Our beautiful banner - Thanks again Anna!
Monday started with a short workshop, a meeting with our home groups and then a longer final session at closing.

At the final session, Hal Gilmore (from Transition Tours) spoke about the tour to the Granby Triangle in Toxteth – wonderful to see community regeneration – with plants and paint! The photo of the residents (and Ed Gommon) remained on the screen for the rest of the session!

Rob summed up the conference as maturing, focusing and deepening. He was so pleased that transition has got to the stage around the world where it’s ready to step in – in Rio, following the devastating floods in Feb, local transition groups reached out for help and the national network immediately offered training as well as practical help in planning rebuilding. Following earthquakes in New Zealand transition groups also played a role. In protests in Barcelona, they held a transition meeting on road traffic island and replanted a flowerbed with veg! There had been a meeting last night to discuss how transition could support the revolution in Spain. (some of this may have been in Peter Lipman’s or Jo’s talk – all blending ...)

After leaving and cycling down to the station, I realised that I had lost my wallet! Back to Hope, where I found Totnes people loading up their van, and Catrina (Pickering) told me that a wallet had been handed in! So I relaxed and realised it was an opportunity to have another two important conversations.

One with Steph Bradley who had helped me with my research, so I could tell her a little about the findings from the work, and hope to get further thoughts from her.

The other with one of the Portuguese attendees about politics. She was thanking us Liverpudlians for our hospitality (I had already explained that I lived on the Wirral, and it was too much to explain that I was actually a Southerner, so abashed, I accepted her thanks!).

She explained that the Portuguese group had walked to try to find a park, and were trying to cross the road, looking the wrong way (almost stepped into the road), when a car stopped and asked if they were OK. When they explained that they were Portuguese and looking for the park, the man got out of the car, walked round to them and gave them directions!

I asked about transition in Portugal, and I asked whether part of the reason it appeals to people was because of financial concerns, and we talked about how transition could prepare people and be there ready for further problems. I wondered whether transition could help bring about change and asked whether transition should develop a political party (because we have discussed this in our group in Liverpool). She was adamant that it shouldn’t, the power is in its independence and welcoming of all people. As usual I tried to be clever and took it one step further; should transition develop a new political structure which doesn’t involve factional parties – but she thought transition should just keep out of politics. As soon as you associate with one group, you exclude the others, and furthermore, when something goes wrong with that group, you get associated with that as well. It turned out that she was the person to know about this, as she had worked for several years in Brussels as political adviser....! Her message was that transition should not try to lobby. It should just do its own thing, but when governments come asking for help – then give advice!! This resonated amazingly with May East’s talk earlier – she has been approached by UN to give a talk in Brazil, when she agreed and told them a little more, they asked can she do a lecture, she gave some more details and they asked her to do a day workshop...

Anyway I wished the Portuguese a good journey home and got on my way!

By Neil Chadborn

I arrived late! But managed to catch the group as they were heading to the first event of the day - the group journey workshop. We discussed in small groups what was working well within our local transition group dynamics, followed by what wasn’t working and what we visioned for the future of our groups.

Our small group had great discussions about cities, about moving around or settling down, relationship with our land, in Sao Paolo, Barcelona, Edinburgh (and Liverpool!).  There was also some time for reflection on the process, which in our busy lives and meetings we have too little time for.

Over lunch we chatted about Redhall Walled Garden - a community garden in Edinburgh that was on a mental health estate, which lots of different groups were involved. And getting a transition group started in Galway. As well as health and social inequalities.

In the afternoon Alan and I led a public health walk, talking about the history of public health and tropical health which were both ‘born’ in Liverpool. Community nursing, influenced by Florence Nightingale was also developed in Liverpool. That all three started in Liverpool reflect the explosive growth of the city and its dependence on global trade. Do these themes ring-true with transition?

So to-date, Liverpool’s population has almost halved, and now ‘lifestyle’ issues related to unemployment and social inequality are the key players. However this creates the space, both physically and ‘organisationally’ for food growing, and community involvement.

Afterwards there was singing evening class! Then dinner, and then open mike. The kids were on first with a puppet show they had developed with Moving Sounds, ending with party dancing. This was then followed by singing, poetry (rude) and Dixie-land jazz with the audience as instruments!

Written by Neil Chadborn

Neil blogging at the conference
Opening ceremony! Great feeling of anticipation and nervous tension, or was that just us at the front saying a few hurried words to a large audience... A welcome song from Guinea, learnt in two parts then sung in a big circle (which wasn’t too easy as we couldn’t move any of the chairs in the chapel). Then brief welcoming of people of different ages, nationalities etc. Finally mapping, with everyone standing in geographical relationship to the centre of the universe – Liverpool!!

It was great then to ‘get into it’ with the first workshop. I attended Health and Wellbeing where we had a group of approx 14. After brief intro’s we gave short descriptions of projects we’d been involved in. Then a good discussion time on lots of shared interests, from sustainable living, healthy herbs to eat, to challenges of future healthcare. Also; should wellbeing be a higher priority within Transition movement?

Sunny lunch, chatting to someone from Transition Heathrow about their greenhouse squat, and Met police raiding them on the day of the Royal wedding!

Onto the next workshop – I attended what was titled ‘diversity and faith groups’ but had been narrowed to just faith (not quite sure why). Very interesting discussions from people of different faiths in the room, as well as atheist/agnostics. Awareness of secular nature of transition, and certainly considering some comments made in chapel by speakers, religion is not particularly valued by some here. But I discovered many connections between faiths and transition – in particular that they are both value-based, with potentially similar values of ‘one-ness’ human and nature.

Onto the hot-topics session aka fishbowl. I attended social justice and we had some great speakers including two campaigners about the tar-sands; one Canadian first nations, the other a Sikh from Birmingham. Their message was about the injustice suffered by the residents of British Colombia, and the complicitness of the British corporate especially Royal Bank of Scotland (supposedly publicly owned). They were off to an EU meeting to lobby for laws to prevent this oil being imported! Discussion moved onto social justice and diversity as experienced locally by our groups (full details in another post).

Over dinner I chatted with Monica and Issa from Brazil. They were telling us about work in the slums, and building geodesic bamboo and ‘superadobe’ building for a classroom for the local school. Also about recycling crafts/enterprise going on within transition groups. 

Final session was a talk by Jay Griffiths, about kindness in wildness. She has been ‘walkabout’ for 6 years living with indigenous people in forests etc. She spoke very poetically saying that kindness is not weak and foolish, as is portrayed in the media, but rather it’s the hot strong passion of nurturing and kindling and living in harmony with your place in nature. That when people ‘settle down’ and start to lose contact with wildness, this may be the trigger for cruelty and causing humiliation. Lots of comments and questions followed. One memorable thought was the Greek myth of the god Chaos living between the village and the forest, and maybe Chaos should be god of transition!

by Neil Chadborn

So many to choose from!
Friday evening started with registering and trying to choose from an array of workshops for Saturday.

Dinner followed; meeting up with old friends, meeting new friends and generally diverse discussions. This started with Somerset County Council allegedly using the Transition label as greenwash PR, while the local borough councils are positive, and transition groups have held a series of training workshops with council staff. Also transition in cities.

Finally digital stories – personal stories of transition. After dinner there were games. Some people are instantly turned off ‘organised’ games - but many people enjoyed ice-breaking opportunities to find people who share your passions (and transition talk was off-limits!)

I then took my chance to escape before frivolities turned into charades/hokey-cokey/conga... (I think you had to be there...) Socialising continued in the bar, singing happy birthday to Ben Brangwyn – someone from Hull donated a cake...

Conversations included home insulation and the success of Transition Streets in Totnes, herbal medicine and community gardens, climate change concerts and cycling and sailing to Copenhagen. Enough for me and I pedalled off to get the train back over the water to Wirral.

By Neil Chadborn

I arrived in the rain at Hope University for the Northwest meet-up.  A bit late, everyone’s in a circle introducing themselves (approx 25 people). Michelle, the only person who would volunteer to organise such an event(!) suggested we have a few small group discussions (world cafe style). We started off talking about what was going well in our different groups. Lots of inspiring stories, including Lancaster who are setting up a community interest company to manage finance and employment, and Bolton who have just had a meeting, co-organised with the local college where 22 local organisations joined in. They made cards with words such as energy, food... and asked each group to take cards which were appropriate to their activities – then used these as conversation starters in small groups – a great way of engaging diverse groups and starting conversations. Another great example from Bolton was a kitchen in a high street shop. They had received lottery funding, and were located between veg shops – it regularly attracts a multi-cultural group – Somali, w. Indian, Pakistani.

We then moved into new groups to meet new people and discussed problems/challenges and other issues. Some groups had experienced difficulty communication with councils – eg one of us felt that their council were coming to realise that some of their economic plans aren’t going to work out. The economy isn’t going to recover the way it was. Also councillors had strong business interests; prioritising roads, supermarkets, football...

Other groups had positive reports about the council. Lancaster has several Green Party councillors and these are supportive of transition projects. At my local Transition Village Eastham and Bromborough two of our local councillors are regular attenders at meetings. Talking about meetings – this was another problem. Too many people are put off at the prospect of 2hr meetings, particularly when you consider the ratio of meeting time to activity ‘doing things’ time (sometimes more than 1:1).  It was suggested that activities could include talk, for example at a community orchard, talking could be done whilst working on the trees.

I was asking others how to really get our community projects out into ‘community’. We have received funding for a small healthy food growing project (from council and housing association). So we’re keen on getting going and getting people involved – and due to the funding we need to get this done and evaluated! This need to get things done and have visible outcomes came up a few times too. Several people suggested that slow and gradual was better than fast and burning-out. That maybe if nothing seems to be happening, it may still be smouldering under the surface. However this doesn’t usually fit with funding routes... but maybe we should also be challenging the status quo of funding structures...?

Final discussions were about links with other groups – virtual networks or real networks... There was no consensus on twitter, facebook, ning or googlegroups, so we ended up with the usual email list on a piece of paper... Although we did all say we’d try to get onto the North West Ning site.

We all agreed that we would like to continue the conversations, with future visits to exciting projects, and networks. We’d like to continue discussions around advice and guidance, and highlight stuff that’s working. There was a concern about burn-out and advice to be confident about asking for help.

Thanks to Michelle for organising and Dinah for tea and coffee, then we quickly dispersed to go and register for the conference!

by Neil Chadborn
We've been talking about getting a banner made for a little while now - who knew it could be so complicated. Fortunately for us, Anna Briggs offered to guide us through the process of making a fabric banner based on the beautiful logo Joanne Lee designed for us some time ago so we can have one ready for the upcoming Transition Conference.

So we met at Garston Park Church late Saturday morning, a little daunted at the prospect of turning our complex logo into a fabric version. Anna assured us though that IT WOULD WORK and so we set about cutting out shapes from the banner in fabric.
By the end of the day we had made all the shapes needed and Anna has very generously offered to put it all together for us in time for the conference this weekend.
We all can't wait to see how it will turn out. Thanks to Helen, Pete, Polly, Gabriel, John and Ed for coming along on Saturday. Thanks also to the Garston Park Church for hosting our work party. But most of all thanks to Anna for teaching us some new DIY skills. 
We'll be organising a meet up for Transition Initiatives in the North West to tie in with this year's Transition Conference in Liverpool. The plan is to host an afternoon meeting from 1pm until about 5-6pm on Friday the 8th of July in Liverpool, perhaps with time for us each to present about what we are up to, lots of time for discussion and afternoon tea. We'll then be able to join up with the opening Friday night session at the Liverpool Hope campus.

We don't have funding for this, so it might be a fairly lofi event, but would be great to have the chance to meet each other and trade experiences etc. So if you are working with a Transition Group in the North West and are interested in attending there is an eventbrite booking page where you can register for the afternoon.

Further details on the event will be available in the near future.

Any questions, comments, suggestions - please email them to theteam@transitionliverpool.org.
Claire, Alan, John, Jake and Mark went down to Nottingham for the Cities Conference which took place from 27-28 November 2008.

Claire and Alan have written reports, for those who were unable to attend. Click Read More to see reports

Claire and Alan attended the Transition Network conference from April 11-13 2008. We met lots of other cities in Transition and have arranged to meet in Nottingham in the summer to exchange ideas. More info when we know dates etc.
Following the conference, Alan and Claire made the following short reports.