Low Ebb for the Communes

by Raven Glomus

The Federation of Egalitarian Communities (otherwise known as the FEC) is a network that tries to keep the communes connected with each other.  We have a once a month call where the delegates from various communes talk with each other.  Last month, on the call, someone joked that the FEC currently was five folks, the same five folks (representing four communities) that had been on the call for several months.  (Fortunately, this month, we had six folks on the call, including someone from a west coast community that hadn’t been on the call in several months.)

We generally have an assembly for the FEC every year (although, due to the pandemic, it may not happen this year).  I was looking at the essay I wrote for the assembly that was held in December, 2018 ( published in January, 2019 ).  I am struck by the number of attending communities that are now no longer with the FEC.  Part of it was the demise of the three urban communes that were part of the FEC.  But while the urban communes spectacularly fell apart, it feels like there are many rural communes that are just fading away.  

I think that Oran Mor, where the assembly was held, is now down to one member and her family.  Sadder to me is that Sandhill, which had been an income sharing community since 1974 and was one of the founding members of the FEC, is also down to two families and my understanding is that they are no longer income sharing.  Ionia, in Alaska, is still around, but they no longer seem interested in the FEC.  There are a few other rural communes that are still ongoing but, since they are in sparse to no contact with the FEC, it’s hard to tell what condition they are in.

The pandemic, of course, figures into this, but so does the regular boom and bust cycle of commune building.  It seems like 2018 was the end of a boom cycle and we seem to be in a bust cycle now–with the pandemic on top of that.  Twin Oaks, the biggest and longest running of the secular communes, is at their lowest membership in many years and, with the pandemic, they aren’t able to bring in a lot of new members.

Still, the term “low ebb” comes from a discussion about the tides, and describes the point where things are farthest out.  What happens next is that the tide begins coming back in.  Similarly, I have chosen to use low ebb in the title just because I think things will begin changing soon.  

In spite of how it feels, the pandemic won’t last forever.  The 2018 Assembly was not a happy occasion.  Things were very difficult at both East Wind and Acorn Community.  A year later, both East Wind and Acorn were on the upswing, while it was Twin Oaks that was having difficulties–and just before the pandemic hit, they started getting some new folks in.  Here at Glomus Commune (formerly East Brook) we are having a very good year this year in spite of the pandemic.  We have four income sharing members (the FEC now requires a community to have five in order to be a full member community) and I think that we might well have six income sharing members by the end of the year.

Finally, I think that in the long run, the pandemic may well benefit the communes.  This seems true economically: Acorn’s seed business is booming and I also think that some of Twin Oaks and East Wind’s businesses have actually done better because of panic buying.  More importantly, the FIC (Foundation for Intentional Community–the larger communities organization) reported a “sharp uptick” in searches for communities following the onset of the pandemic.  People have been realizing the benefits of communal living and I would not be surprised if membership in the communes grows as the pandemic ebbs, and I also think people who have been thinking of starting a commune or community may well decide to just do it once they can.

I would like us to find a way of moving beyond the boom and bust scenario and figure out how to stabilize the communes, but for now, I think that it’s important to build and maintain what we have and look hopefully at the future.

Low Ebb for the Communes

Consensus 101

by Raven Glomus

One of my commune mates asked me to write this in preparation for work that we are doing on our decision making process. This is just the basics of achieving consensus. There are nuances you learn as you go along.

Consensus is a process of discernment, involving listening to each person that is affected, in order to reach a decision that everyone agrees with or, at minimum, can live with. Consensus doesn’t necessarily mean total agreement, but it means everyone’s concerns must be heard and everyone must feel that they can abide by the decision.

The first step in the consensus process is that someone brings a proposal to a meeting.  The proposal is discussed and concerns are heard. The proposal is usually modified to meet the concerns.

Eventually, when it feels like the proposal has reached a point where most people’s concerns have been addressed, there is a call for consensus.  There are three possible responses that can be made: agreeing, standing aside, or blocking.  

Agreement means that you are in favor of the proposal as it is by the time it has gone through the process or at least can go along with it.  

Standing aside means that you still have concerns but you are willing for the process to go forward.  Usually the concerns of those standing aside are noted. If more than one or two people feel that they need to stand aside, it is usually a sign that consensus hasn’t been reached and the proposal may need to be further modified.

Blocking is a way that any person can stop the decision from being made.  Blocking is very serious and should only be done for principled reasons. Caroline Estes (a consensus teacher) claims that if you have blocked for six times, you have used up your lifetime quota. If a person continually threatens to block decisions, that is usually a sign that the person probably shouldn’t be part of the group, since they disagree so strongly with everything.

Generally it is said that blocking can only legitimately be done for two reasons: the proposal goes against the basic principles of the group or the blocker believes that the proposal going through would destroy the group.  I will add a third reason that only occurs during a membership process: that you feel that you would not be able to live with the person applying for membership. 

Consensus has been the decision process at Acorn for many years, is usually used by the Federation of Egalitarian Communities in their meetings, and has been used or considered by many other communes.  Glomus Commune is now considering it as our method of decision making.

Two resources for more information about consensus are: On Conflict and Consensus by C. T. Lawrence Butler and Amy Rothstein and ”Consensus Basics” by Tree Bressen.

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Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us! 

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

Communities

  • Compersia Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

Communards 

  • Aaron Michels
  • Brenda Thompson
  • Caroline Elbert
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Em Stiles
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Janey Amend-Bombara
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Joseph A Klatt
  • Julia Elizabeth Evans
  • Kai Koru
  • Kathleen Brooks
  • Laurel Baez
  • Lynette Shaw
  • Magda Schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Peter Chinman 
  • Raines Cohen 
  • Suzi Tortora
  • Tobin Moore
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish
  • William Scarborough

Thanks! 

Consensus 101

Queer Gathering 2020

by Stephan, Twin Oaks Community

Join us August 7-9 for a weekend of queertranstastic fun, learning, workshops, networking, revelry, and more! This will be our fourth year hosting the Queer Gathering at Twin Oaks Community in rural central Virginia, and we invite you to come participate. The gathering will be a safe(r) and supportive camping event for queer folks and allies of all ages to come together, skill share, make art, build community, dance, and organize.

Julia and Maddie do some repairs at the conference site

It is especially important given the current political climate to create connections and build resilience. Often, these types of conferences take place in urban environments, so this event is also important for folks who are more rural and have less access to queer community in everyday life.

Group shot of 2018 participants (plus Khaleesi, the dog)

This is a participant-led/co-created event, so while the organizing team will setup the event site and create a general schedule of activities, the content is largely up to YOU! There is opportunity to lead a workshop, DJ some of the dance party, bring your instruments to jam, offer an interest/identity-based meetup (POC dinner, non-binary lunch, comic book breakfast, etc), and more. Some past year’s workshops include mushroom identification, glitter transformation, consent, queer parenting, basic tool use, etc. Sunday’s workshops are all offered by participants and voted on using an open space organizing format.

More information, including past schedules and registration information, can be found at www.twinoaksqueergathering.org

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Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us! 

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

Communities

  • Compersia Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

Communards 

  • Aaron Michels
  • Brenda Thompson
  • Caroline Elbert
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Em Stiles
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Janey Amend-Bombara
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Joseph A Klatt
  • Julia Elizabeth Evans
  • Kai Koru
  • Kathleen Brooks
  • Laurel Baez
  • Lynette Shaw
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Peter Chinman
  • Raines Cohen 
  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish
  • William Scarborough

Thanks! 

Queer Gathering 2020

MiniQuink

by Paxus Calta from Your Passport to Complaining

MiniQuink – March 21 Cville Ecovillage

hoop festival

Stolen from festivalfire.com

QuinkFest 2020 will be between July 30 and Aug 2 in Louisa, Virginia.  But well before then there will be single day free events called “MiniQuinks”.  The next one is at the Center for Healthy Living in Cville on the upcoming solstice – March 21st.

The MiniQuink is the afternoon part of this all day event  [Here is the full event schedule].  The first event MiniQuink is a Temple of Oracles.

eye in hand minimal

A beautifully decorated space hosts a collection of talented volunteer readers and several different tools including runes, tarot cards and I Ching coins.  Before you get dismissive of oracles, i would encourage you to read this insightful paragraph from the preface to the Book of Runes.

Remember that you are consulting an Oracle rather than having your fortune told. An Oracle does not give you instructions as to what to do next, nor does it predict future events. An Oracle points your attention towards those hidden fears and motivations that will shape your future by their unfelt presence within each present moment. Once seen and recognized. These elements become absorbed into the realm of choice. Oracles do not absolve you of responsibility for selecting your future. But rather direct your attention towards those inner choices that may be the most important elements in determining that future.

runes

6 PM Inflammable Art Workshop

Many gatherings and festivals are burning effigies as part of their rituals and celebrations.  But these burns require careful design and an understanding of fire to be both beautiful and well paced.  This hands on workshop will cover a range of fire related topics from building campfires, pyrotechnic sculptures and even fires that float on water.  Participants will learn about and build fire art creations.

The workshop lasts about 2 hours, bring non-toxic things you are excited about burning as part of your sculpture or camp fire.

Burning efigy

Last inflammable Art Workshop

Presenter Bio Jason Taylor is a local maker, fire artist and teacher.  He and his talented son Anthony live in the greater orbit of Cambia Community.

8 PM Story Telling Workshop

What are key principles of compelling storytelling?  This workshop explores these axioms including “Tell the story your audience wants to hear”horses in hair

Where does your imagination take you?

Perhaps half of this workshop is listening to example stories as well as stories of the other participants.  You will get to practice telling a short personal story as well as examine what makes an engaging tale.

No experience necessary, both workshops and the Temple of Oracles are open to kids and adults and are free of charge.

MiniQuink

The 2019 FEC Assembly

by Raven East Brook 

Following the Social Technology Conference, the Federation of Egalitarian Communities held its 2019 Assembly–also at Twin Oaks. This year, unlike last year’s Assembly, it was a fairly easy and agreeable process. 

Two very concrete accomplishments from the Assembly were passing the FEC budget for 2020 and changing Article 7 of the criteria for going from Community in Dialogue to Full Member Community. 

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The budget in process

The original first sentence in Article 7 was: “Have, at minimum, three members, none of whom are in a romantic relationship or family.”  What we changed it to was: “Have, at minimum, five adult full members who have been in the community a minimum of six months, understand the community systems, and have access to equal participation in the community’s processes.”

This seemed more specific to us as well as more likely to make sure that new communities would be truly equitable. 

We also explored a possible process for a community facing dissolution and looked at the Reforming Community status.  We agreed to spend up to $2000 for support to reforming communities in the first two years of being a reforming community.

Finally, we agreed that Rejoice would remain the FEC secretary until after the Spring Assembly. 

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Rejoice (from the 2018 Assembly)

One of the best parts of the Assembly was getting to hang out with folks from various communities.  This year we had a couple of folks from The Common Unity Project (TCUP) join us, as they are exploring being part of the FEC. 

In the evenings during the Assembly, communities and projects did check ins, updating us and giving us more of a sense of what was going on around the FEC. We heard from Twin Oaks, Mimosa, The Common Unity Project, East Brook, East Wind, Acorn, and Cambia, as well as a report from Keenan (a Twin Oaker) about his plans for creating a community in Costa Rica. 

It was nice to have such a low stress Assembly. I suspect that having the Social Technology Conference just before it really helped. I think we all left feeling good about what we accomplished. 

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The FEC delegates hanging out in Julia’s room 

In the back: Julia (Twin Oaks), Raven (East Brook), Cody (East Wind), and Morning (Rainforest Commons)

In front: JB (East Wind), Maximus (East Brook), Rachael (East Brook), and Scott (Acorn)

(Picture by Rejoice)

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Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us! 

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

Communities

  • Compersia Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

Communards 

  • Aaron Michels
  • Brenda Thompson
  • Caroline Elbert
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Em Stiles
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Janey Amend-Bombara
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Joseph A Klatt
  • Julia Elizabeth Evans
  • Kai Koru
  • Kathleen Brooks
  • Laurel Baez
  • Lynette Shaw
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Peter Chinman
  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish
  • William Scarborough

Thanks! 

 

The 2019 FEC Assembly

Social Technology

by Raven East Brook 

The FEC 2018 Assembly was difficult and contentious. There were accusations of racism, sexual misconduct, and transphobia. People denounced one another and the conference site had to be moved because of problems involving one of the communities. It was obvious that we needed to do something different. 

Several of the folks involved decided to have a conference this year before the Assembly. The initial idea was that we would look at things like dealing with racism, how to do mediation, and other useful things. The organizers decided to call it the Social Technology Conference. It would be held in December at Twin Oaks. Here’s my report on what happened. 

The actual conference focused primarily on dealing with racism and white supremacy with an emphasis on building connections and looking at how trauma makes doing all this difficult. We also had sessions on understanding consent, on how to do facilitation, on using ritual for healing, and on drumming and dancing to get us in our bodies. 

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Rachel, Evi, and Natalie 

Our facilitators for the conference were Natalie, Evi, and Rachel.  They worked closely with the Twin Oaks diversity team of Alexis, Bell, and Hailey. The facilitators began by looking at the stories that block our connection with each other and how our culture disrupts solidarity. We then looked at the role of trauma interfering with empathy. There was information on the biology of trauma, how it pulls us out of our normal “window of tolerance”, sending us into an alarm state that could escalate into the fight or flight response which often led to a state of “freeze” or collapse. 

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We then tried to look at strategies for self-regulation and how to build our capacity for listening and empathy. From there we began looking at white supremacy and how it interfered with our ability to be with each other and how it led to us using microaggressions, small racist behaviors, to defend ourselves. We looked at how we could support each other in changing and how we could make our communities more welcoming to people of color. 

One of the unusual features of the conference was that, for the first time at Twin Oaks, there was People of Color Only space that existed for the time of the conference. Hailey, Bell, and Alexis were available to meet with people of color to look at their concerns. 

Midway through the conference, we had a Liberation Arts Drumming session with Macaco, a Brazilian drummer from Charlottesville, Virginia, followed by us watching a video focused on the story of an African American man’s difficulties with a couple of our communities. We then had a four hour workshop with Amani from Soul Fire Farm, a community in Petersburgh, NY.  She led us in looking at overt and covert white supremacy and how our communities could work to dismantle racism and white supremacy. Both she and the facilitators left us links to many resources. 

IMG_0386
Amani 

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Some Resources 

After this, we did work on building resilience, on looking at how to improve decision-making, as well as having the workshops on facilitation and ritual. The diversity team led a panel on racial justice and changes we could make in our communities. We ended the conference with a report back on next steps we planned to take in our communities, a closing circle, and a group photograph.

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A Group Photo 

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A Group Photo with Enthusiasm 

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Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us! 

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

Communities

  • Compersia Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

Communards 

  • Aaron Michels
  • Brenda Thompson
  • Caroline Elbert
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Em Stiles
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Janey Amend-Bombara
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Joseph A Klatt
  • Julia Elizabeth Evans
  • Kai Koru
  • Kathleen Brooks
  • Laurel Baez
  • Lynette Shaw
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Peter Chinman
  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish
  • William Scarborough

 

Thanks! 

 

Social Technology

Cotton Seed Budget

The 2019 FEC Assembly took place during December.  Here’s a picture from it, from the Commune Life Instagramaccount:

Cotton Seed Budget

A Diversity of Communities

by Raven 

I recently put a question on Facebook, “…which is more important, diversity within a commune or community or a diversity of communes and communities?”

Here I want to talk about what I mean by a diversity of communes. The Federation of Egalitarian Communities recently began looking at one of their principles, principle #5, which reads that each community: “Actively works to establish the equality of all people and does not permit discrimination on the basis of race, class, creed, ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”  While this principle seems well intentioned, what about a community that focuses on, and may only include, people who desire a safer space for those of their identity? (This is currently being re-interpreted to potentially include some of the communities mentioned below.)

What about communities that are primarily, or perhaps exclusively, for people of color or trans and/or queer folks?  This has been a bit of a problem in the past because some of the Tennessee queer communities had expressed interest in the FEC but some people in the FEC felt that their focus on queer identity violated the “anti-discrimination” clause in principle #5.

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Picture from a New York Times article on the Tennessee communities 

What about a community like Soul Fire Farm, which describes itself as a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) centered community farm? They haven’t expressed interest in the FEC, but what if they did?  When people of color express uncomfortableness in primarily white communities, what about supporting communities that are primarily or exclusively for people of the global majority? 

I have also met some people from Jewish focused communities that shared income. It would be great to invite them to check out the FEC. Again, these communities would violate the “anti-discrimination” clause.  The upshot is that the FEC is talking about changing this to an “anti-oppression” clause. 

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Soul Fire Farm 

My vision is of a communities movement where there were Black communities, Jewish communities, queer communities, communities of women, communities filled with trans and genderqueer folks, and many other possibilities.   

Don’t get me wrong.  I really want to see diverse income-sharing communities becoming a reality  and would love to live in one, but I also think that having a diversity of communities is an important step in this process. I don’t think that a large community that is mostly white but has one or two African-American members is a diverse community. I would rather see a variety of communes where people felt safe and valued for who they are. 

I would rather see a diversity of communes and communities.

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Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us! 

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

Communities

  • Compersia Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

Communards 

  • Aaron Michels
  • Brenda Thompson
  • Caroline Elbert
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Em Stiles
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Janey Amend-Bombara
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Joseph A Klatt
  • Julia Elizabeth Evans
  • Kai Koru
  • Kathleen Brooks
  • Laurel Baez
  • Lynette Shaw
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Peter Chinman
  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish
  • William Scarborough

Thanks! 

 

 

A Diversity of Communities

Quink Fair: Fail Soft

by Paxus Calta

from Your Passport to Complaining

I had my heart set on Ignition.  Maud and i had spoken half a dozen times about the theory and set up.  We had emailed much more about the tests we could administer in the relatively short amount of time new participants would be willing to self reflect before they hit the festival space.  We discussed if Re-Evaluation Counseling (AKA co-counseling) could be synthesized to untrained practitioners quickly and if it was too trauma focused which would likely be the wrong mood to spark going into a fair.  We had rough questions and scripts and Enneagram experts consulting us. And it is not for nothing that the principal volunteers for this event are called “disorganizers”.

We had wanted a space for Ignition’s operation and Darrell from Camp Contact offered us a smaller (25’ diameter) geodesic dome.  But even a small dome was too large for the trivial amount of furniture we had acquired. And we were underprepared in half a dozen other ways.

Maud called it first; “we should cancel it.” My heart was broken, but she was right.  And in leaving this failure early we were both able to concentrate on other aspects of this inaugural celebration.  Maud took ignition “wifi;” doing personal orientation to new arrivals and helping everyone she could find their way. And i ran around doing errands for Angie’s amazing kitchen, working the front gate, driving compost away, shuttling participants to Twin Oaks and Cambia tours.  Reverting to the axiom “no job is too low for a (dis)organizer.”

By failing soft in this ambitious aspect, the entire event was served.

Numerous participants said they had quink experiences large and small.  We started several promising romances. Several people were asked what their pronouns were for the first time in their lives, and some were surprised to discover they didn’t know what pronouns they would like to be referred to as.

Lila described her quink experience to me.  “I was in the Temple of Oracles late last night and there was this lovely cuddle pile that formed which was sensual w/o being sexual.  It felt very safe because people were checking in with everyone about touching. I’ve never been in anything like that, i want more of it in my life.”  It was at that moment i realized i was not only excited about, but felt obligated to organize Quink Fair 2020.

A disorganizers planning session

I had another lovely experience during the event. On the Sunday morning i got a call from my son Willow. “You should know that the police have set up a check point between the Quink event and Twin Oaks and they are stopping all the cars going through and questioning people.” My frustration with this police harassment was quickly abated by my appreciation of my son. He knew what was important to me, that the event participants did not have problems with police and he called so i could do something about it.

Willow and Paxus – Circa 2017

Angie has a plan, she actually maybe the only person who has more plans than Elizabeth Warren.  Angie will come down to Virginia in November to help dis-organize a mini reunion and QuinkFair 2020 planning session.  On this trip she also wants to network with the fine folks from Network for New Culture and act as an ambassador for the QuinkFair project. Part of the reason for this is the New Culture participants were largely absent from our event because their own summer camp overlaps. New Culture builds the high consent culture which permits more daring workshops and events than is normally possible.

Her planning continues, we are deep into negotiations about dates, likely earlier in the summer as it will be cooler and avoid some of the key conflicts.  On the other hand, we may move the event into the armpit of August, on the weekend before the Queer Gathering, to spark synchronicity and build solidarity. We have to find a new venue, raise money, round up disorganizers and do all the stuff it takes to make this amazing event happen again, only bigger and better.

If you want to attend or help out with QuinkFair 2020 write QuinkFair@gmail.com.

Nadia with the Phoenix she built.
Quink Fair: Fail Soft