HOME is a school where we study the mess the world is in, not as a set of discrete problems to be solved, but as a tangled and humbling predicament.
We follow the roots of this predicament deep into history, uncovering the buried assumptions which have shaped our ways of seeing and being in the world, catching sight of the possibilities those assumptions hid from view.
We learn from artists, philosophers, community builders, improvisors, historians and poets. Looking for a term to bridge these worlds, we call ourselves a school for culturemakers. We cultivate the art of invitation, hospitality and friendship, finding here the seeds of other ways of being human together.
HOME is the work of Anna Björkman and Dougald Hine, with the help of many friends and collaborators. On this page, you can learn a little more of who we are and where we’re coming from.
Who are you calling a culturemaker?
Let’s start with the word culture. A great forest of definitions, associations, understandings and misunderstandings has grown up around this word. It can mean the set of artistic activities covered in the Culture section of the Sunday newspaper, or it can mean the ways of living in and making sense of the world which anthropologists set out to study.
Our school is a home for a community of culturemakers, digging over the disputable lands between those different understandings of culture. It’s a community we began building years ago, bringing together conversations and projects and events. Some of us would pass as artists, some are scholars seeking respite from the deadening of institutional life. There are thoughtful activists and active thinkers, ministers with and without congregations, hackers, crafters, public speakers and silent revolutionaries. You don’t need any job title or qualifications to find yourself at home here; in fact, a healthy scepticism towards formal titles and positions is advisable.
One thing we have in common is a sense that culture – in all its senses – goes deeper than the modern world has often allowed. It’s not a luxury, an entertainment, a distraction or a soft surface layer over the harder social, economic and material realities of existence; it’s a tectonic force that goes all the way down. It’s the dimension of meaning, the side of reality that eludes measurement. It gets overlooked or underestimated when what is real is limited to whatever can be counted, measured and priced. Yet precisely because it is underestimated, culture remains a direction from which surprising possibilities may come.
You won’t get far calling yourself a culturemaker. If it’s the answer you give at parties when people ask what you do, they’ll only look confused. It’s not that kind of word. But, for us, it names a patch of common ground, where people with different trades and different histories meet, sharing what we’ve learned along the way about how to make projects and spaces that come alive.
“Unable to appeal to the authority of art, you begin again, with whatever skills you have gathered along the way and whatever help you can find. You do what it takes to make work that has a chance of coming alive in the spaces where we meet, to build those spaces in such a way that it is safe to bring more of ourselves.”
Why call it HOME?
‘Never before our time have so many people been uprooted,’ writes John Berger. ‘The displacement, the homelessness, the abandonment lived by a migrant is the extreme form of a more general and widespread experience.’
Who speaks the language of home? All too often, it is those who stir up hatred against migrants, or those who would undo the ongoing transformation of possibilities experienced by women over the past few generations. We’re alive to these associations – and yet, following Berger’s example, we want to reclaim these words.
‘I had always seen a division between home as a place of comfort… and school as a necessary “outing”, a place that prepares you to go out into the world.’ That’s Bridget McKenzie, a friend of ours, a former head of learning at the British Library. She’s writing about how her daughter’s response to starting secondary school caused her to rethink ideas that she’d gone along with through twenty years of working with education.
The idea of a school called HOME starts with a recognition that schooling as it’s been going on around here, lately, is a process of displacement. The further you pass through the layers of school and university, the further you are likely to end up from wherever you were born. Somewhere in the background lurks a vision of the world as a giant snakes-and-ladders board, where the aim of the game is to ‘make it’ to the bright lights and the big cities that line the top row. Unless you had the foresight to be born in one of those cities, then to stay in the place where you started out in life is seen as a mark of failure.
We’re not telling anyone to stay home, or to go home, or anything of the kind. That’s not what is at stake here. Rather, we believe the world could do with schools that don’t offer themselves as stepping stones, rungs on a ladder of competitive achievement. Places of learning where you can come for a time, study and share, be changed by the experience, and then take what you learned back to the place you call home, however near or far that may be from where your life began.
Who are the people behind this?
Anna leads projects, a skill that has taken her from connecting cultural foundations around Europe, to setting up children’s libraries across the Middle East and supporting grassroots women’s organisations in Israel and Palestine. You’ll find her running workshops on security and self-care for activists, or teaching methods for building meaningful projects. She’s the quiet radical laying the foundations of this school and keeping us grounded.
Dougald is a writer, teacher and culturemaker. He’s been a founder of organisations including Dark Mountain and Spacemakers, taking the first idea of a project on that journey from dreams to responsibilities. He spent two years as leader of artistic and audience development at Riksteatern, Sweden’s touring national theatre, and teaches regularly at Kaospilots (Denmark), Schumacher College (England) and the Centre for Environment and Development Studies at Uppsala University (Sweden).
The two of us met in 2011 in the middle of a Swedish forest, where Anna was helping organise Futureperfect festival and Dougald was one of the speakers. Over the years since, we’ve made a home together that has become a place of friendship, hospitality and intercultural encounter. We knew from the start that we wanted to make a wider invitation and create a shared platform for our work. With HOME, we are taking the first steps to making that a reality.
Where is all this headed?
This is not a school of everything. We’re not promising to create a new kind of university. This is the kind of project you embark on when the brashness of youthful vision has been tempered a little, when life has taught you enough of its lessons that you might just have something to teach. We’re in this for as long as it takes, as long as it feels needed.
We took the first step in June 2018, holding a five-day course called Finding Our Way Home. Now we’re taking the time to learn from that and let this shape some further one-off courses, as well as a regular online gathering for the community that’s growing around this school. Watch out for announcements about this during the autumn.
Looking further ahead, we intend to create an ongoing programme, inspired by the example of places like the Westcountry School of Myth and Story, founded by our friend Martin Shaw, or Stephen Jenkinson’s School of Orphan Wisdom. The invitation here will be to join a group that comes together, repeatedly, over a year or two, making a deeper journey into this territory. At that stage, we hope to offer the programme with parallel groups in Sweden and in England.
As time goes by, our aim is to find a permanent location for the Swedish end of the school, to make it our home, in all senses of the word, and a place where we can host gatherings of many kinds.
We hold these intentions lightly. Each step should be an end in itself, worth doing for its own sake, never simply a means towards some grander end that lies somewhere out there in the future.