Recipe for community building: have a picnic

The past week started and ended particularly well, with rather different events both about building relationships and community.
Yesterday’s event in Manchester was about Asset Based Community Development, with an emphasis on finding and nurturing the good people, ideas, and activities that you already have, rather than starting with needs and problems (probably leading to a funding bid). The message from Cormac Russell, Jim Diers and others was that we have more resources than we recognise, if we only look, and then make some effort at joining up. There’s an earlier interview here with Cormac and Jim.

I’ll write more about the ABCD event in later posts, including appointment of the first ABCD community builder in Oldham, by Forever Manchester.

Monday’s event was the launch at the Wellcome Collection of a self-published booklet by Kevin Harris about Picnics. Kevin reports the event on his Neighbourhoods blog and on the day told me how the project started with a review for Wellcome of a community picnic they supported.
The more he observed and thought about picnics, the more he felt they were a metaphor for community building.
In the book Kevin has a wonderfully eclectic collection of quotes and anecdotes about picnics – and some terrific illustrations by Gemma Orton. (Julian Dobson has extended the collection on his blog with some archive pictures of picnics).
Meeting Gemma was an added delight, because as well as the book I was able to buy one of her artworks.

Gemma explains here and in the interview how she created it. You can find more about Gemma on her site, and about the picnic artworks on sale here. Gemma afterwards told me more:

Cherries 3 explores the networking aspect of ‘Picnic’. Ants climbing all over the cherries, the repetition of motif, along with the social network diagrams, demonstrates a connecting of individuals.
The process – I hand draw all motifs to start with. They are then manipulated digitally, repeated and layered. I experiment with the colour at this stage also. The image is then digitally printed on to fabric. I add another layer with hand embroidery.

… so one of the common strands that joined the events – and was captured Gemma’s illustration – was networks. Another more fundamental one was have fun – a first principle of community organising emphasised by Jim Diers, and I’m sure top of Kevin’s list. I found another join while researching links for this piece, because one reminded me that Kevin wrote a piece about ABCD, and Cormac and Jim earlier this year, teasing out some of the complexities of different approaches to community development. Yes, recognise our strengths – but don’t ignore disadvantage and injustice.

I love it when thing connect. Maybe my post here, with Kevin’s booklet, will encourage some community picnicing in Oldham – although from yesterday’s event I sense they have a stock of great ideas already.

Comments are closed.