The Outdoor Skillshare 2011 brought over 100 people to rural South Lanarkshire to share skills, ideas and experiences with each other about all aspects of life and activism.
For four days the Talamh housing co-operative became a hive of mini projects, massive marquees, geodomes and inclusive participatory skillsharing.
The diversity of people at this years event was truly inspiring. Some people managed to hitch to the event all the way from places as far away as Denmark, Sweeden and Germany with others coming from Spain and France all the way to South Lanarkshire. Large numbers also came from Scotland and the rest of the UK often with many different backgrounds, some representing different campaign groups, others simply representing themselves and a desire to learn totally new skills.
We also had an exciting mix of generations over the weekend, with more younger people attending than any of our previous events. As part of our attempt to create an inclusive environment, this was really important for us and made the event more aligned to creating a sustainable and inclusive community of resistance.
Most people’s days began with morning meetings and a breakdown of all the tasks that needed taking on by the group for the smooth running of the event. Many of the daily chores were taken on as part of the skillsharing experience. Cooking for over 100 people twice a day, washing up for the same number, stocking and emptying the poo loos, emptying recycling and rubbish waste etc, etc. It was all part of the collective responsibility and it all happened with some inventive solutions being devised to make the tasks easier. Here is an ingenious wood fired water heater for washing up, made from old gas canisters and plumbed up to the sinks.
Some people began their days by waking up extra early and fixing up bikes that were to be donated to the Unity Centre. Over the weekend a number of bikes were restored and will soon be going to Glasgow as a donation to asylum seekers. Others chose to get up and do yoga in the beautiful morning light that filled the quiet dawn on site.
After the morning meetings most people dispersed to workshops or got on with the tasks they had taken on. The mix of workshops included many practical skills, more theoretical discussions and grand tactical discussions about the direction of “the movement”.
Practical workshops included spoon making (initiating a wave of spontaneous spooning throughout the event), climbing/rope access, chainsaw maintenance, 12volt electrics, knot tying, fence climbing, putting up tripods, lock-on making, vehicle maintenance, tunnelling, treehouse building, self defence, herb identification walks, herbal 1st aid, cooking on gas and building a compost loo. There were also spontaneous basket weaving, slingshot making and wood chopping skillshares (as well as many more that I cannot remember or was not aware of.
More theoretical workshops included facilitation for consensus, a discussion of safer spaces, permaculture, international grassroots resistance to coal, a discussion of environmental safer spaces, coal in Scotland, funding radical groups and working with communities.There was also a highly enjoyable session by the Beehive Collective called the “true costs of coal”. This was similar to the info tour sessions around Scotland arranged by Coal Action Scotland, earlier this year.
As part of a “Fighting Coal in Columbia” session there was a translated discussion with indigenous community leader Jairo Fuentes of the Tamaquito community, in the Guajira region of Colombia. As part of the development and expansion of the Cerrejon mine, the communities of Tabaco have been forced off their land by force, with murder and intimidation by paramilitaries being routine tactics. Coal mined from this region as a direct product of the destruction of communities and cultures, is being imported into Scotland at the Hunterston coal port and used to power UK elctricty networks. The solidarity felt via this link up was very important and provided yet another example of why our resistance here is crucial. For more information see here.
The evenings were generally a time to unwind and socialise. There were films playing, musical performances, a pub quiz and a camp fire warming those who wished to see the stars. There were also opportunities for campaign sharing and hearing the numbers and variety of awesome campaigns that people were representing, was an inspiring and humbling experience.
Part of our initial aims for TOSS 2011 was to document this years event in a more tangible way. Whilst we definitely hope that people have many skills to share with their communities after the event, we felt it would also be nice to have collective way of sharing experiences of TOSS and so this year we will be having a zine produced from contributions made by participants. There will also be a film released, made as part of the workshop “Cheap Thrills on a Dying Planet” which was produced over the weekend and is currently being edited. For further updates on this please check here.
On behalf of the collective who helped to organise the setting up of this years Outdoor Skillshare, we would like to thank all those who came to South Lanarkshire, shared their skills and got stuck into collective living. We hope to see you all very soon.
Love and rage,
TOSS Collective XXX
(P.S. Thanks to Fabio Lagana for kindly letting us use his photos for this report)