Very small is very beautiful, Emergence comes back down to earth after the enormity of the Emergence Summit.
After the exhausting but exhilarating enormity of the Summit it became evident that a much smaller, follow up event was inevitable. The research and planning of the Summit, indeed any large-scale project takes a long time (in this case one year), on reflection it can be said that an equal amount of time was needed after the event to truly understand and assimilate what had happened. Perhaps only then could we learn from what we had done and build on it.
The immediate aftermath of the Summit included an array of tidy up activities: the extended ‘get-out.’ These included returning borrowed/hired equipment (from everywhere!), writing and responding to evaluations, attending to budgetary headaches, writing those important gratitude emails to everyone who made it possible and spending time remembering what exactly we did….
Working on the Summit had taken almost a year of research, fundraising and organisation. This in itself did not feel sustainable and if artists only focus on the big events then the everyday process of living, breathing and connecting goes unnoticed or undone. In order to make sense of what was happening, we sought conversations with fellow travellers. Some of these had attended the Summit and some hadn’t but they had all made some important life choice to live and make their work more sustainably.
We kept wanting to ask everyone we met the same question – ‘how do you live…knowing what you know, what decisions have you taken about how you live?’ We were haunted by questions….How might we be artists AND address the important issues of our time? Or do we have to give up our art in order to focus on what needs to be done at this critical time in our planet’s history? How can we find balance? How can we remain embodied, creative and expansive at a time where everything is speeding up and an air of desperation and overwhelm is often seen all around us?’
With all these questions and more in mind the maxim ‘Small is beautiful’ (EF Schumacher) came to the fore. What about taking this to its ultimate extreme – very small is very beautiful?!
We decided to invite a small group of people to spend a day in one another’s company in the most sustainable place – our home. We gathered a small group together in the hope of supporting one another in our attempt to face an unknown and uncertain future.
On the 18th December 2012 we held the Emergence micro-conference: ‘Bringing it Back Home’. The intention was to organise a day of sharing conversation, concerns, sustenance and activities in a domestic and intimate setting. The activities could be connected to ‘creating positive visions of a sustainable future’ or they could just be enjoyable, creative shared activities. Throughout the day there were opportunities to participate in, or to lead, small group sessions that took place in breakout spaces – the living room, kitchen, spare room and office of a small terraced house. The invitation went out to those who had attended the Summit locally and those who had worked on it from further afield. Trusting in Emergence – uncertain outcomes, interconnectivity, developing resilience, creating a learning supportive community- this is what we committed to and hoped to give our guest delegates.
Ten people accepted the invitation. The kitchen table became the podium, the group self-organised and the day emerged with people sharing where they were since the big gathering at the Centre for
Alternative Technology. This was followed by clay working, craniosacral sessions, a skype presentation from Gary Anderson of the Institute of the Art & Practice of Dissent at Home as ‘artist not-in-residence,’ a walk, feasting on home-made food and the making of christmas decorations.
‘It felt like planting a tree – or at least a seedling. We can all do that – continue the conversation. I believe they change lives.’ Fern Smith
“Workshops, discussions, screenings, performance- all in a terraced house. As E.F. Schumacher might have put it- ‘small is absolutely beautiful’”
“Emergence…from the macro to the micro – conferences in houses are the way to go in terms of creating human-scale sustainable events!”
Fern was born in London and now lives in Swansea, South Wales. After studying for a degree in Psychology and a Masters in Industrial Relations she formed Volcano Theatre Company with Paul Davies in the 1980’s.
Since then Fern has performed, directed and taught workshops for Volcano and as a freelancer nationally and internationally for 25 years. Fern is co-initiator and creative producer of Emergence.
fern [at] emergence-uk.org
Sarah is a playwright, activist and performer creating participatory performances and events in collaboration with communities, campaigns, scientists, specialists and arts organisations. Through a combination of fact, fiction and testimony, her work focuses around choice and change in the face of our current global challenges. Sarah works with stories big and small, throwing into relief bits of our lives it is often hard to comprehend.
Sarah is currently creating a multi-media performance for Ymlaen Ceredigion, working with the recently flooded community of Talybont in Ceredigion, looking to create behaviour change in everyday energy usage through linking them to the weather and climate change. She is working with Paul Kellam, leader of The Sanger Institute’s Virus team, on MY LIFE WITH FLU, a Woman’s Hour drama about the ‘flu (BBC Radio 4). She is writing Cardboard Citizens’ latest Hostels’ Tour, looking at the ongoing welfare reforms. Her show THE ROADLESS TRIP, a performance piece about systemic change and future narratives, is currently in production with Artsadmin.
Recent work includes: WATCH ME (BBC Radio 4), looking at the science of mirror neurons and the importance of empathy, is broadcast on Radio 4 at 2.15pm on August 12th. THE EMPATHY ROADSHOW, an artist’s commission for People United – also on the subject of empathy. In 2011, she delivered the outreach arm of the Co-operative Group’s FRACK FREE FUTURE campaign, staging events in communities affected by fracking, and creating a series of community films on the issues.
Sarah has written more than thirty plays, series, adaptations and drama-documentaries for BBC radio. Over the last year or two, her work includes a new adaptation of THE BORROWERS, THE STATE OF WATER – and original drama looking at our relationship to water, and two original drama-documentaries about climate change: GETTING TO ZERO and GETTING TO FOUR DEGREES featuring climate scientists and campaigners including George Monbiot and Kevin Anderson (Tindal Centre.)
Sarah has worked with Birmingham Opera on new versions of FIDELIO and ARIADNE AUF NAXOS.
Sarah ran the Mphil in Playwriting at Birmingham University from 2002 to 2006, and is now an external examiner for the course. Sarah is a skilled facilitator, for events and creative processes. She offers creative mentoring, both for groups and individuals. She currently teaches playwrighting and applied theatre at Manchester University.
Emergence Summit Artist Commission, The Roadless Trip, September 2012
Instigator, theatre maker and educator, Lucy Neal is interested in the art of social sculpture and how celebratory events act as a catalyst for change. Co-founding director of the LIFT Festival, recent projects, The Trashcatchers’ Carnival and the Tooting Transition Shop explore how artists nurture collective space to imagine a more ecological and life-sustaining society. Co-author of MMM’s Sustainable Ability, she is Happiness Associate on the Happy Museum Project and co-founder of Case For Optimism. Active in the Transition Town movement since 2008, she is currently writing Playing For Time, the Transition Book on the Arts. She was awarded an OBE in 2005 for services to drama.
Designer and facilitator, Emergence Summit 2012
Artist / Activist, Institute for Practice of Art and Dissent at Home
Gary Anderson was really fed up with cultural capitalism, so, in 2008, together with his partner and three children, from their council house base in Everton, Liverpool, he set up the Institute for the Art and Practice of Dissent at Home. He felt it was important to critically and creatively intervene in Liverpool’s European Capital of Culture on its still ongoing aftermath. Then, in 2010, he got fed up with the way higher education was going in the UK and set up the Free University of Liverpool with other activists, artists and educationalists.