Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Where are we now?

Where are we now?

If what you read (the previous article below) were true it would seem that it’s been a few years since we did anything at all. To be fair many of the members of AEC have busy lives and many other individual projects that they are involved in, myself included. I’ve been involved in a CycleRecycle project that ran for about four months repairing bikes and teaching bike mechanics to unemployed Lincoln people and it was relatively successful. In terms of how it served the local community and some unemployed people too gain a skill and transport for work.

Gregg has been busy with his Didge-sound therapy and another project called Peace Zone. (See links) Other members have been training and using new work avenues to fill the space for an inclusive cooperative community to flourish when we get the get go for our co-housing aims. Angela and others were involved in a program of assisting with the mental well-being of carers in the county and she is currently hard at work with the purchase of a property to be a Well-being retreat in the lower part of the county. I hope to be active in this also as it is a very worthwhile project and much advantage can be made towards the co-living aspects of our AEC at this site and others in the future. We have been offered the chance to buy a plot of land near to our storage facility near the Lincolnshire Wolds which may also prove valuable in the future of AEC.

A few of our members had collectively decided that whilst we waited for the Lincoln City Council to become more progressive in its thinking towards community projects and Low-impact self-build developments in particular, we would try and get the name and credibility of the group on the map, so to speak. In doing this we took on the running and management of a local Retirement homes allotment/kitchen garden. Stones Place is a progressive ally and keen supporter of what we have been doing and have achieved for the past year and a half. When we took over the site it was quite overgrown and desolate. Though the management and staff had made great efforts to contain the garden from becoming completely unruly they were finding it a constant strain to keep it tidy and it was effectively an off limits space to the residents. That has now changed dramatically with our intervention and efforts, we are well on the way to completing all of the three original requirements of the home.

They were firstly to make the space somewhat accessible to the residents. In conjunction with help and active support from the LindumHomes group a new concrete path was laid to give access to the raised beds initially. Roy, a newish member and hardworking gentleman had helped me and Suzanne to dig out the footings which were then levelled off with concrete. The costs were soaked up between the Home and Lindum, so no cost to ourselves except our labours. Though I’m certainly not a great fan of concrete or too much hard standing we have to be practical in consideration to the people who will want to use the gardens as part of their wandering the grounds of Stones Place.

Secondly we are hoping to be able to supply some of the foodstuffs that the kitchen can use to feed the residents on a weekly basis, as well as fresh cut flowers to decorate the tables in the dining area for residents. By next year we hope to be offering much more by the way of balanced diet abundance, and flowers to cheer.

Lastly we hoped to be able to offer some external activities to both the residents and other volunteers by way of workshops and other activities in the grounds and planting areas specifically. Already one or two of the senior residents have gotten involved in planting flowers they come to tend here. We hope to widen this part of our aims more in the coming year. We have worked successfully from the outset of course with volunteers from both Addaction and Framework in the city towards helping get people actively participating in rewarding and tangible group activity. Also members of the Birchwood big local project have been assisting us as we develop this space.

During the past two years I have completed a full training of the wonderful Permaculture Design Course, run by Hannah Thorogood a Lincolnshire based teacher, conducted at the University of Lincoln campus. This indelibly sold me onto the whole idea of working in harmony with nature as the premise rather than against it. As an activist and campaigner I’m perfectly aware of how damaging our behaviours can be to the environment, so this course definitely helped to set me on the right path of following three basic tenets of Permaculture. Earth care, People care and Fair share….
Stones Place has thus given both myself and the AEC a way into working at sustainability in food production and with respect to the planet and people in particular. We do not neglect nature of course and are working very diligently at re-establishing the bio-diversity on the site. We hope to dig and construct a pond over the coming months and have it ready before the spring. Please have a look at our AEC permaculture Stones Place Facebook page (LINK) to see for yourselves how this has been coming along. Of course again as part of our ethos of sharing we invite anyone and all volunteers to come along to get accustomed with nature and a connectivity with the earth and food. Roy and I are normally there every Tuesday from about 10.30am onwards till late afternoon, and happily entertain volunteers with teas coffee and cake… Oh and some interesting conversations to add variety.

Recently a few of the AEC members also became involved in the forming of a new activity food growing group in Lincoln called aptly enough Grow Lincoln. (LINK) This is an initiative to get food back into publicly owned spaces so that we can share the produce with others for free and try to help against the onset of food ignorance and restore some sort of food sustainability. This past weekend we hosted an event at Stones Place for this project and a couple of hours were spent happily enjoying the late summer sunshine on the allotment being inspired by two eminent Medical Herbalist practitioners. Andrew Stableford and Hannah Sylvester kindly gave of their time to offer a free presentation of herbs in both food and medical treatments as well as dealing with the more fundamental lack of general well-being issues that many of us face these days.

The project that Angela is currently guiding to a beginning is the Insight Community/Abundant Earth Community well-being retreat near to Sleaford Lincs. We are about to have some investigative reports on the site done ahead of making final offers for purchase. This is both an exciting move forward and a chance for us all to re-engage with the AEC group activities. Much is to be done and many hands make light work as we know, so please if you have skills, energy and ideas about how you could help make this an awesome venture, come forward without delay. If you can also help with any financial investment there are going to be great returns, both of a financial nature as well as the obvious feel good factor of getting this type of Cooperative living/sharing into the mainstream of our housing and accommodation needs.

For those of you that were also unaware, we had been working for the past few years with the University of Lincoln Architectural Dept. Mainly alongside one of the Senior Architectural lecturers, Prof. Marcin Kolakowski, and his successive 2nd year students. This has yielded both a wealth of experience for some of the core members of AEC but an opportunity to share the idea of Low Impact Sustainable Development, particularly in an urban environment. I have personally gained huge insights into what can be achieved in collaboration and interaction with students when there is an almost no holds barred freedom to design and creativity. We now have the two case studies of two separate sites available for any interactions with local authorities and planning groups.

Earlier this year Angela submitted a grant application which I had the pleasure and surprise of having to go to Birmingham to pitch for, with the UnLtd grant funding group. Of course a man armed with passion and some common sense ideas that are shared widely by our AEC group was too much for them to compete with. They capitulated and gave us a grant award of five thousand pounds as a first round which we are currently investing in the final stages of the Insight Community/AEC project well-being hub retreat purchase.

Angela has also completed the full course on straw bale construction with the accredited Straw Works Company earlier this year, and been active in assisting with a build project in the south of the county with Hannah Thorogood at her Ink pot Permaculture Land site. (Link)She has also been working in conjunction with other members on Nancy’s field, a willow plantation at South Leverton.

Going forward I’m also working at getting the website back up and running as there were one or two issues that meant it could not stay live, but have faith I am working with other members to get this back to the fore of our active campaigning. If you were once, ever interested in what we hoped to achieve with working both cooperatively and collaboratively please re-engage with us and help to make these things a continued success.

And please keep coming back to see what we are doing and how the new projects are progressing.

On behalf of AEC.

Inspiring the change we wish to see in our community…

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