On Friday 20 May, I travelled to Derby for an exciting day of activities on the theme of utopia and energy future as part of the Connected Communities Utopia Festival. On arrival, we were informed that in Utopia, there were 6 working hours and we were put in small groups with whom we were to spend those completing different tasks and thinking about a prototype that we would present to the other groups at the end of the day.
In the first session, our working group spent a bit of time getting to know each other and explaining what had brought us to the event. Some people had been associated with Stories of Change for a while, others had found their way to it through less direct connections. We all had varied backgrounds: academia, architecture, carpentry, business consultancy and film-making. But as we unpacked our questions and concerns about energy, we soon found some overlapping interests. The theme of how we learn about energy and the challenges that we face, but also how we communicate them seemed to come forward. It’s hard to capture our deep conversations in just a few words, but for example some of us felt that although there is a lot of information out there, it can be hard to make sense of it, which in turn makes it difficult to know what the “right thing” to do is. And even when we come to some kind of conclusion about what we feel comfortable doing, we are then faced with justifying those decisions to others. Indeed, something that really struck me was an anecdote related by fellow “worker” about how his commitment to a low carbon lifestyle was routinely challenged by people – as a result, a theme that we carried through all the session what that of supporting each other and looking for positive ways to communicate about energy futures.
A highlight for me was the wordsmithing workshop, in which we tried to bring together all the conversations we’d had during the day and encapsulate them into a 15 word (max!) pamphlet title. We attempted to translate the positive element of our reflection and the need for support into a metaphor and that of music and a choir struck a chord (excuse the pun). After some group in pairs, we came up with the following challenge: In the symphony of energy, what part do you want to play? I find it a really inviting question and I hope that it will make others think about the role that we can play in dealing with the energy challenges we face, not just as individuals but as a collective. This reflected the other red thread that ran through our conversations; that although we may need to individually make some changes in our daily lives, ultimately we need to make wider cultural changes on how we relate to energy.