we’ve gone live! “This is a moment in an invisible revolution”

Our Winter editorial, written and narrated by Charlotte Du Cann. Video produced by Mike Grenville.

For A-Z guide of our latest issue see previous post.

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New edition has landed!

TFP_Issue4_Winter2013_FrontPage_webOur winter edition is now out and about in Transition Initiatives, businesses and social enterprises all round the UK. We think it’s a cracker and hope you do too.

If you can’t get your hands on a real-life copy of the sparkling new no 4 edition in your neighbourhood, check out our on-line version published today, Sunday 1st December.


Meanwhile here is one of our London distributors, Paul Gasson from Transition Walthamstow with a great review on their news blog:

Transition Free Press Winter edition by Paul Gasson

The Winter issue of the Transition Free Press was delivered to Walthamstow today, and is now available at the Hornbeam Cafe for just £1; you can also buy it at this Sunday’s Green Drinks (at the Rose & Crown from 8.30pm on Sunday 1st December).

TFP Winter 2013 coverIts an impressive read.. 24 pages packed with a wide range of stories. The front page kicks off with a feature on the growing number of large protest groups over issues such as fracking, climate change, social inequality, corporate tax avoidance, and the banks’ control over money supply. It goes on to explore how many of these are becoming or generating grassroots movements focussed on offering solutions which, instead of material goals, are oriented around common values.

Other articles include

  • a dramatic report on recent extreme weather in Colorado (“I experienced the flood as a visceral demonstration of the dangers of climate change”) and misinformation widely propogated in the US by some media outlets,
  • ethical banking options in the wake of the Co-op’s misfortunes (including put as much as you can into your local credit union*),
  • an evaluation inspired by the Reconomy Project of the potential to ‘relocalise’ Lambeth’s economy … switching just 10% of the borough’s supermarket food spend to local retailers would release £37m (and “money spent in independent local businesses can create 2-4 more times as much real value as money spent in chains”), and retrofitting housing stock with solid wall insulation could payback in 15 years and generate £100m of local employment,
  • the lead set by Germany on renewable energy generation which is resulting in a drop in energy prices, compared to the UK where “the government’s making it harder to invest in  wind & solar… and we’re going to pay Chinese investors double the current price of electricity for new nuclear power”,
  • Transition co-founder Rob Hopkins’ rousing summary of ground breaking community led projects during a tour of the US (which is responsible for 25% of global emissions), and
  • how modern finance which aims to extract the highest short term yield using the minimum expenditure is the antithesis of permaculture principles used for sustainable designs which deliver ecological balance (“payday loan companies exploit vulnerable borrowers, thus exhausting the local community and increasing its deprivation”).

knitting 2And there’s so much more – foraging, fermenting, alternatives to fuelling the global textile industry, UK cultivation of the ancient Andean superfood Quinoa, a new technique to identify heat loss from homes, Grow Heathrow, farmers markets, the potential for comedy and music to help deliver social change, and how transition offers the opportunity to reconfigure our sense of self (“the modern act of consumption has become inextricably tied to identity”).

At £1, what incredible value for articles which educate, get you thinking about alternatives, and raise your spirits over the ingenuity of local communities to deliver incredible results.

*For local people that’s the Waltham Forest Community Credit Union : http://www.wfccu.org/

Images: front page; coffee and paper to go at Hornbeam Cafe, Walthamstow; knitting at Transition Kensal to Kilburn sewing and reskilling event by Jonathan Goldberg

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It’s November, the winter issue is on its way and how we go about rewilding Transition

sailorsWe’re now full swing into production for our fourth and final issue for the pilot year. It’s heads down for the crew as the final proofing, checking and picture research is completed next week.  We are also working to raise funds to continue our work into 2014. A recent poll conducted by our distribution manager, Mark Watson, is telling Transition Free Press to keep the presses rolling and broadcasting the grassroots stories mainstream media doesn’t reach. So we’re aiming to do just that!

Talking of media, here is our ‘People’ piece from the autumn edition in case you missed it. Each issue we interview someone we feel is a key contributor to Transition culture and has influenced the way we think about the world. We have so far interviewed Shaun Chamberlin about TEQs, Mark Boyle about the gift culture, Anne-Marie Culhane about the art of Abundance and other food growing projects. Here is our autumn interview with George Monbiot, a columnist many of us follow and value for his outspoken views on ecological and social issues (though we may not always agree with some of the solutions!) I interviewed the journalist and activist about his recently published book, Feral, and how he thought Transition initiatives could help rewild their neighbourhoods.

portrait of georgeGeorge Monbiot: Rewilding Transition

A reconnection with nature invisibly frames everything we do in Transition – our endeavours to reconfigure our lives within planetary limit. Though the industrialised world’s obsession with money and power takes up most of our attention, it is becoming increasingly clear that without the wild places, we not only start to lose our life support systems, we start to lose what it means to be human.

This year the writer, activist and Guardian columnist, George Monbiot published a book which brings that meaning and that reconnection brilliantly into view. Feral looks at our relationship with the land and the sea in terms of ‘rewilding’. Told through his own intense encounters with the natural world, as well as looking at schemes that have transformed eco-systems – either by the introduction of locally extinct animals such as wolves and lynx, or letting forests regenerate – the book opens up new territories in the imagination by envisioning a different future and a very different earth.

But how does rewilding fit within Transition,  which is experienced as an essentially civic movement. How can people become engaged in rewilding initiatives on a grassroots community level?

“The vision of rewilding I have is one that involves local people as much as possible. Where communities find themselves surrounded by land which is appropriate for rewilding, such as the less fertile land of the uplands and in lowland river corridors, Transition could have a very active role to play. The model I would point to is the Trees for Life scheme in Scotland, who have persuaded a number of public landowners, such as the Forestry Commission and the National Trust, and some private landowners to start rewilding some of their land, and though public subscriptions have bought a 10,000 acre estate of their own. With the help of volunteers they have planted over a million trees. It’s attractive because it is engaging and there is a strong sense that the scheme belongs to a lot of people, rather than just one.

Even though our wellbeing is linked to the natural territory we are surrounded by, this connection  often hard to talk about. How can we encourage that dialogue and gain a sense of agency?

“This reflects our long history of enclosure and alienation from the land. If a small percentage own the land it is hard for people to feel they have a legitimate role in determining how that land should be used. There is a problem that goes way beyond the issue of rewilding and that is that severing of the link between people and land, which was done earlier and more comprehensively in Britain than anywhere else. As a result we have a population which has very little sense that it belongs to the land, or the land belongs to us.

“One of my aims with rewilding is that it once more gives people a stake in the land. In some cases that will mean communities buying land and this would be easier if the farm subsidy scheme changes, so land is less expensive. I would like to see far more community involvement in land use decision making and it’s amazing to me that the land around you can be completely transformed by a farmer with heavy machinery in almost no time at and that community  has no say in that transformation. Farmers have no incentive to involve the public. As tax payers, we pay £6bn in farm subsidies every year and yet we have no say. That is a profound injustice.”

There is a strong debate within the book about present conservation and agricultural policies. What do you feel emboldens communities to have that conversation with farmers?

“This raises a still bigger question: what emboldens communities. It’s very easy to see yourself as having no agency and no power and no engagement. And it’s that disempowered attitude. which allows powerful interests to ride roughshod over us. What might encourage a community to take a far more active role in land use decision making has to be the same motive force that encourages people to demand a far more responsive democracy, or a far better distribution of wealth.

“We have allowed ourselves to be shut out of these questions, by allowing our voice and our role to be seen as illegitimate. And I think the key task is to regain the confidence to say yes I do have a right to speak about this, for my view be taken into account. People can be very deeply affected about what is happening in their immediate surroundings but if they don’t have a say in it, then they are frustrated and depressed and disempowered. We need to regain the confidence to say we are free citizens of this country. We don’t have to put up with impositions over which we have no say yet which have an major impact on our lives. I see the Transition movement as one of the potential forums for reempowering people and reminding people they are only excluded from these discussions because they have been excluded deliberately. And that by accepting that exclusion we collaborate in it.”

The book introduces a depth and breadth in the ways we can look at the land around us in terms of layers of time. As a result the book looks dynamically forward, rather than nostalgically backwards. What is the role of the writer in this process of reimagining the future?

“One of the reasons I began writing this book was that I couldn’t bear it anymore. I couldn’t bear engaging in these knotty, data-driven policy debates where it was all about parts per million, millisieverts or this technology versus that technology. The reason I am involved in these questions is that I love nature. It’s as simple as that, and yet it has become so fantastically complicated to pursue that love of nature and I have been led into places which seem very far away from my initial impulse. I’m not saying we shouldn’t engage in those debates. However there is a limit to how much of yourself you can give to them. Especially if, like me, you are motivated by passion and delight and joy and there is precious little of those to be found in a COP meeting or a G8 declaration. On the whole we have given too much of our lives to those intricate and ultimately unyielding politics. And not enough of our lives to the joy and the wonder that motivate us to engage in those politics.

“And I think as a writer my role should be to open up people’s imagination, to inspire people to throw themselves in body and soul, and not just mind, into the question of how to reengage with and defend the natural world. Over the years I have discovered that an ounce of hope is worth a ton of despair in motivating people and that there is a lot of hope out there if we are prepared to grasp it. Not just for a less bad world than there would otherwise have been, which is generally the promise of environmentalism, but the hope of a much better world than we have today, which is the promise of rewilding.

“I do think that paleoecology opens the doors of perception; to me it feels like a portal to an enchanted kingdom. By understanding our past eco-systems we can begin to understand what our own ecosystems mean, and what they represent – which is generally an incredibly impoverished and degraded version of what was before. A system lacking in its large animals and indeed in its trees is a qualitively different system to one that retains them. But also through understanding the past we can begin to grope towards a vision of a richer and more enchanting future.

feral book cover“We had an astonishing rich marine and terrestrial ecology, and we can get it back. And that possibility can add so much wonder and enchantment to the lives of people who are finding hyper-civilised Britain to be boring and stale and predictable and grey. One of my aims in Feral was to open up our vision to what nature can be and to encourage people to ask, not only just what is here, but what could be here.”

Charlotte Du Cann is Editor-in-Chief of Transition Free Press and author of 52 Flowers That Shook My World – A Radical Return to Earth (Two Ravens Press).

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OCTOBER UPDATE: last pilot edition now underway!

z21 year, 87 distributors, 104 contributors (most of them Transitioners). We have been doing a long count of all the extraordinary people and connections we have made since this pilot began. As the TFP crew head into the production of our winter edition (out Dec 1), we’re counting our good fortune and celebrating the network of initiatives and enterprises, activists and reporters that the paper has created across the UK and beyond.

Our main pic here is of our Distribution Manager, Mark, raising his medicine teapot at the recent Tooting Foodival. Just one example of the rich weave of relationships between Transition initiatives we have inspired.

Will we continue into 2014? is the big question on our agenda. We dearly hope so. We’re looking for funding to pay our core team until the paper become self-sustaining (thanks to our loyal distributors and readers the paper pays for itself). Our new fundraiser, Wendy, is now hard at work helping to secure our financial future but if you know of any good sources of revenue, do get in touch.

Talking of the team, we have a great job offer for anyone who wants to help steer our production. Do you have what it takes to be a Managing Editor? If so do have a look at our full job description here. The abilities we are looking for in someone are to:

  • Lead on production of TFP by liaising with the editorial team, designers, distribution manager and printers;
  • Co-ordinate all elements of the TFP business model: working with fundraiser, subscriptions, ad sales, distribution, accounts etc;
  • Create a digital strategy for TFP, with support from TFP Collective members;
  • Oversee the internationalisation of TFP (English language international version as well as other language editions); and
  • Represent TFP at external events and in partnerships (along with other members of the TFP Collective).

Grow-Heathrows-free-workshops-722x1024Each edition is the work of many people and these invisible relationships lie at the core of great journalism and mature Transition work. Grassroots media acts as a powerful incentive to act and connect in a world where the dominant broadcast encourages business-as-usual, escapism, isolationism and powerlessness. If you want to see and hear about a very different kind of future, if you want to know there are people, like yourself, working hard in city neighbourhoods, towns and bio-regions throughout the land to secure it, just have a look at our latest Autumn issue:


And if anyone wants The Last Bundle in the Depot, we have one of 125 copies left at cut-price. Do get in touch with Mark if you are interested mark@transitionfreepress.org.uk

Have a very happy Autumn! Charlotte Du Cann, Editor-in-Chief

PS Do check out our Blueprint for a Paper series running during October based on key pieces in our current issue:

1 WELCOME: a paper about a seachange

2 NEWS: seedy business

3 ARTS: clay skills travel through time

Images: Mark Watson at the Tooting Foodival; poster for Grow Heathrow

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ARTS: clay skills travel through time

ImageProxy.mvcThird in our Blueprint for a Paper series is from our regular arts page. This is one of the ‘back of the book’ features pages, edited by Charlotte Du Cann, that include stories about community, media, education, practical projects, food, the living earth, interviews, reviews and wellbeing. Most of our arts stories focus on community-based projects and will form part of the book about transitional arts practice, Playing for Time by TFP contributor, Lucy Neal. Here Julia Rowntree, one of the book’s artists, writes about her most recent project, Clay Cargo.

Josiah Wedgwood, ceramic industrialist, was one of the first visionary investors in the canal system, seeing water as a safer way to distribute delicate wares from his works in Stoke-on-Trent.  Clay Cargo is renewing connections between clay and the waterways today by travelling with a consignment of clay containers, or ‘saggars’, on a series of boats from London to Stoke via Birmingham, to create an installation in the Spode Factory as part of the British Ceramics Biennial.

Once used to protect fine china during firing, the saggars will carry delicate works made by many hands along the way in London, Birmingham and Stoke. Local clays will be added to the cargo.

Clay Cargo is one of arts organisation Clayground Collective’s initiatives to pass ‘making skills’ to a younger generation through celebration of clay, the material itself, its role in cultural traditions the world over and at technology’s leading edge. By researching and digging clay in each locality, participants discover local resources, learn new skills and find creative possibilities literally beneath their feet.

Clayground specialises in creation of participatory works.  Co-Director, Duncan Hooson, says: “Facilitating participatory projects is a highly rewarding way to share practical and personal skills; often problem-solving on the spot and feeling enormous enthusiasm from those who go on the creative journey with us. In isolation individual practitioners can become too self-obsessed without feeling the need to engage, explain or share.

“At the ‘coal face’ of participation in clay, in what might appear a non-dramatic discipline, the creative buzz and sense of achievement can be thrilling and highly rewarding. The participation with others brings a host of creative ideas and responses to any project that would otherwise remain hidden and undiscovered.  Relaying tacit knowledge, seeing others enthused, and knowing that together you have helped each other discover and create something is truly exciting.”

image002For Clay Cargo Duncan Hooson will throw 100 saggars made in three consignments between August and October. Each one weighs 12.5kg with clay donated by Potclays, Stoke.

With a commission from the British Ceramics Biennial, Clayground is working with a host of partners to realise the project that include the Canal & River Trust, Central St Martin’s, Arts Council England, Ikon Gallery’s Slow Boat (Birmingham) and community organisations in each city.

Support from individuals and groups has been integrated into the design and collective ethos of Clay Cargo. Those wishing to help get young people stuck into clay and making skills are being invited to donate between £10 and £100 to have their initials or full names inscribed on a saggar. Like old tea chests marked with cargo provenance, destination and ownership, the saggars with inscriptions and contents from three cities will form the exhibition in Stoke.

Clay Cargo aims to encourage clay and hand-making skills, to renew creative connections to local resources underfoot, and to delve into new uses for channels of supply and distribution from an industrial age. Make your way to Stoke to see the exhibition in the Spode Factory and join a range of activities in Burslem during the weekend 12/13 October.

OCTOBER 12 & 13, STOKE-ON-TRENT, Pits and Pots family workshop and sculpture. 11.00-4.00 pm.  Free, no booking required. Part of the Burslem Weekender, two days of clay making and outdoor kiln firing at Middleport Pottery, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent.  Click here to find out more. Boat appearance courtesy of Etruria Boat Group and the Friends of Etruria Trust.


Julia Rowntree and ceramic artist Duncan Hooson co-founded Clayground Collective Limited in 2007, awarded a national Craft Skills Award, 2013. Julia was Development Director of the London International Festival of Theatre and author of Changing the Performance: a companion guide to arts, business and civic engagement (Routledge 2006). She is also a potter and vegetable grower. 

Images: Placers stacking saggars in a kiln; Clay Cargo in Birmingham   Image courtesy of The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent.

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NEWS: Seedy Business

seeds-tumbling1Second in our series showing the blueprint for Transition Free Press. The front section of the paper is dedicated to news stories and is edited by Alexis Rowell.  As we are a quarterly this poses a challenge – to present articles that are happening at the time of publication and will still be relevant at the end of our three-month distribution period. One of  the page 3 articles in this issue is about a change in the EU seed laws which was debated this year and still hangs in the balance.* This is set within the frame of a global struggle to protect native and heritage seed diversity from increasingly predatory ‘Big Ag’ corporations, and grassroots movements, such as Transition, which stand by indigenous farmers and growers and the plants they tend.  Mark Watson gathers the facts:

The European Parliament is set to vote on changes in plant laws which could threaten future availability of heritage and rare seed varieties for individual and community growers.

The original draft required all vegetable, fruit and tree seeds to be officially registered, making saving and swapping unlisted seed illegal — bad news for seed diversity. However, due to Europe-wide lobbying, some eleventh hour concessions have exempted small-scale growers, seed banks and networks. The amended law was passed by the European Commission in May and is expected to go to the European Parliament later this year.

“Driving this law are the demands of the global, industrial, agricultural seed industry,” says Ben Gabel of the Real Seed Catalogue, which specialises in heritage vegetable seeds for small growers. “Once again, small-scale, sustainable, home and market gardening has been lumped together conceptually with the seed supply for industrial agriculture. The two have completely different needs. A Community Supported Agriculture scheme might buy a 10 gram packet of seeds. A big farmer buys a tonne.”

Garden Organic, whose Heritage Seed Library saves and distributes heirloom seeds, warns that the concessions may be only short-term good news. They point out that other parts of the law are quite restrictive, including clauses that mean the key concessions agreed could be removed in the future without coming back to the Parliament for a vote.

According to permaculture teacher, Patrick Whitefield: “The likely outcome is that it will become increasingly difficult to get hold of any seeds other than a small number of recent varieties bred for large-scale production.” Just three companies control over 50% of the global commercial seed market. “The laws are being set up to consolidate an industrial agriculture  which is supposed to last indefinitely and which provides uniform varieties of seeds large farmers can rely on to produce  consistent crops,” says Gabel.

No provision exists for open-pollinated, heritage varieties handed down over generations by millions of small farmers and growers worldwide. And nowhere is a decline in fossil fuels or an energy-leaner future accounted for: the kind of future which Transition addresses.

Local, small-scale food-growing is embedded in the Transition ethos, and the movement has many active permaculturists. At Seedy Saturdays and Give and Grow days, seeds are freely swapped and grown in community gardens, on allotments or at home.  Produce is shared or used in community meals such as Sustainable Bungay’s monthly Happy Mondays. Transition Chesterfield’s annual January potato day boasts over 40 different potato varieties.

Transition San Francisco created a seed library with the city’s Permaculture Guild. Residents borrow, plant and harvest vegetable seeds, returning each year’s healthiest ones to the library. They aim, says Ania Moniuszko, “to include a wide selection of seeds best suited to each micro-climate, having grown to full fruition, responding to the local soil, climate,  and plant and animal life.”

Act-for-Seed-Food-Freedom-initial-call-website-1024x742Our lives depend on seeds. Maintaining healthy gene banks is an urgent imperative involving everyone, everywhere. We need to swap and save. And keep an eye on those laws.

*UPDATE 30th September 2013 NEGOTIATIONS BEGIN (from Arche Noah’s website):

The European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee have begun negotiations on EU-seed regulation. The Austrian MEP spoke in favor of freedom of choice for consumers and for the preservation of [seed] diversity. MEPs have until 4 December to introduce amendments to improve the regulation (called the Plant Reproductive Material Law). The vote on the Regulation will take place in the European Parliament in April 2014. (Translated from German original by Mark Watson)

10th January 2014 URGENT: Many of the concessions mentioned in this article have been watered down or restricted. PLEASE READ this UPDATE in The REAL SEED CATALOGUE and write to the MEPs concerned (details in article).

Mark Watson is Chair of Sustainable Bungay and TFP’s distribution manager. He blogs and tweets as markinflowers.

Seed Freedom Fortnight runs from 2-16 October. See here for more details of how to take part.

Images of seed collection from markinflowers

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a paper about a seachange

65107_504395232934522_1118622279_nDuring the next few weeks we’ll be publishing some of the stories and photographs from our latest issue. This is the third in our four-part 2013 pilot and each of these editions has followed a blueprint, set down in our preview issue (published June 2012). Here is our Autumn welcome: a short introduction about oceans, collaboration and closing the gap between the story we tell ourselves and the ones that are really happening.

Most newspapers tell us that economic progress is the only story we should live by. However it’s a story whose consequences have been edited out, and increasingly we find ourselves caught in the gap between the story on the page and the reality on which it is based.

Transition Free Press is a paper that aims to ‘join the dots’ and bridge that gap. We do this because, in common with other grassroots documentary makers, writers and activists, we realise a different way of interacting with the planet is urgently required.  A sea change within and without ourselves.

Our main story is about co-operation. The story of progress claims life is naturally competitive, which justifies many of its cruelties and hostilities. In spite of many studies that say such ideas are neither correct, nor healthy (even Darwin observed that co-operation and diversity is one of the principles of ecological resilience), the ‘red in tooth and claw’ rule prevails.

What we aim to show in our pages is that another culture is underfoot, a humbler and kinder narrative that honours all peoples and creatures, shapes and colours of this earth, and has more in common with a coral reef than it does a coal mine or a shopping precinct.

This issue is framed around carbon reduction because it’s our access to power that enables the story of progress to continue, the myth of unlimited energy on a planet whose limits are the measure of all earthly forms. The ecological and social dilemmas of this century challenge us to measure up as real human beings. Will we learn to co-operate and work together, agree to lessen our use of resources and manage our commons wisely?

Sometimes you have to let go to experience what a humbler world can feel like, to find what you had in your hands all the time but had forgotten. You have to walk out into the neighbourhood to collect cherries, rather than buy them wrapped in cellophane. You realise then you are not there just for yourself. You are going to give some of those foraged cherries to the ‘strangers’ next door and your local Abundance table. You’re going to ‘reskill’ your initiative and teach folk to bottle some of those cherries for a winter’s day.

8520916842_4ec62a6aae_bThere’s a whole new relationship happening that makes sense of you, the people you live among, the trees, the seasons, and mostly the wild earth that is our shared meeting place – a planet that thrives on co-operation, collaboration and communication between all of its inhabitants. Every time you make a link, you mend a thread that was broken, the gap between a fairy tale we once believed in, and the truth of the matter. This is what the new real world feels like. It sounds like the ocean. It feels like coming home. Welcome back.

Charlotte Du Cann, Editor-in-Chief

Global commons from The Commons Atlas (Common Spark); Pacific Warrior Day of Action (350.org)

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