With accelerating growth and it’s ideas spreading so fast, it’s easy to forget that the Transition Movement is only a bit over three years old. The third annual Transition conference held for the first time in London had around twice as many participants as last year over three days at the Battersea Arts Centre.
Described as feasting in the Transition sweet shop, a long dip in a frothy Transition jaccuzi, a Transition conference is not like others with lots of Powerpointed expert speakers.
Instead of keynote speakers, keynote listeners were around in the shape of Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Milliband and local MP Sadiq Khan, Minister for Communities and Local Government (pictured).
Through his involvement in his local Transition group, Khan said he was impressed at how the Transition approach is different in Tooting to Bristol and other places. “As each area has its own identity so how you discuss sustainability will be different” he said. “Transition is about grassroots stuff as politicians come and go but communities are here to stay. By making them active and asking politicians questions it holds them to account” said Khan.
Rob Hopkins explained to Milliband how Open Space worked and he picked a few to sit in on from the dozens on offer including one about how to communicate the idea of ‘less’. Interviewed afterwards he said that “the transition from high carbon growth to low carbon growth is a pretty big ask in my view.” However while agreeing that we can no longer go for unlimited growth he added that it was “up to government to make the right decisions so you can transition quickly to a different form of economic growth.”
The first afternoon opened with a mapping session where delegates arranged themselves around the hall in response to various questions such as their age, size of their community and how advanced they felt their initiative was.
A highlight of the conference was the premiere of The Transition Movie 1.0. Although the film received a standing ovation, producer Emma Goude (pictured) said that it was not the definitive film. “This was just the first version and there are many, many more films to be made” she said, “which is why we called it 1.0”. The film was put together from material shot by the team and with material from Transition Initiatives around the world who were invited to film their own initiative and send it in. There is a some work still to do on it and sort out distribution in time for release in the Autumn.
The main part of the conference revolved around three pre-planned workshop sessions and three Open Space periods where delegates initiated conversations on topics that interested them. With each session offering 35 conversations, choosing which ones to go to was perhaps the hardest part of the conference.
Workshops covered topics such as Working with your Local Authority, Crowd funding, Local Currencies and Can Britain Feed Itself?, while the Open Space topics included Home Composting and How to have doings not meetings.
One thing clear to everyone at the conference is that the awareness of the need to work together is growing fast around the country and indeed the world. Along with the awareness it was very encouraging to see that in spite of the broad range of issues that need to be tackled there is an enormous appetite to face them and explore ways to address them.
Summing it up Rob Hopkins said that it was “An amazing 3 days in an amazing venue. The depth and breadth of the workshops was quite something, and the quality of the discussion in the Open Space sessions was quite something to see. It feels like a huge vindication of our strategy of not doing a conference in the traditional way, that the people who come shape it and own it, and that the collective experience of trying this model out can be processed, discussed and reshaped.”
To close the event everyone joined in with a rewrite of Janis Joplin’s song composed that morning which began “Oh lord won’t you buy me a composting loo… ” which you can listen to here.
Having moved to the city for this year’s conference, next year’s may well be a residential, camping, more outdoors and more hands-on type affair.
There is a short film about the conference made by Positive TV filmed on the first day including Ed Milliband, lots of people Open Spacing, and Rob arriving late.
Writeups of most of the workshop sessions (with huge thanks to all the scribes) are available here: http://www.sendspace.com/folder/2bcn5z
and also photos of the notes taken during the Open Space sessions: http://www.sendspace.com/folder/tkxsad