In Totnes, one sometimes hears the term ‘old hippy’ used as a term of abuse. Last week in Totnes, Albert Bates, an old hippy of the highest order, thrilled a full house at the Methodist Hall with the story of the Farm Ecovillage in Tennessee. It was a delight for me, as I first heard Albert speaking in 1995, when I was a fresh-faced, just qualified permaculturist who was lucky enough to get a bursary to attend the ‘Eco-Villages and Sustainable Communities’ conference at Findhorn. The speech Albert gave there, one long evening, was a life changing moment.

What is so wonderful about Albert’s talk, both the version I heard in 1995, and the one he gave last week in Totnes, is the incredible story he tells about what can be achieved when people work together to make something happen. The story of hundreds of middle-class city hippy kids turning up on 1000 acres of poor farmland in Tennessee and having to work out how to grow food, build houses, make electricity and so on, is a great story for our times, showing what the combination of circumstance, passion and necessity can draw out of us.

Luckily for those of you who couldn’t make it, Carl Munson of the wonderful Traydio.com was there, and made podcasts of the Albert’s talks. You can here is main talk, ‘Anything is Possible’ here, and a short interview Carl did with Albert at the end of the evening here. You can also read Carl’s review of the talk here. You can recreate the Albert Bates experience in the comfort of your own living room by also downloading his powerpoint here and flipping through it as you listen to the podcast. Now, how 21st century is THAT?! Transition Culture, the cutting edge….

Links in the article:
Anything is possible (talk) – audio
Slides to go with the talk – takes a while to load

interview – audio




Who you calling a hippy?

Carl Munson, SoulandSoil

It was my huge privilege to hear Albert Bates talk last week. Albert was guest of Transition Town Totnes and, invited as I was by the folks at TTT to record the show for posterity, further distribution and extended listening pleasure, I turned up seeing it as something of a job. I should have known better.

First of all, Albert is a hero’s hero; he was there at the request of Rob Hopkins – founding influence of the Transition movement and author of the Transition Handbook (the second edition of which you can help write*). And secondly – when it comes to hippy idealism – Albert’s been there, done it and got the t-shirt (organic cotton, fair trade and tie-dyed, naturally). This turned out to be one hell, or should that be heaven?, of an evening.

Albert kicked off with the etymology of ‘hippy’. Far from its now accepted status as a mild put down, or in some circles – term of abuse, a hippy is one who (according to its alleged West African origins) has opened their eyes or woken up. With this in mind, and after ninety minutes of pure inspirational storytelling – feel free to call me a hippy; I’ll take it.

The story in question being Albert’s journey with The Farm, a community that grew from next to nothing (apart from 70’s hippy idealism) in Tennessee; as a lawyer, author and teacher, as well as a founder of the eco-village movement. Not only these, but also a participant in the wonderful work of Plenty International, for 18 years, focussing on relief and development work with indigenous peoples, human rights and the environment. … (more at original.)