The Armchair Army

Me in my small corner…
by Sue Fairweather of the Armchair Army

This is for you, at your computers, in your armchairs.  It is given as a heartening example of ‘Power to the People’ and to ask you to consider the formation of Local Assemblies as suggested by the Occupy Movement… What do we want?  Why, When and Where?

Yes, with ‘me in my small corner and you in your’s’, we can make a change.

The term ‘Go to Wall’ is from medieval times when the churches/chapels only seated the Lords and Ladies, and was literally the place for the aged,sick and disabled to gain some support.  More derogatory phrases are ‘with our backs against the wall’ and ‘in a corner’… we can use the first, a ‘Wall’ (a ‘Corner’ provides two) as support for the power of good and productive campaign in our own lives.

‘If you think you’re too small to affect anything try sleeping in a room with a mosquito’

I belong to a Community on the furthest flung coast of Essex and though I can visit seldom now, I have played a valuable part in the past of their policy to environmentally be as responsible as possible towards land and people, we care for.

When as a new committee member in 2005, we faced a crisis of energy and accommodation, and were closed for a year… a group of us answered this sad situation by pursuing our community green policy with a vengeance.  Our Trustees wished to come off our home generated electricity and onto the National Grid and to go back to our 600 worldwide member families (and with visiting members there are hundreds more) and ask for funding for both energy supplies and a new building… the recessive gene in our economy was beginning to bite, plus to do so would mean that we would be forced along the easier affordable route of traditional and non sustainable building and energy suppliers.

I likened myself to a terrier snapping at the heels of challenge.  When having refused to fund-raise as the community volunteer coordinator (asking people for their time and energy was enough), this ‘don’t do computers’ dinosaur simply got on the phone and approached any one who was likely to listen. Surprisingly, listen they did…. even when passing me on from one office to another, I hung on with terrier like tenacity… until a lovely lady from the East of England Renewable Energies entered our sphere, and came on our buildings group.  Carol not only gave us a pre-feasibility study as to possible independent sustainable energies, but referred us to EEDA the government financed sustainable development agency who were giving in competition form granting for innovative schemes. I enrolled a fellow member to take me to Cambridge for their first meeting… but sadly EEDA was one of the first to be cut.

This was the background to a spiraling success story of local sustainability.  The Community was funded with 100% granting for a Wind Turbine and Solar Thermal water heating which meets most of our energy needs.  We didn’t have to buy into the ‘for huge profit’ energy suppliers for our source and were/are of little burden to the tax payer beyond ‘give a man a fish then teach him how to fish’!  On the second round of EEDA competition, we successfully won £125,000 towards a carbon cutting building… we built timber framed solar with a hybrid mix of straw, adobe cob and rammed earth, the last three worked by volunteer community members.

When a group of ordinary people have a purpose they can combine to make a powerful force.

I was then, as now, a mosquito… but gave into more able hands (and feet) in the community the jobs of admin, endless form filling, applications etc, technical, flood risk assessments (yes we’re high risk too), the actual mud wallowing building practices (I know they enjoyed those)….  I did facilitate, and join courses on sustainable building in straw (2/3 times),cob and rammed earth with LILI (google them if your interested) and continued to fight…  with the will of any ‘in it for profit’ Corporation who would desecrate our world with false sustainability, to support their greed.

Gordon Pye prompted this document but must meet the challenge to read it.  My going further into my myriad experiences on the subject shows that I may know a little about sustainability?

This is for you, at your computers, in your armchairs.  It is given as a heartening example of ‘Power to the People’ and to ask you to consider the formation of Local Assemblies as suggested by the Occupy Movement… What do we want?  Why, When and Where?

Gordon Pye’s Blog

Designing Sustainable Cities of the Future:

4 thoughts on “The Armchair Army

  1. Pingback: The Armchair Army | nearlydead

  2. This is very encouraging – thank you so much. We have our own little group here in Kings Heath, Birmingham, formed during the course of a lottery-funded social inclusion project with, among other things, an IT Club that’s all about digital – as well as social – inclusion. We call ourselves Kings Heath Ring of Friends and have just set up our own Weebly website ( We often discuss tough issues we’re facing and help one another find solutions, even accompany each other to difficult appointments including benefits appeals. Using the communal room, and doing community cooking, eating and gardening together saves energy, and improves our health. We’re part of Project Dirt and have just received a package of seeds for growing herbs etc. where the public pass by the sheltered housing scheme where our communal facilities are to be found. More and more we’re attracting other older people (mainly over-50s) who live alone in nearby streets. Friendships are growing, and trust along with them. The local ward forum meets here once a month, and we join in forum campaigns as well as doing our own campaigning for things like internet connection in the communal room. As we are all on a low (and precarious) income, and more and more of us develop health/mobility issues, we’re having to think and plan for the future with hope, but also a good dose of realism.

    To know that there are other groups out there who are thinking like us, and a network we could be part of, gives me hope and courage. Please keep in touch with me via Fb if you can.

    Best wishes
    Jan Tchamani


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