Surviving the Shit Show: 2018 End of Year Review

I used to have a good habit of publishing annual reviews. Reflection is an important part of the design process – evaluating where we are at, what we have learned and so forth.

2018 in three words? Total shit show! So here we go…

What was challenging?

• October 2017-April 2018 was back-to-back bereavements. I lost six beautiful people from my life. Each death had a different flavour. Some, like my grandfather and grandmother (on different sides of the family), involved slow weeks of a gradual descent into death. A beautiful goodbye at their bedside. Others involved a brutal shock, including my ex-partner Anna who was killed in Afrin. Her death sent shockwaves around our anarchist community and broke my heart. Each death brings its own kind of disruption, demand and dent to your life force as you contend with the weight of grief.

The day after Anna’s memorial gathering, I got a call from Her Majesty’s Prison Service saying one of my best friend’s, Taylor, was in the hospital and might not make it. I bolted down to the south-east to the hospital and soon began a hellish experience of them being in a coma and me being left to pray. Coupled with the emotional challenges of interacting with prison officers and Governors, as well as transphobic and queerphobic nursing staff who couldn’t understand Taylor’s gender needs or our relationship (as I’m their next of kin). Thankfully I was supported by a few absolute mega-babes who visited the hospital with me. When Taylor finally woke up and was able to talk properly, they told me they’d tried to kill themselves with an overdose. It was the first of many attempts to take their own life this year. This autumn, I’ve lost count of how many times they’ve gone to the hospital after slitting their own throat or trying to hang themselves, only to be found by prison officers who are meant to be keeping them on suicide watch. Taylor is an IPP and feels powerless and desperate enough due to this sentence that death feels like the only possible option at times. The heartbreak and rage move me to organise against the prison system which is destroying so much life.

• My other best friend, Sam, who I have blogged about on many occasions, finally accessed surgery in January for her anal cancer. This was after over 13 months of intense medical neglect in a private prison who failed to take her to hospital appointments (we later learned, 9 in total). Unfortunately, when operating the surgeons found cancer had spread (but thankfully, we learnt 8 weeks later that this lump was benign). Sam has had to return to the hospital for further laser treatment to remove the AIN3 (pre-cancer cells) and now has to return every 6 weeks for monitoring, which often includes taking biopsies. The doctor told me on the phone if it had grown 3 more millimetres it would have been game over by now. Sadly the doctor also believes Sam still has cancer under an ulcer but she has but has been unable to prove it with biopsies. We just keep going. Sam is due to go to the hospital again in January.

My health got bad again, really bad. Especially after losing my grandad. I had to step back from one of my jobs which meant a big loss of income and more financial precarity. In February, I could barely work more than an hour or two a day before being crippled by rib pain again, something I thought I’d really ‘got on top of’. However, this month of pain did lead to some interventions which have dramatically improved my health.

• Another close friend entered the prison system, which meant more support work, prison visits and all the physical and emotional challenges they come with, as well as a deportation order from the Home Office that we’ve been resisting.

• Having stepped back from Feed Avalon meant that now my whole life feels like prison, prison, prison – researching prisons for work, visiting friends in prison, doing anti-prison and prisoner support organising. More than often, it’s felt completely overwhelming and it’s taken a lot of energy to integrate new ways to connect to the land and find more balance again.

What went well?

• I had some major breakthroughs with my health. I got some food intolerance blood tests done which showed up a reaction to wheat and yeast. Militantly cutting these out of my diet has stopped 95% of my rib pain(!!!). I couldn’t believe it. I also got my gut bacteria tested and this has influenced my dietary choices and a new herbal and supplementation regime which has massively improved my energy levels. I also had some osteopathy on my ribs which I think has made a difference too. I’m still trying to build my immunity and strengthen my gut so that I can have a more diverse diet, but I’m getting there slowly!

• I finished my masters degree!!! I’m about to graduate with an MSc Applied Agroecology with Gaia University. The weight off my shoulders is truly phenomenal. After five years of hard work, in all honesty, I’m super proud of myself.

• I’ve really enjoyed working at Corporate Watch and got to publish a bunch of important research on prison expansion, carceral colonialism and more.

• All the back-to-back deaths and life-and-death situations with my friends in prison have propelled me to re-engage more powerfully with my own spirituality. I am unashamedly witchy as a fuck and this year I’ve found so much strength in making altars, learning tarot and astrology, connecting with plants and doing little rituals. I’ve also been studying the lunar apothecary course and it’s been simply incredible.

All of the collectives I am involved in feel stronger than ever and people really stepped up during my many months of challenges. There finally feels like a burgeoning anti-prison movement in the UK now <3

• I began a four-year apprenticeship with the Plant Medicine School in Ireland this October. I finally made the decision to train as a clinical herbalist after many years of uncertainty. I’ve also set up a new website for my herbal work, the Solidarity Apothecary – http://www.solidarityapothecary.org

• I have been studying the soil food web courses with Dr Elaine Ingham and to be honest, I have loved every second. Anytime I have a day off, I literally wake up in the morning super excited to study. With some inheritance from my grandad, I even bought a microscope!! Watch this space for more soil geek adventures.

• I am absolutely head-over-heels in love and have been in the most supportive, amazing relationship for 18 months now. My friends and all my queer babes have also been incredible this last year <3

What have I learnt?

That even in those most awful moments, there is also joy, friendship and connection. The days I spent at the intensive care unit with Taylor brought me closer to an amazing crew that have been incredible at supporting both of us. Even in a heartbreaking loss, there are opportunities for silly memes, affection and hope. (BTW – wholesome memes have literally got me through the year!)

• That if you’re engaging with heavy stuff, it feels a whole lot lighter if you can balance it out with anything that gives you joy. For me, that is agroecology and herbalism. I’ve realised no matter how hard I try to be this frontline organiser who is as tough-as-fuck and able to deal with prison 24/7, there are still so many other sides of myself that I need to express to be happy. Whether that’s witchy shit or soil science.

That it’s okay to not be okay. This year I got really useless at managing emails. I used to be a militant ’zero inbox’ kind of girl but now, well, I’ve just let it all go. Sorry to use a speciesist phrase, but I’ve ‘lightened the reins’ on my self. I used to want everything done yesterday, and being sick has made me reduce my expectations of myself and others. Being kinder and compassionate to myself has actually helped me be a better organiser. I learnt, after all these bereavements, that actually when the shit hits the fan, it’s okay to forget things, it’s okay to make mistakes, it’s okay to not be available to everyone else 24/7. And communicating how others can help you takes you a whole lot farther in getting your needs met rather than expecting friends or colleagues to be telepathic. And also? If you can’t organise for a month because of a death, the sky isn’t going to fall down.

So there you have it, my 2018! There’s probably a bunch of stuff I have forgotten but these are the high and lowlights. For any astrology geeks out there you won’t be suprised to know that this has been the climax of my saturn return.

Once again, thank you so much from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has been there for me and my friends in prison this year. I love all the people I organise with so much and if you’re reading this, you know who you are!

I aim to do better in 2019 with some more regular newsletters and updates!

Upcoming Nutrition Day School

The amazing Isy of ‘Another Dinner is Possible’ cookbook fame and lots of bad ass projects is teaching a Nutrition Day School with Feed Avalon this March:

When: Thursday 30th March 2017, 9.30am – 5pm

Where: Unit C1 Thriveability Hub, Northover Buildings, Glastonbury, BA6 9NU

What: Confused by nutrition information and ‘what’s good or bad for you’? This day school will explore the links between food, health and well-being, demystifying nutritional concepts and science, and emphasising a sustainable and pleasurable approach to feeding ourselves.

You’ll learn the nutritional science around healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, ‘superfoods’, fibre, blood sugar, food and mood, and more. We’ll discuss problems with our current food system, and think of ways to improve how and what we eat.

The emphasis is on plant-based nutrition, but not exclusively. The class will be a mixture of
presentations, activities, groupwork and discussion, handouts, plenty of breaks, and a potluck veggie lunch to share.

About the Tutor: Isy Schulz is a qualified nutritionist (BSc Human Nutrition) with a catering and community food organising background. Trained as a ‘Well Now’ health facilitator and co-author of the cookbook ‘Another Dinner is Possible’. Isy’s interests lie with sustainable food production, inventive plant-based whole food cookery, and improving our current food system.

Cost: The course costs £35 (there are some subsidised places).

To book: please email Nicole: eat@feedavalon.org.uk

Nutrition Day School

Health at Every Size Course

Feed Avalon are hosting this four-week course starting at the end of the month. I’m so stoked that my co-op are organising such a body-positive course <3

When: 29th March – 19th April 2017. Every Wednesday 10am – 12.30pm

Where: Unit C1, Thriveability Hub Northover Buildings, Glastonbury

What: Health at Every Size offers a new and compassionate approach to weight and well-being, shifting the focus away from the frustrating pursuit of weight loss in favour of self-care and developing long-term healthy habits.

Over 4 sessions, we will explore nutrition, and building a positive relationship with ourselves and with food, in a friendly and supportive group.

Classes will include discussion, presentations including nutrition and science, group work, a bit of homework and some fun activities too.

About the Tutor: Isy Schulz is a qualified nutritionist (BSc Human Nutrition) with a catering and community food organising background. Trained as a ‘Well Now’ health facilitator and co-author of the cookbook ‘Another Dinner is Possible’. Isy’s interests lie with sustainable food production, inventive plant-based whole food cookery, and improving our current food system.

Cost: The course costs £45, with some concessions available.

Advanced booking essential. To book please email Nicole: eat@feedavalon.org.uk

Health at Every Size Updated

 

Call out for support for new local Herbalists without Borders Chapter in Bristol

Below is a call out from a new chapter of Herbalists without Borders in Bristol.

I will be growing and making medicines for the clinic. Help is needed – please drop me an email at nicole@emptycagesdesign.org if you can potentially come down to Somerset to help. I need support in harvesting and drying plants and making basic medicines. Any donations of vodka/oil or other medicine mediums are welcome, likewise an additional dehydrator would be great.

More details about the Bristol project below:

4141472This is a call out for any volunteers who are interested in being involved in our new project: Herbalists without Borders Migrant Support Clinic in Bristol. We are looking for people to help grow herbs, harvest and process them, and any clinical herbalists who want to be involved. The link is to the US website but we are currently setting up a UK website with another London based herbalist, Melissa Ronaldson, who is making links with Hummingbird Project- Calais and Dunkirk – Aid and Solidarity.

Herbalists without Borders in Bristol is a recently set up collaboration between herb growers and clinical herbalists to provide free herbal healthcare for migrants. At the moment this involves Rhizome Community Herbal Clinic and the Asylum Seekers Allotment Project.

This project is affiliated to the UK chapter, which we have just established with other UK herbalists, and is part of the international organisation Herbalist without Borders. This is a non-profit local to global network of volunteers devoted to aiding communities and countries in need impacted by natural disasters, violent conflicts, poverty, trauma or other access barriers to health and wellness.

At the moment Becs Griffiths and Annwen Jones, as part of Rhizome have set up the migrant support clinic within their own existing clinic, and are providing free herbal healthcare to a small number of migrants. Emmy Broughton and Derella Runcie from the Asylum Seekers Allotment Project are beginning to grow the herbs this year.

As this collaboration develops, and the project grows, we want to make connections with other local herbalists and herb growers to make the project more sustainable.

We want to encourage volunteers to be involved in growing herbs, and harvesting and processing wild herbs so that they can be prescribed in the clinic. The idea is to create a holistic approach to healthcare so that volunteers and migrants could be involved in several stages of the project, from growing, harvesting and learning how to use the herbs. We eventually want to run basic self-care workshops which help with improving general health alongside, if necessary, individual herbal consultations with the clinical herbalists. This vision acknowledges that being part of a herbal growing project, making a connection to the local natural environment, and learning the tools of self-care are an important part in improving health and wellbeing.

Setting up the clinic is a deeply rooted act of resistance against an unjust global political system that has created such unjust borders, as well as this government’s introduction of the new immigration bill which further isolates migrants. We believe that herbal medicine is an important part of any healthcare system and can have profound effects.

This is a call out for volunteers who want to be involved in the growing side of the project, or harvesting and processing of the herbs, and to other clinical herbalists who will see migrants within their already existing practise. If you are interested in being involved in this project please email us and we will set up a meeting in the next 2 weeks where as many people interested can attend. Please email: mail@rhizomeclinic.org.uk

We look forward to hearing from those of you interested in joining this project,
Herbalists without Borders, Bristol

Out Here: New film about Queer Farming in the US

New film about Queer Farming in the US. We need one of these in the UK! Check out the trailer and more info on the project here: http://outheremovie.com/

Out Here is a full-length documentary film created by the Queer Farmer Film Project. Completed after 4 years in production, it looks at the experiences of queer farmers across the country and asks – what does it mean to be a queer farmer, is agriculture a safe space for queer people, and what are the relationships between food production and queerness? It is the filmmaker’s dream that this project will give voice and visibility to queer people in agriculture and inspire a flagrant national discussion about gender and sexuality as they are related to our food system.

Radio Interview with Animal Voices Canada: Permaculture and Empty Cages

animvoicesradioI was super touched to be asked to be interviewed by the amazing radio station, Animal Voices Canada, who have such varied intersectional media from multiple struggles.

See the original page here and audio file here: http://animalvoices.ca/2015/02/17/dont-be-afraid-to-turn-your-pain-into-power-permaculture-design-and-empty-cages-with-nicole-vosper/

“Don’t be afraid to turn your pain into power”: Permaculture Design and Empty Cages with Nicole Vosper

If you’ve envisioned a world where animals are no longer raised to be killed and eaten as food, you may have also wondered about finding alternative means of producing real food to feed the world. Nicole Vosper brings her experience with liberation permaculture and agroecology as a potential solution. These practices incorporate an ethic of care and respect for all beings into systems that can feed people in an environmentally friendly way. Her approach differs from the mainstream focus on welfarist changes to farming that still treat non-human animals as resources that can be exploited and consumed, and instead bases her designs with the inherent ethic that all beings deserve freedom, and that we can grow food in a sustainable way without hurting wild or domesticated animals alike, including ways to integrate permaculture with farm sanctuaries.

Nicole’s work is largely inspired by principles of green anarchism and anarchist pedagogy. She claims that: “we have so much to learn and unlearn,” and in the interview, she elaborates on how that connects with activism and radical community organizing. Her views also reflect work she does with prison abolition and self-care, getting to the root of issues in our communities in ways that will precipitate real and effective social change.

 

Class struggle and mental health: Live to fight another day

Class struggle and mental health: Live to fight another day

Contributors from the Libcom.org and Edmonton Small Press Association have produced a pamphlet bringing together accounts from anarchists around the globe about what it means to suffer from mental illness and what we, as individuals and a movement, can do about it.

I haven’t had a chance to read it fully yet, however it looks pretty rich in real-life accounts and ideas about what we can do better to support each other. I’ve never gone through depression myself, however have supported several people that have. Especially as a young girl supporting a mother with clinical depression. I have longed for more information and awareness about how these issues connect to class and how we have a radical responsibility to look out for each other. It’s not just for the ‘professionals’ or for intimate partners. It affects us all. Hopefully this zine will contribute to learning how we do this better.

Read it or download it here: http://libcom.org/library/class-struggle-mental-health-live-fight-another-day

Sharing Skills in Food Storage, Harvesting & Preserving

This Autumn, Feed Avalon organised a series of short workshops on harvesting, preserving and storing food.

Participants learned how to bottle fruit and vegetables, experimented with fermentation techniques and more. As part of a day long Winter Food Storage course, learners explored how to make clamps, store vegetables in sand and safe freezing techniques. There were also practical workshops on jam and chutney making.

If you are interested in participating in the course next year, please email nicole@feedavalon.org.uk.

For more upcoming courses in 2015 visit: http://www.feedavalon.org.uk/projects/eat-project/

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