When I picture life in the village ten years from now, this is what I see.
My fifteen year old son and I are living in good quality shared accommodation which we have shared control over. It’s affordable both in terms of rent and running costs because the buildings were well designed using well-proven, future-proof, appropriate technologies. The house looks much like a normal house, albeit a particularly nice one 🙂 We have personal space, but share our immediate facilities (lounge, bathroom, kitchen) with a few others who we live with as family. Amongst our housemates we have systems and ways of making sure things get done, sharing some things and not others depending on what works best in all of our lives at the time. Some of us do our paid work within the ecovillage, some work exclusively outside and others, such as myself, do a mix. My son has set up his own business doing odd jobs for people within the ecovillage, as well as studying at the local college.
Our house is one of five in a terrace, with a shared area of veg garden to the front which we all help to maintain. We also have a shared laundry and drying room between us. Some of the houses are shared by groups of adults, some are family homes and some, like ours, a mix. Our houses are joined at the front by a covered verandah which means we pop around to each other’s houses often, whatever the weather. It’s easy to get help with odd jobs and to help out people with additional needs with this level of interaction but we all have our own spaces to retreat to when that’s the right thing too.
Our terrace is one of many on the site, each with their own feel and culture depending on the mix living there at the time. We know pretty much everyone by name whether they’re people we spend much time with or not. My son has friends within the village as well as in the local town so it’s easy for him to socialise. Five years ago the children put together a proposal for a skate ramp and zip wire in the village green area. As a community we could afford this and felt like it was a great addition to the facilities so it went ahead the year after. The children often congregate there in the afternoons and feel a great sense of ownership as it was their idea in the first place. They’re encouraged to be engaged in the running of the village as possible and it’s given lots of them a great level of confidence when suggesting things or offering their opinions.
Along one side of the village green is the community building which has been the scene of many birthday parties, wedding receptions and events of all kinds. I runs some fitness classes here as part of my livelihood, as well as working in the town which is only a short bike ride away. There’s also visitor accommodation here which can be booked out when my parents or friends come to visit and additional smaller spaces which can be rented out for various activities. For example, my son’s band hires one of the rooms once a week as a practice space. It’s great for the community to have such a range of groups, classes and one-off events using this building and also helps to bring people from the town in.
The community building is also where dinner gets served every evening, with about half of the village eating there most weekday evenings and loads of us congregating for Sunday lunch. The food is very affordable and ethically sourced, and at the moment the kitchen employs one full-time and two part-time workers. Other people work in the kitchen as their community time commitment. Making links with local suppliers has made us lots of friends locally and there are a few food-based businesses on site who are also suppliers. This has given people a decent-sized first customer to help get their businesses off of the ground. Recently the full-time worker has started to look into turning the kitchen into a training kitchen so students from the local college can do some of their training there too.
I have a meaningful place and level of involvement in each of these three levels of community. My housing needs are well taken care of for an affordable rent and I have a say in both what happens in my own home and the wider village. My time commitment to the community is spent doing admin, which I was trained to do on some courses run here to help people have the confidence to take these sorts of things on. The skills have helped me immeasurably in my own business too and others who have done them have started to take on paid admin work outside of the village. We arrange things in our house informally now after many years of living together, but our terrace has a monthly meeting to deal with any issues and to make sure that any maintenance issues get flagged up and taken to the maintenance group to be addressed.
With all of my basic physical needs taken care of and so many of my social and emotional needs met here too, I haven’t owned a car for years now. Within the community new ideas are always coming to the fore so the diversity of services and activities going on at any one time is enormous. There’s a fantastic noticeboard in the community building where I’m always spotting things I didn’t know were happening! At our larger, village-wide meetings we discuss big changes to the site, new residents or major expenditure. The next is adding a grid-connected wind turbine to compliment existing on-site energy generation. There’s been a lot to discuss but I think we’ve all gotten a lot better at communicating as time has gone on and as the community has diversified. There’s still a lot to learn but the number of visitors we have from groups hoping to replicate what we’ve done makes the progress we’ve made all the more tangible.