The first time we met, Simon Cross (the chaplain for an academy chain in Grimsby) recommended I read book about alternative communities by a man called Tobias Jones. We’d been talking about my plans to host a Conversation Dinner, which I’d envisaged as an opportunity for people to engage in a kind of radical conversation. The jump to talking about radical communities seemed natural.
I’ve got friends who grew up in communes, friends who live in squats, and friends who have taken me to festivals or places of pilgramage like Taize in France. There are people I have enormous respect for who have grown up in Quaker communities. Once every couple of years, some friends of mine take a group of their contemporaries to a farmhouse in France, and we live together for a few weeks in an experience that occasionally feels more like a social experiment than a holiday. And I spent two years living in London talking constantly about the cost of rent and the difficulties that are associated with that.
I haven’t got my copy of ‘Utopian Dreams’ by Tobias Jones yet, but I plan to read it soon and I’ve been doing my research about it online. What I’ve found is a diverse network of alternative (or my preferred term, intentional) communities that range from communally-owned housing in city centres to farms that are run as a co-op and a place of refuge for people dealing with difficulties in their own life. Sometimes there are religious overtones; sometimes they are founded on old-school political vlaues. Some seem welcoming to all, others don’t. All of them exist. More and more, I think of them as real alternatives to the usual way of life of most people in this country.
I currently plan to spend at least a month working on a farm run by an intentional community. I haven’t worked out quite when I can do it yet, but I’m working on it, I’ve started to communicate with a few places that interest me, and I plan to use this page to keep myself organised and up-to-date.