Introducing Christabel, our new Movement Building Co-ordinator. Read her blog to follow her journey from a town in the East Midlands, through alternative projects in Greece and the Balkans, navigating different ways of working and being in solidarity within food sovereignty, cooperative and housing movements. Christabel's journey has led her to a canal boat near Oxford, from where she joined our remote Shared Assets team from this November.

The story of what inspired me to be part of a struggle for land justice starts way back when my secondary school on the edge of a town in the East Midlands was visited by someone from a university campaigning group based in Oxford. Now based in Oxford myself, I look back to that memorable talk and think about how much it opened up my horizons from what felt like an uninspiring place. It reminds me of the value of resourcing the kind of outreach that connects into more disenfranchised or marginal places on our social or economic landscape. 

That talk was about climate change and shockingly it was over 15 years ago. Since then, I’ve got involved in different organising and actions that all relate to land - anti-austerity and neighbourhood solidarity, housing rights and evictions, detainee support, anti PSPO campaigning, and food sovereignty. Land is in everything we do, it is everywhere, and yet for many people it is unreachable, and so it is also the crux to transforming the world we cohabit.  

I came across the food sovereignty movement in a book when reading for my Masters in Social Anthropology but it really came alive for me in stories: from a Oaxacan peasant school and a heritage corn restaurant, in conversation with roadside beekeepers in Greece, market stall squatters, and syndicalist delegates at Nyeleni. I studied to understand others’ experiences and knowledges, and also how to act in solidarity with others. I continue to hold that curiosity. A way to channel the energy for change and that curiosity I find is through facilitating spaces, connections, and processes. 

A participatory action research project on food autonomy in Greece that I coordinated during the initial years of the capitalist crisis taught me hard lessons about adapting expectations to tough contexts of struggle. It gave an insight into the details of self-organising cultures which inform my view that structures and mechanisms make collectives just and resilient. Now I look to ideas in cooperative models and network theory, participatory democracy, and frameworks for empathy, care, equity and healing, for new inspiration. 

On a more soulful note, it hit home during the pandemic that I too could produce things for community self-sufficiency, so I acquired a fertile plot of land to grow herbs as medicines and am in the very early stages of becoming an amateur herbalist, with help from friends near and far. Even though I still enjoy the freedom of an untethered life, moving by canal boat through English waterways and by bike across the Balkan mountain ranges, this healing space keeps me connected to a place. 

Christabel's green and healthy medicine garden, lined by a two single layers of bricks
My medicine garden!

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