Get a Shift on

It’s very gratifying to see Power Shift UK taking shape.  Months of discussion and work are finally paying off.  It’s all been from an ever changing team of volunteers, spending their spare time moving the Shift forward (or shifting the movement forward, possibly).

For me, it started before I left my job to help the climate effort in February last year.  I unsuccessfully applied to join the Global Power Shift in Istanbul.  Thankfully that wasn’t the end of the road, as I bumped into Nico Wojewoda of 350.org at a rally against the Keystone XL pipeline.  That got me on to the UK team.Tour

Skype has been our friend, and we’ve made good use of shared documents and email to help new people get on board as quickly as they might.  There have been highs where the team looked unstoppable, such the London Fossil Free tour.  I was brought to tears at a flash mob, singing about the melting arctic.  And there have been lows when the team withered away and was reduced to one or two.

The direction of the Power Shift in the UK took a while to emerge, and I’m glad that it did. Susan, Claire, KMT, Tara, Ben, Phoebe, Asad, Tom, Suzanne and David – the team that did go to Istanbul – lead the way to the theme of increasing the diversity of the climate movement.  The UK is already doing very well, thank you very much, with many groups dealing with fracking, fossil fuel divestment, local food solutions and the like. What is missing a platform which links it all together so that connections are strengthened across all socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds – this is the aim of Power Shift UK; to connect us in a movement, together.

This theme and the idea of the Power Shift UK conference that is now happening on the 3rd and 4th May was fleshed out one blustery weekend at the May Project Gardens in Morden in south London.  The team at the time was KMT, Jenny, Tom, Susan, Ben, Claire, Izzy, Tara, David and myself.  Bernadette facilitated as the plans for the conference were put down on paper.  Amanda, Suzanne and Louise have all played their part.

It wasn’t until much later that the date and venue were set in stone, as team commitment and energy went through a lull, which was finally ended with the addition of the marvellous Emily, who was able to dedicate some meaningful time to the task in hand.  She then brought in the Campaign against Climate Change, and in particular the fantastic Fiona, and now we have the remarkable Lindsay as well.  This is the group, with the help of Claire, Susan and myself, who are bringing the plans into fruition.

It was great to hear at the recent gathering of the Climate Coalition (formerly Stop Climate Chaos Coalition) just how well our plans fit into the wider UK climate movement.  We’re on the right track.  The Power Shift will help lead through to the “For the love campaign” and an escalating series of events leading towards the crucial talks in Paris next year, where the governments around the world will put pen to paper with a deal on climate change.  We’re going to make sure that deal is up to the task, while building the solution from the bottom up should the politicians fail.

It all starts on 3/4 May – come and be part of history.

John Bell

Ordinary Bloke

Honey wine, a Compost toilet & Shifting the Power

A week ago Saturday I met up with the wonderful young people of Global Power Shift UK.  We managed to combine Eritrean honey wine, a night out in a trendy part of Brixton and a compost toilet with strategizing how to shift the power from money to people.

I’d got involved with the Global Power Shift (GPS) by first unsuccessfully applying to go to Istanbul earlier in the year.  I then met Nicolò Wojewoda of 350.org at a rally against the Keystone XL pipeline in London and went from there.

All national and regional GPS teams, covering everywhere on the planet where there are people, were tasked with creating their own Power Shift event.  The UK team has run a few events that could be described as a Power Shift and badged a few others with the same branding, but up until now hasn’t really found the unifying theme and idea that could be the start of something special.

Meeting in the British Museum with Nico, Ben Kurzman and Susan Poupard a few weeks ago, with my daughter Maddie reading a book beside us, we decided to hold a weekend workshop for the GPS UK team so we could nail down our ideas.

And so it was that a week ago Saturday I was waiting in fantastic Eritrean restaurant Adulis, sampling the honey wine and doing impressions of my son James’ Gollum-like crawl.  Femi was the unfortunate beneficiary, cousin of hip-hop artist KMT, who was to be our host.
Chess Set at May Project
We had a very interesting meal scooping up various different dishes with the think pancake-like bread injera and downloading the mind of Tara, who was unable to attend the workshop proper the following day.  The über-trendy Café Cairo was next – I was well out of place wearing my combats and carrying a rucksack.

I spent most of the night with my head on the floorboards in the music studio at the May Project Gardens in Morden, at right angles to the sleeping mat I’d brought.

The following morning started with my needing to negotiate the lack of toilet paper in the house.  I tell you, I was relieved, in both senses of the word, when I found the compost toilet marked on the helpful, painted map of the gardens.  The May Project Gardens is an inspirational permaculture set-up at the back of a council house in south London, complete with frog pond, herb spiral and polytunnel.  It was founded by a guy called Randy, whom I’ve not met, and KMT.  Permaculture is a way to live and to grow that apes nature, where waste is an alien concept.  It is highly efficient landwise – you get 2-4 times the produce by land area than farming – and requires less labour, chemicals and machinery.  The future as far as I can see.

The confidence inspiring Bernadette Fischler facilitated the workshop, which started outside with each of us drawing up a coat of arms representing our take on the GPS UK.  It was the day before the huge storm that cut through Southern England, so after a short while and a delicious falafel lunch we graduated indoors
GPS UK team at May Project Gardens
The upshot of our meeting of minds was a confirmation of our consensus view that we are here to help shift the power from money to people.  We intend to be the glue that allows diverse grassroots initiatives to share with one another and with the rest of the world.  To get that started, we are thinking that a Power Shift event where the those people and groups outside the traditional institutions can come together to meet each other, share stories and learn how to engage with the mass media.

Shift the Power UK is born.

John Bell,

Ordinary bloke