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The Summer of Change festival

Karen Stenning

Karen Stenning

I founded Absolute Alchemy as an events organisation that hosts community happenings in order make a positive difference. The day after the General Election, I met with fellow female entrepreneur Ruth Rogers to talk about fundraising initiatives, and instead we found ourselves unable to stop contemplating the remarkable stories that had unfolded that night. It was clear to us that every vote counts and that every one of us can make a difference.  This is where the Summer of Change festival began.

The Summer of Change festival took part at the Canvas Café in Shoreditch, a community and creative hub founded by Ruth Rogers. I teamed up with Ruth and working together, we transformed the Canvas Café basement into a magical indoor, fairy-lit tent, and brought together organisations including Action for Happiness, Love Stop Café, Colour the City and Mindapples.  Creative and inspiring speakers such as Tiu de Haan, Alastair Creamer and love expert Katherine Baldwin, all took to the stage to engage speakers in positive dialogue and offered exciting topics or interactive workshops, helping audiences to engage with a positive movement.

Change really does start with you, so the festival was designed to include personal development sessions such as yoga and mindfulness, 5Rhythms dance and art, to open up visitors to the simple ways they can feel calmer, happier, and more in control. Then they are able to choose their onward journey, which might be about becoming an inspiration to others, engaging more with their community, or creating more green, open spaces in their towns and cities.”

On the third day, the theme was Global Changemakers, with a panel discussion under the theme “Going Global: What can be done on a global level to bring about positive change?”  Catherine Richardson, Programme Manager from Think Global attended with Vicki Robin, a US Global Activist and Rebecca Fordham, who recently left the UN and UNICEF to start up her own business, Tales of Thread.  The talk was chaired by Helen Wright from Global People Project.  The panel quickly got onto the topics of the Sustainable Development Goals, and the role of education and women in taking this framework forward.  It was great to see an all-female panel talking robustly about how to take important steps in making positive change.

With hate crime growing consistently, there is an air of fear and mistrust, creating unfair division centred around race, social status, religion, and sexuality. Many people feel they are powerless to make a difference. But the Summer of Change festival aimed to counteract all of these complex feelings and bring people together under one festival tent in the heart of London, and to empower each person to make a change, however big or small.

Ruth Rogers sums up our aims when she said:  “I’ve lived in London since 2007, and chose to open The Canvas, because it’s a place that celebrates creativity and new ideas. London’s a city where positivity can flourish – and I think the world needs positivity right now more than ever. This festival is offering each visitor the chance to genuinely change themselves and their world for the better.”  The festival brought together a collection of people who are developing approaches and collaborations which will foster healthy human communities in the face of contemporary challenges.

Blog by Karen Stenning, founder of Absolute Alchemy and co-founder of the Summer of Change festival.

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