Schumacher Centenary Festival

Time For a New Direction

Mood of possibility defines E F Schumacher centenary festival.

You can buy a DVD with 4 hours of the best presentations from the Schumacher Centenary Festival here for £10 including postage.

Audience and speakers excited that conditions may finally be right for the ideas of the green economist to become reality.

…that was the headline for an article by the Guardian’s environmental correspondent, Jonathan Watts, writing on the Tuesday after our incredible weekend, when some 800 people had experienced an inspiring and energized two days of talks, workshops, poetry, films and a world-music concert.

Jonathan, btw, had phoned one day last month to book a ticket, and left his number which turned out to be in Beijing. That’s when I knew our global outreach was succeeding :) Here’s a bit more of his article, in which I think he captured the essence rather well:

“The most exciting time to be alive” is not a phrase that trips off the tongue of many politicians currently grappling with a global debt crisis and the threat of recession, but it was almost a mantra at the centenary festival for the economist and “soul of the green movement”, E F Schumacher.

The great and the good of the movement, including activists, academics and even a few bankers, turned up at the weekend event in Bristol to pay homage to the author of Small is Beautiful, the landmark 1973 environmental text that questioned the drive for relentless GDP expansion.

With many economies now flat or in decline, the financial system in crisis and the climate increasingly erratic, the crowds that gathered in Colston Hall had come not just to celebrate the life of Schumacher but to bask in the possibility that conditions may finally be ripe for his ideas to be implemented.

“The current economic model is broken and no one is clear about how to fix it. I think that makes Schumacher’s ideas more resonant,” said Caroline Lucas, the leader of the Green party. “It’s time to shift towards an economy that isn’t based on an accumulation of stuff.” (see the full article here:)

What was extraordinary about the day was the atmosphere, the energy. Every speaker rose to the occasion, and it seemed to last right through the weekend. To me it’s indicative of the times we’re now in, the urgency that people are feeling to find a new way forward beyond the tired old capitalism.

One of the galvanizing moments on the Saturday morning was listening to the founder of, Bill McKibben, talking to us on video because unexpectedly he’d had to return to Washington where he’s campaigning to stop the ‘tar sands pipeline’. It was a measure of both Bill’s passion and our audience’s engagement that the video still worked so effectively. And it’s the first video that we’re able to put up here on our website. Do have a look! In the coming weeks, I hope we’ll be putting up many more video clips from the weekend – and later on we’ll have a DVD with all of the Saturday keynotes.

Something else to look forward to on the website will be the amazing poem that Matt Harvey created during the course of Saturday, and which he read at the very end. We’ll email everyone once it’s here!

Meanwhile, if you were with us last weekend, do let us know your thoughts – how it was and where it’s taking you, so to speak. And if you’ve any comments for any of the speakers, workshop leaders or film-makers you came across, do add them (below) and we can forward them to the relevant folks.

So endeth the (first) lesson :)


  1. Adam Quaeck
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Permalink


    To all involved in the organization of the centenary festival, music, talks, film, poetry, workshops etc, etc… The weekend was a triumph. From the perspective of a relative outsider/new-comer you couldn’t have done anything better!

    Thank you and good luck. I hope to be playing my part from now on.

  2. Posted October 14, 2011 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    Hi Green Economists

    At the recent Schumacher Centenary celebrations in Bristol, Molly Scott Cato ran a well-attended session to try to build a group of people with the focus and skills of an economist.

    An organisation, to be called the Guild of Green Economists, was launched.

    Its website is a place for us to share what we know about what works, whether that is about conducting an audit of local resources, setting up an energy-services company or a local currency, community bank, local bond or credit union. We can share our experience with co-housing, Community Land Trusts and other forms of community based housing provision, share ideas for gaining access to land and for supporting people with issues surrounding the current planning system, develop skill-sharing networks and investigate localism in work.

    We have created a place to discuss the issues at Guild-of-Green-Economists Google Group. Please join the group and join the discussion.

  3. Keith Badger
    Posted October 14, 2011 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    This was my first exposure to a Schumacher festival and what an experience it was! There were so many impressive presenters, forums and films that one got a real sense of the growing awareness of the need for change. As the evidence accumulates that the hyper individualistic consumerist society we have created is unsustainable and indeed undermining human wellbeing, so it is good to know we have people who are willing to speak out as advocates of change. Of course as was mentioned frequently, it is no good relying on others to act, we must all show personal leadership to spread the word. I believe we humans are “slow not stupid” and that the time is fast approaching when we will decide to set aside excuses and take action. Thank you for last weekend, the knowledge acquired and memories of people well met will sustain me on my return to Melbourne in Australia where I hope to do my bit to spread the word.

  4. Posted October 14, 2011 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Great conference and still thinking about all that was discussed. Good idea to put all the keynotes together on DVD as there was simply so much to take in, it’s nice to be able to hear it all again. Next time please include a shared meal or drinks reception. And how about a notice board linking people who want to meet each other? Having networking time with other participants was a missed opportunity. It’s so rare to get so many green activists in one place–and it would be great to learn more from each other!

    • Organiser
      Posted October 14, 2011 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      Two great ideas, Jean – thanks. I suspect if we offered a ‘networking lunch’ quite a lot of people would go for it.

  5. Bob Parks
    Posted October 14, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Prof Tim Jackson,
    I had a question – you referred to death and the accompanying taboo…I wonder, as I do, that my generation (Baby Boomers/Generation X )and I was born in 1947 – those years ’45-’47 – we lived through the 60′s with the sexual revolution when sex for us was the new frontier which, worldwide we proceeded to demystify; now in our physical 60′s and waiting for the consequent spiritual revolution, I feel the new focus will be death (I might be wrong) but I feel because we’re experiencing it, much as we did sex in the 60′s, that we’ll inflict our demustification of death onto the rest of the world…is this in line with ypour thinking?

    • Posted October 28, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      If I communicated I could thank you enoguh for this, I’d be lying.

  6. Bridget Smith
    Posted October 14, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    An inspiring weekend indeed. Many thanks to the organisers. As guided by Satish I sent my message to Nick Clegg asking him to have the guts to stand up in the House and “state the obvious”(about the true role of money etc) While awaiting his conversion am exercising my role as Tree Warden to plant lots more trees around the Parish..

  7. Kester
    Posted October 16, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    The weekend was great, but it was largely preaching to the converted – there’s an Occupy Bristol protest on College Green that needs educational activities organised fast, to enable people in the camp to go out and talk to people on the street in the city centre and educate the people who wouldn’t relate to the style of the protest or who feel like the issues are too big and complex for them to possibly understand or change so there’s not point trying. We need to talk to the Daily Mail, Telegraph, Metro, Evening Post sort of people, not just talk among ourselves. Schumacher Society is in Bristol, so please could the Schumacher Society help find people willing and able to lead meaningful teach-ins in the Occupation camp to prepare the protesters to go out and talk to the rest of the public?

  8. Sunil Gandhi
    Posted October 18, 2011 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

    Dear Organisers,

    First I would like to thank you all for an enjoyable, exciting and thought provoking weekend. If it was not for all your hard work the weekend would not have been such a success. What was especially great about the weekend was the togetherness I felt with the speakers and all the people that had come along. It was my first (but not my last) time at the Schumacher Lectures. I was impressed with the list of speakers on the Saturday and thought Sunday could not not match such a great day. Then Sunday came along and was just as good!
    What had particular resonance for me over the two days was the phrase “Deep Ecology”. Where one looks at the inwardness of ourselves and through deep experience and questioning, we use our knowledge of ecology to give a deep commitment to make the world a better place.

    • Posted October 28, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      Wow! That’s a really neat aneswr!