Summer Gathering 2016 – Economics as if People Mattered

This year’s Summer Gathering  (23rd to 30th July) saw the Gandhi Foundation return to St Christopher School. Whilst it was sad to part company with The Abbey, the costs of hiring a grade 1 listed medieval building made it no longer viable to return to Sutton Courtney. An earlier executive committee had agreed that at the very least the Summer Gathering should be self-financing and the Gandhi Foundation was not in a position to subsidise the Gathering.

Fewer attendees came this year than previously and sadly there was no new attendee for the first time anyone could remember. Perhaps it was the change in venue or perhaps the topic of Gandhian Economics did not inspire people.  Any thoughts in regard to the future of the Summer Gathering would be appreciated.

The week saw the return of some faces coming for the first time in a number of years. Jill Stevenson had not been to a Gathering since the days of Marjorie Sykes (who passed away in 1995) and Liz Rowe.  Liz Rowe showed that frugal vegetarian fare does not have to be dull and spoilt us rotten by supervising the production of three course banquets every night. Even teaching those of us with bits of Indian blood (ie the author and Mark Hoda) new things about Indian cookery.

The week followed the same format of pervious years with Graham Davey leading us in discussion about various aspects of economic thought relating to Gandhi.  A particular focus was on the work of E F Schumacher. This led us on the Sunday to furthering our knowledge that swaraj went far beyond the political concept of ‘home rule’, sarvodaya concerned the development of economic systems that were for the good of all, and swadeshi involved focusing on local production for local goods.

Monday saw us get down to basics by discussing what is the economy; Tuesday moving into a look at Utopia; Wednesday, saw us looking at alternative models and Thursday got us looking at how all this interacted with the international scene with the Brexit vote. it seems appropriate to have some discussion about how Gandhi might have responded to this, and to the policies of Prime Minister Modi.

Unlike The Abbey, St Christopher School was less geared for us to do shramdana. A condition of us using the buildings was such that the school cleaners had to come in every morning. Therefore our work around the house was reduced, though sadly probably not missed. The school also did not have facilities for us to compost our waste and recycling had to be sorted out and thrown away rather than reused. The house having a TV enabled us to introduce some of the younger participants to Charlie Chaplin.

On the Wednesday, we were able to walk down to the International Garden Cities Institute; this is a museum and think tank combined studying the ideas and history of the Garden Cities Movement. Learning about it dovetailed very neatly with the theme of the week and it was felt that next year we should invite their director to give a talk to our participants on the Institute’s work.

The week closed with a discussion about next year’s theme and venue. It was felt that whilst the school was not perfect (but what venue is) we should book it so we have a venue set. The theme of ‘Inspired by Gandhi’ would be appropriate and hopefully would introduce a few new attendees.              William Rhind

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