Category Archives: Community Involvement

Dear Future Resident

As part of the Barmera Centenary celebrations this year (2021), I wrote a letter to a future resident of Barmera. I submitted the letter to the time capsule buried this afternoon (which was originally going to be be buried for 100 years but has now been changed to 50 years at community request) and I am publishing a copy of the letter here on my personal blog.

Image and text below.

31st March 2021

Dear future resident,

I will be long-dead by the time you read this, my children too, but perhaps grand-children or great-grandchildren of mine will be sharing this place with you. I am thinking of you today, future Barmera resident, whoever you are. Thinking of the future you will live in and the choices I am making to try and build that future for you.

I’ve been reading predictions and guesses by futurists for a project that I am currently working on and they imagine a future of sea-level rise, food scarcity, innovation and technological advancements. In worst case scenarios of sea-level rise, Barmera will one-day be swallowed by an inland sea, though that should still be a distant threat even in your future 100 years from now.

Perhaps you live in a future with such advanced prosthetic limbs that people remove healthy arms and legs to install superior ones? Body upgrades are one of the futures I’ve been reading about. It’s hard to imagine now, but perhaps it’s real in your world. Perhaps it’s made the world more equal and fair for people born with disabilities – if we can remake our bodies, surely we can remake our perspectives too? Surely in your world we can finally understand and celebrate and make space for peoples from all backgrounds and skills and personalities. Surely racism, homophobia, ableism and all the other biases we use to hurt each other can be reimagined and erased.

100 years feels like forever but I know it’s not. Your world probably does look and feel very different to mine in some ways, but there are shadows and memories your world will still carry from mine, things that perhaps will not have changed as much as I might hope. I know that. I do. But I hope all the same that you have inherited the best possible future we could give you.

Perhaps Barmera has disappeared or shrunk by the time you read this, but I hope some of the joy I’ve had here is still there for you. I hope the Bonney Theatre is still standing and that people still gather there to tell stories. The Bonney Theatre is the place I first performed to a paying audience, in a show called Random Girls with Riverland Youth Theatre and Vitalstatistix in 2005. That show, that experience, changed my life. It saved me and gave me a future I didn’t know I was allowed to want. I hope that you have the opportunity to sit quietly in the dark within its walls and be transported, changed and inspired.

I hope you can still stand on the edge of the lake and watch the sun set over the water as your chest fills with joy the way it does for me. I hope you fight for what you believe in. I hope you love fiercely and fully. I hope your future is bright and bold and possible. I hope that we didn’t let you down.

With all my love

Alysha Herrmann

Chief Storyteller & Co-founder

Part of Things

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Grow into it #sprout #regionaltour #crowdfund #artpatron

Sprout Image

Image by Louella Pleffer (via Jessica Bellamy)


One of the independent projects I have on the go this year is producing a regional tour of a gorgeous little play by Australian writer Jessica Bellamy.

This project came about through a desire of mine to share the beautiful story of Sprout with some of the community I love, at the same time as investing in South Australian emerging talent. I was lucky enough to be the recipient of the 2015 Kirk Robson Award earlier this year and decided that I wanted to use the award to reinvest in my communities and in arts experiences for others – especially emerging artists and audiences. Some of the Kirk Robson Award has gone towards the beginning of a new multi-year project in Berri (Manifold Portrait) and the rest towards bringing Sprout to life in some of the communities I know and love.

I approached emerging Adelaide director Hannah Fallowfield to direct the play after seeing some of the work she was doing last year through my involvement with Urban Myth. I was really impressed and interested in the ‘artistic eye’ and passion she brings to things and wanted to foster further directing opportunities for her. I also had a feeling that she’d love Sprout as much as I did.

Anyway – you can read the full story over on our Pozible campaign and if you feel taken, drop us $2 towards the project and score yourself a fun reward of your choice!

Dear Me, 19. #idealist #failure #RAAsummit

I wrote/said some words at a conference last year. A nice lady from ArtsHub was in the audience and asked if she could publish those words on ArtsHub.

I said yes. So she did. You can read them here now.

Some other people in the audience also said some nice things about my words in person and on twitter, like this:


If you want to say nice words to me on twitter, you can too (here). I will say thank you. We can be friends. Or whatever the equivalent is in the Twitterverse. Twits?

Night, loves.


Living Off Grid #madesimple #offgrid


So I’ve mentioned before the #futurepresent residency I was part of earlier this year. And it’s been playing on my mind. Climate change. How we live. The impact my choices are having. How tough it is to make choices that reduce that impact. Where to start?

If my facebook feed is anything to go by there’s a growing interest in off grid living from both an environmental and financial perspective. During Future Present we were lucky enough to spend a day with Roberta and John in Milang, who live almost entirely off grid – including growing most of their own food. Roberta said the only things they buy from the supermarket are rice, dishwashing liquid and toilet paper and they buy fresh milk directly from the dairy down the road. Roberta and John’s place was like stepping into a whole other world, they have a beautiful sprawling garden on 3/4 of an acre with a number of larger and smaller structures and dwellings they’ve built, including a beautiful house made from predominantly recycled materials. The day spent with them is one of the Future Present site visits that’s stayed with me the most. Roberta talked a lot about the time it takes to live their lifestyle and that they love it but it is a sacrifice, there are things they actively choose to miss out on to make it easier. John and Roberta have chosen a fairly extreme version of off grid living which aligns with their other values of living a simpler life. And of course, it’s some of those sacrifices that scare others away from off grid living, the other issue of course is that even when we do want to make some off grid choices, it can be really confusing knowing where to start or knowing what will actually work with our lifestyles – particularly in relation to powering our homes.

Which brings me to my agenda in writing this post – I’ve been part of a beautiful tribe of rad young entreprenuers this year with Foundation for Young Australia’s ‘Young Social Pioneers’ and one of the rad lads from our little tribe is somewhat of an expert on off grid options and is putting together a resource for people who want to make some changes for either environmental or financial reasons (or both). They’ve just made ‘Off Grid Made Simple’ live and would love some people (other than friends and family) to jump on and test the site and make sure it’s user friendly and appealing and then provide some feedback to their team as they tweak it all and make it the best resource it can be. So dear readers – jump on, have a look and flick your thoughts through to Michael Furey (yes, he even has a superhero name!) so we can all make some simple but awesome choices about our energy use.

A free resource to get you on your way, get to grips with the basics and finally get you off your grid addiction, and released into a world of abundant natural energy.

future presen set

Green Sleep Dreams #writeme30 #YHMD2014

Let these dreamers sleep. With cracked fingernails and grime to coat their inner ear. Let these dreamers sleep and fish for hope on shores far from here.

I met Lauren a few years back when the two of us were participants in Australian Theatre for Young People’s National Studio (read about my experience of National Studio here). Lauren is a theatre maker and writer with a really wicked sense of humour. Our theme at National Studio was ‘death and dying’ and Lauren’s monologue was one of my favourites in its fun and quirky interpretation of the theme.

Lauren has provided this beautiful photo for me to respond to as part of #writeme30. Her words describing the photo, “Homeless and asleep in Tokyo. I took it on a school trip when I was seventeen and still able to be shocked by a world with concepts like homelessness”

The Photo:

Homeless and asleep in Tokyo_Photo from Lauren Sherritt                              Photo Credit: Lauren Sherrritt

The Response – Green Sleep Dreams:

These green sleepers dreams, dream their way into my bent elbows. I wait for morning. Behind windows fogged by my fingertips and fears.

The car I sleep in is blue. It is my car. My XF Ford Falcon and though I can drive it, I do not have a license. I do not know the rules about sleeping in your car. Can I get in trouble for this? I am parked only two blocks away from the house I am meant to be sleeping in. I am parked in front of a chicken shop and my hair smells like oil and burnt deep fried food. I am five months pregnant. I am 17. I am too proud to ask for help. Too proud to admit that I am not safe. Too proud to admit I don’t know what to do. Too proud. Too scared. Too small. Too silent. Too invisible. I am what I have made of myself.

I go back to that red brick house the next night. With its yard full of dry yellow grass. Its slightly leaning grey wire fence. Its dirt stained front door. Its rooms that smell like all the mistakes I’ve made. I am swallowed into its chipped paint. With my hair still smelling like oil and burnt deep fried food.


Homelessness in Australia is often misunderstood, stereotyped or invisible. Homelessness isn’t just sleeping rough on the streets, although for many that is the reality. Homelessness is characterized by a lack of access to safe, affordable and appropriate accommodation. This includes examples such as couch surfing between friends and family (not a long term solution), having somewhere long term to live that isn’t safe (ie. Domestic violence situations, room mates selling drugs etc) or living somewhere where the costs of that accommodation are more than 50% of your income.

The Chamberlain and MacKenzie 2008 Counting the Homeless Report 2006 (ABS) provides the following more detailed definitions of the various types of homeslessness:

Primary homelessness includes all people without a ‘roof over their head’. This means people who are living on the streets, sleeping in parks, squatting in derelict buildings or using cars or trains as temporary shelter.

Secondary homelessness includes people who frequently move from one type of shelter to another. This includes people living in homeless services, hostels, people staying with other households who have no home of their own and people staying in boarding houses for 12 weeks or less.

Tertiary homelessness refers to people who live in boarding houses on a medium to long term basis (more than 13 weeks), who live in accommodation that does not have ‘self-contained facilities’ for example they do not have their bathroom or kitchen and who don’t have the security provided by a lease. They are homeless because their accommodation does not have the characteristics identified in the minimum community standard for housing.

In Australia, we often think of homelessness as older men sleeping rough (these are the images we often see associated with homelessness in the media in particular), but the statistics show that in fact 42% (!!!) of people experiencing homelessness are under 24 and the gender divide (across ages) is 56% male and 44% female. It’s also worth noting that homeslessness happens in both metro and regional communities, though it can be harder to spot in regional communities where it’s easier to see a tent by the river and just think it’s a regular camper.

It’s Youth Homeslesness Matters Day in two weeks time (9th April), which is an annual National awareness day for youth homelessness in Australia. Now is the perfect time to get involved or think about hosting an event – more details about how you can support Youth Homeslessness Matters Day through advocacy, sharing or hosting an event can be found here.

Also check out One Night Stand (Melbourne) and Street Smugglers (Perth) – two awesome organisations tackling homelessness in entirely different ways, led by two awesome young men I’m lucky enough to know through the Foundation for Young Australian’s Young Social Pioneers Program.

You can also find out more information on the realities, stats and what you can do to help at Homelessness Australia.

I had two experiences of homeslessness as a teenager – the one I touched on briefly above (with my trusty XF) and the second a month or so of hopping between houses, including a week in a house with no electricity, hot water etc where the actual tenant was staying elsewhere – because they had upset their drug dealer and were afraid they would be tracked down to the house and bashed! I was 7 months pregnant by that stage.

People who know me now struggle to place me in those situations, struggle to reconcile that I am the same person. Sometimes I do too. Much of that period of my life feels like a story I’m remembering about someone else. A dream.

It’s a dream I was lucky enough to wake from before the cycle became too ingrained to release me. I’m grateful every day for that.

Not everyone is so lucky or happens to fall into the right circles at the right time, but we can all make a difference to ending homelessness in Australia by supporting the work of the organisations I’ve shared above. So please do head to the links, do some reading and remember to share Youth Homeslessness Matters Day on the 9th April.


#DonateLife #havethechat #itsuptome

It’s Donate Life Week this week. A week to remind ourselves and others to have the chat about organ donation and make sure our friends and families know our wishes. And maybe, hopefully inspire more people to consider donating their organs if the worst was to happen. So have the chat and get involved with the thunderclap.

Alysha Herrmann in 'Random Girls' Rehearsal 2004. Photo Credit: Lucien Simon

Alysha Herrmann in ‘Random Girls’ Rehearsal 2004. Photo Credit: Lucien Simon

If you don’t donate your organs, what happens to them? They rot away in a box or get burned. That’s it. If you donate them – you’re positively contributing to  quality of life of another individual (and the people who love them), and for some literally saving their lives. You don’t need your organs once you’re gone. I know for some they feel a discomfort with the idea of cutting up their body (or the body of someone they love) or they have a sense of going on to the afterlife incomplete – I’d just say, people lose limbs, have scars, have their tonsils removed etc while they are still living. None of these things makes them incomplete or less worthy in the afterlife, none of these things makes their body less beautiful or precious. So imagine instead, the beautiful, generous gift you can give to extend and improve life of another through the donation of your organs when you no longer need them. That’s a legacy worth leaving.

Last year for the FilmLife Project I wrote a blog about organ donation called ‘One Life?’ and I want to share those words with you again and ask you to think about your position and #havethechat with your family this year.

One Life?

A life.

Only one. Just one.

One to live with, to soar with, to sing with, to love with.

What would you give? What would you risk?

For one more?

One more moment;

One more day;

One more life.


Lives held suspended along the length of a siren’s light;

Lives stolen, broken, smashed, ripped, torn;

Daily, nightly, weekly.

And we’re never ready. Never prepared. Never willing to hold those hands one last time. We haven’t asked. Haven’t spoken. Haven’t thought.

Just assumed;

You’d still be here;

We’d grow old together.


There are two sides to every story.

Two lives held in check, waiting on the other side of moments like these. Moments where a family sits together and waits. In an emergency room. Waiting to know – will they wake up? Will they be ok? There are other families sitting together and waiting too. In Doctor’s waiting rooms and hospital wards. Families slipping in and out of hospital rooms and home bedrooms watching loved ones quality of life, and sometimes life altogether slip away.

Strung together across cities and towns and farms across the country are people waiting. People waiting to live, people waiting to choose.

If your lover/mother/father/sibling/child was in an accident what would you choose?

If your lover/mother/father/sibling/child was dying from heart/liver/kidney failure what would you ask for?

There was a time people believed the things they were buried with went with them into the afterlife. There was a time people believed the Earth was flat and that the Sun was a god. We’re learnt a lot since then.

You can’t take your organs with you. You can burn them up. You can put them in the ground to rot.

Or you can Donate Life. You can end the wait for families you’ll never meet. You can give someone somewhere another moment, another day, another life.

You can know that some small part of you, or your loved one can live on and change the world.

Make the choice. Talk to your family. Make your wish count. Donate Life.

*This little blog was the winner of the FilmLife Blogging Competition, but there were many other fantastic blogs and films created to increase awareness of Organ Donation. Carly Findlay (one of the judges) shared some of the highlights here.

You can get involved with the 2014 FilmLife Competition by creating your own short film to highlight organ donation. All the details here.

Also be sure to head over and like ‘Sparking Life’ here.

#tinytwitterpoem (s) at the AYAC National Youth Conference 2013

I was invited to attend and engage with this year’s National Youth Conference (hosted and facilitated by the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition) as a poet in residence tweeting tiny poems. Here are all the poems I tweeted during the conference plus those tweeted back to me by others attending. Enjoy. 🙂

Use the isms to craft a laughter bridge/ with teeth hammers and hot chocolate hands/ and a belly full of rage love// a YP #tinytwitterpoem

Make the place/ shake the place/ consult me into silence// #tinytwitterpoem #AYAC2013

A new army/ rolling through the doors/ there will always be new skin/ to sink within// #tinytwitterpoem #AYAC2013

Nerds unite/ blending our screens into our dreams/ with shared voices in stuffy rooms// #tinytwitterpoem for @MissLaurenMoss at #AYAC2013

Love// #tinytwitterpoem for @MissLaurenMoss #firsttry

Plan the self/ into maps with tabs/ hubs set to vibrant/ ready// #tinytwitterpoem #AYAC2013

Offer/ Ask/ Seek/ Care/ Meet at our table with two ears and one mouth// #tinytwitterpoem #AYAC2013 @SkinDeepProject

Include and exclude/ we bend the borders of our plans/ seeking the mouse hole of our promise// #tinytwitterpoem for Linda Randall #ayac2013

Report on the card/ prevent the fall to learn the fly// #tinytwitterpoem for @BatyrAus #ayac2013

Shine beyond the shadow/ dance together on tables overturned/ a brighter now for us to build// #tinytwitterpoem for @ajbisherenow #AYAC2013

Sluicing through health into living/ striding into giving// #tinytwitterpoem #ayac2013

Short and sharp/ our failures poke us/ towards future woven narratives/ tied with bells and rainbow ribbons// #tinytwitterpoem #ayac2013

These walls we give ourselves/ fingertips with no end/ where does your headspace lay// #tinytwitterpoem #ayac2013

Making meaning of your distress/ with your permission/ or without/ why are you leaving me?// #tinytwitterpoem #ayac2013

Build a world that loves each other/ hands on hair/ suffering beneath eyes/ some smoother care// #tinytwitterpoem #ayac2013

Deal together/ or live apart/ these lines between us/ shaded/ trapped between sheets/ I hear you// #tinytwitterpoem #ayac2013

A rage of the heart/ with red hair and warm eyes/ building a new kind of courage// #tinytwitterpoem for @JohnLoughton #ayac2013

Dare to be humble/ to lead the future/ towards hands that tingle// #tinytwitterpoem for @JohnLoughton #ayac2013

A political party/ on wooden bar tables/ wearing red high heels/ a toothpick in my teeth// #tinytwitterpoem for David Baker #ayac2013

The in and the out/ the sharp slice of our disconnect/ is weeping children// #tinytwitterpoem for #justicereinvestment #ayac2013

Your golden coins/ line walls with no ears/ to hear these aching hands// #tinytwitterpoem for #justicereinvestment #ayac2013

Sing me a story/ lie to me sweetly/ I’ll believe you// #tinytwitterpoem for @BatyrAus session at #AYAC2013

Storytelling/ to bridge the distance between our hopes/ to leap across our fears// #tinytwitterpoem for @BatyrAus session at #AYAC2013

Use the fabrics you find/ to sew a patchwork quilt/ to keep our young warm// #tinytwitterpoem for @DovetailQLD #AYAC2013

A four way dovetail/ into waiting hands/ beating hearts// #tinytwitterpoem for @DovetailQLD #AYAC2013

Keep your seagull caw/ from these shores/ we choose deeper/ no chips here/ only feathers// #tinytwitterpoem for @DovetailQLD #AYAC2013

Straight lines/ stark against thin skin/ growing thinner/ sinking/ sunk// #tinytwitterpoem #ayac2013 #magill

Advocate/ fill space with the size of your dreams/ be the beginning/ of the blending/ between life and living// #tinytwitterpoem #ayac2013

Cut the issue/ frame the logic/ sing your song/ with courage fired red to match/ your shoes// #tinytwitterpoem for #advocacy sess #ayac2013

Care the self/ through the sharp space/ the flimsy pattern/ the jerk awake/ to place shake/ awake// #tinytwitterpoem #selfcare #ayac2013

Care to honour your work/ through the self towards the other/ we are woven/ together/ tomorrow// #tinytwitterpoem #ayac2013

Your loyalty lays/ or lies/ to your inner ear/ begging/ to claim it here// #tinytwitterpoem #selfcare #ayac2013

Build this boat with me/ I’ll cut the timber/ you sew the sail/ and we’ll travel this sea// #sharethejourney #tinytwitterpoem #ayac2013

Question the deep/ with folds that sing/ please let us in?/ and now/ ROAR// #tinytwitterpoem #advocate @MissLaurenMoss @OurSayAust

The dance of black and white/ a word gift/ to teach us patience/ to sing us into sharing// #tinytwitterpoem to NPY Women’s Council #ayac2013

Our contexts confine/ bedazzle/ blind/ split our skins/ spill our language/ our lines/ the gap widens// #tinytwitterpoem #ausedu #ayac2013

Third party gap filling/ shifting lines across shifting sands/ heart song answers/ sing to me// #tinytwitterpoem for #npywomen #AYAC2013

Social connections as a protective factor/ you are my blanket// #tinytwitterpoem #AYAC2013

Firework/ hands exploding around your framed face/ filling the space/ with truth bombs/ to take home with us// #tinytwitterpoem #AYAC2013

Bring them all/ open the windows/ clear out the webs/ a new army is coming// #tinytwitterpoem #connection #AYAC2013

Secret life of young people/ ripping years from my eyes/ I’ll try harder/ promise/ to be more/ together// #tinytwitterpoem #curfew #ayac2013

A diamond/ ground beneath a salty sea/ stealing Aboriginality// a #tinytwitterpoem for stereotype traps #ayac2013

Demonise this/ f**kers// #tinytwitterpoem #mediastereotypes #ayac2013

See the actions/ turn their eyes from the why/ still here/ fighting// #tinytwitterpoem for Jenna from WA #ayac2013

That double edged sword/ keeps stinging me/ singing to my baby/ growing taller/ without me// #motherhood #tinytwitterpoem #ayac2013

The past is present/ legacies layered/ give me your babies/ and I’ll tell you it’s over//#notover #tinytwitterpoem #reconciliation #ayac2013

Imagine/ home is no haven/ give me a nighttime escape/ before I blow this town up// #tinytwitterpoem #curfew #ayac2013

Be the ship to my relation/ the pro to my fession/ the song to my voice// #youthwork #tinytwitterpoem #AYAC2013

Rattle my bones/ softly I ask/ but the need is harsher/ shake me into action/ I’ll follow/ or lead// #tinytwitterpoem #AYAC2013

The fight sways/ lips harden/ be brave/ speak/ listen/ dream/ on the same team// #tinytwitterpoem #AYAC2013




Creating a space/without young people//what a waste #tinytwitterpoem #rusty #firsttry @lylyee #ayac2013 – Lauren Moss

Feeling nervous/about our session/whatever happens/it’ll be a good lesson #tinytwitterpoem #awful #ayac2013 @lylyee – Lauren Moss

@lylyee: Care the self from the tinest toe to the sharp tip of a hair focilule /one life/ one chance #tinytwitterpoem #selfcare #ayac2013” – Allan Ball

@filmlifeproject Blogging Competition – Drumroll please

So I’ve been a little slack super busy the last little while and still haven’t finished updating my Watershed blogs or shared this teeny bit of news.


Waaaay back in February I wrote a blog called One Life? as part of the FilmLife Blogging Competition. The competition was to write a 300-800 word blog which could help spark conversations about organ and tissue donation in support of DonateLife Week 2013.

Annnnnddd……. I won!

One Life Winning Blogpost copy

The lovely Carly Findlay was one of the judges and she had these lovely words to say on her blog:

In deciding on a winner we were asked to consider whether a post inspired conversation about organ and tissue donation, whether it showed creativity, whether it was well written, whether it was presented creatively and whether it had any “x-factor” in capturing and using the theme in an unexpected way.

Alysha’s post scored high points against all criteria.

…………The piece adopted a poetic voice, mixed with a more conventional descriptive approach that demonstrated versatility and skill from the writer. Over three cleverly structured “acts”, each in a slightly different style, Alysha set out her case. We found her post beautifully written, and attractive on the page. Its compelling imagery and energy propelled us forward, and kept us involved to the end.

Read the rest of her comments here about half way down the page. You’ll also be able to watch the winner of the FilmLife Project short film competition(at the top), which is a fabulous parody of Gotye’s ‘Somebody that I used to know’.

And you can read some of the other blog entries here.


#emptyshops #revolutionaryarts

The final keynote of the 2013 Creating Spaces Conference was delivered by the endearing and refreshing Mr Dan Thompson, artist/writer and starter of many things including Revolutionary Arts, Empty Shops and the #riotcleanup and #wewillgather.

Dan once went to the local music shop to buy a CD for his wife and accidentally bought the whole shop while he was there. It didn’t work out, but that’s the point. Life is about trying and failing and trying again (as Samuel Beckett said).

The keynote actually begins with Dan’s own real life roots and a photograph of the house he grew up in (and his father still lives in), in Worthing, UK. Dan shares his first experience of reclaiming spaces and invigorating community spirit with the plot of land near the house. The plot of land was fenced off (by council?) and quickly became a dumping ground and blight on the block. Dan rang the council to ask them to clean it up and was told – “No, we don’t know who the items there belong to or where they came from (and therefore who’s responsibility it is)”. So Dan said “Can I clean it up?” – “Oh no, we don’t know who the items belong to, you might be stealing.” Face palm. Giggles all round from our listening conference gaggle.

Dan – “Fuck that, I’m going to do it anyway,” so he did and others in the neighbourhood saw him cleaning up and lent a hand.

This is where I start to get an inkling that Dan is about to join my #professionalcrush list as a top #troublemaker and the rest of his keynote does not disappoint.

Dan’s keynote covered off on a range of the fab and super inspiring projects he has both deliberately and accidentally initiated, the most relevant to Creating Spaces being the Empty Shops Network and #wewillgather, although I was interested in all of his work. I was also secretly thrilled that yet again, my new professional crush is from a theatre/performing arts background (as were the Gap Filler duo).

Dan’s sharing was framed by this quote from 60s activist Peter Coyote:

A man’s vision is his responsibility. If you have an idea, make it happen; find the brothers and sisters; find the resources and do it. Your personal autonomy and power expose the shallowness of endless theorising and debate. Visions become real by being acted out, and once real serve as endless inspiration and free food for the public imagination.

The Empty Shops network is essentially a similar idea to that of Renew Newcastle, helping people to reduce, reuse and recycle empty shops and other spaces in towns and cities across the UK. The Empty Shops website follows what the Bank of Ideas calls a copyleft policy by providing a wide range of resources on their website free to use.

Since 2008, Empty Shops is a national network of people using empty shops. In the UK approximately 15% of shops are empty and it’s mostly due to supermarkets that sell everything.

“Thanks for sending us Westfield, that’s worked out really well.” Dan Thompson

There is also a very strong online economy with approximately 10% of purchases completed on line.

Empty Shops inspired a range of mini projects such as We Are Bedford. Bedford had 100% vacancy in the high street (traditional main street). The We Are Bedford project took on all the shops and ran a festival. There is now 100% occupancy. Like Renew, Empty Shops projects operate on the idea that bringing the shops to life will bring people back to these centres and subsequently attract commercial tenants (or transition creative projects into creative tenants).

Dan also called for the room (and those playing at home) to get involved with Empty Shop Day on the fourth of May (Star Wars Day!) by posting photos of empty shops on the flickr page.

Empty Shops is a project from Dan’s organisation Revolutionary Arts.

Although not directly related to Renew, #riotcleanup has a strong philosophical link (with a lot in common again with Gap Filler) and is an interesting story in and of itself.

England actually has a long history of riot and revolt. Dan listed off quite an impressive list of riots and rebellions. Minus the very real blood, death and destruction, on one level the abstract idea of standing up absolutely and completely for what you believe in feels quite inspiring.

As many would know London was overtaken by a number of huge riots in 2011, which started in response to a young man who was shot by police. Dan is a prolific twitter user and logging on, his feed was flooded with people talking about barricading their doors and many fleeing because the violence was so bad.

This was a very different kind of riot, it wasn’t targeted at barons or lords in the vein of England’s tradition of rioting. This was violence that largely damaged every day people. People that run shops aren’t rich and often everything they have is tied into those premises.

In response to the violence and damage, Dan tweeted – Tomorrow we need to work out how to help the independent retailers. Dan thought he could rustle up 50 people to help those local shops to clean up. He asked people on twitter to take a dustpan and broom and go and help their local clean up. 12,000 people volunteered on the first day and #riotcleanup was born.

The most interesting thing about this ‘project’ is that no one was actually in charge, it wasn’t an organisation or a formal project with anyone telling you what to do. It was an idea and a movement started almost accidentally. People asked Dan “Can you organise something in Hackney?” and Dan would reply “Yes, YOU can, what time will you be there?”. They’d say 10 o’clock and so Dan would tweet #riotcleanup Hackney 10 o’clock and then 300 people would turn up in Hackney at 10 o’clock and manage themselves and each other.

#wewillgather is a similar principle that’s followed on from #riotcleanup to encourage people to organise small scale coming together and fixing/clean up in their communities in a more general sense. It’s about using social media to get people together to do a job that needs doing.

“People want to do things, but they needed someone to give them permission,” Dan Thompson

Rather than place making, Dan’s ethos is about ‘place shaking’. Place making is a formal and structured process. Place shaking is instead, informal, agile, frugal and about making networks. Place shaking begins place making.

As Dan spoke, the hairs on my arms stood up as I felt like he was putting a language to something embedded in my idea of community and care. Thanks Dan!

Named as one of GQ’s 100 most influential men in Britain last year, Dan comes across as humble, authentic, endearing and the best kind of doer and left the keynote with these rules:

  • Everything starts with a conversation
  • Explore, get lost, and find out what makes a place interesting ( find the little details off the beaten track).
  • Reclaim spaces for public use
  • Create collaborations and friendly networks, not organisations
  • Test, prototype and try it together

and invited each of us to be the trim tab on a rudder. The smallest tilt can turn us all in a new direction. And his tip for maintaining energy? Lots of jelly sweets.

You can read more about Dan’s work here.  He’s also the author of “Pop Up Business for Dummies“.