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Articles from the Peace News log: Radical Living

Articles from the Peace News log.
For articles in this category from the whole site, look here

ImageAndrew Bolton reviews Clare Stober's book about the Bruderhof: 'Another Life is Possible – Insights from 100 years of life together' (Plough Books, 2020; 320pp; £21.50)

There are activists seeking change nonviolently, protesting, getting in the way, being arrested. From Gandhi and Rosa Parks to Extinction Rebellion, we celebrate their courageous contributions. Then there are communal demonstrators, those whose lives together model a better world here and now. Both activists and communal demonstrators are important. This book is about the Bruderhof, a celebration of struggles and endurance over 100 years of a remarkable communal movement. Today there are 23 settlements on four continents totaling about 3,000 members, ranging in size from households in Harlem, New York or Peckham, London to communities around 300 people in size like Darvell in East Sussex, Beach Grove, Kent, or Danthonia, NSW, Australia.

The story begins in Sanherz, Germany in 1920 – Bruderhof means place of brothers in German. In the chaos and suffering of the end of World War I, threatening communist revolutions, and the moral bankruptcy of many Christians over war and capitalism, Eberhard and Emmy Arnold, their children, and a few others began to live together in full Christian community. They took very seriously the Sermon on the Mount and the example of living all things in common in the early Jerusalem (Acts 2 and 4:32-35). They also drew inspiration from the radical Anabaptists – the left wing of the Protestant Reformation, and later the Hutterians, communal Anabaptist descendants, now farming the prairies in Canada and the USA. 

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Peace News co-editor Emily Johns tells the story of Walden Pond Housing Co-op,

ImageLast night, 21 people crowded into the Friends Meeting House in South Villas, Hastings, to hear Peace News co-editor Emily Johns tell the story of Walden Pond Housing Co-op, which was set up in 1998 and now owns a house and a flat in the town.

The main point of the evening was to explain 'How to Set Up a Housing Co-op', with a lot of help from the Radical Routes handbook of the same name (44 pages, £3 or download for free here). Radical Routes is a Britain-wide network that started in Birmingham in the late 1980s, now consisting of of 24 housing co-ops, 6 worker co-ops, and 2 social centres.

Walden Pond Housing Co-op started life in London in 1997 supported by what was then called Jigsaw Housing Co-op in Oxford (also a Radical Routes member). Despite having members who were almost all claiming housing benefit (because they were unemployed or low-waged), the co-op was able to rent houses in North London which landlords didn't want to rent to HB claimants. The co-op took out 'company lets' which were more acceptable to landlords.

Later on, after being moved on repeatedly by landlords selling their houses, the co-op decided to buy a house in Hastings, the poorest part of South-East England and with the lowest-priced property. The purchase price was met with loanstock borrowed from friends, family and fellow activists; a mortgage from Triodos Bank, one of the few to understand lending to housing co-ops (Ecology Building Society and the Co-op Bank were also mentioned); and a top-up loan from Radical Routes.

In later years, a Radical Routes loan helped Walden Pond to buy a nearby garden flat.

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Russ McPherson responds to an article on Metalkova social centre in Slovenia in PN 2535 with his own experiences in Australia

ImageSpread across 10 acres of land in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, is the Ceres Community Environment Park. Pronounced “series” the name has several connotations, the most appropriate perhaps being with the Roman goddess of agriculture.

Dotted with wind turbines and solar photovoltaic panels, Ceres certainly lives up to its founding principle to “initiate and support environmental sustainability and social equity.” The 4 hectare park includes a farm, community gardens, a café selling delicious vegan food, a market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings which sells organic foods and handmade/recycled crafts, a training kitchen, educational nature trails, a volunteer-run bicycle repair group, and various sustainable water and permaculture projects.

The EcoHouse demonstrates sustainable living retrofit options, while other buildings are designed to contribute to a wider knowledge of indigenous cultures and lifestyles. It was in one of these that I discovered the aboriginal map of Australia, which illustrates more than anything the diverse culture that was lost when the white man came.

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Dariush Sokolov reports from No Borders' camp

Image25 June 2010, Steenokkerzeel by the airport outside Brussels, 60 people occupy the building site of the new 127 tris immigration detention centre, shutting down work for a day, taking direct action against the construction

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