Talking Manifestos in Waterford

Last weekend, I was over in Ireland at the Waterford Harvest Festival with my Wind&Bones co-collaborator Dr Hannah Stevens. The Harvest Festival is a festival of “food done right” run by the brilliant social enterprise GIY. We were working all weekend at the festival, talking to the public and harvesting stories about their own relationships with food.

On the Sunday, we were up at GIY’s GrowHQ outside of the centre of town, running a workshop with Dr Sarah Prosser on the art of manifesto writing. Working with a group of local farmers, policy-makers and activists, we spent an intensive — and very rainy — Sunday morning collaborating on a new manifesto for sustainable food in Waterford.

Sarah heads up Waterford’s Bioregional Weaving Lab, one of a series of initiatives from the global changemaker NGO Ashoka. The Bioregional Weaving Labs are a series of more than twenty-five international systems-change organisations working to rethink, reimagine and restructure our relationships with land, community, food, and place.

It was a morning of riotous good fun. We started by exploring the manifesto as a literary form. Then participants worked on crafting individual manifestos. Finally, we used Commonland’s “four returns” — social capital, natural capital, financial capital and inspiration — as a framework for bringing together the biggest ideas in the room. By the end of the session, the rain outside had almost stopped, and we had a very rough draft of a manifesto to provoke, engage and set out a vision of one possible future.

We got great feedback from the workshops (one participant, as he left, said he was glad to be leaving feeling productively frustrated, because he hadn’t realised he cared that much about the issues we were exploring). And we’re looking forward to seeing how the draft grows and develops, and turns into a document that might bring about real change.

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