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 ago, the regular alarm from the level crossing is going strong.
For the last week, we’ve been COVID-quarantined in our room, and marvellous housemates have brought us delicious and healthy food twice a day, plus drinks including home-made fire cyder vinegar for immunity boosting.
My word, I’m so lucky and so happy, how wonderful that this is my home! A new home since October and one we’ll likely stay in for a few years, until we have enough communards for the next stage.
The power of personal capital has moved A Commune in the North onto step three of our journey of a thousand miles – we’ve bought one of the oldest buildings in the middle of Bentley, housing eight of us (with help from the converted Luton van on the drive).
The last four months have seen us turn into a closer community, well-resourced and able to host a stream of visitors. The property is amazing – as a former ice-cream producer, it has a massive workshop with two large cold stores, which could come in handy for any number of businesses. It also boasts a hot tub and a man-cave (aka shed with a bar and glass doors), renamed ‘the non-binary nook’, now serving as a gym.
September: We buy the house, we host our autumn gathering, we gain three new learners who move in, we cater the music and harvest festival and we get the van stored on our drive. We lend the Skate Co-op £5k for Christmas stock.
October: Two of us move over from our rented house, a third leaves their family to move into the commune, two of us get together and decide to share a room from the get-go. The hot water breaks, the bath overflow breaks and floods the cellar – unrelatedly, we realise we’ll have to remove the render from a wall. We cater the Halloween skate jam at Doncaster Skate Co-op, which is doing really well. Our learners become a growing apprentice at the farm, a Doncopolitan magazine apprentice and a jewelry apprentice in the craft shed/skate-park mural painter.
November: We decide to register ‘Good Intentions’ housing co-op (to take ownership of the house), two of us go to Basel, Switzerland, for a Kurdish Freedom Movement conference, four of us go to the Radical Routes gathering, we increase the number of regular meetings significantly, and we have our first feelings meeting and Tekmil (giving and receiving critiques against revolutionary values). We discover the second boiler – that explains everything. The workshop blossoms into a functional space. We lose one of our learners – the first resident to leave the commune – it feels very sad. We gain a commune-enthusiastic new boyfriend and regular cook.
December: We gain a long-term guest replacing our lost learner, we start deeper learnings and book club, we lend Anarres Housing Co-op in Bristol a £7k bridging loan, we host our winter gathering, we cater the Christmas skate jam. The internet and both washing machines break, we put in a £1,200 wholefood order, we host (our own) parents and kids for the festive season.
January so far: We get half the skate park loan back, we get COVID, we host a ‘Paludiculture Farm Hack’ planning event. We still haven’t submitted the registration forms for Good Intentions Housing Co-op....
Reading this back, I am struck (again) by how lucky we are to have the money to facilitate this progress. It’s not a lot in house-buying terms, but it’s enough to not have to worry about a broken boiler and to help out other projects short-term.
So many co-ops struggle for years to get housed and all it took for us was to have one person with a small Birmingham house who’s up for collectivising their wealth. Imagine how many people could have more stable, healthier lives if more personal wealth could be similarly unlocked.