Generation Snowstorm started in late 2017 as a collaboration between Charlotte Randomly and Simon Newitt at Off The Record Bristol, Nate Eisenstadt at University of Bristol, and Yaz Brien working between UoB (as ‘Knowledge Exchange Fellow’) and OTR (as ‘Activist in Residence’). With funding from the Economic and Social Research Council’s Accelerating Impact Account, our aim was to design and deliver ‘social change summer school’ for young people as a mental health intervention. Our underlying premise: that the distress we feel is often a reasonable response to wider systemic crises and that action for a better world is sometimes the best medicine.
During the first half of 2018, Yaz worked with a group of young people on the early co-design of the summer school – collaborating on design of publicity and branding, course format, length and intensity, project name, participant recruitment and on the desired outcomes and ways to evaluate and measure them. Once the publicity was out Yaz then met 1:1 with all prospective participants in summer school.
In August 2018 Nate, Yaz and Charlotte facilitated the summer school over two 4-day weeks from 10am-4pm, mostly at the University of Bristol’s School of Education. 13 young people took part ranging in age from 16-24. GenSnow course content drew together the histories and practices of radical social movements and tactics, strategies and skills for making change with a strong contemplative dimension oriented to rethinking conceptions of activism that draw on the duty of the rational individual and instead position the self as part of a wider ecosystem (in particular Joanna Macy’s ‘the work that reconnects’). In all of this, a profound voluntarism and anti-oppressive orientation to education sat front centre inspired in particular by Friere’s and later hooks approaches to popular/transgressive education and anti-oppressive pedagogy.
By way of introducing participants to radical projects in the city, as well as providing a tangible feel and privileged insight into every-day alternatives, we also ran sessions/days at B.A.S.E. Anarchist Social Centre in Easton, The Haven land project at Royate Hill Allotments, radical bookshop and collective Hydra Books and Hamilton House community space. Drawing on some of the rich local knowledge of both history and activism, participants heard from Ros Martin about Countering Colston at a session in the City’s MShed museum, from Dr. Edson Burton about the social history of Oldmarket on a walking tour of the area, from radical puppetry collective Otherstory about this histories and practices of UK ecological direct action and from folk/performance duo, Three Acres and a Cow at public performance charting the history of UK land rights struggle through traditional folk songs. Evening events aspired to blur the lines between activism and social activities and alongside performances include a pizza and movie night at at the Cafe Connect community coop.
Since the course ended, the 2018 GenSnow participants have presented on their experiences at the 4th Community Psychology Conference and Radical Herbalism Gathering; run a radio show centring activism as self care on Ujima Radio, run three sessions with OTRs youth led social action project Mentality and written on the theme of activism and self care for the Bristol Guide to local living which goes out all University of Bristol new undergraduates.