LUC Skill Share Report
Note: This report is a personal account of the Skill Share, I have only included those events in which I was directly involved, it would be more appropriate for people who were at, for example, the Workplace Rights & Organising discussion to give their own accounts, and any commentary on the day is welcome.
The first Lincoln Underground Collective Skill Share took place on July 31st at the Jolly Brewer – the sun was out for most of the day & spirits were high. We arrived at 10am to set up the discussion areas & rearrange the place. We had two discussion areas outside, a workshop area & kids’ space. Several groups held stalls in the corridor, our own IWW/AFed/LUC stall was well stocked with Anarchist literature as well as flyers, stickers & cards, there was a bookstall and a display from local education initiative the Alternative Art College; the local Greenpeace group had a strong presence, as did local animal rights supporters with fine food on their pro-vegan & anti-hunting stall.
Inevitably there was some legwork to be done, so I was quite shocked when I returned with my second sackful of kit to find the Gamelan fully assembled – before, I’d only seen it packed away in a box-room so it was a great surprise to see the whole ensemble (over 30 percussion instruments) in all its glory, & still just a fraction of the overall set-up. Throughout the day, the Gamelan provided appropriately distinctive and calming music, the experienced players showing newer players the ropes.
Ultimately, we were very fortunate, there were barely any hiccups, the attending groups were very professional in setting up & taking down, & we could certainly learn from their organisational experience. Given that most of the group had barely any experience of holding an event such as this, & that we had only a 2-month lead-in time, we can be rightly chuffed that we made it happen.
The Skill Share would not have been possible without support from numerous groups and individuals, so enormous thanks to all of the following, and to anyone we’ve missed; naming no names, cos you know who you are, our friends & comrades from Sheffield getting here despite transport difficulties including those in the Industrial Workers of the World & Anarchist Federation, Lincoln Gamelan Collective, Transition Lincoln, Social Science Centre, Alternative Art College, Lincolnshire Greenpeace, VeganLincs, help from the University, the very friendly local printers, the musicians who came along to entertain us in the evening & the encouraging, helpful, welcoming & wonderful staff at the Jolly Brewer for putting us up (& putting up with us) in the first place.
A lively talk with an impressive turnout given the early start. A broad range of views were expressed, & I felt the anarchist perspective on several issues such as the structure of an anarchist society & attitudes to elections was well communicated. There were several non-anarchists in attendance, though still with compatible views on some of the many challenges we face. I for one welcome these perspectives; it is necessary to examine & critique our own ideas for solutions to these problems, & it does us no good to simply dismiss the views of others. We could have been clearer about the various strands of anarchist focus, anarchist communist, syndicalist, green and feminist ideas, among others.
Bashing Screws & Urban Cave Painting:
The DIY workshop didn’t seem to attract much interest and so was effectively sidelined by the more popular discussions. I tried to pick it up a few times during the day, but eventually abandoned it. This was not a terrible disappointment, as we had plenty of other stuff to do.
The Urban Cave Painting workshop, on the other hand, was very well received, with about half a dozen people joining in with the mixing & painting. It sparked a few discussions about the basic procedure in making things like paint, & how we rarely consider exactly how the stuff starts off before it goes into the pot or tube; what it is made of, & how. I hope it raises some understanding of the processes behind consumable materials, & how we can adapt simple things to creative purposes.
I will write a fuller commentary on the paint-making process itself soon, & put it on the Remember68DFR blog.
Introduction to Anarchist Feminism:
The anarcha-feminism discussion focused on the roles women adopt in activist groups, & the importance of inclusivity in such groups, which requires us to be aware of how we act and how this can affect people with various difficulties in participating. It was very useful to draw attention to the practical obstacles facing women in activist movements, such as the common use of pubs as meeting places which are likely to exclude children and therefore make it difficult for parents to attend meetings. There was a fairly even gender balance but, it seemed, a minority of voices. It struck me that there was a lack of confidence in the attendees, which is, in itself, a socio-cultural problem that needs to be addressed.
Fascism & Racism: Awareness & Action:
This discussion covered a range of topics, such as contemporary & historical imperialism & the presence of far-right and fascistic groups in modern Britain. There was broad agreement that ignorance was a key factor, and that overcoming prejudice requires us to raise understanding. There was some discussion of a militant approach to far-right groups which directly threaten others, but perhaps not as much as necessary for such a difficult topic. It was very useful to have the input of someone with experience of racial discrimination, a reminder that racism is a very real threat, which must be challenged at every turn.
Feedback received so far has been overwhelmingly positive, the Jolly Brewer management told us that we had helped “pilot use of the space,” which we are obviously pleased about. We have received several follow-up emails saying thanks and well done, and expressing interest in future events, which is all very encouraging indeed.
– Timekeeping: The whole timetable was effectively shifted 30 minutes backward, which, whilst it didn’t appear to cause much turmoil in itself, had the potential to be confusing & awkward for people. This may be due as much as anything to a lack of confidence in calling people together for a discussion, we may need to be more assertive in getting things started in order to stick to our plans.
– Some literature of our own, perhaps a printed LUC newsletter highlighting local issues from an Anarchist perspective. Given the very short time LUC has been active (a little over 3 months), it wouldn’t be realistic to expect this kind of output yet, but definitely something to look into. The programme could have done with being prepared earlier, but as several confirmations were last-minute there was little time to complete it in time for printing. As we now have an effective template, it would be easy to produce one sooner next time around.
– Be clear that similar events are open to everyone with a genuine interest; I am told some people were very surprised to see group discussions & workshops & were uncomfortable joining in as newcomers.
– Awareness that money is a factor. We were selling badges but didn’t count before or after how many we had, and so had no idea how much we made from them. Given the number of other things we had to deal with, cash in jars was the least of our worries, but if we’re ever holding fundraising events, we definitely need to keep an eye on what goes in & out.
-Decide in advance who will be leading-in and facilitating discussions, & back-ups in the event of the nominee being unavailable.
The best thing about the Skill Share was the presence of so many truly caring human beings willing to work together to bring about positive change. For all the talk of ‘human nature’ as murderous & territorial, there is no better evidence of the supportive & co-operative strength we possess. The Skill Share makes me very hopeful for the future – there is a drive to make our home a better place, & I hope we can make the most of it. Hope, of course, is not enough. We must act.