Picking up from the questions posed at the end of the first blog post I wrote for this project, I thought it would be worth re-visiting these with the benefit of reflections from the last couple of months. The questions were:
What is the Commons in this part of Nottingham?
What is it that everyone has that they can share?
And how do we share it?
What I quickly found was a need to define ‘the commons’. So here goes (well, here goes Wikipedia): ‘the commons is a general term for shared resources in which each stakeholder has an equal interest. It is the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately.’
The term was conceived in this country in the middle ages to refer to a part of a lord’s estate over which tenants had some rights. Of course this land-based meaning lives on today – the town I come from, Stroud, is surrounded by commons, which is where my interest in these spaces and ideas initially sprung from. Over the last century, the term broadened to include ideas of cultural and, latterly, digital commons with the advent of the Creative Commons and open source movements. Indeed Wikipedia itself is an example.
So back to my questions. Trying to find answers, I’ve spent the intervening time visiting and meeting people, talking and joining the dots. I’ve been to the Soul Food cafe, a pop-up ‘superkitchen’ just down the road from Primary, visited Hackspace, a member-funded and member-led workshop, studio and co-working space with a vast array of tools for shared use, and spent a rare sunny afternoon at the Windmill community garden, an oasis of greenery and activity near Bobbers Mill.
I’ve met with Shaun French, a geographer at the University of Nottingham, whose interests in the politics of financial exclusion have led him to be instrumental in developing local action groups in inner city Nottingham. His work is fascinating as a backdrop to my project in terms of thinking how and why we might begin to develop alternative economies within our communities in the first place. I also met up with Martin Parker, something of a renegade working in the business school at the University of Leicester, whose research, among many other things, calls for a broadening of the notion of ‘business’, where university teaching is concerned, to include co-ops, communes, and in fact any form of organising. It is this conversation in particular from which I lifted the text for this post’s accompanying image.
Alongside these visits, I’ve also held a series of drop-in events at Primary and The Nest (the Radford Skills Exchange’s community house in Hyson Green), which have been attended by around 30 people in total to date, and out of which sometimes directed and sometimes freeform conversations a loose group of interested parties has formed around the idea of a day long event in November to bring people, groups and organisations together and offer a space for sharing skills, ideas, and experiences, performances, films, music and more. The event will be on Saturday 26th November. The date was conceived as being the closest Saturday to Buy Nothing Day on Friday 25th. The working concept is ‘Share Everything’. It will also be a place to talk about ‘What next?’.
This project is part of Ian Nesbitt’s Intersections Commission.