Being in such a fevered rush to create a powered-down world can mean that we never pause to celebrate our achievements, even the seemingly minor ones. This can lead to the whole process starting to lose its spark, and end up feeling burdensome and exhausting.
Those of us active in Transition, and in community sustainability initiatives, tend to be very poor at celebrating what we have achieved. We often feel such a need to act that we rarely pause to take it all in. John Croft, a community-led change specialist, has developed an approach to community development called ‘Dragon Dreaming’. Based on his observation of hundreds of projects, this model argues that...
If this is to feel, as Richard Heinberg puts it, “more like a party than a protest march”, we all need to grab a bottle, dress up and be thankful, to celebrate and celebrate often, celebrate small and large things, and mark anniversaries.
Those of us active in Transition, and in community sustainability initiatives, tend to be very poor at celebrating what we have achieved. We often feel such a need to act that we rarely pause to take it all in. John Croft, a community-led change specialist, has developed an approach to community development called ‘Dragon Dreaming’. Based on his observation of hundreds of projects, this model argues that successful ones have four stages:
- Dreaming or visioning: The initial stage of asking ‘What would happen if . . .?’, ‘What would this sort of project look like?’, ‘Does this sound like a good idea?’, ‘Can you imagine our town with a . . .?’ and so on; a bold look into the future.
- Planning: Here the project moves from ideas to practicality. Questions might include ‘How do we make this happen?’, ‘Who’s going to design it?’, ‘How many people in the team?’, ‘What skills are we missing, or which do we have?’, and ‘How might we finance it?’
- Doing: By this stage you have signed your contracts, employed your workers, installed the phone lines and your baby has come to life. The theory is now practice. With time it becomes so familiar that you forget it was a theory not so long ago.
- Celebrating and evaluating: At this stage the emphasis is on celebrating the success of the project and looking at the failures and difficulties before starting the cycle again. Questions might include ‘Has the project reached your expectations?’, ‘Which phases of the project went well?’, ’Which phases were difficult?’ and ‘Was the project fun?’
Celebrating can make a big difference to the success of Transition initiatives and can take different forms. It might be as simple as people from your initiative going out for lunch together, or sharing a meal one evening. It can take the form of bigger events to celebrate key points in the evolution of your initiative, such as an Unleashing, or an anniversary of your first event.
These things can be celebrated in a variety of ways: singing, dancing, making things . . . a wide range of possibilities for celebrating where you have come from, what you have done, and where you are going. One of the most fascinating things I see when I visit Transition celebratory events is the role that food, in particular cakes, plays in celebrations.
When they held their Unleashing, Transition Town Brixton produced the most extraordinary cake – huge, and beautifully decorated with the name of every Transition initiative that existed at the time painted on to the icing with food colouring. It was topped with a giant sparkler, forming a beautiful and tasty centrepiece to the celebrations. Transition Town Kingston’s ‘Big Launch’ was graced by an exquisitely decorated cake with a chocolate-and-marzipan allotment, complete with a tiny table and chairs. Transition Town Totnes’s first birthday party featured three amazing cakes, each complete with a marzipan Totnes Pound. At the Unleashing of Transition Bro Ddyfi in Wales, guests were treated to not one cake but nine, all in a row, with a story of the town’s Transition running above the cakes, a kind of ‘edible Transition Timeline’.
Transition Kensal to Kilburn organised the Kilburn Big Lunch street party. Transition Lampeter’s lantern festival was a great celebratory event with lanterns made by local children. Transition Leytonstone held a Winter Faiths festival, a celebration of food, faiths and sustainability.
People can make and bring cakes and sweets from whichever part of the world they come from, from Banbury cakes in Oxfordshire to Middle Eastern baclava or Brazilian Brigadeiros. The love and creativity that people pour into a landmark celebratory cake or other celebratory foods at key moments in their Transition initiative feel to me to be an important and symbolic part of the event .
Transition Town Lewes’s launch of the Lewes Pound featured a mouth-watering and eye-catching spread of local food from a local restaurant, and those attending the Unleashing of Transition Town Tooting were fed by a local Indian restaurant. The message of this ingredient is that it’s important to celebrate the small as much as the big, to celebrate often, and that pausing to celebrate is very healthy for the initiative and all those involved in it.