May 3, 2023

A Derry-Londonderry deep dive into the art of the wellbeing economy

by Caroline Whyte & Peter Doran, WEAll Ireland Hub

A wonderful group of activists and creatives gathered at the Derry Playhouse this spring. Our task was to explore our role in kicking off a new public conversation about the wellbeing economy on the island of Ireland.

There has been much contestation in and around Derry-Londonderry over the centuries about civil and human rights, economic development and social inclusion, and, indeed, about the very name of the place. So it’s hard to think of a more fitting destination than Derry-Londonderry to explore the potential relationship between creativity and the urgently-needed reorientation of our economy.

The deep dive event was convened by the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEALL) Ireland hub, with much-appreciated support from Carnegie UK and the attendance of Hannah Paylor and Ben Thurman from their team.

At the launch, Professor Tim Jackson of the Centre for Understanding Sustainable Prosperity, delivered an online talk (watch again here). He said: “Vision, resolution, consolation. These are the tools from which to build a different future. Our ability to live well, to flourish in less materialistic ways, is in its essence an artistic endeavor.

“Sustainability is the art of living well within the ecological limits of a finite planet.”

We enjoyed responses from arts director Jo Mangan, distinguished commons expert David Bollier, and WEAll communications and narrative co-lead Marina Gattás.

Over twenty participants, drawn from the worlds of research, activism and the arts, including film making, poetry, photography, music, and writing, attended the session.

Those who arrived on the evening before the deep dive were ‘tuned in’ to the local context with the help of some beautiful music by musicians Grainne McMenamin and Róise Ó Murchú.

During our event we explored:

  • The power of narrative change in stimulating the collective imagination around the wellbeing economy, led by Professor Sandra Waddock of Boston College;
  • The role of the commons at the heart of our vision for the wellbeing economy and as a modus operandi for our community of practice, led by David Bollier;
  • An activist perspective on opposition to extractivism, led by V’cenza Cirifice, an academic and artist working with opposition to gold mining proposals for The Sperrins;
  • Progress on proposals for the incorporation of the rights of nature in the Republic of Ireland’s constitution, led by Dr Peter Doran, QUB.

Discussions were lively and we gleaned a rich harvest of ideas for our work, as well as developing our plans.

We are all looking forward to a follow-up session that will be held in Cloughjordan Ecovillage in County Tipperary in July and which will help us to progress our work.

To help attract a diverse range of new participants, we plan to produce a call to action, accompanied by a more detailed analysis of the research and activities that we have carried out so far. If you would like to get involved in this important work, please get in touch with us by contacting Caroline at the WEAll Ireland hub or friends at Carnegie UK.