I have just spent the last 4 days helping to deliver a Share Fair in Essex and I actually learned a lot about myself. The Share Fair went great, the weather was good although a little windy; it was October and storms were due the following day but people came out and shared tea. Cakes were baked and devoured just as quick. Children played and ran around in great abundance. Simply put, the Share Fair that we helped out with was a wonderful simple day.
My learning and new discovery about myself came from all the other stuff that went on around the event. We drove up on the Thursday as we had a meeting with the council beforehand. We stayed in a caravan that was actually quite alright and really well equipped and we talked and talked and talked some more; that's where the learning came, when we talked and I had a realisation that I actually knew more than I thought about life, the universe and everything.
The person who I was helping with the Share Fair I have known for only a couple of years at most. We don't see each other enough in my opinion as I really like their company and I love the talks we hold. We often do not agree on subjects and I am often way out of my depth but it’s those deep discussions, those subjects that often get missed out in weekly adventures or daily lives and those talks about the elephants in the room that never come to light. It’s those discussions that I love and I managed to find for 4 solid days.
Because we have an open mind approach, unspoken but naturally developed, I feel that I can pose those questions that I am afraid to ask others for fear of judgement. I am frightened that others might see the real me - the scared little boy who tried to please everyone - but with this person, I can ask and I can be myself without looking silly or getting lip service as a reply.
I think what I learned most about myself over the weekend was that I am actually quite talented and I can do much more that I think I can. That, years of little appraisal had left huge doubts in my mind. I also had chance to voice my thoughts to others and I then realised that I was not only frustrated in life but I also felt very let down by others who I had invested so much time and effort in.
Just talking can help. It does help if you have someone with an active ear, someone who genuinely cares or someone who can help find solutions but even then, even if it’s just someone on the other end of the phone who you don’t know, it’s still good to talk.
I came back from the event, not feeling like a new man, not wanting to change the world but more like someone who is more at ease, has a better understanding of where they are in life and with a little more direction.
So this week, by helping others I unexpectedly massively helped myself and I learned to like myself a little bit more and that’s ok with me… It’s good to talk.
Dear John, you have been selected to take part in Professional Video - Positive Impact 2 - Training Course in Alicante Spain from the 18th to 25th September 2017.
Erasmus, in Spain, in September, doing a project I know will really benefit our work. How good is that! The fact was that I applied a little late and I really didn’t expect to be accepted due to the high numbers this course would attract but there it was, I’d been accepted to go and so glad that I was.
The 18th came around very quickly or so it seemed. A weekend community festival just before, this may have been a little bad timing on my part but I was bursting with energy and ready to get involved. Although I left home at 4.30 am on a cold and wet Cornish morning, by the time I arrived in Alicante at 2.30 pm it was a nice 30 degrees and sunny. A great start to the next 8 days. Busses turned to Tram rides and soon I had arrived at my destination after a very pleasant journey. My next 8 days would be spent at a school in the dorms sharing with 20 + others from 6 countries. 7 pm came and a welcome night had been planned where we would find out a little of what we were going to get up to over the next few days.
Being the oldest on these projects sometimes makes you stand out and get noticed, not in a bad way but with curiosity as often older people have given up learning by then and are quite rare to see on Erasmus projects. My history, current position and desire to keep to my lifelong learning plan got me here and the others quickly accepted me and age became no barrier.
Straight away I could feel the vibe and the feeling was good. The other participants and the hosts were very upbeat, positive and professional. The people who were taking part were there to learn foremost and to have fun along the way, while the trainers were making sure our every need was met.
I like to take part in these project as I not only learn from the subject being taught but also the way the trainers are teaching. Being a host in the UK for Erasmus projects and with applications pending outcomes there was that possibility that what I learned here could be used in some form in our delivery on future projects.
The next few days of training was spent on getting to know you; team bonding exercises and finding out a little about our knowledge of film making. This came at an easy pace and was delivered really well. Everyone was involved, everyone found their voice and everyone enjoyed it. - In fact, I don’t feel as if I am doing it justice with this description when really it was brilliantly done and thoroughly thought out. The games played really did help me remember people’s names; something I normally am not very good at. The whole introduction was fun, just what we needed and had the desired effect. We learned by non-formal education methods and we explored ideas through conversation.
The 3rd day though I felt a little cheated. The subject we were covering was storytelling and how to create and tell a good story. Tom, one of the trainers, explained the ten point summary of good stories and this is where I felt cheated. I had gone through life never knowing this but yet as he told us the method, nearly every film and book I had read fell into this method! I had dozens of films going through my head that fit the exact description of the ten-point plan. There was Lord of the Rings, Lemony Snickets, Deadpool and just about every film I could remember. How did I not know this before? How could I ever watch a film again without knowing where they were on the ten-point plan? Most of all though, I now knew how to create a good story, Tom had delivered a brilliant session and one I was sure would stay with me, be used and create impact in the future.
The other trainer was Javi; a chap who really knew his subject and how to pass his knowledge on to others in a clear and understanding way. He was not only a very good trainer but he really was a people person. He really cared about the participants and made sure we were comfortable and content with what was going on.
The next few days were mainly on Film. How to find those great angles, the basics of editing, sound and over all vision. The days passed quick, the learning was deep and the groups we formed worked well together. The days also allowed for us to explore more of the town around us. Alicante is a place that was new to me and the vibe I got from being there was nice. It felt safe, clean and was a place I felt that I wanted to know more about. The history there is plentiful and I had the chance to join others on a journey to visit the Castle on the Rock. To say it was amazing is not enough. The view was mesmerizing, the history of the place ran back hundreds of years and drew you in to find out more. As a bonus, there was a small exhibition based on the Game of Thrones that didn’t seem out of place and the castle was a brilliant backdrop for this. The main hall was outstanding and I could actually play through imaginative stories of large feasts and sieges being held there. I think this was left over from the previous sessions of storytelling and creation but I didn’t mind. At that moment in time, in my head, I was manning the ramparts and calling arms to defend!
As this project was mainly based on non-formal education methods, our learning came from taking action and actually doing films. We worked in teams that were very carefully thought out and had an even mix of ability. What we did share was the desire to learn and this was key to the project. The teams worked with NGO`s of the region to produce a video that would be used by them in the future. The clients brief varied between the NGO`s and the one I worked on was a `Thank You` message that the director wanted to give to the people involved with the project she ran. This involved us undertaking filmed interviews, street shots for B film to be used and office filming and interviews to finish off.
We spent a day filming and then the following day editing. For me, my biggest part was the interviews. I couldn’t actually ask the questions as I can’t speak Spanish but I could compose the questions. One thing I do have an understanding of at times is people and the questions I posed were mainly loaded for the replies that were given, the impact of those questions and the emotions that came from them. This lead to us capturing the moment, the feelings and created that story we wanted to put across. The technical side of things was totally new to me and due to deadlines and professional approach I sat, I watched and I learned. We were given the websites to download free software for editing, for sound and music royalty free of course and we were given 24 hours to complete the editing.
I found myself on a Saturday night, at 10 pm wondering what all the younger ones were doing. To my surprise they were still working and it was a bit of a wow to me. They had time to finish in the morning, they had the chance to go dancing, to the beach and to many bars in the area but yet on a Saturday night they chose to work. These are the people I love to work with. The ones that want to make the difference, the ones that go the extra mile and the ones that get very little praise for what they do buy will do it regardless.
Sunday and the last working day came around quick and this was the day we got to showcase our final cuts and our masterpieces to the other teams. 4 Films, 4 different subjects and 4 brilliantly delivered videos. In the time we had, the teams that were formed within just a few days and the knowledge between us, I honestly think we created something of use and that gave impact. I think the NGO`s that we worked for will be happy and will go on to use what we created.
At the time of writing this, the videos are with the NGO`s to seek permission for us to use. They may agree, they may want changes or they may want to use first before going public. Whatever they decide, I hope to be able to share with you what we created on this fantastic, highly beneficial training course. Hosted by professionals and made possible by Erasmus.
Oh, and if you ever see this course on Salto get you application in quickly, make sure you get on it, I would highly recommend it as it certainly had a significant an impact on me.
Between the 15th and 17th September I was lucky enough to be able to attend Offline Festival where I was offered the chance to unearth the power of community!
This is my account of the weekend. - John Lakey
For me it all started a couple of weeks before and finding the details on Facebook.
While I was debating to buy tickets or not I received an email from the team at Eden Communities with offer of a ticket if I wanted to attend. They know that generally when I go to things like this I get quite pro-active and I make a massive effort to join in; that I certainly did at Offline.
After seeing the event on Facebook, I noticed that it was advertised as child friendly and with that I also booked a ticket for my son who apart from being our number 1 volunteer, is also a very experienced festival goer and has been attending them since being in nappies and now aged just 12 knows his way around them quite safely. Here we had no fear and he knew exactly what he was going for... The archery and wood carving.
So, we set off on the Friday with google maps telling us that the 4 hours and 15 mins it would take us was generally problem free and with fine weather. Being typically British, no sooner had we reached the M5 the clouds opened and the tailbacks began. Soon enough the 4 hours turned into 6 + hours and the need for good coffee and chips was in really high demand.
When we arrived, we checked in and straight away were made to feel very welcome. This is what makes events like this so special; community workers, activists and groups really do go out of the way to make sure you are looked after well. Offline may have been in the first year and behind the scenes it may have been a little more chaotic but up front, to the attendees, you couldn’t fault it. They were ace.
With the tents put up quickly and with the need to explore, we set off to see what was in store for us this weekend. We first and mainly came across the Dangerous Dad group up from Devon and again, straight away we were made to feel so welcome. In fact, no sooner than we had said hello, my son had the axe out and was whittling wood like a pro! 2 hours later, conversations coming to a natural end and wooden sculptures finished we took ourselves off to bed.
Sleep may have come easy but 6 am I found myself wide awake. Not the noise, not through coldness but I think, excitement! I knew some people who would be here, who had travelled as far, if not further than me and those people I hadn't seen since April 16 at an Eden Community Camp. That’s what woke me up 6 am on a Saturday morning in a field in Milton Keynes!
Kettle on, face washed and coffee found; all as quiet as I could as not to wake others; then… Hello Mate -- I hear from across the campsite. Its Emma! Emma from `Landan` and someone who makes me just burst out in a massive smile when I see her; then… Who’s that ? Its Suzi! Suzi from Belfast, she’s brilliant and so inspirational.
No sooner than the kettle had boiled we had a nice little gathering, all bearing cups and hopes for spare coffee but, mainly all bearing stories of achievements and their frustrations from over the previous year.
The morning soon turned into an impromptu Big Breakfast and soon, bearers of gifts came from across the site, drawn in by the smell of coffee and the sound of laughter. We had croissants, cake, salads and wraps. We had teas of every description and from all corners of the world and coffee; we had the only coffee on site! Strange but true, somehow, we had the only coffee and being natural born sharers we done the best thing we could do, we shared. And all while we shared, we talked, we discovered and we learned. We managed to meet so many people; Bee Keepers from Central London, volunteers from the Grenfell fire, the people behind Toast (the social enterprise food waste project who turn waste bread into beer)! plus so many others.
That morning was the reason I was there, the reason I had driven 6 hours, slept in a tent for the first time in 15 years and was prepared to rough it for the weekend. Just to meet these people and to have these conversations over coffee. I caught myself a few times with a huge smile and I often had to pinch myself to remind myself that this was real, that I was awake and I was part of this. You see, these people I read about, I read their stories on social media and on Crowdfunder and through other outlets but I do read their stories. These guys and girls are my secret hero`s and the work they do, I can only admire from afar and here they were, all in a field and all just normal like you and me. This is what I loved about the weekend; no judging, no inhouse politics or councils to battle, just people who wanted to share, who wanted to help and to talk about what they love most; the communities they live in and what they are doing to try to make them a little bit better. So, full bellies, full minds and clean plates, showers done (they were ace by the way and rare to see at the festivals I normally attend) it was time to see what’s going on.
I managed to catch the talks in the Power Form and especially got a lot out of the talks from Phil Geraghty from Crowdfunder as the company has helped us deliver some excellent projects through turning to our community for help (5 project through Crowdfunder so far). Then I had the chance to listen to a man I offered coffee to in the morning but turned it down due to being late for something. What I didn't realise he was going to be late for his first talk. The man in question is Alex Smith from Alara Cereals and until today I had never heard of him or his company. Others there had and especially those who came from London. What I liked about his talk was his early roots and his experiment to try to live with no money when younger. It’s something I had tried here in Cornwall during the Thatcher years but, often not by choice so, it was refreshing to hear somebody else’s efforts and what happened next. I found that I was naturally drawn to that tent of talks as for me, the way it was set up, the natural vibe that came out from both crowd and guest speakers was my kind of language and easy to understand.
The afternoon saw us get out the giant bubbles! For this I can firmly place thanks towards Leo and Emma who brought their equipment and mixtures with them to brighten the day for so many. No sooner had the first bubbles been blown then the first children turned up. Bubbles are like magnets for children and smiles. The smiles come from all ages but the children make the best ones. As we were far from a shy little group we soon managed to drag people over to take part. Drag may seem a little strong really, as very few needed persuading and most gladly came to try out and go large. The effects were brilliant as the mixture Leo made up really worked well and soon we had massive bubbles 6 feet plus floating across the site. Amazing rainbow colours shining through and giggles of laughter as they popped on people’s heads. A brilliant time had and across all ages.
Later that afternoon I also managed to meet another person that greatly inspired me. The work she was doing is not to dissimilar to the direction we seem to be heading and with this in common and over a crowded table in a marquee we talked and again I learned and again I was inspired. This seemed to be a thing this weekend, talk and inspiration was flowing fast and in plentiful supply.
I then ended up in the middle of a Celtic dance fest where arms were flying and the music reminded me of home. In and among this fun mayhem I managed to have a 10-minute chat with Phil Geraghty, the chap from Crowdfunder. I simply wanted to thank him because he has actually backed some of our campaigns on Crowdfunder before as he believes in what we do. Also 2 years ago I was honoured to be asked to attend the Crowdfunder Christmas party and as it was such fun I wanted to say thanks for that and to let him know how much this was appreciated. He has also helped us out on the delivery of an Erasmus Project we held in Cornwall the year before. Another reason why I wanted to talk to him was for my son. Once he found out that Phil was sort of Mr Crowdfunder for the event he just had to meet him. It was brilliant, at 12 years old my son had met a sort of hero of his. I had to stop him just short of asking for his autograph! This kind of thing really has an effect on me, my son not only knows of crowdfunder at 12 years old, he has now met the man behind it and has full bragging rights at school. For my son, Sam, that was the highlight of his weekend, although the archery was great and bulls-eyes were plenty, it was nothing like meeting Phil and the memory that will come from that.
Sunday morning came around after a full night’s sleep. The sound of gentle rain finally getting me asleep in the early hours of the morning. The plan for the Big Breakfast was at Emma`s and Loe`s tents as they had more room out front and with more passing people we could entice to join. The fact was that we didn’t have to do much in reality, to entice. The smell of coffee worked it magic and others being a little more prepared brought goodies that made it a fantastic cornucopia of foods and drinks for breakfast. Fresh fruit, cereals, breads, danishes and again, teas of all descriptions. We had flat breads, crackers, humus and concoctions that I have never seen before but they tasted bleddy wonderful! This was organic, this was unplanned and this is why I came. This was my weekend.
I needed this more than i actually realised. These people re-enforce in me the reasons why I do what I try to do. They inspire, they balance and they impress. Each and every one I place on that peddle stool and look up to. I wish I could be more like them and one day, if I keep going, I think I will. Because of them, I have the courage to be me.
Offline... I am coming for you again next year. I thank you for this year and all that you gave. And I give massive thanks for the invitation from Eden Communities because without you I may not have gone at all.
The weekend was so much more than the people I have mentioned here. I will be following up with as many as I can in the near future and If I don’t then it may be because I failed to get your details.
My only regret over the weekend was failing to meet Nick Gardener - Project Dirt, as we both come from a community organisers background and I wanted to say hi from a few he will know in Cornwall. My other regret is having to leave just after lunch on Sunday to drive back to Cornwall as I had a flight to catch from Bristol the next day that saw me getting up at 4 am the following morning. Next year I will not make that mistake and I will also make sure Nick is invited for breakfast. – John
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