The ‘London Transition Groups Gathering’, 1st December 2011
Last week, on a rather soggy, windswept London evening, members of Transitions Belsize, Bethnal Green, Brentford, Brixton, Crouch End, Crystal Palace, Finsbury Park, Hackney, Highbury, Kensal to Kilburn, Kentish Town, Lewisham, Peckham, Stoke Newington, Tooting, Tufnell Park, Walthamstow, Wandsworth, Wanstead, Westcombe, Willesden and Wimbledon (and probably a few more besides), as well as members of the public, gathered at the GLA building in London, to help celebrate Transition in London, and the launch of ‘The Transition Companion’.
The evening was chaired by Lucy Neal of Transition Town Tooting (see below), who started by talking about what an amazing city London is, and how important the river is to the city, and how much cleaner it is now than it was, and that it now contains 120 fish! The audience soon corrected her mistake, although it left me with an image of London’s official ‘fish counter’ bobbing around counting the fish. Anyway, I digress.
So the first part of the evening was short talks by 4 people involved in other sustainability initiatives across the city. First, Sue from London Low Carbon Communities Network talked about their work, followed by Ross of Merton Low Carbon Zone, Chris of Richmond Low Carbon Zone and Nick of Project Dirt, each of whom in just 5 minutes each set out the work they have been doing and the lessons they have learned from it. They then took some questions and offered more insights into behaviour change and engagement.
Then it was over to me. I gave an overview of why ‘The Transition Companion’ was written, how it differs from the Transition Handbook, and how the idea of ‘ingredients’ came about. I stressed that at most book launches the author will speak about his/her book for 30 minutes of so, and then maybe take some questions. This one would be different. Although the first two parts of the book are quite linear (see an overall outline of the book here), looking at why do Transition and then what Transition is, the third part is a collection of ingredients and tools that is meant to be used, to be tested out and added to. Consequently, this wasn’t going to be a sit-down evening, but was to be interactive, moving-around kind of an evening, one that started with pushing all the chairs to one side.
So, the first activity we did was a milling one, where the room was divided into two halves, and the cards dealt out so that everyone had one. People were then invited to mill around and to tell each other what’s on their cards. They did this for about 15 minutes and seemed to find it a really useful way to quickly become familiar with the ingredients, much better than me showing them one after the other on Powerpoint slides.
Then we did a mapping exercise, inviting people to map themselves in a giant map of London. Once we had done this, I asked if 5 groups might like to tell their stories. Once we had 5 groups who had offered to do that, each group was given a pack of the Transition ingredients cards. They were invited to lay the cards out in a sequence that told their story, how they had started and what had happened as the initiative unfolded. We did this for about 30 minutes.
It was fascinating to see how different the stories were, and how differently they laid out the cards. There was then 5 minutes for people to go round the room and to visit the other groups and to see each story. We then all came back together in a big circle and people talked about how they had found the exercise. This then led into a more general questions and answers session, where people from London groups chipped in their experience and talked about what they were doing.
This for me was really the highlight of the evening, everyone sitting around and chatting about Transition in London. Unfortunately we couldn’t do it for a couple of hours! The evening wrapped up with Sophy Banks talking for a few minutes about the role of inner Transition and about Transition Training, and Lucy mentioning that the possibility had arisen for funding to create a Transition London co-ordinator post, and that there would be a meeting in January to discuss it.
Then it was time for more social time, drinking wine, cocktails, or even some of Transition Leytonstone’s rather wonderful ‘Transition Ale’. I signed quite a few books, and met some great people. It is always amazing to see the diversity and the richness of what different Transition groups are up to in London, and to participate in events where they all come together to share their learnings is always an inspiring experience.
Deepest thanks and congratulations to Anna O’Brien who organised the whole thing, and to the team of helpers who ensured it all ran smoothly. Sterling work all. Also to Jonathan Goldberg, John Fellowes and Anastasia Harrison for use of their great photos of the evening. You can see more of Jonathan’s pictures here.