☀️The RYSE Summer Camp☀️
Dates: 7th, 8th, 9th September 2022
Location: Swifts view; a piece of communally managed land in Slad valley, Stroud which some of our radical local elders let us use :)
Groups represented: StoneHenge Action Group, Youth in Resistance, Palestine Action, Red Square Movement, Gloucestershire Youth Community action, Stop HS2 campaign, Sheffield Student Action Group, XR Youth solidarity, Decolonize Virunga, The Lockon and more!
Blurb: The purpose of the end of Summer camp was to bring back together young activists who had participated in our Winter Residentials; either ‘Radical lands and Legacies’ or ‘Action and Imagination’ and to share, explore and reflect on the work that people in our learning communities have been up to since, and begin coordinating and intention setting for the coming year (if you are interested in what we got up to during these previous residentials, you can check out our winter 2022 seasonal zine).
RYSE learning communities
At the RYSE, we use ‘popular education’ to design our camps and residentials. According to this method, the learning process happens by combining theory with action- so educational processes start by grounding in the experiential knowledge of participants, onto which theories can be mapped and patterns/questions identified. From here we apply and test what has been learned in the world- and so the process repeats. Paulo Friere refers to the combination of action and theory as praxis. A year ago when we were designing our winter residentials we designed our sessions not one-off weekend courses, but a starting point for ongoing relationships and a commitment to a collective learning process. For this reason we had the idea of setting up ‘Learning Communities’, made up of previous participants to our residentials, with whom we would stay in contact and engage in consistent reflection together. The summer camp was an attempt to initiate the second turning of the spiral, by bringing people back together to building on the learning, application and reflection which has happened in our learning communities since we were last together.
- Celebrating the RYSE’s first birthday, as well as the work everyone in our network has done this year
- Sharing and exploring participants’ experiential learning from the last year relating to ‘Radical Lands and Legacies’ and ‘Action and Imagination’
- Begin intention setting and coordinating for the coming year and consulting with participants about what work they need from the RYSE going forwards.
Day 1: Groundings (What does it mean to be on this land? Who are you accountable to? What are your intentions for this time and space?)
Day one began with an opening circle and camp tour. After lunch, participants grounded in a discussion of what it meant to be on the land. We had gratitude for the opportunity to be outdoors, connecting to nature and being more attuned to the season, the weather and present with one another. At the same time, we acknowledged the privilege and rarity of having access to that place, and the time to spend on it. It raised conversations about land ownership and the whiteness of the English countryside, as well as the fact that camping is not safe or possible in many parts of the world - such as in Mexico where one of the participants comes from. Next we talked about who we were accountable to and reminded ourselves of our relationships with specific people for whom our change making work is for - most people wrote accountabilities to themselves and to friends and family, grounding in the relationships which motivate our change-making work. Lastly, we made space for people to set intentions for the time and space, which were displayed in the workshop tent for the duration of the camp - these included listening and learning, rest and connection.
Action and Imagination
The rest of day one was dedicated to revisiting the themes which we developed during the Action and Imagination (A&I) workshop in March. The group was split into two workshop groups; one for people who had come to the residential and one for those who hadn’t...
For new people, we asked groups to freeze frame the images which come to mind when we say ‘action’, and then ran the ‘Action Box’ workshop (see our winter zine for detail!). This unearthed our subconscious bias towards performative direct action. We identified how many of the dynamics inside the action box - such as cultures of high urgency, stress and overwork as well as emphasis on performativity and polarisation replicate problematic aspects of the dominant culture. On the other hand, the less ‘sexy’ forms of change making which are not usually respected in activist spaces such as art, stort-telling and social reproductive work are also the kinds of activities which are devalued in society at large, a dynamic which we argue is central to the social and environmental problems which we are seeing in the world.
With people who came to A&I in March, we mapped a timeline since the residential and chatted through how it was for people to take back the learning back to their groups. During this session we collected loads of useful feedback about the kinds of support they would have liked, and how we could have better held the learning community together at a distance. Most hadn’t felt confident enough in the things they had learned to ‘teach’ or convey them in any structured way to their communities, although they felt that it had changed their own ways of engaging in their work. We also identified patterns of guilt and avoidance which came up when the RYSE contacted them online to see how they were doing with applying their learning. This is feedback which we are using in the Autumn to integrate into our design of residentials and learning communities for the coming year.
Fruits of our labour
To balance out the lack of recognition which non-direct action change making receives in most activist spaces, we decided to hold a celebration space for the outside-of-the-action-box work people had done in the past six months. One of the participants in the camp helped us to design this session which we called ‘the fruits of our labour.’ Using pears which we picked from a tree in Robin’s parents house, each of us cut up some fruit and sat in a circle around a fire.
When we felt moved to share, each person spoke to the group about something they were proud they had done recently which sat outside of the action box. They then placed their pear into a pot over the fire with everyone else’s pieces. When the sharing circle was over we ate ‘the fruits of our labour’ together. We feel that witnessing is a key need which humans have as social animals, but which often goes unmet in our culture, leading to a lack of identification with community and no sense of collective purpose. People told us this was one of their favourite sessions, giving people a sense of hope togetherness and resolve to do more. Take a look at the amazing things which people have been doing to build the world we need! →
The evolutionary gifts of the animals
Day two was all about connection to land resistance histories. The morning began with yoga for early birds, then porridge and a morning check in. We encouraged everyone to connect to place in an informal walking meditation around the site, then we came back together and did a short exercise from ‘The work that reconnects’ called ‘the evolutionary gifts of the animals’. This talks through the different parts of our bodies, and where they have come from in our evolutionary history right back to ‘grandmother worm’, the first multicellular organisms with a blood stream. We explored and appreciated our spines, our hearing, our binocular vision and opposable thumbs by touching and hearing about the origins of these parts of our bodies.
Extract: The spinal column: Feel the bones in the neck, the back. Those vertebrae are separate, but ingeniously linked. They cover the central neural cord and, at the same time, allow flexibility of movement. Grandfather fish did the design work, because he couldn’t swim if his backbone were one solid piece. We can thank him for this marvel that now permits us to stand and walk...
Psssst! We really recommend checking out ‘The work that reconnects’ and all of Joanna Macy’s work- you can find tonnes of resources and exercises here which follow a Spiral of practices: Gratitude, Honoring Our Pain for the World, Seeing with New/Ancient Eyes, and Going Forth.
Ancestor wall building
Next we dived into recapping and building on our learning from the ‘Radical Lands and Legacies’ residential. For new people, we started by discussing the Marcus Mosiah Garvey quote: “A people without knowledge of their past, history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” We chatted about the ways that individualism separates us from the wider context of our existence- both in terms of our history, our peoples and our connection to place- and that the Global North is the place where we have the most extreme separation culture. Hung up in our workshop tent were images and short biographies of some of the RYSE’s chosen radical ancestors- some of whom you might have seen in our spring zine! We asked people to draw or write about the people or beings which they consider their ancestors, to build an ancestor wall. Here’s a few…
“Phil Robinson: my great uncle, trade union activist who coordinated vans delivering food and care packages from Gloucester to Wales for the striking miners”
“Pauline Newman: Lithuanian jewish immigrant to Ne
w York in 1900s, organised study groups, led a group of women to organise a 10,000 family rent strike at 21 years old which is still the largest ever rent strike in the history if New York”
“The Chichemeca tribes who resisted settler colonialism and fought to get their rights back”
We had conversations about confronting familial histories and our responsibility to acknowledge and atone for the violence on which many of our lives here have been built on. The group also discussed discomfort around adopting words such as ‘ancestors’, which felt intangible and culturally appropriative for some. We also questioned whether it was okay to talk about people we admire as ‘chosen ancestors’, which brought us to discussion about relatedness and what it means in a broad sense to be ‘family’...
For people who came to our Radical Lands and Legacies residential, we gathered feedback and talked about how people had been engaging with the content since. They said that they had been left with a feeling of how important it was to ask and understand ‘who are we? Where are we?’, but they had trouble feeling confident to concretely bring the ideas and learnings into their own activist spaces. We are bringing this feedback into our residential design for the coming winter :)
Why ancestor walls???
We think that knowing our resistance histories and situating ourselves in the ongoing story of struggle is important for both humbling ourselves, and as a source of inspiration. That’s why we like to name our heroes and sheroes- to honour them, know their faces and their work- and to carry on the flame.
Giving back to the land
Many young people in this part of the world are not only disconnected from their histories, but also from land and nature. In the context of an ecological crisis, it is essential that we learn to tend and listen to the land again. So, in the afternoon of day two we got our hands dirty in the rain doing some jobs in Swifts view- half of us cleared long grass which was crowding tree saplings, and the other half weeded the kale and built a wood chip path for the food growers who donated us some of the veggies we were eating during the camp. We chatted and sang while we worked, and generally got to know each other better!
Eldership is another important aspect of reconnecting with community, place and our histories. Over the past year we have been building relationships with older members of the Stroud community who have been involved in liberation and environmental activism for decades and whose guidance we learn from. We invited Skeena Rathor, our friend and long-time co-liberation and anti-oppression activist to guide a session with us about ‘matriculture’. She talked us through an analysis of patriarchy as domination culture, and the ways this shows up in systemic oppression of people and destruction of nature. She then described the gift economy and talked about the social and emotional wounds which are caused by living in a world where our interactions are not relational, but transactional, evoking the work of Dr Catherine Acholonu, Miki Kashtan and others. She asked us, who were you before all these pressures and transactions? What do your senses tell you about your ‘whoness’? What do you understand about your deep self and its purpose in the world? We got into deep chats in pairs around these questions.
“The basic human 'operating system' is laid down by the maternal gift economy that mothers have to practice towards young children, who cannot give them an equivalent in return. The unilateral altercentric giving and receiving interaction sculpts the neuron connections after birth and is the foundation of all human relationships” - The Maternal Gift Economy Movement.
Skeena talked to us about the ways she sees the inner, the inter, the systemic, the biospheric and the nuospheric realms connect and spiral into each other- and that through them we can access interdependence, belonging, freedom with and power with. The session finished with a fishbowl discussion-allowing a small group of people to sit in the middle of the circle and be witnessed sharing what had come up for them during the workshop- it was an emotional session in which people shared about personal wounds in their maternal relationships, and reflected on the loss of the nurture instinct, personally and societally.
Around the fire with Stroud community
After a day learning about the history of these lands and peoples, we heard news that Queen Elizabeth II had died- an ‘elder’ whose violent legacy we work to dismantle. We sat around the fire in the evening with members of the Stroud community and talked across generations, sharing Birthday cake to celebrate the first birthday of the RYSE!!
The third day of the summer camp was about strategising about next steps as a learning community. We invited two comrade from the Global Majority vs UK Government (GMvs) campaign to lead a session about Internationalist solidarity and Glocalism.
What is Glocalism?
We need locally rooted organising which is connected and accountable to the liberation struggles around the world- there’s no point in unions winning labour rights in the UK if poor conditions are simply offshored to the Global South. What’s more, struggles against the ecocidal, genocidal international system have been being fought by communities of resistance across colonised territories in abya yala (the so-called americas) and across the world for over 500 years- glocal anti-imperial and environmental activism in the UK must be based in an understanding that true change will be led from these places. We need to be in glocal solidarity here, which means fighting for liberation for ourselves and the global majority of peoples around the world.
Our brother from GMvs read to us a statement from the Economic Freedom Fighters, a political party in South Africa about the death of the Queen and the atrocities which the British Royal family has committed on the African continent and around the world, which concludes “if there is really life and justice after death, may Elizabeth and her ancestors get what they deserve”. Then our sister talked to us about the realities for Indigenous communities resisting mega mining projects in Guerrero, Mexico where narco-paramilitary groups regularly use torture, homicides, disappearances, and the displacement of whole indigenous communities to spread fear and quash resistance. Since 2015, there have been 19 members of their communities who have been disappeared and 39 assassinated. This grounded us in the seriousness of what it means to resist ecocide and genocide, and our accountability to people around the world in struggle for their humanity, dignity and survival- and our own part in that fight. We had a discussion about the meaning of Solidarity, noting the need for security, concrete activity, proactiveness and consent. Our sister recently returned from Mexico, where she spent time living with the Otomi, an Indigenous people who have been occupying the National Institute for Indigenous Peoples’ building for over a year to demand rights and respect for their communities. The RYSE fundraised over £300 to buy a Lele Rebele doll, and the money for which has been sent directly to the community of resistance. She presented us with the doll and sent a video back to her comrades in Guerreo. The traditional Otomi doll will be displayed as a symbol of direct solidarity in the Trinity Rooms in Stroud.
In the afternoon session, we divided into three groups: protest camp activists, university-based activists and miscellaneous activists, who went around carousel-style to three stations to discuss what kind of support was needed to consolidate their learning from the camp, bring it back to their communities and harmonise with one another for more effective change-making. They chatted with us from the RYSE and with GMvs, and we came away with some concrete requests about ways to stay in touch, share resources so that people can run versions of our workshops themselves, and some ideas for future residentials and camps which they would like us to run in the future. This is stuff we are already working away at as we go into Autumn.
BIG THANKS TO…
Gail Bradbrook and everyone at Swifts View for use of the land and the caravan where we cooked :)
Skeena Rathor for all her co-liberation work and matriculture workshop
Global Majority vs UK government for their internationalist grounding
Creative Sustainability and Stroud Wood craft folk for kitting us out with all the camping equipment we could dream of
Martin from Sladebank woods for our firewood
Dave the Bodger for his generous fire wood chopping time
Ama and all from Common soil
All the awesome people who came along and made the camp possible
… We love community gift economies!!
What did the RYSE learn from the end of summer camp?
For next year we are thinking about ways to better support our learning communities after residentials. Practically this might look like having pre-prepared write ups of our workshops to give to participants, and more consistent communication links set up so people can hit the ground running when they go back to their communities! We also had specific requests for topics to focus on in our residentials. In terms of our own processes, we learned about the energy it takes to organise a summer camp, and that having more time for workshop design could have made our educational praxis more creative and transformative. We feel we have got way better at organising, facilitating and working together since our first residential and hope to see that continue into the future :)