Community Lover’s Guide To The Universe and Birmingham

Spines of Community Lover's Guide books arranged on a shelf

Tessy Britton is an inspiration and so is Maurice Specht. Tessy got to me to write a chapter on social media surgeries for Hand Made – her book on new community culture and  militant optimists. Maurice ‘dragged’ me over to Holland to talk about the work we do to government, housing associations and community groups.

From that has emerged the “Community Lover’s Guide To The Universe”  and we’re editing the Birmingham edition.  Sort of like the Grassroots Channel but with better pictures (and a book).  Let Tessy explain:

A few weeks ago Maurice Specht turned to me on the way to Schiphol airport and said ‘So when are we going to bring out a Hand Made for Rotterdam?’.

What a brilliant suggestion!

Since then the idea has really taken off with 12 community enthusiasts already volunteering to edit special local editions – collectively now called the Community Lover’s Guide To The Universe. Since we brought out Hand Made last August the number of people-led projects has continued to grow and we wanted to explore both the common themes, but also the unique cultural ideas and interpretations from all parts of the world.

We also wanted to start to show how places that are buzzing with community activity and projects are amazing places to live, increasingly more amazing than places with cool architecture or luxury shops. Community brings places alive, gives us new and interesting ways to contribute and connect … and there are signs already that people are finding places that have this creativity and excitement going on highly desirable.

Community can’t be mass produced and it can’t be ‘delivered’. But in rising numbers there are a lot of very excitable people just getting on and making and shaping their local communities for themselves. This series of books will create the opportunity for them to tell their stories, which in turn we hope will encourage other people to put aside any hesitations they might have and get more involved in their neighbourhoods.

So I’ll be doing one of my favourite things –  chuntering my way through the wonders of Birmingham, asking for 800 words or so and loveley pics. No one’s getting paid for this, but I hope you’ll join in.

Who should I talk to – where is the new community culture in this city and who are the militants optimists?



  1. Jaki says:

    I would always suggest you talk to one of the local Students’ Unions about people led projects and community. A lot of the Student media provide an interesting perspective. Redbrick (at Uni of Brum and scratch radio at BCU worth a look. But also the SUs more generally.

    This sounds great, can you add it to my Xmas list please?

  2. You’d also not go wrong by talking to Birmingham Friends of the Earth and the Northfield Ecocentre: massively motivated and passionate people making a difference daily.

  3. Helga says:

    Hmmmm Problem is I am crap at remembering names – but there’s Clare (@thedancingflea) from SusMo – the sustainability group for Moseley, Tom Baker from Loafonline in Stirchley, the Reverend Jemima Prakatan in Lozells (first black woman vicar parading the Lozells Rd in her orange sari with a dog-collar), Joel Graham-Blake who does that mentoring thing for young entrepreneurs, the woman from Anawim for women ex-offenders, Andy Watson and all at Geese Theatre and Janice Connolly at Women & Theatre. Just the one book you say? Might need two volumes.

  4. Jo Burrill says:

    What a great idea! Bet there are whole neighbourhoods that could fill a book of their own. Individuals and groups that immediately come to mind would be in Lozells; Law, Leisure and Learning in Handsworth; Lincoln Moses and Continental Stars FC; Faeeza Vaid at Sister 2 Sister. Count me in and will think on…

  5. Jo Burrill says:

    Good call Helga, its Joy Doal at Anawim – recent recipient of an MBE. Also, Birgit Kehrer at BSustained and Changekitchen 🙂

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