The first workshop day of the 5th London FreeSchool just finished and it was great!! Some of us (the brave ones that stayed until the end) had a general debrief about how things went and what we think worked well and what worked less well.
Maybe lets start with what did not work very well : IT WAS SOOOO COLD!! Everyone was freezing to death! If you are thinking about coming on sunday, bring warm clothing, your own cup to constantly refill it with hot beverage, and a blanket to sit down and watch movies or attend workshops!
The slots we planned to discuss/present our safer space policy weren’t very successful, probably because they were either on the friday evening (a famous FreeSchool slot for being particularly under-attended!) or at 12noon on saturday (too early!!). Someone said that they didn’t notice many situations where people were challenging each other or bringing up situations that they felt were oppressive. Not that they wanted conflicts to happen, but only mentioning it within the framework of seeing challenge as a good and constructive thing to go through.
The movie space was pretty quiet, maybe because too far away from the rest of the rooms. Some people felt that the bike and welding workshops were a bit too male dominated, and other thought that it might have been a good thing if the sexual consent one wouldn’t have been so female dominated!
An important feature of this 5th FreeSchool was that the workshops, when their structure allowed it, were meant to end with a short debrief : providing space at the end of each workshop to try and think about how it went, what was good or less good, about the dynamics (especially the gender dynamics) of the group during it, if anyone felt uncomfortable/oppressed/unsafe/silenced at any time… It seems that only 1.30H was too short too short for a full-on workshop/discussion AND a debrief but the ones that were allocated a 2h slot allowed debriefs to happen. And they debrief showed that people were generally very happy about the workshops and how it went!
Also, people felt that the workshops that were specifically about gender/feminism did include some attention to those dynamics (like the sexual consent one where the SSP was discussed a lot, the feminism/autonomous politics and the What are children for?). Another example is the discussion on Charisma (the most successful workshop with about 30 attendants!) where people even re-shaped the workshop because they notice that there was issue of charisma/power balance (basically the same few people taking most of the speaking space!) during the actual discussion!
People felt they learnt a lot of new practical skills, especially at the DIY radio workshop (a radio show will be recorded tomorrow at the FreeSchool, check out the website for more news!), the puppet making one and the welding.
There was a lot of praises about the Free and Open software workshop that was very open, informative and managed to attract a lot of women to a theme that tends to be male dominated! Some of the workshops that happened are not mentioned here not because they didn’t go well but because no one from the general debrief attended them!
A rough and quick calculation during the day showed that it seemed that the attendance to most of the workshop was very gender balanced (always around 50/50). Of course this calculation was made doing something that was against our safer space statement: assuming people’s gender instead of asking them directly! But we thought it’d be an interesting figure to mention even though it might not be very accurate… And this some sort of achievement to previous FreeSchool events that were pretty much male dominated.
The Safer Space policy itself was distributed to every person walking in the space, even just passer-by who were not here for the FreeSchool! Which was great, we did actually get lots of people who just saw the big signs outside in the streets and came in only to have a look, wander around and ask questions.
Everyone felt that the atmosphere was great, a lot of pleasure and discussion and people generally being kind to each other and happy!
So hope to see you tomorrow for more learning, sharing, freezing and fun!!