The New Lanark Conference 2014
by Katrina Pinn & Katy Fusco
The topic chosen for this year’s conference was “communities of the future”. We went together as a group of Katy Fusco, Hugh Higgins, Bas Kornet, Emma Millar and myself for 3 days. We attended seminars, plenaries, workshops and some of us got the chance to meet old friends! We learnt about other communities, and were filled with information and thought-provoking ideas. We attended the eurythmy workshop and enjoyed the social evenings each night – and the food was really good too!
I believe the topic for the conference was chosen because many Camphills and other communities are going through quite rapid changes. The conference gave everyone an opportunity to explore bright ideas so at the end we could all go home feeling full of aspirations, and have a new burst of energy to make a difference, feeling more connected to the greater community as a whole.
On the first day there was a talk by a very interesting and enthusiastic lady named Dorota Owen. She had attended the New Lanark Conference 5 years ago, and when she arrived home she immediately began writing down ideas and making plans on how to bridge gaps between her dreams and making them into a reality. She has now created a very successful network for sustainable communities called ‘Global Ecovillage Network, also known as ‘GEN’, where the main dedication is to restoring the land, and all that comes with that. She and a team created a cooperative between communities, where they could also share ideas, develop educational and cultural exchanges, and encourage the evolution of sustainable settlements. After only a few years, GEN has connected thousands of sustainable settlements across the world!
Katy thoroughly enjoyed the conference; she particularly enjoyed the seminar we attended with two lovely lassies from Garvald Waterside. They had recently been part of opening up a new Garvald centre in Edinburgh, where Jeanette Cochrane runs the Kitchen as a workshop and Jasmin Sutherland is the workshop master of the puppetry studio. They held a very memorable plenary, and in the seminar Katy had the chance to share her life story and ask many questions. Afterwards, we made some felt bobbles and drew together with the group.
The five of us attended the eurythmy workshop, along with 20 others. This was led by Melissa Harwood, a very welcoming lady with a kind, warm voice. Here Katy felt that we managed to improve as a group each day. ‘We stood in a circle, and moved in and out to the middle and back again, while passing by each other,’ Katy told me. She said we had to trust the person behind us to not bump into us. We learnt to be aware of the spaces around us – ‘this was all an experience of eurythmy for me,’ Katy said. On the last day we performed as a group and Katy enjoyed this a lot!
We also went to a ceilidh on one of the evenings, where the Columcille Ceilidh band, based in Morningside Edinburgh, played and called the dances. This was very special for Katy as she really had the chance to catch up with some old friends – one from Norway, many from Garvald, some from Delrow, and I am sure many more places. One gentleman read her name badge and was very surprised and pleased to see her as he’d known her when she was only 5 years old, from the training centre in Edinburgh. Jack Reid had memories of her tap dancing! For me it was very nice to meet a lot of people who had been in Katy, Hugh and Emma’s lives before they arrived in Newton Dee. I learnt a lot about them and had the chance to see a little bit into their life-histories.
There was a talk with the title “How communities can unlock our deepest potential” by Tom Ravetz, who is the national coordinator of the Christian Community Church in Britain and has taught and written on theology, spirituality and self-development. I found him extremely fascinating to listen to; the wealth of knowledge he had inside his head was incredible. I should have taken a pen and paper to write down all the wisdom he shared. One of his points, which moved me deeply, was regarding empathy and what that really means. He suggested we practice every day to really try and think about what it feels like to be somebody else. Not just to think about your own experiences but to truly try to imagine what it feels like to be that person. Then you can understand empathy, and become better within yourself.
Overall, the attendees and speakers at the conference were attempting to figure out how we can keep the virtues of community life, whilst living in this ever-changing world of new technology, new laws and policies and procedures; and who it is that can hold onto these traditions as well as passing them on to the next generation. These things are important for communities and always will be. There were many differing opinions, but the general feeling towards change was that it is OK to move forward and change slightly, which helps us to grow and feel new. It’s like running water – if the water stays still it becomes stale, discoloured and unpleasant. But flowing water has purpose – it sounds interesting and smells rich; it picks up sticks and stones along the way; and it has an ever-changing form. It has life and direction.