This topic has been on the tip of my tongue since I took part in the Winter Meeting in December for Ecotopia 2023. I remember we were all sitting three days in a row on chairs around a big table, trying to go through as many topics as possible before the weekend was over. Somehow it felt so strange to see that during these days Ecotopia had become practically immobile: the people I had been cycling along with in the summer are now all stuck in a big room on a cold gray German winter day.
Maybe it’s something personal, but I found it so incredibly difficult to just sit down, think and discuss. In one of the last days I ended up baking cinnamon rolls during the discussions because I just couldn’t stay still. I had also shared to the group that I was struggling with keeping my focus during the talks and suggested that maybe we should take in consideration introducing more fun and movement into our schedule.
The same theme came up to me again during our stay in Ljubljana and the Balkan Anarchist Bookfair. After spending just a few hours at BAB, I immediately started to feel overwhelmed and exhausted by the amount of information surrounding me. I couldn’t help but feel a bit disturbed by the fact that anarchy, on so many occasions, is incredibly intellectual and theoretical. Although I do understand that this is a bookfair event (where the main focus is an exchange of anarchist literature and ideas), I still had the impression that this is also an annual anarchist gathering where people from all over Europe are coming here to connect and to create networks. I do understand that we do need to organize discussions and actions around some very urgent topics and situations, however: could we be serious while also making sure that we connect first as human beings and secondly as anarchists? Could we make more space into our schedules for activities where we can bond and share more positive feeling within our closed circles but also within our extended communities? I always find it somewhat hard to comprehend how the far-right seems to be so united, while the left is losing momentum with every internal conflict.
As a matter of fact, I know I was not the only one at the bookfair who felt overwhelmed. Many people I was talking to expressed that they feel anxious and exhausted. Maybe an idea for the next time would be to create exercises that will help us all collectively and individually get rid of the tension in our body and minds and focus more on connecting with other fellow comrades.
In one of the evenings at the Vampire House (our host in Ljubljana) I shared these thoughts to some Ecotopian comrades. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I was not the only one feeling in this way and the evening turned into a brain storming of ideas of games that we could introduce more often during the bike tour (and maybe other gatherings?)
Here are some of our ideas:
– fake historical tours in the cities we’re passing by
– wrestling show
– dancing and movement exercises
– drawing games
– talking with other body parts instead of our mouths
– no talent show
– hide and seek
– having a conversation where we answer with a delay
– 2 random questions game
But by writing this post I don’t want to give the impression that I think Ecotopia is lacking fun. In fact, the whole tour offers plenty of contexts where participants can bond in many different ways: task sharing, cycling together, bathing in lakes and rivers, hang-outs after dinner, workshops, helping each other out, games etc. Just as an example, the highlights of my stay in the Vampire House were a 4 handed piano jam session, fruit seed spitting contest (who can spit cherry plum seeds the furthest), baking a spontaneous cake (where two participants went around asking our neighbors for baking powder) and hiking on top of the nearby hill to catch a view of the city.
Would love to hear others’ thoughts on this topic as well.