I'd wondered about going to the Leeds Summat for some time, and decided last night that I would go... even though it entailed a very early start. I unhitched my trailer and left it at home (trailers aren't allowed on trains) and cycled to the station to get the 8.25, which got in just before 9am. It only took me 5 minutes to cycle up to the University from Leeds station, and I found the venue, the Student Union building, very easily. I haven't been there for years.
I had a float around and chatted with a young politics student before the opening at 10am, had a coffee and a croissant and went to the Riley Smith Hall. I was pleased to meet my friend Justin Rowlatt, the journalist who became 'Ethical Man' for a year. He and his wife have family in Leeds.
He was on stage for the opening session, along with Rommie Smith, a poet, Hilary Benn, MP for Leeds and ex Environment Minister, a trainee barrister called Maryam Mir, a chap from Land Securities called Gerald Jennings, Maurice Glasman, a Labour Peer, and a local activist, Nic Greenan. The host or chair was Harry Gration the TV presenter. Between them they introduced the Summat, which was framed with the recent 'Arab Spring', the Occupy movement, the recent riots (which didn't happen in Leeds due partly to some intervention from youth leaders), and the 200th anniversary of the Luddite Uprising.
There was a wide ranging discussion, which identified a key cause of the problems, which we think is inequality. Maybe there should be a maximum wage? Land ownership is another massive issue, another sort of inequality. Justin identified that he thought that there was a lot of ideological baggage in the green movement, and he is pro-nuclear power, and pro-genetically modified organisms. He told us that there are a lot of positive things happening, as he's just come back from the Amazon rainforest, and seen how that moves are afoot to stop (or at least slow) the deforestation. However, time was against us and that session ended, and I went to the next thing I was interested in.
This was an introduction to the Enneagram, which is a way of analysing one's personality. I've been interested in exploring personality traits for a long time, partly because I have an unusual one, and in some areas, I'm quite extreme and this has caused some problems and clashes. My favourite was the Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicators, but I'd never heard about Enneagram. All the participants stood around a large diagram laid out on the floor, with the 9 different personality types, Challenger, Peacemaker, etc etc, and a couple of chaps explained how it worked and what the various things meant and how it could be used. I was fairly interested, and might explore it further.
However, the next session was really good; I chose to go and see Mary from Incredible Edible Todmorden talk and show her slides. I am, like many, very inspired by this project, and indeed, it has inspired the formation of Edible York. It was good to hear one of the founders talk us through the project.
Then I went to a session called Activism and Social Change in the main hall, with Justin Rowlatt, Peter Tatchell the veteran human rights activist, Khadijah Ibrahim founder of Leeds Young Authors, Benny Wenda from Free West Papua, and at least one other. I particularly enjoyed hearing about Tatchell's 'citizen's arrest' of Robert Mugabe, and the overall message of this session was believe in yourself, listen to others and learn from others.
Finally, there was a session hosted by Green Drinks Leeds, which also resulted in a few good conversations.
In the evening I cycled over to a different venue nearby, and there was a bit of live music and some good food, and I met my old friend Louie, whom I've known for years and years from festivals. He was there with his daughter, and I was really glad to see him as he's a very jolly fellow. I didn't spend a long time at the evening gig, and cycled back to the station and got back to York at about midnight.
This post took months to complete as I have so much happening in my life, not helped by computer breakdowns and still writing a daily post. However, I do like to publish in sequence, so once this post is made public, I'll post a whole load more in batches, which were days with a bit less happening and less to write about. I may even catch up and publish the day's blog on the day it happened, like I did for a long time....