Bringing It All Back Home

Emergence hosts a smaller Summit back at home in Swansea. Contributions from Lucy Neal, Gary Anderson and the One-Eyed-Man.

Very small is very beautiful, Emergence comes back down to earth after the enormity of the Emergence Summit.

After the exhausting but exhilarating enormity of the Summit it became evident that a much smaller, follow up event was inevitable. The research and planning of the Summit, indeed any large-scale project takes a long time (in this case one year), on reflection it can be said that an equal amount of time was needed after the event to truly understand and assimilate what had happened. Perhaps only then could we learn from what we had done and build on it.

The immediate aftermath of the Summit included an array of tidy up activities: the extended ‘get-out.’ These included returning borrowed/hired equipment (from everywhere!), writing and responding to evaluations, attending to budgetary headaches, writing those important gratitude emails to everyone who made it possible and spending time remembering what exactly we did….

Working on the Summit had taken almost a year of research, fundraising and organisation. This in itself did not feel sustainable and if artists only focus on the big events then the everyday process of living, breathing and connecting goes unnoticed or undone. In order to make sense of what was happening, we sought conversations with fellow travellers. Some of these had attended the Summit and some hadn’t but they had all made some important life choice to live and make their work more sustainably.

We kept wanting to ask everyone we met the same question – ‘how do you live…knowing what you know, what decisions have you taken about how you live?’ We were haunted by questions….How might we be artists AND address the important issues of our time? Or do we have to give up our art in order to focus on what needs to be done at this critical time in our planet’s history? How can we find balance? How can we remain embodied, creative and expansive at a time where everything is speeding up and an air of desperation and overwhelm is often seen all around us?’

With all these questions and more in mind the maxim ‘Small is beautiful’ (EF Schumacher) came to the fore. What about taking this to its ultimate extreme – very small is very beautiful?!

We decided to invite a small group of people to spend a day in one another’s company in the most sustainable place – our home. We gathered a small group together in the hope of supporting one another in our attempt to face an unknown and uncertain future.

On the 18th December 2012 we held the Emergence micro-conference: ‘Bringing it Back Home’. The intention was to organise a day of sharing conversation, concerns, sustenance and activities in a domestic and intimate setting. The activities could be connected to ‘creating positive visions of a sustainable future’ or they could just be enjoyable, creative shared activities. Throughout the day there were opportunities to participate in, or to lead,  small group sessions that took place in breakout spaces – the living room, kitchen, spare room and office of a small terraced house. The invitation went out to those who had attended the Summit locally and those who had worked on it from further afield. Trusting in Emergence – uncertain outcomes, interconnectivity, developing resilience, creating a learning supportive community- this is what we committed to and hoped to give our guest delegates.

Ten people accepted the invitation. The kitchen table became the podium, the group self-organised and the day emerged with people sharing where they were since the big gathering at the Centre for
Alternative Technology
. This was followed by clay working, craniosacral sessions, a skype presentation from Gary Anderson of the Institute of the Art & Practice of Dissent at Home as ‘artist not-in-residence,’ a walk, feasting on home-made food and the making of christmas decorations.

‘It felt like planting a tree – or at least a seedling. We can all do that – continue the conversation. I believe they change lives.’ Fern Smith


“Workshops, discussions, screenings, performance- all in a terraced house. As E.F. Schumacher might have put it- ‘small is absolutely beautiful’”

Philip Ralph

“Emergence…from the macro to the micro – conferences in houses are the way to go in terms of creating human-scale sustainable events!”

Fern Smith