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Why would a network of creative activists want to get involved with a festival around “micro-making”? What has co-designing activities for a festival got in common with pirates, pies or pop up woodshops? How can you “make your own festival” anyway?

It all started over a conversation with @dougald, @benvickers and @benlittle on rethinking the university and how the @univproject was setting up at @hubwestminster.

Just as the University Project looks to distinguish the institution from the social goods it could produce, the Hub Westminster repurposing the first floor of a high commission building into a “social super studio for civic entrepreneurs ” in the heart of the West End.

So when we read this post by @timahrensbach and @stephenfortune ” about creating a Changemakers Festival where “so much is happening at once, it maximises the possibility of cross-fertilisation of ideas“, we wanted to get on board.


It’s ironic that our first activity, the “silent brainstorming” was born in another Hub across the pond in Amsterdam. So people annotated and added to the brainstorm maps on our three themes “new forms of democratic participation, migration and precarity & economic alternatives” with a quick video to get people inspired over how we can open up the discussion on these.

But we thought we’d throw in an extra challenge because we love rewarding the question marks!

Although the “I wish this was” activity has been used up until now on disused or damaged objects and buildings, we thought that whether we’re talking about precarious living conditions or disused democratic processes, we often hear that there is no alternative. But “our institutions are transformed the moment we decide they are ours to create”, so that’s why people came up with their “I wish it was” from “I wish democracy was intergenerational linking people of all ages through storytelling and creativity” to “I wish the economy was more aware of the need of community public spaces to share knowledge, expertise and resources”.


Being transnational, travelling is a critical resource the Transeuropa Cooperative invests in. The value of travelling isn’t just in people going from one place to another, it’s ideas moving around too. We wanted the ideas that people had come up with in other cities to “travel into” people’s conversations at the session, so picked out keywords from their brainstorming.

As we were looking through the other activities of the Changemakers Fayre, we wanted the different ways others were “micro-making” economic and democratic alternatives to “travel into” the co-creation of our festival, so we picked out keywords from the activities there too.

As the themes we work on are still in their embryonic stage, these keywords acted as stimulants on how we uncover unmet needs and come up with creative ideas.

We got some really good examples, here’s just three examples of what people came up using the keywords: Fixing = Replanting playgrounds, riots: = What could have been done differently? or Consumption = Prejudices for sale.

This was the first time we’d used this technique, inspired by our good friends from Transeuropa Bologna. What could we have done differently? Should we have facilitated a walkabout where people would actually stick “I wish this was” stickers on objects and spaces which represented democracy, migration or the economy? Could we have involved groups that wanted to work with us to put forward keywords so we could have created more visceral connections between the ideas and the people involved?


Once people had brainstormed the issues and ideas, We’ve developed a game to help people co-design activities for the festival and we were planning to go through it for the “Create Your Own Festival” session.

But given that there wouldn’t be people from the other European citygroups, how could we give participants a flavour of the “black box” of a transnational festival? So we went through all the 250 micro-activities in our last festival and picked out some really compelling examples of techniques people used.

So when people mixed the keywords and the techniques together, you got really creative ideas for activities like

Undercover journalism & walking & economic alternative = Go undercover walking around a neighbourhood to uncover economic alternatives and interview people to produce an investigative style documentary on the underground economy.

Gaming & public space & migration = Invite migrants to think of board games from their cities and develop life sized versions of those to invite the community to play

Beaches & partnering with other cities & new forms of democratic participation = Urban beach exchange between different cities to make Spain look like Estonia

With of course, melt in the mouth muffins and white chocolate cookies, the magic ingredient for making a festival!

In Stephen’s interview with Tim about his wishes for the Fayre, he concludes “We’d love for the space to bear the traces and residue of all the ideas and projects that were kick-started within the Fayre, to have something convey all that transpired“. Well, the ideas for activities that people came up during the “Build a Festival” session, like the network itself, will travel…

Then, just a week later, we’re off to Sofia for a special transnational festival planning session where the Transeuropa Cooperative will thread the different activities together and join the dots between the different issues people in the different cities want to work on. On the next blogpost, I’ll talk about the ideas that people came up with.  In the meantime, click on one of the tabs to get involved!