In 1993 People In Common celebrated it’s 20th Birthday with a party at The Mill. The group was a very different one from the one that had arrived in Glen Street two decades earlier. The only members of the ‘original’ group still there were Barbara and Derek. In the five years since we had moved to Altham new members had joined.We had made an effort after we moved in to get new members, reached out and had many visitors in those five years. With the benefit of hindsight now, looking back, all the new people who actually joined in those few years had one thing in common – they had all lived in other intentional communities before coming to PIC. Malcom and Beth had been living at Cynlas in North Wales, Mike was a bit of a refugee from Lifespan over in Yorkshire and Paul had come via Redfeild & Beech Hill. I’m not sure we clocked that at the time – And while they all came for different reasons, I guess it meant that they knew the communal ropes and had some idea what they were letting themselves in for.
We had always known (Worried?) that when we finally moved to the Mill the nature of the group would change. Maybe subtley, maybe in fundamental ways. Without the overarching aim of ‘Doing Up The Mill’ for the group to focus it’s efforts on it was inevitable that we would start to follow our own different personal interests. While me, Barbara and Derek worked to get the Hardwood Centre up and running, Kate tried her hand a being a craft worker making beautiful hand-crafted paper-mache bowls and tissue paper lampshades, Mike and Paul were great growers and started to get the feild into shape growing our own veg. Malcolm and Beth would look for work locally and would end up working for various voluntary groups in the area. Things were clearly going to be different from how they had been living back in terraced houses in Burnley. Looking through my archive I’ve come across a set of papers that indicate that we had far more detailed discussions than I remember us having about what our individual visions were for the group going forward.
We spent a whole weekend in May 1991 doing Vision Building. Revisiting some of the original aims of the group, exploring our own individual visions and trying to formulate them into some sort of collective vision.
The paper documenting the weekend covered a wide range of topics. From membership criteria, through financial structure(s), a transition phase, how to find people, how to create time to do development work and how to reduce stress in the short term. We even did a straw poll on the different ideas and a Now/Soon/Later analysis of the various proposals. We seem to have followed through on some of this at least initially as I wrote an article for the Winter 1991 edition of the Communes Network newsletter, titled; People in Common in 1996? – or the commune next door and how to get there. Full of a fantasy future aimed at inspiring people to come and join us. We also put out an advert in a local newsheet that I had started to produce on our dotmartix printer and having it photo copied and distributed in a few venues in the area.
Looking through the various bits and pieces of paperwork from 1991 now they strike me as unbelievably naively ambitious and optimistic. Not just my contributions, but everyone’s. Did I/we really think that a group of eight people were likely to be able to achieve even half of what we were thinking in just five years? Especially when we were trying to set up a new business and finish off the renovation of the Mill. Reading between the lines I can see the seeds of group disagreements and conflicts that would occur and reoccur throughout the nineties.
By the time of the 20th Birthday party two years later I remember there were undercurrents of disapointment and discontent that took a bit of the shine off the celebrations. In 1994 when we tried to revisit the vision building exercise my comments were decidely more downbeat than they had been in ’91.
Time Flys!Chris : Paper from 1994 vision building exercise
Somehow I seem to have been here before – Maybe we’ve all been here before / maybe this is where our conflicts started last time. Maybe our visions were quite different really and no one could find a way to point out that our visions were incompatable …
All of which goes a long way to explain why I chose a potentially ambiguous line from an Oysterband song as the subtitle for the party invite.
In the middle of a good timeAll That Way for this – Oysterband
Truth gave me her icy kiss
Look around, you must be joking
All that way, all that way for this