Amelia’s Magazine | Transition Towns Conference 2010: An Overview

Illustration by James Shedden.

Back in mid June I attended my third Transition Towns Conference down in sunny Devon at Seal Hayne, this an impressive looking agricultural school that has been gradually sold off and now houses a special needs education college. This year’s conference was attended by a record amount of people, cialis 40mg all involved or interested in the Transition Towns concept, sildenafil which is a grassroots movement whereby local communities convene to find ways to become more resilient and self-sufficient in the face of peak oil and climate change.

Transition Towns 2010 Conference - photo by Amelia Gregory
All photography by Amelia Gregory.

It can be hard to reconcile the need to attend important events with a desire to cut out the carbon emissions that flying entails, but some Transitioners had so I got to meet loads of interesting people from all over the world. In fact, during the breakfast queue on the very first day I got chatting to someone who is part of the movement in the US, and found that she was encountering all sorts of problems due to the fact that one *entrepeneurial* character has already patented the term Transition (insert any state here) for himself. This is what happens when a grassroots movements with no particular code of conduct becomes successful in our current world. Telling, perhaps, of our innate human nature, and our desire for ownership of a good idea. Not only that but she told me how her nascent Transition organisation has managed to secure all its funding without really putting any working relationships in place at the grassroots level, and all the problems that has entailed. Sometimes I do wonder if we will ever learn…

Transition Towns 2010 Conference - photo by Amelia Gregory
Rob Hopkins hands out name tags.

Transition Towns 2010 Conference - photo by Amelia Gregory
Future We Want_GarethAHopkins
Future We Want by Gareth A Hopkins.

I will hold my hands up and admit that I am not actively involved in a Transition Town myself, but I’ve known founding members Rob Hopkins and Ben Brangwyn for many years now and have always felt I can serve a useful role in bringing the concept of Transition Towns to the attention of others through my writing and photographs. Why am I not involved myself? Probably a combination of factors. People tend to get involved in Transition Towns at a certain stage in their lives. Hence it is a predominantly middle aged movement, although this year I was pleased to note a positive trend towards many younger participants, glimpsed amidst the sea of greying heads.

Transition Towns 2010 Conference - photo by Amelia Gregory
Transition Towns 2010 Conference - photo by Amelia Gregory
Transition Towns 2010 Conference - photo by Amelia Gregory

And I don’t feel hugely settled in my life. I therefore don’t feel a strong affiliation to my very close locality, and there is no group in Bethnal Green that I know of, which would mean I would have to start one up myself. Which brings me to my next problem – I have a serious lack of spare time because I currently feel it’s more important to expose the root causes of our problems through direct action against the system with Climate Camp. Something which is always done in conjunction with efforts to build sustainable community. Indeed many people within Climate Camp are also actively involved with a Transition Town. By attending the Transition Towns conference I not only hope to spread ideas beyond the confines of those who can afford to make it to Devon for a weekend, but I also hope I can act as a bridge between different aspects of a much wider movement to build a better world.

Transition Towns 2010 Conference - photo by Amelia Gregory
Transition Towns 2010 Conference - photo by Amelia Gregory
Transition Towns 2010 Conference - photo by Amelia Gregory
Transition Towns 2010 Conference - photo by Amelia Gregory

The weekend was taken up with many different forms of workshops and interactive lectures. We scribbled lots of thoughts on paper, talked in small and in large groups about all kinds of thorny issues, went for a wild food walk, climbed to the top of a little knoll high above the college to talk about the changes in landscape, provided our own entertainment… and watched the World Cup en masse. We were extremely lucky with the weather, sitting outside for lunch and enjoying fabulous views over Newton Abbot.

Transition Towns 2010 Conference - photo by Amelia Gregory
Wild food walk by James Shedden.

Rob Hopkins introduced us to his latest idea, which combines his original 12 steps to transition as outlined in The Transition Handbook with the concept of ‘generative grammar’ behind A Pattern Language. This was the seminal work of some progressive American architects in the 1970s, and has since become a bible of permaculturists. A few years of learning down the line the initial 12 step process seems overly simplistic and so it was intriguing to hear Rob’s new ideas alongside the opportunity to feed our own ideas into his work. I can see how this new trajectory makes sense but I hope he will take into account the layperson’s inability to digest thick books filled with lots of complicated roman numerals.

Transition Towns 2010 Conference - photo by Amelia Gregory
Transition Towns 2010 Conference - photo by Amelia Gregory
Transition Towns 2010 Conference - photo by Amelia Gregory
My contribution to Rob’s new ideas.

As always some of the most important conversations were had in the gaps between – chatting to my table mates whilst eating a delicious locally sourced vegan lunch, snatching a sneaky chat with old friends in the corridor or whilst propping up the bar. Such is the way at most such events – and Transition Town conferences are always planned with lots of open space in mind.

Transition Towns 2010 Conference - photo by Amelia Gregory
Transition Towns 2010 Conference - photo by Amelia Gregory
Transition Towns 2010 Conference - photo by Amelia Gregory

2010 feels like a time of introspection for the movement. Throughout my conversations with people what struck me time and again was the importance of solid foundations and a network of successful relationships. Many Transition Towns have reached a critical point where they are struggling to hold their local group together, either because of a division in ideology, or because a committed few are getting bogged down with all the admin and are consequently too stressed to create a happy working environment for newcomers to enter – it’s a problem we are also experiencing within Climate Camp, and something which afflicts many organisations that have reached a certain stage in their lifecycle. Because people who get involved in social change tend to be passionate types they want to make change happen as quickly as possible by pushing forward with exciting new plans, often before a firm base has been built. And especially because it can be tedious to set up a solid core when all you really want to do is eat yummy local food. Food is always a main focus for Transition Towners. Admin less so. You can see why really, can’t you?

Transition Towns 2010 Conference - photo by Amelia Gregory
Transition Towns 2010 Conference - photo by Amelia Gregory

For this reason meetings need to be as pleasurable an experience as possible. I attended a wonderful facilitation workshop given by Matthew Herbert of the Rhizome Collective but it was sadly under-attended, probably due to the diversity of other offerings on offer at the same time. Climate Camp holds large scale consensus meetings extraordinarily well thanks to the kind of information spread by Rhizome, and all Transitioners struggling with group dynamics should attend such workshops. This is the kind of invaluable information you really can’t learn from a book – so it’s important to learn by doing. Fortunately Rhizome are available to come and speak to local grassroots groups everywhere across the UK.

Transition Conference 2010 Amelia Gregory
Transition Towns 2010 Conference - photo by Amelia Gregory

For me, the undoubted highlight of the whole conference was hearing from Nicole Foss – also known as Stoneleigh on her website the Automatic Earth – who lectured us in the most accessible way possible about the perilous state of our financial global economy. I am certainly no mastermind when it comes to understanding our current capitalist system, but Nicole somehow made the scariness of our disastrous potential future sound understandable and even inspiring, which was no mean feat. She was so wonderful I have decided to dedicate a whole blog to her ideas.

Nicole Foss, AKA Stoneleigh.

Transition Conference 2010 Amelia Gregory
Transition Towns 2010 Conference - photo by Amelia Gregory

It was telling, I thought, that at the end of Stoneleigh’s talk people asked how they could protect their own investments with little concern for those far less well off than themselves. “Are you trying to sustain the way you live or live sustainably?” asked another Transitioner. This is an increasingly important question for the Transition Towns movement, which continues to attract a predominantly white middle class demographic. How and what does Transition mean for those less able to commit their time, energy or resources? This and many other questions are currently being mulled over by individuals and groups up and down the country, something I find truly inspiring.

Illustration by Natasha Thompson.

One of the best things about the Transition Towns movement is its ability to attract people who are already doing something wonderful within the field of sustainability in their local area. It is increasingly providing a sexy central hub for a growing network of dedicated individuals, and this aspect needs to be better recognised. Who isn’t already involved in growing their own food in some form of community setting when they join a Transition Town food group, for instance? Long may this wonderful movement continue to grow and energise communities everywhere. Find out how to get involved with Transition Towns by visiting their website here.

Transition Towns 2010 Conference - photo by Amelia Gregory
If we can't imagine a positive future_GarethAHopkins
If We Can’t Imagine a Postive Future by Gareth A Hopkins.

Categories ,Automatic Earth, ,Ben Brangwyn, ,Climate Camp, ,Facilitation, ,Gareth A Hopkins, ,James Shedden, ,Natasha Thompson, ,Nicole Foss, ,Rhizome, ,Rob Hopkins, ,Stoneleigh, ,transition towns

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Amelia’s Magazine | An interview with Fireworks Night and review of new album One Winter, One Spring

Fireworks Night by James Shedden
Fireworks Night by James Shedden.

Straight from the opening clatter of Settle Down its clear that the new album from Fireworks Night (championed in Amelia’s Magazine many a moon ago) is something quite special. A violin curls hypnotically around the driving beat as the lyrics relish the ‘untold pleasures of human interaction‘ in grand orchestral style. (Why not teach yourself to play like this? Find excellent beginner violin lessons with private teachers here.) Across the Sea is a partly delicate, partly bitter tale that yearns for something more far away across time and space, whilst the grind of strings dominates in Broken Bottles. Even as the vocals come to the fore, as in That Easy Way (where the falsetto has more than a touch of Antony Hegarty) there is always a defiant beat to drive the melody along. One Winter, One Spring is a rollicking slice of what I have decided to term chamber folk: a beguiling mix of folk inspired narrative and chamber pop largesse (I say that in a good way) On the day of the album release I caught up with founding member James Lesslie.

Fireworks Night by Alex Green aka MSTR GRINGO
Fireworks Night by Alex Green aka MSTR GRINGO.

What have you been up to since we last spoke in 2007? Has it been an eventful few years? What has changed and what has remained the same?
It has been a very eventful four years, even if the time between the two albums might suggest otherwise. When last we spoke the band was more a collective – which is perhaps a fancy way of saying I hadn’t worked out how to organise things properly. In the second half of 2007 Rhiannon and Neil, then Ed, joined playing violin, viola and drums respectively. In the autumn of that year we toured with another band that Ed and I were in called The Mules (also featured in Amelia’s Magazine, fact fans) and that cemented the line-up. It’s been the six of us ever since with the other half being made up of myself, Tim on piano and Nick on guitar and too many other instruments to mention. Through 2007 and 2008 we were lucky enough to play with some bands who I very much admire such as Frog Eyes, Sunset Rubdown and David Thomas Broughton. We also recorded and released an E.P in 2008 and began work on the album in 2009. We recorded it ourselves and that and other boring practical issues led to the rather long time it’s taken for us to release it.

Fireworks Night One Winter One Spring Cover
New album One Winter, One Spring is released on Monday 7th November, did you deliberately time it for this time of year?
We had initially hoped it would come out in the summer so it was not entirely deliberate. When things got delayed it was suggested and seemed an apt, if a little hokey, combination.

Fireworks Night in the street
What prompted your name, was it a particularly love of Bonfire Night?
It was the result of a rather poor joke that I can no longer remember. It has since turned out that my mum loves fireworks – she bounds to the window any time they appear near the house – and has decided we’re named on account of this, a story I don’t want to spoil.

Fireworks Night by Victoria Haynes.

Your music is described as a cross between folk and chamber pop, has it always been thus, and what influences have helped to shape your unique sound?
I think so, though the chamber pop factor has seemingly increased over the last few years. I think our sound is the product of the multitude of musical interests that the six of us have. I hope I am right when I say that Nick is keen on people such as William Basinski and Arvo Part, Rhiannon enjoys Bellowhead, Ed likes ABC, Neil Wild Beasts and Tim has all of the Tom Waits albums – they all end up in there in some shape or form. You might have to listen closely but they’re there.

Fireworks Night
What inspires your lyrics and who writes them? I hear that family, home and the sea are strong themes, why is this?
I write the lyrics to the songs. It is difficult to say what specifically inspires them but generally it might be the pleasure of attempting to express an emotion, a story, or a visual image that the music might have suggested with language. I was a few songs into writing the album when I noticed that the themes you mention seemed to be recurring in the lyrics so I thought I would try and develop them. The reason for their initial appearance may be where I grew up which was near the ocean. The attention to family and home probably connects to that as well as the fact that we are all around the end of our twenties and perhaps thinking about such things. Our parties these days have more food and less own-brand spirits with white labels that bark their contents, GIN, VODKA, WHISKY. Ouch.

fireworks night by zyzanna
Across the Sea by Zyzanna.

Have you made any videos to accompany this album and if so where can I see them and what are they about?
There are some videos on their way we hope. There’s one for Settle Down that’s being made by a man named Nate Camponi who I have never met but is very good with a camera. It is very near completion and should be visible in the next week or two. There are subsequent plans for doing ones for Across the Sea and One Winter, One Spring, the former hopefully will be done in mid-December and the latter mid-January. Ideas so far have included the use of old super-8 footage and film-noir using Lego. We shall see what emerges and let you know when it does.

Settle Down

What are your plans for the future and can we see you playing live anywhere soon?
We will be celebrating the album’s release with a show at The Wheelbarrow with the Bleeding Heart Narrative in London on 17th November and I think we’re also playing at the New Cross Inn on 14th December. We all have jobs and other things that make playing shows a less regular event then they used to be. We currently aim for one per month which seems to be working out. We will see how things go with this album before plotting our next project. I already have songs ready to go so we shall see what happens. I’d really like to get everyone together and have dinner at some point in the near future as well.

Here’s to a heartwarming Fireworks Night dinner sometime soon. One Winter, One Spring is out today on Organ Grinder Records. Make sure you grab a copy and spread the word because Fireworks Night is too good to be a part time project!

Fireworks Night by SarahJayneDraws aka Sarah Jayne Morris
Fireworks Night by SarahJayneDraws aka Sarah Jayne Morris.

Categories ,ABC, ,Across the Sea, ,album, ,Alex Green, ,Antony Hegarty, ,Arvo Part, ,Bellowhead, ,Bleeding Heart Narrative, ,Broken Bottles, ,Chamber Folk, ,Chamber Pop, ,David Thomas Broughton, ,Fireworks Night, ,Frog Eyes, ,James Lesslie, ,James Shedden, ,MSTR GRINGO, ,Nate Camponi, ,New Cross Inn, ,One Winter One Spring, ,Organ Grinder Records, ,review, ,Sarah Jayne Morris, ,Settle Down, ,Stravinsky, ,Sunset Rubdown, ,That Easy Way, ,The Firebird, ,The Mules, ,The Wheelbarrow, ,Tom Waits, ,Victoria Haynes, ,Wild Beasts, ,William Basinski, ,Zyzanna

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Amelia’s Magazine | Album Review: I Break Horses – Hearts

I Break Horses by James Shedden
I Break Horses by James Shedden.

Hearts is the wonderful debut album from I Break Horses, see otherwise known as Maria Linden and partner Fredrik Balck. They have been compared to both Cocteau Twins and Slowdive, view but I Break Horses are so much more than a paen to shoegaze.

Hearts opens with the gradually building beats of the atmospheric new single Winter Beats but it was to second track Hearts that my heart was first lost. Despite the inherently scuzzy reverb of this tune the busy backdrop is rendered utterly entrancing by Maria’s hypnotic vocals.

I Break Horses by Laura Frame
I Break Horses by Laura Frame.

I Break Horses Hearts Maria Linden 2
I Break Horses by Rebecca Elves.

Wired pulses with a dreamy optimism that gradually disintegrates into an unexpected off key and there is another quiet opening for the softly softly approach of I Kill Love, Baby! Pulse aims confidently for the heart, engulfing in lush melody.

I Break Horses Hearts Maria Linden 2
I Break Horses by Ankolie
I Break Horses by Ankolie.

The gothic intensity of Cancer is carried throughout by chiming keys whilst Load Your Eyes favours skewed drifts of sounds and Empty Bottles swells with lush arrangement and layered vocals that gradually build in intensity. No Way Outro returns to an almost religious fervour, rattling drumbeats crescendo-ing before fading out to end.

I Break Horses Hearts Maria Linden
I Break Horses by Samantha Eynon
I Break Horses by Samantha Eynon.

It’s hard to break this album apart because it works so well listened to as a whole, each song playing against the previous and the next. I fervently recommend Hearts as your new soundtrack to love. Just gorgeous: out now on Bella Union.

Winter Beats

Categories ,album, ,Ankolie, ,Baby, ,Bella Union, ,Cancer, ,Duo, ,Empty Bottles, ,Fredrik Balck, ,hearts, ,I Break Horses, ,I Kill Love, ,James Shedden, ,Laura Frame, ,Maria Lindén, ,No Way Outro, ,Pulse, ,Rebecca Elves, ,review, ,Samantha Eynon, ,shoegaze, ,Swedish, ,Winter Beats, ,Wired

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Amelia’s Magazine | An interview with The Raincoats as 1981 album Odyshape is rereleased on We ThRee

The Raincoats by James Shedden
The Raincoats by James Shedden.

The Raincoats are an all girl band who formed during the late 1970s and split up in the mid 1980s. I was very little at the time of their original releases so unfortunately I did not discover The Raincoats until much more recently, online well into my adult years. The band had an exciting can do attitude that melded punk, see classical and reggae influences into spiky arrhythmic folk punk tunes that even today sound way more exciting than many current bands. They reformed in the mid 90s after a resurgence in interest thanks to gushing plaudits from Kurt Cobain and are now widely hailed as one of the seminal post punk bands. I catch up with founders Ana da Silva and Gina Birch as they gear up to rerelease their second album on its 30th anniversary.

Raincoats in Poland

Why did you decide to reissue Odyshape now?
ANA:  This year is the 30th anniversary of this album. So, as we like anniversaries, we decided to release The Raincoats and Odyshape on their 30th… We remastered the albums for Japan and re-did the art work so it would sound and look the best possible. We now own the rights to them and, as they should be available, we thought we’d release them on our own label We ThRee. Both on CD and vinyl. They look and sound the best ever! Theyl also have a booklet and A4 sheet respectively with liner notes, lyrics, photos and a piece of writing from me on the 1st album and from Gina on Odyshape.

The raincoats odyshape
What does Odyshape mean?
GINA: The title was a pun on the odyssey of a body. The idea that a body could have an ideal shape and it if did, what happens when a body doesn’t live up to that ideal. It was at a time, when (as probably now) there seemed to be a body fascism. It was important for women to be this shape or that shape. Thanks to people like Beth Ditto, and hopefully The Raincoats, things have been broken down a little. Hair can be crazy, messy, outfits can be baggy or tight, inside out or upside down, we can be fat or thin, creative, playful, stylish and beautiful without having to subscribe to some fashion mag ideal.

The Raincoats1981
You formed the original band whilst still at art college… how did your studies in art influence how you made music?
ANA: Besides the obvious side of art work, I think we’re trying to do what art should do: create works that inspire other people, that question the status quo, that express ideas which come from our own minds and hearts and also works that look at the human condition and provide some comfort to the listener.

The Raincoats by Karin Soderquist
The Raincoats by Karin Soderquist.

Odyshape seems to owe as much to contemporary classical music as it does punk – was this something that inspired you?    
ANA: We listen to all sorts of music so, intentionally or unintentionally, different  things appear. I do like some classical music very much, like the Bach‘s cello suites, Erik Satie, some opera, etc.  but I don’t think my playing sounds very classical…maybe you mean the violin which was played by Vicky Aspinall who is classically trained.

The Raincoats by Janette Beckman1981
The Raincoats in 1981.

You haven’t produced a new album since the mid 90s – what have you been up to since then?
ANA: I’ve been doing my own solo music and released an album called The Lighthouse on Chicks On Speed records. I’ve also been doing some drawings and paintings some of which I’ll be showing at the Pop Montreal festival, together with Gina’s videos and Shirley’s photographs. It’s really a great opportunity to show our art, visual and musical. It’s the first time we do this and are very happy and excited about it.
GINA: I have been collaborating with various musicians and artists and very involved in a project called The Gluts, (with two women artists) Also I have been playing solo, writing songs, making films, painting and, raising two children.

The Raincoats by Rukmunal Hakim
The Raincoats by Rukmunal Hakim.

Gina – you were an early fan of the craft revival – knitting on tour. Do you still craft and if so what?
GINA: I did knit on the first Raincoats tour, when I wore the jumper at the final gig… and then didn’t do any knittingfor quite a few years but have always liked to paint, draw, knit, mosaic, make films whatever. I have been knitting a lot in the last year or two and have made Raincoats inspired bags, and I have also been sewing banners with lyrics and messages on them.  

The Raincoats by Kassie Berry
The Raincoats by Kassie Berry.

Has Gina Birch’s film, The Raincoats, Fairytales, been completed? 
GINA: The film is still a work in progress. It is an organic process it seems and hopefully will be concluded in the coming six months.

YouTube Preview ImageBaby Song performed live in the 80s

You will be playing your debut album live again at ATP this December – anything special in store and what are you looking forward to most about the Holiday Camp experience?
ANA: Just playing is a special thing, but we’ve played twice at ATP and really enjoyed it: swimming, meeting people, being able to choose amongst so much different music and the relaxed atmosphere. We will be playing the first album at Jeff Mangum‘s request but will play other songs too, not sure which yet.

YouTube Preview ImageThe Raincoats perform live at ATP in 2010

Which other current bands do you enjoy listening to or watching?
ANA: I think P.J. Harvey‘s latest album is so good, so I enjoyed listening to it at seeing them live a couple of times. Also saw Portishead whose music I like but had never seen live and that was very good too. I was listening yesterday to Ponytail, Colleen, Electrelane, Neutral Milk HotelLouis and Bebe BarronJenny O in the car coming back from Portugal.

The Raincoats by Barb Royal.

What next for The Raincoats?
ANA: We’re doing a tour in the U.S.A. and Canada (New York, Washington, Chicago, Detroit, Toronto and Montreal) in September and ATP in December. And because of the re-release of Odyshape and those dates some interviews too… thanks for your part. Otherwise nothing concrete, but I’m sure other things will happen.

YouTube Preview ImageOnly Loved at Night, performed live in 2009

Odyshape is rereleased in heavyweight vinyl and as a special edition CD on We ThRee records on September 12th 2011. The band will tour the east coast of the USA from 16 – 26 September 2011 and play Jeff Mangum’s ATP, Minehead on 3 December 2011.

Categories ,1980s, ,2011, ,album, ,Ana da Silva, ,Arrhythmic, ,atp, ,Baby Song, ,Bach, ,Barb Royal, ,Bebe Barron, ,Beth Ditto, ,Body Fascism, ,Chicks on Speed, ,classical, ,Colleen, ,December, ,Electrelane, ,Erik Satie, ,folk, ,Gina Birch, ,James Shedden, ,Jeff Mangum, ,Jenny O, ,Karin Söderquist, ,Kassie Berry, ,Kurt Cobain, ,Louis, ,Neutral Milk Hotel, ,Odyshape, ,Only Loved at Night, ,PJ Harvey, ,Ponytail, ,Pop Montreal, ,Portishead, ,punk, ,Rerelease, ,review, ,Rukmunal Hakim, ,The LIghthouse, ,The Raincoats, ,tour, ,Vicky Aspinall, ,Violin, ,We ThRee, ,WETHREE

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