The Transeuropa Network was born in Hanbury Hall. The Hall is where the word ‘strike’ was first coined; it’s where the ladies from the local matchstick factory met to address their terrible working conditions.
We didn’t strike overwork, but like with the match stick ladies, this was the founding meeting of people coming together because they wanted to strike up relationships and match-make ideas to develop a festival.
We are passionate about developing democratic and creative alternatives, and we wanted the Network to grow in a way that was creative, democratic and productive.
- Creative, using exciting techniques to explore new models.
- Democratic, using approaches that allow everyone in their local groups to take part in this process in ways that suit them.
- Productive, exploring and testing out different models that everyone feels happy about.
As we hopped from table to table to swap ideas on the diverse topics, we started to find out which theme would make us tick.
The criterion we were given were:
- What issues could act as themes for the festival?
2. Which issue would have the most significant resonance for which city?
3. Which themes would we be the most enthusiastic about and would want to get involved in?
Once we’d done that, we got into the group of the theme of our choice and started with a blank sheet. And it was amazing to see the insights of people from really different environments and how their cultures shaped their ideas and opinions on the themes, and how clear it was what we wanted to achieve to better involve others in developing transnational activities that didn’t provide the answers to the big questions, but explored the issues by asking the questions differently.
I remember reflecting on the first meeting that the organisation helping support the Network, European Alternatives, wanted to involve people in shaping what the Network would be and how it would develop.
And from that meeting, we agreed that one person from each thematic group would write up the discussions from the conference. These notes would turn into a wiki page which we would build up over the coming months to be more and more comprehensive on the theme, informing local activities—the Network carries out all the work.
We also pledged to identify one example of an exciting action performed related to their theme or an instance of an urgent issue relating to the music, which we thought the Transeuropa Network should do something about. Each group would then decide on one such action or topic to present at the next meeting.
So what can we learn?
Embrace the mess; you need rules for radicals, not for robots
The start of any activity could be more comfortable and precise. Allow for this as people move closer to being involved. If you try to move too quickly to a rigidly planned activity, they won’t feel a sense of ownership.