Saturday, 18 July 2009

Report from Brian on Recent Developments

( Brian Lewis sent me this on Friday: )

After starting from three Rivers in India and three in the UK, we now have people wishing to form groups on the Nidd, Went, Wharfe, Don, Trent, Avon and Frome to join the Aire, Calder and Dearne. Some rivers have two or more groups on them and people are travelling to work with each other. Considering we have no central organisation, no money and no enthusiasm for either (Editorial comment by me: actually, I do have some enthusiasm for the latter...), and that this Blog and the telephone is everything have, we are doing well.

We have had a lot of interesting mail this last fortnight. Three letters stand out.
The first one came from the Harrogate University of the Third Age and was especially interesting because it made it clear that we perhaps ought to get down to saying something about our formal Aims and Objectives. A meeting at Leeds Metropolitan University took the same line.

My initial response was to wait to see where our unusual growth pattern will take us and then pause and say exactly who we are. However the enthusiasm of Lee Gascoyne and Helen Meszaros (see the other two letters) made me rethink.

Aims and Objectives - Rivers Project

Dear Siggie

Many thanks for your email. It was appreciated. This is my personal opinion.

The Rivers Project will support groups and individuals who emerge and who use the arts, creative technology and science to return places to environmental harmony. The action at this stage emphasises adult creativity. We are very concerned about climate change and its causes. We are an international federation of groups and individuals who correspond and support each other using email and come together for major projects.

I do not see a need at this stage to spend a lot of time on Aims and Objectives. It is like asking a lover, ‘What are the likely outcomes of this relationship and can you tell me where you expect us to be in six months time.’ Those who approach life in this way are generally doomed and deservedly so in my opinion. Hitler and Lenin did it Gandhi and Jesus didn't. Organisations which last long evolve and adapt to the current environment. Some groupings emerge because of a social need. Most political parties have manifestos and their followers spend over much time defending them and the opposition attacking them to the extent that this becomes the primary occupation. Religions have their sacred books and debate minutia. Take a look at the origins of Islam for another example and compare it with the way it currently functions.

You admit that ‘making us all aware of the importance of rivers is very clear’ and further say that ‘exchanging knowledge between countries is valid’. Strength comes from actions not words.

(Author's name withheld)

This letter came following the Conference at Northern College. I loved it because it hit a lot of key concerns and was quirky. It also highlighted the disappearance of public money systems and the need for a break with the tradition of looking for a bucket full before you start to rethink.

Hi Brian

I met you last week at Northern College at the Global Perspectives conference
We talked amongst other things about Sufism, Mulla Nasrudin and how special is laughter! It helps us to think, maybe help our thoughts to bend around difficult concepts and circumstances. Maybe help us to find new perspectives. Maybe even help our souls to reach new levels of consciousness?

The conference was really timely for me with other lessons especially over this last year, formal and informal education going at such a pace that the curve is in danger of running backwards. I really enjoyed meeting a lot of people who were in some way united in trying to form a vision whether about education, being in humanity on this planet of a better world, and a better way of organising. I really enjoyed the talk from the union guy about international organising, in different ways, like with home workers and rubbish pickers. I felt like I wanted to open up the discussion to community based organising against the BNP which Searchlight is trying to do.

The talks and discussions about the Rivers Projects were utterly inspiring and fit in with a theme in teaching for me this year which has taken place in a building called ‘RAIN’ in the centre of Rotherham, which has both had a leaking roof and we (me and young people) – have flooded upstairs with our wonderful blue paint which was supposed to create a relaxing ‘mood board’ and a sense of serenity but in fact led to a near disaster whereupon our most disturbingly silent member spoke for the first time in class, created the most amazing art work and then team work and cooperation followed– the overall aim of the course – in a big clean up in the hope that we wouldn't be banned from the building!

So my heart was very open to the idea of water and rivers bonding people and used as not just a specific area for organising, we need water to survive and needs to not be polluted, we need equity, Everybody needs water, but also the imagery of water and ancient Indian wisdom.

I am very interested in being involved with exploring notions of Community and community work and community development. I have done some work on this in the past and would very much like to hear about Indian and other perspectives and approaches. When practice teaching last year in a refugee organisation I met a worker from India who was talking about welfare services adn the state and the different conceptions people have of each other in India. She said to me that everyone was seen as a stakeholder, not in the New Labour sense, but in the sense that a service user is not a ‘client’ (with two heads if you look to see how people are sometimes treated) but citizens, a service provider one day might be a service user another. I thought that was interesting.

So thank you for your part in all of that and for being a person who was open enough to share enthusiasm. It was a welcome relief. I would like to find out more. I've attached my CV it only shows one part of a person thought doesn't it?
If you have the write up about working in Rotherham with young people and unemployment let me know, if you haven't I can start it again.

Best wishes
Helen Meszaros

Lee, a painter from Barnsley, came to a meetings in Wakefield and Castleford went to the Dearne workshop at the Cooper Gallery, he then picked up the fact from the Blog and the fact that he had already started a co-operative with Reinhold, that we were going up to Malham with our visitors from India, and he drove there.

Hi Brian,

Malham was impressive. I went to Janet's Foss first and then Gordale Scar, which I climbed to the top of before walking along the ridge to Malham Cove. It's there that I bumped into Falguni, Kiran and Mitali, then dropped back down into Malham. I got your note thanks. Reinhold phoned me mid-walk to say he had to leave almost as soon as he got there (to get to Leeds airport).

I was thinking that it would be good (and may already exist) to have a running list of active participants of the Rivers Project that could be broken down roughly to artist and writers etc? The list or update could include what each member is doing and at what stage they are at.

I also thought that it may be worth while expanding the visual artists' side of the project, as a divergence from the literary content in that there could be progress workshops where the artists get together and show where they are heading, discuss deadlines and make plans etc?

If I had a list of artists on board, I would be happy to do some admin.

The offer to do some admin was especially useful and as a result the requested list is evolving. Helen, Lee, Reinhold and Brian are also preparing some definitions of what we are now calling The Rivers Movement and statements about what we are trying to achieve. We are all committed to avoiding too many meetings for we see a cellular structure that does things and not just talks about them.

We are now seeing products. Bob (Aire) is making Rivers' Silk Scarves, Rachel(Calder) a Children's book and Porl (Went) a video set to music. Rosie (Don) and Stina (Frome) a collaborative book. ZS, working with his community has written a book text analysis water problems in his home land. Brian and Runima are planning joint work on BL's epic 'The Brahma of Soljitra'. Poems are coming in, and they will be posted in other blog posts. We have already got ones by Ray (Rother), Brian (Aire) and Julie (Avon ) translated into Gujarati and two of them recorded and sung in Gujarati.

The Future

"Every artist an administator and every administator a working artist"

We are now putting together a workshop programme but two Moots (Meetings for everyone) are already on offer. Two major projects which will need a collaborative work across the arts, creative technology and the sciences are emerging: Dearne and Malhamdale.

Saturday 25 July Mill of the Black Monks, Grange Lane, Cundy cross, Barnsley S71 5QF @ 10-30am in preparation for an extended workshop at Runima's home in Barnsley in the afternoon.

Monday 10 August, Outside the Buck Inn, Malham @ 11-00am. We already have a lot of material but this will be a big project. Follow up and Friends Meeting House, Pontefract Saturday 15 August @ 10-00am to discuss and look at work which has been thought about and plan a way forward in Malham and elsewhere. THIS DATE NEEDS TO BE CONFIRMED 01977 79312.

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