The Common Room

After the disappointment of getting ill and missing what sounds like two fantastic days of conversations and workshops at Redrawing the Maps last week, I was excited that Social Spaces and 00:/ were taking their Common Room prototype to Norwich on Saturday. On the day, St. Laurence Church was opened up to explore and discuss what it could be if it was used as a community space. Tessy, Laura, Joost, Tim and Sarah did an amazing job of transforming the empty church into a place that felt something like a community common room.

It turned out to be a blast – I wandered into one exciting conversation after another throughout the day. A mix of discussions, trade school classes, and workshops together with lots of tea, biscuits and ideas made a perfect blend for dialogue about what kind of community space is needed in Norwich. It attracted a wide range of people who are already involved in different groups. The set up for something new to emerge was complete.

What I found really interesting was that I both made new friends and deepened old friendships. In the common room I discovered aspects of people whom I already know that I hadn’t seen before. Although I’ve known Mark for about a year now, I’d never really heard him talk in-depth about his practice with plants. In discussions I was able to draw on knowledge shared with friends to benefit the wider dialogue. It was as if the place allowed us to apply ourselves in ways that we can’t always do in other public spaces.

I found that the trade school I ran on time skills was an opportunity not just to pass on some of the ideas and perceptual skills I’m developing in time culture, but that I was learning from the reflections people had on what I was saying. In contrast with the discussion around time and progress I co-hosted on the Monday at Redrawing the Maps, I was comfortable and unnervous and therefore able to deliver a more coherent and enticing picture of what time skills mean in practice. And I received some fudge and home-grown tobacco in exchange!

The new connections I made also have the side-effect that I’m feeling more strongly that Norwich is my home. Having less than a year left of funding for my research, I’m beginning to wonder what is next. Having lived the cosmopolitan life of a middle class nomad all of my adult life it’s no small question where to go. But seeing that there is such a vibrant patchwork of communities that are all in some way interested in the same thing, the prospect of hanging around in Norwich is truly exciting. It seems that we just need a platform to meet and something truly disruptive might kick off.

It already feels as if the most substantial part of what the Common Room was about has happened but the repercussions will keep rippling through Norwich in the coming time. Thanks to Social Space, 00:/ and the Churches Conservation Trust for setting up this space. I hope we’ll bump into each other again in the future.

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