Projects are a cornerstone of action learning. In Gaia U, we learn through real-world projects that stretch our skills, deepen our knowledge and build our confidence while having an ecological and social impact.
Below is an overview of the projects I have engaged with at different stages of my MSc programme. I have summarised the key outcomes of each project, and in some cases identified my key learnings.
Empty Cages Design is my self-employed work that involves consultancy and freelance tutoring. The main element is my website that profiles my design, writing and organising work, as well as my learning journey. I intentionally re-branded from Wild Heart Permaculture in 2014.
- Generation of hundreds of contacts, opportunities and new relationships.
- A living portfolio that underpins my work and evidences my engagement in my fields.
- Creation of ‘Overcoming Burnout’ Book, due to be published in January 2018
- Teaching four Vegan Permaculture Design Courses to date with Graham Burnett
- Speaking to international audiences at the People’s Harvest Forum in San Fransisco (via Skype), as well as the International Permaculture Conference and Convergence in 2015
- Teaching a three-day Liberation Permaculture Course
- Writing for many publications including the Occupied Times, Transition Network, Red Pepper and more.
- To ‘own’ my niche and optimise it. To be myself; authentic, passionate and non-apologetic about my worldviews and desire to eradicate domination.
- How to manage a website in a low-input way. Through this process I have learnt huge amounts about html, plugins, widgets, and all sorts that can aid me in the digital universe.
Feed Avalon is the workers cooperative and social enterprise that I established with a friend in 2013. We officially launched in 2014 and have now grown to a team of six part-time workers. Feed Avalon is dedicated to creating socially-just and ecological food systems in Glastonbury, Street and surrounding villages. Since it began, my role has involved a lot of director responsibilities such as accounting, as well as project management, grant applications, coordinating the EAT project and marketing, graphic and website design for the co-op.
- EAT (Education and Training) Project, designing and convening comprehensive programme of courses and workshops in food system skills - supporting more than 300 learners to access adult education
- Two-year ‘Growing Glastonbury’ Project, a £40k project funded by People’s Health trust, working with 20 mentors to support 200 households to learn how to grow food. Regular gardening clubs, skill shares and more
- Establishing community kitchen, mushroom farm and plant nursery
- Developing Avalon Wildflower Park
- Organising grassroots remediation project of contaminated land
- Grassroots event organising including community food forums, seed swaps, harvest shows and more
Brook End is the 4-acre smallholding that I manage with my family in Somerset. It is an abundant site with amazing vegetable gardens, medicinal garden, pollytunnel, orchard, greenhouses, wood, field and stream.
- LAND Centre status - which means we are a recognised permaculture learning an demonstration centre registered with the Permaculture Association GB.
- Large yields of vegetables, plants, medicine, firewood, pleasure, joy, beauty and more!
(Projects started at the tail-end of my MSc)
Corporate Watch is a not-for-profit co-operative providing critical information on the social and environmental impacts of corporations and capitalism. Corporate Watch exists to investigate corporations, explain and analyse how corporate power and capitalism work, and provide research for people striving for social change. In August 2016, I was hired to join the co-op part-time and focus on investigating the prison industrial complex.
- Designing a new website to replace old joomla site
- Publishing an investigation into Youth Prisons
- Publishing an investigation into a potential Non-Binary Prison in Scotland
- Publishing an investigation about the British state wishing to build a prison in Nigeria
- Producing a 40-page report about Prison Expansion in England, Wales and Scotland
SoilHack is a knowledge sharing network focused on soil. It is part of the FarmHack movement and has been born out of the need to save what soils we have with the best information possible.
In the UK, SoilHack has existed as a twitter account, shared email list and wiki to share information on events and latest soil research. In May 2017, we organised the first national gathering and I was part of the core group to organise it.
- Organising first national gathering with more than 50 people. There were 19+ workshops on soil science and soil care practices with people from all over the UK in attendance.
- Formation of SoilHack working groups in different areas of interest (education, networking, fundraising etc).
Historical Agroecology Projects
I was employed with local charity, Somerset Community Food, from 2011 - 2014. It was an incredible opportunity - well paid, part time work, in a field I am passionate about. I learnt huge amounts and have gained skills that will support me for a lifetime. However the under-resourced, grassroots charity, with poor staff support and little or no strategic vision, led me to burn out.
- Working on a 250k Access to Land Project that supported hundreds of people to access land, learn new skills and create opportunities for community food production. You can read the end of project report we wrote here.
- Writing an access to land handbook in 2013 that captured our experiences & shared our learning for other people wanting to access land for community food production.
- Producing a series of short films about access to land in Somerset.
- Organising several events, including regional and county-wide conferences, gatherings, an access to land tour and other smaller events.
- Developing Incredible Edible Somerset, an online networking tool for community organisers and growers in Somerset.
- Developing FoodMapper, an online mapping platform for local food production.
- Creating the Somerset Master Gardener network, supporting 14 volunteer mentors that supported households to learn how to grow food.
- Supporting 14 learners to achieve a qualification in Community Horticulture, through the Growing Resilience Project, which I designed and coordinated. See the photographs from the sessions here.
I was part of organising the first Radical Herbalism Gathering in the Uk in June 2013. The gathering focuses on bringing together the physical, emotional, social, political, spiritual and environmental aspects of health, with a focus on herbalism. We hosted the first gathering at Brook End, where I live. I then helped to organise the second gathering in Shrophire in 2014, with more than 300 people attending. I then withdrew from the collective, to focus on anti-prison work.
- Organising two national gatherings
- Collectively inspiring and strengthening a national grassroots herbalism and health justice movement in the UK
Frack Free Somerset is a coalition of grassroots groups organising against unconventional gas exploitation in Somerset, the county where I live. We started in May 2012, following a public meeting organising by national group, Frack Off. I threw myself into organising and FFS was a ‘zone 1’ project for more than 2.5 years.
- Defeating company UK methane in their first and only planning application to drill in Somerset
- Supporting more than 30 groups to work together to build a county-level awareness of unconventional gas.
- Initiating the development of many totally new groups, with people that had never done any campaigning work before. This radicalisation was very empowering to witness.
- Organising two ‘Frack Free February’ months of action, with more than 30 events in a 28 day period.
- Supporting sites of resistance nationally, through solidarity sunday demonstrations, fundraising, moral support and more.
- Creating a one hour professional documentary called ‘The Truth Behind the Dash for Gas’. As well as producing several leaflets, resources and a comic.
Reclaim the Fields is a constellation of people and collective projects willing to go back to the land and reassume the control over food production. They are determined to create alternatives to capitalism through cooperative, collective, autonomous, real needs oriented small scale production and initiatives, putting theory into practice and linking local practical action with global political struggles.
I was very active with RTF throughout my MSc until the last two years when I got sick and needed to renegotiate my commitments.
- Organising 5+ national UK gatherings
- Organising 2 European wide gatherings
- Organising an international action camp linking land politics and anti-prison and anti-fracking struggles
- Helping to organise the Food Sovereignty Gathering, October 2015
- Defending the Yorkley Court Land Occupation
- Maintaining an updated website, grassroots networking, zine production and other outreach work around land struggle in a UK context
Prison and Repression Projects
The Empty Cages Collective is a small collective focused on building a movement to dismantle the prison industrial complex in the UK. It started in 2014 and has been a constant project through my MSc.
Too many to list! The outcomes can be summarised as:
- Maintaining website, social media and other infrastructure to organise
- Connecting people around the UK who want to organise, supporting local groups to start and keep going and supporting new campaigns and projects to emerge, such as Community Action on Prison Expansion
- Giving hundreds of workshops at different events
- Organising multiple weeks, days and months of action
- Touring the UK 4+ times
- Writing articles and producing abolitionist publications
- Organising skillshares
- Organising two conferences including the International Conference on Penal Abolition
Bristol ABC is a prisoner-support group that work with others across the world to act in solidarity with political prisoners, prisoners of war, and those incarcerated due to our racist, sexist and oppressive society. Bristol ABC is a small, local group who organise events, fundraisers, maintain a blog, and generally keep prisoners at the centre of struggle.
- Bristol ABC have organised several events that have fundraised and generated solidarity for political prisoners. Approximately 1-2 events for the last 6+ years.
- The group has supported a huge amount of defendants and prisoners behind the scenes that need solidarity
- Bristol ABC have produced 2 publications. One called On the Out, a zine about life after prison. The second is Never Alone, a zine about supporting people in prison.
- An extensive blog with news from cases and struggles around the world has been consistently maintained.
Smash IPP is a campaign fighting for IPP prisoners and to retrospectively abolish the IPP sentence. IPP stands for imprisonment for public protection. They were a kind of indeterminate sentence introduced in the UK in 2005 that effectively created a life sentence for minor crimes. Thousands of people are trapped in the prison system with no release date.
- Relaunching Smash IPP in 2017 through a successful year of action
- Producing a publication about IPP with several contributions from prisoners
- Securing the freedom of 4 IPP prisoners to date through family-led campaigns
- Multiple workshops and talks at events across the UK
IWOC is a committee that is part of the global union, the Industrial Workers of the World. IWOC focuses on prisoner solidarity and supporting prisoners to unionise. IWOC started in the US and organised the biggest prisoner strike in world history. They have been supporting us to start a group in Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England.
- Small prisoner membership established so far
- Day of action and campaign against Maypole who exploit prison labour
- Tour of the North of England
- Multiple talks and workshops
- First publication produced detailing prisoner writings
- Successful action alerts for solidarity campaigns, such as prison wings without water, or prisoners in solitary confinement needing support
Sven and Natasha are two defendants who have experienced 6+ years of state repression following their alleged involvement in a campaign against an animal testing company. The support group has aimed to support them politically, emotionally and financially. Sven was recently sentenced in January 2018 to 5 years in prison and Natasha received a suspended sentence. The support group has now changed to ‘Free Sven’.
- Supporting the defendants. This includes court support, prison visits, letter writing and hangouts.
- Maintaining support websites, social media, emails and so forth.
- Organising speaking tours, workshops and fundraisers, to raise awareness of the repression of the UK animal rights movement, and the defendants still facing repression.
- Coordinating fundraising to cover the legal costs and for Sven to study permaculture.
- Speaking about the case in multiple European countries including the Netherlands, Basque Country, Spain, France, Italy, Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Belgium and Switzerland.
Sam is my best friend. She is a miscarriage of justice that has done over a decade in prison fighting to appeal. She was diagnosed with cancer in 2016 and a 21 month battle commenced with the prison service to access medical treatment. The Freedom for Sam campaign has aimed to generate political and practical solidarity for Sam to fight the medical neglect and raise awareness about her case.
- Successful crowdfunding and fundraising
- Working with the Cardiff Innocence Project on her appeal
- Generating international support and solidarity