Diary

1 June 2024Comment

'We're becoming a social hub'

Gardening brings out the aggressor in me – I root out bindweed and thistles with a focus and single-minded determination lacking in all other parts of my life.

The simple judgement call of getting rid of things we don’t want (in that place) is easy to repeat.

I rest my decision-making brain and follow the roots beyond the vegetable beds, gaining more pleasure the more root I get out, shouting out to other humans when I pull out particularly deep or long roots.

I find it…

1 April 2024Comment

'It's guilt-inducing to say no'

Since communicating with each other and ourselves honestly seems pretty critical in a fully income-sharing, revolutionary community, our commune has decided to undertake co-counselling training. 

Co-counselling is sometimes described as egalitarian counselling, where both parties get to talk for an equal length of time. But it’s not really counselling at all – the witness shouldn’t ask leading questions or delve into what’s being said/not said. Instead, their role is largely to say…

1 February 2024Comment

'The power of personal capital has moved [us] onto step three of our journey of a thousand miles'

It’s late and I’m sitting in a lovely big bedroom, in a (mostly) old farmhouse. As I write I can hear the sound of young communards and commune visitors training in the shed across the yard – the rhythmic sounds of the punchbag getting hit and then the whoops and laughs at the end of the exercise.

My new partner-in-crime is reading in bed: Black Against Empire, an analysis of the Black Panthers. And although the church bells mysteriously stopped ringing the hours some days…

1 December 2023Comment

'I couldn't contain my empathy, my anger, or my amazement'

I have spent most of my adult life engaged in solidarity and justice work with and for Palestine, and alongside the small yet vital Israeli peace movement. I have mostly lived and travelled around the West Bank, but the last time I saw Gaza, I was standing beside the border with hundreds of Israeli and international peace activists protesting a heavy Israeli bombardment of that small place and the people in it.

I don’t have the words to even begin to understand how it must feel to be…

1 October 2023Comment

'If we don’t take ourselves seriously, why would anyone else?' asks our South Yorkshire-based anarcho-communard

One thing you have to do if you’re setting up a commune (especially a big one) is to meet a lot of people. Not just meet them, but meet them, really engage – compare what each other loves, what makes each other angry, dazzle them with the brilliant idea, ask about their financial and family situation, share some vulnerabilities, find out what makes them tick in time with your clock (or doesn’t).

We’ve just had one of our quarterly (there, I’ve said it in print, it is…

1 August 2023Comment

Our South Yorkshire-based anarcho-communard turns the risk register on its head

It’s taken us a while, but today, at last, the members of Doncaster Skate Co-operative finally played Co-opoly, the game of setting up a worker co-op. Several ‘chance’ cards mirrored real life – being featured in the paper, getting co-op governance training and the unexpected costs of asbestos removal all elicited squeaks of recognition.

I’ve been pushing to do this since before we took over the skate park in March, because it’s such a good exercise in practising collective…

1 June 2023Comment

Our Bentley-based cooperator extends an invitation

Revolutionary eco-anarchist food producers, bookkeepers, cafe managers, visual communicators and documenters – there are free homes and unpaid commune jobs for you here in sunny Doncaster!

Just go through our two-month political education programme and two-month joining process and maybe we’ll accept you :-).

Hmm – perhaps it’s not surprising that recruitment is a bit slower than planned.

Given our very low capacity (managing Bentley Urban Farm, Twisted skate park,

2 April 2023Comment

Our Bentley-based cooperator and her fellow communards buy a skate park

Usually when I sit down to write this column I try to scrape up ideas and make connections between completely random things happening in my life and then shoehorn in some kind of significant observation or realisation.

But this month there are just too many exciting things to tell you, all filling my brain with new twists and turns and deadlines, leaving no space for reflections and ponderings.

We bought a skate park!

One of our new communards, who joined us via Bentley…

1 February 2023Comment

Our Bentley-based cooperator wonders if she's bitten off more than she can chew

Back in November, I finally stopped paying rent to Cornerstone Housing Co-op in Leeds and moved my remaining things to a rented house in Bentley (Doncaster) – rented not by me, but by A Commune in the North. How did that feel? Well, having dragged it out for nearly a year, moving over in dribs and drabs and staying in Bentley for days or weeks at a time, it didn’t feel like a big deal – much more like a relief that my crap has all finally been cleared out (well, you know, mostly).

But…

1 December 2022Comment

Our Bentley-based cooperator tries to strike a balance between idealism and dogma

I was just at my last annual Cornerstone party as a tenant member of the co-op. After my dark comic (and very middle-aged) contribution of Victoria Wood and ‘Poisoning Pigeons in the Park’ by Tom Lehrer, other younger people came on who spoke very seriously indeed.

One Colombian talked about the pain and damage of the cocaine industry on their people and how they felt about people around them disregarding that for their own pleasure.

I felt so weird – I felt like it was the…

1 October 2022Comment

Our Leeds-based cooperator has an inspiring six months

As the hecticness of summer recedes, the autumnal ‘new projects’ feeling has taken a real hold, despite the monarchical brake being applied. Festival stalls and workshops have generated relationships and ideas to follow up and enquiries to answer, while projects that were on a summer go-slow have risen to the top of the urgent list.

The world seems to be speeding up, and society finding it a little harder each day to hold the panic at bay. Or maybe it’s just adjusting back to life…

1 August 2022Comment

Our Leeds co-operator senses a window of opportunity closing

So I tried to leave my co-op bubble.

I’ve been living and working in my lovely co-op community for nearly 30 years – a very comfy setup where my cost of living is super-low, so I don’t have to worry about working very much for money, I’ve never had a credit card and never taken out a loan, I’ve never been personally liable for utility bills or worried about whether there’s enough money for food or whether we can afford to heat or fix the house.

For over 20 years I’ve been my…

1 June 2022Comment

Ria Patel becomes the first non-binary councillor ever elected in Croydon

The long wait to see if Croydon would elect its first Green councillors was nerve-wracking. After all the leaflets had been delivered and hundreds of residents had been spoken to, all the campaigning that we could do was done.

At the count, the mayoral ballots were counted first, so I was expecting to have to wait a while before ballot papers for the council elections were counted.

As the delays continued, I thought it might be daylight before the results were announced on…

1 April 2022Comment

Our Leeds cooperator puts her trust in the joyful anti-authoritarians!

I seem to have fallen into a never-ending recruitment drive – not satisfied with the ongoing search for commune members, or the renewed need to fill vacancies in my housing co-op, nor even the unusual situation of shortlisting and interviewing for a Radical Routes contract, I’ve found myself accepting a job recruiting people into a new housing co-op. For many hours a week.

Just in case the craziness of that sentence didn’t sink in – I am being paid (paid!) to help set up a housing co-…

1 February 2022Comment

 Our Leeds-based co-operator takes her first step to becoming a communard

Today I moved a small load of my belongings to a former shed (now ‘therapy room’) at a community garden in South Yorkshire.

This is the first physical step to becoming a communard – to creating a large, egalitarian commune, fully income-sharing, collectively generating income and producing our own food, with a shared political agenda and commitment.

Am I happy? Excited? Actually... more scared, unsure, frankly a bit blank emotionally.

It must be said, that leaving a…