Lucy and the New Dawn Traders

Fare Traded by Sail

Category: London

Power in Story

The theme of my week has been STORY, specifically digital arts, activism and storytelling. I have been privileged to go on some great workshops this week to hone my skills as well as having some great meetings and going to some awesome performances.

First up bright and early on Monday morning was a Story telling and Pitching workshop at the BBC academy with the Arts Council. The workshop had been developed as part of the Arts Council drive to build Digital Arts capacity. The workshop was led by Hazel, a professional storyteller (how awesome) who has recently worked on the incredible Africa series featuring David Attenborough (JEALOUS!!). The workshop was split into 2 sections; making story and selling story. Basically separating out digital story telling into a means of marketing vs a means of artistic production.

So what is the relevance of Story? Isn’t it just a nice to have? Tales to tell your children? Far from it. Story is how we make sense of the world, our worlds. Making stories is how we share these perspectives of our worlds. Stories are instantly more memorable and this means they are more shareable. If you want to spread ideas then creating great stories is what it is all about. And that is why I went on this workshop. Because the world needs more awesome world changing stories.

This workshop also covered how to tackle the dreaded application forms and pitching for funding. One I particularly liked was to ‘write applications as if you are the character’ and to think of the application as another story. Keep it fresh and engaging. Funders will appreciate this as nothing worse then endless dry dull application forms. Trust me. Been there. Done that.

We covered the key rules of structure, theme and emotion and were asked to consider always what emotions sit underneath a story. We debated the mono myth theories of Joseph Campbell’s Hero journey vs the Heroines journey along with the ‘7 main plot’ theories of Christopher Booker (Hazel recommended the first half of the book and not to buy but rather borrow it!).

We discussed the importance of clearly identifying the major theme, the big question and the emotions in the story you are telling.

Apparently there are 6 key questions; meaning/purpose, survival, identity, relationship/society, justice, and redemption. Also the importance of the point of view of the story. By switching the point of view the same story can flip the question.

This is all important information to have in the back of my mind as I tell stories of the adventures, trials and tribulations of our voyages. Switching questions and points of view without our realising it, confuses the audience and can easily create misunderstanding.

One should aim not at being possible to understand, but at being impossible to misunderstand.” Quintilian.

I was joined on the course by a great range of artists, performers, writers, and producers. I got particularly excited about giant squid farm installation from the Bureau of Silly Ideas and a silent aerial performance about time.

On a more serious note the story of the Magdalen asylum and the women confined in them with apparent state collusion struck a chord with me. The last asylum closed in 2011. Yes. 2011. Absolutely horrifying. Some women had been confined all their lives on the basis of their ‘hysteria’.

But all the pitches were brilliant and I look forward to seeing the work commissioned.

The other main activity this week was attending a workshop on ‘changing behaviours’ which was being run as a Climate Week activity by AEGIS and the Media Trust. Aegis is an advertising agency whose bread and butter is selling stuff but which also has been working on sustainability advertising in recent years and has a project called FutureProof.

I was joined on the workshop by a range of charitable organisations including Secret Seed Society, City Farms Network and Forum for the Future. Critical debate was had about market segmentation and the action gap between knowledge about environmental issues and the actual positive behaviours that are needed to tackle these challenges. Helpful insights from behavioural studies were presented along with the theories of behavioural change and how to trigger actions to overcome inertia and habitual behaviours to tackle environmental challenges.

I stumbled across this very relevant article on why we need symbiotic and spreadable climate memes which also argues why we need better climate stories: http://www.climatememe.org/2013/03/05/why-global-warming-wont-go-viral/

There are three kinds of positive knowledge that have come out of this research so far.

  1. Firstly, we now know that the global warming meme is not going to make it on its own. That tells us to look outside the meme in other parts of mainstream culture for the solution. We must weave the global warming meme into a stronger meme ecosystem where spreading can happen more quickly.
  2. Secondly, we now have a meme map that tells us which memes will help the global warming meme to spread and which memes weaken or attack it (see the full report linked above to learn more). This tells us that we need symbiotic memes that have more spreading power on their own. Candidates will be discovered by answering the two part question, “Which memes are spreading successfully now that also relate to climate solutions in some meaningful way?”
  3. Thirdly, we now have a baseline understanding of the meme dimensions that must be welded together with the symbiotical memes in order to overcome inherent weaknesses in the global warming meme ecosystem.

Later in the week I went to see ‘The forest and the field’ at the Oval Theatre, an immersive theatrical production about how theatre might change to meet the social and cultural challenges of tomorrow and how we as the audience might change with it.

Finally I went to the incredible World of Women Festival at the Southbank centre where I participated in a speed mentoring session acquiring many great top tips, ideas and support for New Dawn Traders.

I also listened with glee to ‘50 shades of feminism’ which posed the question ‘is being a woman today really just about submitting to desire, in its variations of sex, shopping and even masochism?’. This is the perfect antidote to that 50 shades of s**t that everyone was reading last summer.

My best fact of the day was that Mary Wollstonecraft was a sea faring, ship commanding, feminist single mother from East London who blazed a trial that we are still sifting through the dust of.

New question I’ll be asking myself ‘What would Mary do?’.

I knew about Mary and her feminist writings but I didn’t know about her sea faring escapades to Scandinavia in search of lost gold and silver! I’m totally in awe and if I could time travel I’d definitely go back in time to join her. Failing that I might just go to this day at Birkbeck all about her instead.

Later in the evening I heard Naomi Wolf debate her new book ‘Vagina’ with Jude Kelly the Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre. I have to admit I had not heard of Naomi before the event. I happen chanced upon a last minute ticket from a friend and oh my was I pleased I did. Not only was the debate on female pleasure, female anatomy and the role of sexual organs in creativity incredibly interesting and engaging, the sign language following the debate had me weeping with laughter.

I was grateful for the #wow2013 story hashtag which enabled me to follow thoughts of others in the auditorium. Some of Naomi’s ideas are contentious and it was great to get insights from other experts in the room through this twitter feed.

The evening ended with ‘Crip tease’, a neo-burlesque performance from a range of artists with disabilities. It was incredible and I suggest you discover them for yourselves. The grand finale was an awesome sparkling sight to behold…

Quite a remarkable week that is for certain… But in sharing it I’m pretty sure I haven’t followed the story rules!

Finally note – Happy International Women’s & Mother’s Day!

Electric

“Art is not entertainment. Art is not luxury goods.
Art is culture. It is you and me.”

~Paige Bradley

Going LoCocoa with Kuapa Kokoo

We are currently in the midst of Fairtrade fortnight. I travelled to the Divine chocolate pop up shop to meet Cocoa farmers Mary Appiah and Esther Mintah Ephraim to find out about the life of Fairtrade chocolate producers.

“Going Lococoa with Kuapa Kokoo”

Mary and Esther are farmers in a large cooperative of Ghanaian farmers called Kuapa Kokoo and have flown over to share their stories of life on a cocoa farm. Kuapa Kokoo is the co-owner of London based chocolate brand, Divine chocolate with a 45% stake in the company. The remaining shares are owned by Twin Trading, an ethical trading company, also based in London, which works with small fairtrade producers around the world.

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Mary and Esther arrived in style to meet me, waltzing in wearing stylish full-length fur coats. They had heard that it was freezing cold and had bought them off the local market just before leaving! For both women it was their first time in London. Each year Divine chocolate select a couple of farmers to travel to the UK and learn how their chocolate beans are prepared and sold as chocolate.

I was surprised to learn that despite being a major crop, no one in Ghana eats chocolate. Not even as a chocolate tea or as ingredient to other dishes! As such the beans are picked, processed and bundled into sacks for export without any being made locally into chocolate products. “It would melt to easily in our hot climate” explained Mary. There hasn’t ever been a local culture of chocolate consumption. Cocoa was imported to Ghana in the late 1800s from the Caribbean and was developed right from the beginning as an export crop.

Both Mary and Esther spoke passionately of their farms and the concept of the “Noboa” system whereby farmers come together to help each other in turns. This communal spirit promotes peace, unity and continuity in the society and is a Ghanain tradition.

“For generations we have been farming together” said Esther. “My farm has been passed down to me and we all help each other out at the time of harvest taken turns to travel around the farms collecting and processing the pods”.

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The cooperative provides each member access to training, access to new tools along with trained staff to record information, maintain quality standards and handle any disputes. Both Mary and Esther have been elected to serve their communities as ‘recorders’. In the past traders visiting farms to source cocoa would use heavier weights and fail to give farmers a fair price. Through the cooperative the farmers are able to train their own traders and make sure they their fair share.

In recent years, a handful of organizations and journalists have exposed the widespread use of child labor, and in some cases slavery, on West African cocoa farms, which are linked to major multinational chocolate brands. Mary and Esther explained that their local system of elected recorders protects against such human rights violations. They don’t have to rely on ad-hoc visits from overseas consultants to maintain the health, safety and quality standards of cocoa production.

Kuapa Kokoo has become such a successful cooperative that they are now being asked to advise producers in other countries. Members of the cooperative have been advising farmers in Sierra Leone along with other countries on the western coast of Africa.

Both Mary and Esther were enthusiastic promoters of their cooperative. Over the years this model has enabled them to build schools, dig wells, and create valuable infrastructure for their community along with, crucially, giving every member a say in their own development.

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“You must buy more chocolate from us” enthused Mary. “This makes such a difference. Being part of this cooperative has changed our lives for the whole community”

In the Kuapa Kokoo cooperative about 1/3rd of the farmers are women. Both Mary and Esther will be sharing their inspiring story on the 8th March, World Women’s Day, at the ‘Women of the World’ Festival at the Southbank Centre.

Photo credits: Moe Zafir & Brian Moody

This article was commissioned by Run-Riot, a cultural happenings listing for London

Green Showoff

Yesterday I presented my first open mic stand up routine at Green Showoff – Open Mic for Communicators of Science.

Green Showoff is the latest variety night from the the Showoff network showcasing the trails and tribulations of 10 communicators. A new anarchic variety night for people with something to say about green issues: activists, scientists, policy wonks, students, hippies, green businesspeople, journalists, comedians, artists and green grumpypants.

The night was a storm. All 10 acts were hilarious. A good donation was raised by the door for Camley Street Nature reserve.

Storytelling for Sea Change – TEDxHermitage?!

On Thursday we transformed the community centre on Hermitage moorings to share stories and discuss how we can create great stories which drive a sea change in how we share our wealth around the world.

It was a blustery cold evening with ice cold driving rain but this was not going to stop our intrepid visitors from making it down the gangplank where a warm reception had been created complete with piping hot soup, sour dough bread, spiced apple juice and deadly caiprinha cocktails.

The evening opened with soulful shanties from the Ballina whalers. Shanties are working songs harvested from mariners at sea and as such are infused with tales of our maritime history. One song told the tale of the whaling ships which brought whale populations to the brink of extinction in our desire to fuel the street lights. In the 1870s London was one of the largest whaling ports in the world!

The Stranger Collective, a falmouth based communications agency chaired the evening first giving some background into how they use stories to create change giving examples of work designing materials for early diagnosis in psychosis patients. Using the creative process of storytelling to help them make sense of their experiences of psychosis, a film was created to help parents, family, practitioners identify the early signs of psychosis.

Chris Wainwright an artist and director of Cape Farewell, a project creating cultural responses to climate change presented a range of material created over the last 11 years of the project. In essence Cape Farewell takes artists, musicians, comedians, scientists, journalists on voyages to the arctic and challenges them to create specific works in response to their experiences there. Chris has worked with some really big names in the pop world including Jarvis Cocker, Katie Tunstell and Martha Wainwright.

Ian McEwan was  one of the authors taken to the Arctic. McEwan wrote the bestseller Solar written after his adventures with Cape Farewell. Chris explained how it can be a challenge to fight the delicious pessimistic funks which can result from being faced with just how fast the Arctic is changing and the consequences for life on earth. In his mind the canary in the coal mine died in 1977. Climate changing is happening. Fast. Tipping points have been reached and significant feedback loops are already kicking in. McEwan is quoted as saying in a particularly pessimistic funk that he failed to see how we could solve climate change if the inhabitants of the Arctic base couldn’t even manage to find their own wellies…

Without doubt a magnificent body of work has been produced by Cape Farewell.

But I was left wondering why I hadn’t seen more of the work. As my friend Liv, a science teacher in London, pointed out “I work in a top london school, I’m concerned about climate change and love art. I’ve never heard of Cape Farewell before now”. Cape Farewell you need to spread your works!!

Sam Kimmins from the Sustainable Shipping Initiative at Forum for the Future took us on a journey of the dark secretive world of mega shipping. The size and scale of goods transported by sea boggles the mind. The ships are vast and fossil fuel hungry megabeasts. Sam explained how shipping has largely been ignored in terms of environmental campaigning because compared to flying it is very efficient form of moving goods around. Plus the IMO have done an effective job lobbying to keep shipping out of climate regulation. But with rising fuel prices and a changing climate this has changed. Forum for the future are taking the biggest names in shipping on a journey to sustainability, first making the case for action and then creating the space for innovation and collaboration.

Alex and I were up next with our tales of the New Dawn Traders with our dreams of our voyaging epicurious future.

“One morning on the docks of a coastal city somewhere around the Atlantic ocean, a farmer’s market is in full swing. It’s a lively and rustic gathering featuring stalls of locally sourced groceries, products and troubadours. Also on display are the green vehicles & slow travel devices used by these local producers to transport their goods to site.

The docks are getting crowded with visitors when a majestic tall-ship enters the harbour and approaches the quay. On a giant flag, people can clearly see the Sail-Cargo symbol that has been carried across the ocean.”

Alex shared how the dream started in Brazil on a cocoa farm and her first forays into the dream of transporting cocoa from the farm to europe to make zero emissions chocolate bars.

I gave the highlights of the voyage aboard the Irene and the subsequent reality checking of the last 6 months, as we have both explored the idea of creating our audacious vision for sail cargo slow food circus.

I explained my reasoning for joining  the New Dawn Traders; that this presented a real and highly creative lifestyle whereby together we could create life pattern (paradigm) based on the wisdom of understanding interconnected ecological systems of which humanity is a conscious part. And do this through combining all the things I dearly love; sailing, food, travelling, new people and places, telling stories with the core purpose of inspiring a shift away from lifestyle based on fossil fuels.

“Inspiring change through adventures under sail”

Our idea is using the very action of trading by sail in produce, culture and ideas to reconnect and re-enchant people across the globe with nature, earth care and people share. Essentially the tenets of permaculture. But on the travelling community platform of a tall ship. We are currently making plans for our next research voyage which is planned for 2013-2014 in conjunction with another sail cargo company. Watch this space! Don’t want to jinx it by sharing too much now!!

After a good round of questions we rounded off the night with Theo Bard, his gorgeous voice and guitar.

A big THANKS to Biz Bliss, a Forum for the Future Masters Scholar, for curating the speakers Chris Wainwright from the Cape Farewell Project, Sam Kimmins from Forum for the Future’s Sustainable Shipping Initiative, and the New Dawn Traders. A big thank-you also to Clare and Lucy from Stranger Collective for introducing their inspiring work and chairing our discussion.

Also many thanks to the very fitting Hermitage Community Moorings event space, whcih swayed us through the night, and was elegantly styled by Becky McDonald. Becky also cooked delicious cheese scones to compliment my hearty soup made from vegetables ‘gleaned’ from the market and sail shipped spices. And the COCKTAILS! A huge big-up to Hal from Abelha Cachaca who plied us with delicious exotic caipirinhas! Hmmm they were great and oh so strong.

Last but not least a HUGE thank-you to all of you who came to hear our STORIES.

May the stories we share inspire us to re-enchant the world. Setting our course by the stars, hoisting our sails and sailing for foreign shores to sustain our abilities to care for our shared world.

Alex and myself are available for talks and events. Please do get in touch if you would like us to speak at an event or share our visions with you.

Storytelling for Sea Change! – 7th February @ Hermitage Moorings

Come on a journey with us through the arts and the seas, to hear how some ambitious projects are bringing to life stories of a sustainable shipping future and communicating climate change through more creative means.

This discussion will be aptly hosted at the Hermitage Community Moorings, on the Thames river by Tower Bridge.

We invite you to arrive on 7th February at 6.30pm to a welcoming of sea shanties and refreshments including delicious cocktails made with organic Brazilian cachaça from Abelha. At 7pm we present our three speakers and their inspiring projects, followed with a lively discussion. We hope to inspire you to run away with us and sail the seas!

INTRODUCING:

Lucy Gilliam : The New Dawn Traders :

Having crossed the Atlantic and back, trading goods via sail and connecting slow food communities, the New Dawn Traders are spearheading a revival of shipping under sail and telling the story of sustainable shipping.

Sam Kimmins : Forum for the Future’s Sustainable Shipping Initiative :

The Sustainable Shipping Initiative brings together some of the biggest names in the maritime sector to plan how it can contribute to – and thrive in – a sustainable future.

Chris Wainwright : Cape Farewell :

Cape Farewell aims to instigate a cultural response to climate change, famous for its expedition taking artists, musicians and writers to the Arctic, to inspire them to communicate the effects of climate change through the creative arts.

LOCATION:

16 Wapping High Street, London, E1W 1NG … Nearest Tubes: Tower Hill and Wapping

PLEASE RSVP TO GUARANTEE YOUR SEAT!!

B.Bliss@forumforthefuture.org.uk

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