It’s over! The New Story Summit has been and gone. The NSS was a week long conference held here at Findhorn between Sept 27th and Oct 4th. Its none too small agenda, was to seek to unfold a ‘new story’ for humankind. As a Findhorn Foundation coworker employed in the Conference Office, I have been centrally involved in the organisation of this event for most of this year. One of the joys of my job is having the opportunity to see come to fruition, months and months of dreaming, planning and sustained hard work. And with this event, the satisfaction in seeing a successful outcome was immense, such was the logistical complexity involved.

The context for this event is, on one level, the rolling programme of conferences and events held by the Findhorn Foundation. The FF is a charitable trust with education for a better world (in a broad sense) at the centre of its charter. These major events occur every one or two months. We also hold a myriad of courses and workshops; two or three every week of the year. Most of these are week-long whilst a few are one month or even three months in duration. This is the core business of the Foundation, upon which it is reliant for its financial viability. And it’s events like the NSS that make by far the largest contribution to our budgetary bottom line. So it’s all the more significant that this event was held under Gift Economy conditions, meaning that participants did not register to attend in the usual way, paying a fixed fee of between £600 and £1000 (depending on income). Rather they were required to pay a nominal registration fee of £50 (minimum) and then, at the end of the event, attune* to what more, if anything, they wished to contribute. In the very last session, we offered participants this opportunity and we wait now, in curiosity and a little apprehension, to see whether or not the NSS will produce a much needed surplus. Our budget this year (as it has been in the last two) is in deficit.

That aside, the conference was a great success of many, many levels. The participants numbered around 320, making this event the largest we’ve held for twenty years. Usually our conferences attract between 100 and 200 participants. So the logistics were commensurately complex; all of our support systems were strained to the limit. Our kitchens normally cook for a maximum of one or two hundred guests at a time. Our in-house accommodation is limited to about 120 beds. Our main conference venue, the Universal Hall, is limited in its capacity and we have only a handful of smaller spaces for break-out sessions and workshops. Our Homecare, Gardens and Maintenance departments have a well established remit and routine that does not normally vary greatly. However, for this event, we had to throw out the norms and protocols and embrace all manner of augmentation, innovation and improvisation. And we the collective, including the wider community beyond the Foundation, did so hugely successfully, I’m pleased and proud to say.

Mind you, we were greatly assisted by the superb weather. At this time of year it’s entirely possible that the weather be cold, wet and windy. Temperatures can be as low as 0 degC. And this is what we planned for. However, for the whole week, up until Friday night, we had brilliant sunny skies and temperatures in the high teens. This enabled many people to eat meals outdoors on the terrace and lawn, even at dinner time. So the pressure on the Community Centre dining room was greatly relieved and the large marquee that we had hired for the overflow was hardly used. The benign conditions also ensured that workshops, rituals and all kinds of gatherings were able to be held outdoors. And of course, the warm weather lifted everyone’s spirits, not least those participants who had come from Africa and equatorial Asian and South American countries. On that matter, the diversity of participants at this event was like none other in the history of our community. The organisers had invested considerable effort in fundraising over US$100K to bring our brothers and sisters from the Global South to the event, including many indigenous folk. Initially, up to 80 were invited from Africa, Asia, the Americas and Australia. Sadly many of them were refused an entry visa by the ultra-cautious UK Border Control; ultimately I think only about 50 arrived. But their presence was profound. The indigenous elders led several powerful rituals, which I for one did not imagine would suit an event focused on a New Story for humankind. But I was absolutely wrong. The wise ones were there to remind us of those human qualities that will be absolutely essential as we move forward into an era of extreme climate change: humility, cooperation, loyalty, compassion and love.

The organisers had taken a major leap of faith in leaving much of the programme unplanned and pregnant with possibility. How could an event seeking to develop a New Story be otherwise? What emerged was deep, powerful and chaotic. But I am not the best person to report on the content as I was not participating to any great extent. I was too busy organising, administering and fire-fighting, which is my job as a member of the Conference Team. I attended some of the plenary sessions but none of the workshops, home-group sessions and ad hoc outdoor rituals. So I will leave the reporting of proceedings to others. There is plenty to review on Facebook, here, including many fabulous images. And already, blog posts are being published that offer some very interesting personal perspectives, such as Justine Huxley’s, here. It’s also possible to go to the Findhorn Foundation webstreaming site, here, and view archived footage of many of the sessions. Newcomers to the site will need to register at a cost of £10.

On that note, the webstreaming was another very successful aspect of this event, with thousands of people, many of them organised into ‘hubs’, watching the event unfold from afar. And many of those hubs then conducted their own programme of talks and workshops to tease out for themselves what a New Story might look like in their part of the world. Because ultimately, our survival of the coming climate crisis will best be met with a multiplicity of localised responses tailored by the activists and inhabitants of each bioregion. This for me was one of the principle ‘findings’ of the New Story Summit. And in that sense, it’s an old New Story. I remember as a hippie in the seventies advocating and indeed living, exactly that scenario. Let’s hope that this time around we can make some progress down that route. We have no choice now.

Some random pics taken by Hege Saebjornsen…

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* For an explanation of attunement, see my previous post titled Going Within.