I did something I’d not done before on Election Day. Aberconwy is a marginal seat between the Tories and Labour. So I went down to the Llandudno Labour Club and, for a tokenistic three hours, helped ‘get the vote out’ for Emily Owen, the 25-year-old Labour candidate. She was there handing out red clipboards with maps, highlighted streets and addresses of people who’d said, during canvassing, they might vote Labour. We had to knock on their doors and ask if they’d voted yet – in the nicest possible way. In half the cases no one was home. In those who answered the response ranged from ‘Brexit, get it done’ to thumbs up, we’ve all voted Labour. I was a little concerned we were going to so few of the houses. But I was swept up in the adrenalin and optimism of the moment and went home that night hoping against hope.
By half past midnight I’d turned the radio off. I couldn’t bear to listen. And I’ve felt like that more or less ever since. There have been some positive FB postings and Guardian articles but I feel that many of us have taken a body blow and it’s going to take while to lick the wounds and pick up the pieces.
The night before the election – literally at the eleventh hour – I put out a FB post myself, perhaps trying to prepare for the worst. I concluded:
"Whatever happens tomorrow it’s important to remember that a huge reservoir of positivity, intelligence, love and creativity exists in these islands. It’s tempting to think you should all come to Wales; we’ll cast ourselves adrift from the ‘UK’ and create our own promised land! But the reality is we’re going to have to keep having conversations, not just between ourselves, but with those who see things differently: one to one, heart to heart, over and over. Might be hard. But it’s the only way to affirm our shared humanity and bridge the divisions with renewed hope."
So conversation is part of the answer. For the last nine months a group of local friends and allies have been meeting together in what we’re simply calling ‘community conversation’. We wanted to talk about things that matter in a way we hadn’t done before. We wanted to share our passions and dreams as well as the solutions we’re forging. We wanted to join forces and raise our voices on the paths we’re making towards the ‘more beautiful world our hearts know is possible’. And we wanted to do it now. Now because our country’s politics are more threatening yet more full of potential for change than we remember. Now because a global uprising is gathering momentum to challenge the powers that propel us towards climate crisis and ecological collapse. Now because younger generations are urging us to act. Now because we’re grown up enough to take responsibility and want to do the best we can before it’s too late.
We’re glad to be living in northwest Wales. As far as London and Cardiff go, we’re an afterthought. Yet historically Gwynedd has been a centre of resistance. At our last conversation we agreed that change on the political front is now reduced for the foreseeable future. This makes what we’re doing more urgent. We feel strongly that we have to live how we want to live, not how ‘they’ want us to live. Social reliance on the state is going to get more difficult. We have to build from the ground up. This includes developing a local sustainable food system; creating a media communications platform independent of FB, Google et al; supporting the introduction of a local currency (the Celyn); working with sympathetic people in the Gwynedd Council; creating a map of all the sustainably oriented, eco-friendly initiatives in our region; facilitating the development of renewable energy; engaging with students and working with schools; promoting a positive vision of what’s possible; re-awakening and channelling the mythic power of this ancient landscape.
None of this is particularly new. It’s been going on in the Transition Town movement for years. But there’s a swelling energy behind this that does feel new. Although at the moment we’re keeping our meetings down to about a dozen we know that there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, out there of like mind. In 2020 we will be joining up and moving from talk to action.