Fire Starter Festival 2021

Imagining How Things Could Be Otherwise

Imagination has the ability to see things as they would be otherwise

John Dewey

As the days grow shorter we turn out attention to the possibilities of next year’s Fire Starter Festival. But, in looking forward we are also reflecting on what we have learned from recent times.

Our experiences of lockdown varied (and continues to vary) enormously, yet what we have observed and been amazed by is the  sudden opening of a space for questioning how things are,  and the opportunities for creativity and collaboration. Many people individually experimented with their creative talents e.g. pop up painting challenges, growing your own veg.   It felt that the precariousness of the situation opened up an opportunity – to leave normal and explore what else could there be. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to marvel at the carless streets, as I took by daily bike ride.  What if Leith became a car-free place to live?  Perhaps in even in the midst of anxiety, uncertainty and potential isolation we became more open, connected with others locally and globally and there was a space to think about the possibilities.

Design by Gemma Gordon, for the Creative Bravery Festival

Perhaps what’s interesting is that some surveys indicate that people don’t want to go back to ‘normal’. More focus has been brought to the way we live our lives, what’s important: both locally and globally. An opportunity to think collectively about what is important and how we can use this pause to think imaginatively and creatively about potential futures.

But, it is hard to imagine how things could be otherwise. We are often so steeped in a particular way of being – the system – we cannot imagine it could be anything else. The imagination that fuelled our creativity and play as children has  arguably been dampened by the systems and processes that have formed us into adults. Ken Robinson and Peter Gamble have written extensively on this and it’s well worth reading their books and/or watching this RSA animated TED Talk .

The Creative Bravery Festival was a collective endeavour to reimagine education, not by visualising a utopian ideal of a future far in the distance, but by sharing pockets of the future in the present.  It rose from a spark at the Fire Starter Festival in February when the collective who had created Joining the Dots… imagining the future of education, reformed barely a month later in Lockdown to share their experience of not only being in lockdown, but what it meant to educate in lockdown.  The story of that journey has been captured by Paul Gorman, from Hidden Giants and is worth a read. (You can read his blog post here.)

The festival (held in September to replace the cancelled Scottish Learning Festival) hasn’t packed up its tents and abandoned the field. It stays open to peruse, to engage with and to view the speakers at a time that is best for participants.  As a collective we learned a lot about what was important to people in gathering together and what we should take forward into next year’s Fire Starter Festival.

Design by Gemma Gordon, for Creative Bravery Festival

Campfires: we hosted weekly campfires in the run up to the festival These relaxed spaces provided people from diverse backgrounds a place to meet,  to share, to disagree and to learn. These have become one of the most important elements of the festival – a place to meet people you never knew you needed to meet. From each campfire people met others interested in topics they were interested in and then created their own fires and invited others. Fires spread. 

These campfires will continue every Wednesday at 4pm.  from 4th November until the end of January from the beginning of November until the end of January. Come along and toast your feet.

A level playing field:  Creative Bravery, like Fire Starter  was co-created by anyone and everyone. You didn’t need to wait for invitation, and no-one was more important than anyone else. Global leaders in Lego and play, directors of education, sat alongside the Brave Collective of teachers, and a dynamic intergenerational duo who were covering the curriculum for by building a hut. This is something that we want to emphasis – whoever you are, your ideas matter. Be brave and share them at the festival

Events that surprised and sparked imagination. This was a common theme throughout the festival, and feedback tells us that hearing from the young people of the Agora school, where there isn’t a timetable, or classes, and student’s develop their own curriculum are the things that stimulate the imagination as to what is possible. Likewise Mini-Munich, where the children take over the running of the city during the summer, sparked off a range of possibilities as to how we view place, democracy and the purpose of education. We also know that participants enjoyed events that were about questions and inquiry and offered a practice to explore with others e.g. dialogue walks

Cafes – In the festival there were two cafes, morning and evening. Open spaces to catch up, highlight what was happening in the festival and  while  sipping your latte or evening beverage. The evening cafes also included music and guest appearances which are really beyond description. In next year’s Fire Starter Festival we are adding in a lunch-time café, an opportunity to bring your lunch and relax, and hear about what’s going on and share thoughts on the events you might have already visited.

On-line/Off-line – We wondered if people would be put off by a festival mostly happening on-line, and were surprised at the overwhelmingly positive comments about community and connections, especially the ability to meet people from across the world. The on-line platform opened up possibilities and created new tribes and friendships.  Next year’s FSF will be mainly on-line thought we hope there will be some outdoors events too.

Impact – The festival provided a great opportunity for people to make connections and test out ideas in the making. Many of the events that ignited interest have led to further discussions and prototyping. Hopefully at next year’s FSF we will hear about what happened next.

Interested in getting involved in Fire Starter Festival 2021. The website explains how to get involved but bring your sparks and questions come along to a campfire.

Design by Gemma Gordon, for Creative Bravery Festival

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