Tag Archives: The Gift

In Praise of Friendship

dorset-rainbowEmpathy born of good will is often the only genuine communication between individual consciousnesses, and must be nurtured as an antidote to loneliness.

Introduction, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, Laurence Sterne

 

In an age where aggressive competitiveness, isolationism, and rapacious use of shared resources (aka a Neoliberalist agenda) seems to have won the day, it is more essential than ever that we celebrate our communities, our connections and our camaraderie.

I have long been inspired by creative fellowships and artistic communities, and here in Stroud, Gloucestershire, my home since 2010, we seem particularly blessed by such an eco-system (the natural analogy is intentional, for I believe that by drawing upon examples from the natural world we can learn to survive and thrive in a sustainable way).  The town and its surrounding valleys has a long tradition of creative activity, one I was aware of stepping into when I upped sticks and moved thirty miles up the road from Bath, which, despite being beautiful, steeped in heritage and lively with creativity activity, lacks the community feel of Stroud (a fault of cities more than the individuals who live there). A small town mentality can, of course, be stifling, but here the risk of provincialism is countered by a ‘Think Global, Act Local’ ethos in its Farmers’ Market, Transition Town and Green Party conflux, by lively arts festivals, and by the cross-fertilisation with artistic and intellectual nodes elsewhere in Britain and beyond. That feeling that ‘everyone knows everyone else’s business’ can be claustrophobic, but also instils accountability, mutuality and a sense of collective ‘holding’. We look out for each other. Few are allowed to fall through the cracks, unlike in a city where you can die in your bedsit and not be noticed for months. A death here is like a great tree falling in a forest, with devastating effects on the community. The unwell are showered with healing, the infirm with practical care, and the bereaved are supported. New arrivals, unions of love, anniversaries and achievements are celebrated joyously. Funerals are transformed into moving ceremonies of deep beauty. In Stroud’s many circles and support networks feelings and thoughts are shared – through movement, word, art, prayer, food and fun.

On a personal level I feel the need to celebrate the creative circle I am part of – you know who you are – all very talented, intelligent, witty, open-hearted individuals.  With hand on heart, I salute you all! But wherever you live, you can enjoy such creative camaraderie. Create the circle you want to be part. Open your heart, give something to your community, and it shall be returned threefold.

The tribe and the gift are separate, but they are also the same – there is little gap between them so they may breathe into each other, and yet there is no gap at all, for they share one breath, one meal for the two of them.

Lewis Hyde, The Gift: how the creative spirit transforms the world.

Magic Hat

Houdinis of Bewilderland by Kevan Manwaring Part 6

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With the advent of crowdsourcing sites like Kickstarter, Crowdfunder  and Patreon many projects are getting off the ground which otherwise would languish in funding limbo. Paul Kingsnorth’s experimental novel, The Wake (2013), is a fine example of this. A tale of rebellion and radicalisation written in what Kingsnorth described as a ‘shadow tongue’, his hybrid of Old English, dialect and imagination, the unconventional novel challenges the reader. It was published to critical acclaim (long-listed for the Booker Prize and the winner of several others awards) via Unbound, which asks readers to pledge towards the publication of their preferred projects. This is actually a good old-fashioned approach – the subscription method – via which publishers used to assess the economic viability of a project. Here, the internet has helped publishing by enabling it easier for artists to reach potential ‘subscribers’, and to market and sell their work. Kingsnorth’s novel was helped by his Dark Mountain Project[i] – he already had a ‘fan-base’ as it were. Yet it is possible to achieve success in this approach through drawing internally upon an existing community as is the case with the team behind the much-loved Earth Pathways Diary, produced collectively every year from contributions sent voluntarily by artists and writers. They devised their own method of crowd-funding, which they called Moonshares:

In 2007 when the founder members met to gather and cement their ideas for a new UK Diary, we had a clear vision but little money between us to fund this project. We wanted it to be a celebration of the work of UK artists and writers who shared our deep love for this Land and the wish for a sustainable future for all. It was to be more than just a diary, more a networking resource, which would inspire people who actively create positive change in their lives for the benefit of this good Earth. While we had friends who as artists and writers would be happy to contribute work for the first edition, we needed a way to gather the funds necessary to print the diary. This was in truth a considerable sum and so the idea formed of creating “Moon Shares” as originally we were to be a Moon Diary. The Moon Shares were to be a generous loan which we planned to pay back as soon as we could support our own printing cost. A call went out and over the years, the loans from 58 wonderful souls and donations from friends and contributors, allowed us to print the first five diaries.

The time finally arrived when we had funds to cover our printing costs for the diary and enough to repay all Moon Shares. It was a long and eventful journey and we still frequently give thanks to all who have travelled with us. The continued sales of diaries to our wonderful community means that not only could we repay our Moon Shares but we can also put our profits towards Seed Funding small projects designed to support the Earth.[ii]

So, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Poverty consciousness can hamstring the imagination. Think what resources and skills you actually have at your disposal – collectively – to achieve your goals.

And if all else fails, you can always pass around the hat.

Rather than fret over ticket sales, put on an event for free if it means people turn up. If you need to cover some costs, then invite people to make a suggested donation. Don’t feel embarrassed. Mention it but let folk have the choice. It’s a risky gambit, but many productions are working this way in our cash-strapped age – the Edinburgh Fringe is full of these ‘free’ shows where you pay what you think it was worth. It incentivizes  the performer/s and makes the audience critically evaluate it. But instead of stars, coins (though a good review or word-of-mouth recommendation is often worth more). It’s reciprocation – but if that feels too much of a closed loop, then if you receive the gift of someone’s creativity freely ‘pay it forward’, by offering something freely yourself next time*. Keep the awen flowing.

[i] Dark Mountain Project: http://dark-mountain.net/about/the-dark-mountain-project/ [accessed 16.02.16]

[ii] https://www.earthpathwaysdiary.uk/about/moonshares/ [accessed 8.02.2016]

*as Lewis Hyde advocates in the inspiring book, The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, Vintage, 1983

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This article was commissioned by Doggerland. An alternative version is available in print form in their latest issue, along with other thought-provoking contributions.  Check it out. Available from:  http://www.doggerland.info/doggershop

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