Three years ago two women sat down at the kitchen table and devised a course. Sarah Pugh and Laura Corfield had been teaching Permaculture in Bristol for many years and both had been involved in setting up Transition Town initiatives. With Peak Oil and Climate Change coming ever more clearly into view they recognised the need for people with skills, knowledge and experience to be out there creating real change in their communities. They wanted to take Permaculture training a step further and get into detail on the practicalities of design.
Shift Bristol's 'Practical Sustainability Course' is the first one year course of its kind in the UK and the first couple of years intake have been willing guinea pigs in the process of getting the curriculum just right. Students study a mix of classroom lectures and participatory workshops, hands-on practical work, field visits and community-based design projects. Teaching styles vary massively with over 40 tutors bringing the benefit of their expertise and passion for their subject. To name but a few of the all-star cast there's Tony Wrench on the Roundhouse Build, Ben Law and Mike Gardner on Woodland Management, Sarah Pugh and Mike Feingold on Permaculture Design, Tim Foster on Organic Horticulture, Trevor Houghton and Peter Harper on Energy, Nick Osborne and Chris Johnstone on Group Dynamics and Patrick Whitefield on Soil and Ecology. We calculate there may be several hundreds of years of experience available being downloaded into the inquiring minds of the Shift students.
The practicals and design assignments take place on real community projects so they support exciting work like community orchards, youth environment projects and food growing schemes. Students also get to visit practitioners on their home ground including Ben Law's woodland, Lammas Community, Agroforestry Research Trust and other inspirational places.
The course is informal and fun and what most students love most of all is the community they build with each other and the tutors along the way. The age range has been between 19 and 70 in both years and people come to the course from all walks of life and at all stages of their journey. Students have gone on to find related jobs, internships and to set up their own enterprises such as a roundhouse building collective and a community café. Our oldest student this year has decided to put off retirement, sell his house and is moving to Embercombe to help them build their new barn. He's discovered a new direction in teaching practical skills and we're employing him next year to teach the compost loo build. Other students have this to say...
"An immensely powerful and informative course with exceptional people involved throughout, extremely thorough with at good balance of practical and theoretical learning in a huge range of subjects and skills."
"So much more than a course – more of a life-shift!"
"It put me in touch with some amazing people who are taking responsibility for real positive change, and taught me to see out collapsing post-industrial world in a very different light. Its based on a truly holistic vision and it teaches practical wisdom rather than boring academic analysis."
"This course changed my life and my way of seeing the world. It was the best decision I ever made"
The course runs from September 4th to the end of July 2013 and there are a couple of places left to book. It costs £2100 which includes all tuition and field trip accommodation. For more information visit www.shiftbristol.org.uk
Meanwhile, this Tuesday, 7th August, the film Permaculture: A Quiet Revolution is being shown at the Permaculture Picturehouse, Passing Clouds, Hackney, London. As well as this inspiring film the night offers a fabulous opportunity to learn more about the roots of permaculture, meet fantastic people and share in some yummy food.
As corporate media fails to provide accurate news of the world's dire environmental predicament, the Earth sends a clear message in the form of record-breaking natural disasters, famine and epidemics.This timely documentary offers practical steps on how to 'permaculturize' our lives. It invites viewers into a permaculture community that spans the globe. Most importantly, it gives the critical inspiration needed to turn our backs on that which is failing us, and to create a sustainable future of our own making.
On the night, there will be two very special guests:
Ian Lillington: Permaculture teacher author of The Holistic Life: Sustainability Through Permaculture. Ian is from SE Australia will talk about his involvement in the Mount Alexander Sustainability Group, the Growing Abundance permaculture project and his recent visit to Permaculture projects in Hong Kong. Ian's permaculture story is told in a chapter in the new book Permaculture Pioneers.
Tom Moggach: horticultural trainer, primary teacher, food journalist and author of The Urban Kitchen Gardener: Growing and Cooking in the City. As a gardener, he runs City Leaf, a company training people how to grow food in the urban environment. He works with Capital Growth and other community groups, charities and councils, and specialises in outdoor learning in schools. As a food journalist, he has written for The Guardian, Telepgraph, Financial Times and reported for BBC radio. Click here for his article on the Permaculture Magazine website.
The Permaculture Picturehouse is London's popular regular permaculture event. It features full length and short films on subjects from the whole permaculture spectrum of interests, accompanied by talks from people involved in local and national projects. Doors open at 6.45pm. All night bar and delicious locally sourced food will be served by Alia for £5 a plate.
For more info go to: www.permaculturepicturehouse.co.uk