Honest Conversations and Practical Insights: Losing Control at the Stir to Action Festival

In this blog, Michael “Mikee” Whitson, Losing Control advisory council member, shares his thoughts after attending the Stir to Action Festival – a playground for the new economy, July 16 – 18 in Frome.

To share learning across the Losing Control network, this blog features Mikee’s reflections and outlines some key themes and speakers from the festival.


As I arrived in Frome on a sunny Tuesday afternoon with lots of thoughts running through my mind such as, “There’s no place like Frome”,”Frome sweet Frome”, or ” Wherever I lay my hat that’s my Frome”. Imagine my disappointment when I was told that it is pronounced “Frume”, ruining my opening line in the upcoming networking opportunities.

                      

I quickly recovered my enthusiasm as I put up my wigwam under the trees and began to soak up the festival vibe. Suddenly I began to think, is this a festival? Where was the dance tent? And the ethically sourced nik naks? Then I look at the line up, there was no Stormzy or no Kylie, just a bunch of inspiring speakers trying to change the world. Then it clicked: this wasn’t a festival, it was a conference. I quickly changed my tie die shirt for a clip-on tie and headed in.

Then confusion kicked in again there were all around the place games, guitars, bars, people walking barefoot, so maybe this was a “Conferestival”, a new concept putting the play back into politics. As I finally got into the swing of things I realised this wasn’t just about a new economy it was about a new lifestyle. For example, the festival kitchen Feedback (www.feedbackglobal.org) served food once destined to be waste and instead created some creative and delicious dishes while sharing their vision of a circular food system.

The honest conversations taking place around the yurt after Yvonne’s talk led me to see the similarities with Losing Control as this is surely the only way to move forward.

The advantages the compost toilets had over their nightmarish portable alternatives was obvious and now it was time not for “business as usual” but to see what alternatives were being proposed. First up was Yvonne Field from The Ubele Intiative (www.ubele.org)  talking about innovation in the BME communities, some really powerful stories were told and meeting Junior, one of the local growers with the Black Rootz group who are growing African food in the city. Showing how locally produced food doesn’t have to mean carrots and potatoes every day.

The honest conversations taking place around the yurt after Yvonne’s talk led me to see the similarities with Losing Control as this is surely the only way to move forward.

The climate crisis is obviously one of the major driving forces pushing the development of the new economy and as such many of the speakers addressed this with Julian Thompson from Extinction Rebellion (https://rebellion.earth/) and Paul Chatterton from Leeds University (https://twitter.com/paulchatterton9?lang=en) stressing the need for urgent and direct action. Andrew Simms from The Green New Deal Group (https://greennewdealgroup.org/) combined politics and green issues with a fascinating talk on the history challenges and practicalities of the “Green New Deal”.

One of the core aims of the Losing Control network is to provide practical insights and I feel this was also an important element of Stir to Action

My favourite talk was given by Rob Hopkins (https://www.robhopkins.net/) about the importance of storytelling through a series of what if questions which made us all dream and desire to form a ministry of imagination like exists in Mexico. There were also sessions focussed on politics and system change including  interacting with councilors both local and national keen to work in collaboration with all sectors to develop practical and progressive solutions.

One of the core principles of the Losing Control network is to provide practical insights and I feel this was also an important element of Stir to Action on a personal level. I found the inspiring talk from Nate and Jon  key members of the Enspiral (https://enspiral.com/) and Loomio platforms (https://www.loomio.org/) really useful in looking how to co budget and find consensus in networks.

Aside from the talks the chats with fellow campers Fergus from Power to Change, Joe from Lankelly Chase, Abby and Jonny from Stir to Action, Jon from TeX and Losing Control friends Deana and Ian from The Hero Project (www.theheroproject.org.uk) who won the festival soup prize for their great ideas.

A lot of the people were already involved in overlapping networks like Losing Control and Ctrl Shift and a sense of hope brought about by the combining ideas around a campfire.

So back to the group playing cello, back to the DJ in the woods, the VR, the Viking chess and a sense of a desire to work collaboratively which permeated the event. A lot of the people were already involved in overlapping networks like Losing Control and CTRLshift (https://www.ctrlshiftsummit.org.uk/) and a sense of hope brought about by the combining ideas around a campfire. Overall the event was a great success and I’d say “There is not much Frume for improvement”

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