A lovely long garden next to the church on Stoke Newington Church Street. An artist. A bank turned builder for the month. Dan as master builder. And an assortment of other people. So far a very big hole has been dug….but the opening party is July 19th so it’s time to start building up….
After 4 years of looking at over 100 sites from Northern Spain to Yorkshire to Wales to South of France, Emily, Dan, Frank, NIna and Alexandra have finally landed at Wilderness Wood in Hadlow Down, East Sussex. They completed on the purchase of the 62 acre woodland, house, cafe and workshop on the 22nd April and celebrated on the 10th May with the local village and people who have worked at the woodland over the years. They are looking forward to working with the materials and people to hand to create beautiful spaces to sleep, eat, work and learn. Watch this new space.
We are in the process of buying a place called Wilderness Wood in Hadlow Down, East Sussex. It has already been run as a family business based on forestry, education and events. It is a place where we could put into practice our ideas about bringing adults and children together to live, work, learn and play in the woods.
We attended a conference to celebrate 100 years since the founding of Homer Lane’s Little Commonwealth in West Dorset – a self-governing colony for teenagers in trouble with the law. The conference was based in the original ‘school-room’ – built and used by the delinquent teenagers who were sent for rehabilitation. The buildings now form part of a Franciscan friary.
Emily gave a talk on the relationship of radical education and building in the twentieth century: starting with how the children helped build the houses, library, washing room and dining room at the Little Commonwealth and ending with the proposal that not only should the school be a kind of ‘building site’ but also that a ‘building site’ should be a kind of school.
We are staying with family this week – helping them prepare for an outdoor adventure party for 7 year old boys. We created an obstacle course and an outdoor kitchen under the tree-house which we built earlier in the year. The boys had to help make the oven with mud which they were very good at.
BuildingforFamilies is back on the road after two years creating a round-wood timber building for a woodland school in Dorset. We are looking for a new home and a place to create a school of self-reliance and are currently in negotiations to buy a place called Wilderness Wood in East Sussex. While we are looking, we are open to offers for exchanging building work for lodgings – we are starting with a house in Camberwell, London which needs some carpentry and gardening work.
Emily has just submitted a Masters in Research Methods Dissertation to the Institute of Education, London based on research about children’s experiences in Whiteway Colony near Stroud in the 1930s. The colony was founded in 1898 as an experimental community, inspired by the anarchist ideas of Tolstoy about freedom, co-operation and self-reliance. In a symbolic act, the ‘deeds were laid on a bonfire and sizzled in the flames’ (Shaw, 1935, p.5). The colony now consists of 68 dwellings and there are still no deeds. This dissertation uses accounts of the children’s lives in the colony in the past to challenge debates in the present about education, It argues that we need to focus less on schools and more on creating communities in which adults and children can learn and flourish along-side each other.
We held a conversation in the recently completed woodland shelter about alternatives to school. Fifteen people attended between the ages of 4 and 75 – and including the leader of the woodland kindergarten and an ex-public school teacher – so different perspectives were included. Emily introduced the event with a talk about her views on the problems in education, how schools are not the answer and offering our approach to involving children in the building of the woodland shelter as an example of an alternative way for children to learn. In response, there was no shortage of ideas and debate. And since the talk, at least one of the participants has ordered a copy of Illich’s De-schooling Society and developed some ideas on how he could pass on his wood-work skills to his sons and their friends.
We celebrated the official opening of the woodland shelter (and Emily’s unmentionable birthday) with a party for friends, family and volunteers who had helped with the project. Emily made a speech about the ‘building of the building’ and then local musicians led a barn-dance. And we ate huge quantities of cake and paella. It was a very happy end to a happy project. Now it’s over to Kirsteen, her team and the children at the kindergarten to enjoy the building.