A room full of people and three exciting speakers. Mike Phillips, masters degree student at the University of Leeds - who is researching urban free schools between 1960 and 1980 - writes up his reflections on another stimulating Common Roots Event:





The Common Roots conference has influenced the perspective of my research by providing further layers of enquiry. The conference provided a sense of togetherness with the presence of former students of Wennington who warmly welcomed various other attendees. It has introduced the idea of the community as a wide series of diversified actors, and I suppose in this way it has showed me that community is all about empathy and developing commonality at the same time as accepting, and fostering, diversity.

It has also further highlighted the commonality of purpose within radical therapeutic, educational and transformative movements, and simultaneously showed that there are various differing approaches to achieving these aims. In its broadest sense community means all human relationships, and especially those founded on shared views, and experiences. Though, it must also be said that perversely community can sometimes be developed by a shared opposition, by what people are against rather than what they are for. The conference has highlighted that inclusion and togetherness are much more productive building blocks.

Community is all human relationships and it is a term that has been redacted in mainstream culture. Just as the word 'environment' is often taken to relate to the subset of radical environmental campaigners, when it in fact in refers to everything in the physical world. Though, due to the breadth of this definition, it should be noted that it does tend more toward describing a movement. Community often operates on a localised level and is intersected at different points by outside actors (the huge media response in the wake of Columbine for example). The Free School movement was also intersected by outside actors, namely local and governmental authorities. Community can also be a localised group with ambitions of creating a movement or a wider community (For instance, Kibbo Kift’s ambitions for world transformation and redevelopment).

Therapeutic education at New Barns School, trauma awareness in the wake of the tragedy of Columbine, and the Kibbo Kift’s attempts to radically restructure post-war society through a return to primitive living and through a wide amalgamation of various different cultures could, at first glance, appear to be a fairly eclectic grouping of conference topics. However, they all highlighted the enduring struggle to interpret the world and to connect with others. This will be helpful for my own research as it has shown how important the prism of commonality is in building community and how wide these networks can spread. In the case of Free Schools from c.1960-1980 the commonality would be the desire to implement freedom, and the wider spread of the movement seems, at this mid-stage of my research, to filter into spheres such as anarchism, socialism, libertarianism, working-class solidarity, and perhaps many more.

Mike Phillips, May 11th, 2016


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Common Roots 2016, co-hosted by Wennington old scholars and P.E.T.T., was  held at P.E.T.T. on May 10th, 2016. The poster for the event can be seen  here.