The Sumac center and Peoples Kitchen

When asking ‘what should we visit in Nottingham?’ many people mentioned the Sumac center.

The center is a member of the Radical Routes cooperative network and has become an increasingly important part of the community. The events, activities and facilities provide the space for people to make positive changes. The popular Peoples Kitchen night was happening when we arrived. Volunteers cook up a feast and people can come and eat a delicious two course meal for just £3.50! The money raised is then donated to a good cause. This feast was in aid of the free English lessons that are offered to women at the Sumac Center.

We got chatting to a fantastic couple over dinner and the hours flew by, I can’t think of a better way to enhance your community and have a wonderful night. Thank you so much to all the volunteers who gave their time to the benefit of all.

 

Radical Routes

Freeing ourselves to find a better future can have many different strands but access to housing and ethical work is a key component. Radical Routes is a network of primarily housing co-operatives all over the country that allow people to collectively own a home and live co-operatively. I visited a housing co-op in Nottingham to see how they lived.

Radical Routes is about people taking control of their own housing, work, education and leisure activities. People set up co-ops to manage these activities themselves, removing the need for managers, owners, bosses or landlords.

10 people live in Ned’s housing co-op so I was expecting some horror scenes of student style living. I as very pleasantly surprised to discover a clean home with bulk ordered food, shared meals and creative spaces. Communal living is always a function of the people living together but it was lovely to see a house where like-minded people are able to live cooperatively. Seven principles of a co-operative were hanging from a tea towel in the kitchen, bikes were in the workshop and ethical books were covering the shelves.

Radical Roots also runs an ethical investment scheme called Rootstock which lends to co-operatives on the basis of mutual support. It’s exciting to see the growing number of co-operatives where people are coming together to take power over their living, and the way that Radical Routes is helping to support that movement. There are so many ways that we can work together to live more in harmony with our ethics. Let’s celebrate taking the radical route of co-operation.

 

 

Independant midwives

You’re only born once. It is a life changing significant time for any family and power and control of that time has social consequences. We have made huge advances in reducing the mortality rate of mothers, but with the industrialisation of birth, the humanity and social significance is increasingly sidelined. It has become common language to describe the doctor as delivering a baby rather than the mother.

Independant midwives are currently illegal. They have been made so because the law ruled that you could not be a midwife without insurance, yet no insurer underwrites them. Meeting Annette from the East of England Midwives was an eye opening experience. The range of knowledge and wisdom that can be explored during your pregnancy and how other people can help you. It is a time when you appraise your life, and your future life. How do I want to live? How do I want to bring up my child? There is huge power in these questions. Many women discover a new motivation for self care when they know they are to create another life. Annette is passionate about helping other women and their giving them choices to be healthy during and after pregnancy.

For women to regain power over such a critical time in their lives they need access to choices and information. It is for women to decide how they wish to face this time, not for others to tell them.  The voice of women has been muted in our patriarchal society, it can not remain so if we are to face and solve the challenges at hand.

An introduction to Permaculture

Last week I did a two day Introduction to Permaculture course, and like everyone else I’ve met so far, LOVED IT! The wholesome and positive ideas that permaculture presents are a great way to build a stronger happier future and as you hear them, you find yourself going “well of course… yes that’s obvious… why didn’t I think that before!”. Permaculture comes from permanent agriculture and is a way of thinking and designing to live in a sustainable way and regenerate land and people.

Hannah Thorogood has been teaching permaculture for 10 years and for the last three years has been creating her home on land in Lincolnshire. The Inkpot was originally a conventionally pesticide sprayed rapeseed field which was then sown with one type of grass. In the years since Hannah and her family bought the land it has been transformed with a variety of grasses, wildflowers, new trees and vegetables. Building up the health of the land is a gradual process and it’s not finished yet.

We are working on a 20 year vision for the land and our decisions need to follow 7 generational thinking – it needs to be a ‘good’ decision for the next 7 generations.

When most governments only think a few years ahead permaculture is a radically different perspective. So what are the ethics of permaculture?

  • Care for the Earth
  • Care of people
  • Setting limits to population and consumption – fair share

All sounds good so far, so what are the principles from which to work?

  • Work with nature not against it
  • The problem is the solution – those dandelions? Eat them.
  • Make the least change for the greatest possible effect
  • The yield of a system is limited by your imagination
  • Everything gardens, every species has an effect on it’s environment. Need to weed and till the land? Chickens can do that.

Bringing a system back to balance requires slow small changes so sometimes you might just be observing and doing nothing. There is a hierarchy of intervention that permaculture describes, so you only move down the list if the first options do not work.

  • Do nothing and observe
  • Biological intervention using plants and animals
  • Mechanical or physical intervention
  • Chemical as a last resort

In permaculture everything comes back to soil, that’s the real wealth. Your account can be in the black as much as you like but everything come back to the soil.

When designing a system there are 12 design principles to help guide you, and each can be applied to a human system as well as a land one. Have a think through the implications for a community if they started to live their lives with these principles in mind, it’s a nice image.

  • Use edges and value the marginal
  • Observe and interact
  • Use and value renewable resources and services
  • Design from patterns to details (e.g. use the patterns of nature for guidance)
  • Catch and store energy (I love the idea of how could we store the positive energy of people)
  • Obtain a yeild
  • Creatively use and respond to change
  • Integrate rather than segregate
  • Produce no waste
  • Apply self regulation and accept feedback
  • Use and value diversity
  • Use small and slow solutions

As with any overall principles when you start to see them applied things get really interesting.  A two day course has given me a taster, but the positive message of permaculture is one that I delight in seeing put into practice. It’s a journey not a destination and I look forward to meeting more people on this beautiful journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An unusual allotment

St Ann’s Allotment in Nottingham is one of the few remaining Victorian hedged allotments, which means that unlike a normal allotment, each plot is private with a hedge around it. Known as detached city gardens, the 600 plots create a huge variety of uses, and looking through the keyholes of the different coloured and shaped gates there is a sense of expectation – what will you find next?

One of the things I found was Eco Works where they run community events and host groups such as Framework, who work with vulnerable adults. Eco works run a vege box scheme and help people connect with the land to promote health and equality.

The heritage allotments were nearly demolished for housing in the 1990’s after years of dereliction, but when some of the plot holders discovered the council’s intention they launched a campaign to get the allotments listed heritage status.  Forming STAA Ltd they ere able to get the allotments Grade II listing and fundraise for their restoration. With help from heritage lottery funding, they have turned the fate of the site around. Looking at the place no and all the community good that is coming out of it is a powerful reminder that if ordinary people do not act to preserve and protect their communities, it will not happen. If we want a better future we have to create it.