Camphill Youth conference report

Camphill Youth Conference 2019

At the end of August, we welcomed young people from Camphill communities across the world to the Esk valley. We gathered for a weekend of talks, workshops and discussions on how we can express our Camphill values in modern times. 

Last year, a group of EVCC members attended the youth conference in Clanabogan, Northern Ireland. They came home so inspired that they immediately set up the ESK VALLEY YOUTH GROUP.  Item one on the agenda was to plan our own conference so that we could continue the important discussions started in Ireland. We wanted to offer the weekend as a gift to other young people; A precious space in which we could really examine why we choose to live this life, a question that is sometimes overlooked in the rhythm of the day to day.  

On arrival, our guests got a feeling for the lie of the land during orienteering exercises which also helped form the friendships essential for the success of the gathering. Over the course of the conference the whole group created a wonderful open space where everything could be shared freely and safely. Our bonds were further strengthened by coming together each morning to practice Eurythmy with Indah van Keulen who lead us in exploring the relationship between “You” and “I”. 

Our timetable was filled with inspiring contributions from Camphill thinkers. Jonathan Reid introduced the theme of the conference, placing Camphill at the point where the healing impulse meets the desire to build community. Sabine Hope came from the Mount Co-housing community to share her insights on Camphill values and how we can hold onto them while negotiating the realities of social care regulation. We discussed the relevance of community in the 21stCentury with Mark Barber who spoke passionately on how living together with purpose can answer so many of today’s problems. Teo Nesar from the Youth Section of the Goetheanum lead us on a whistle stop tour of Anthroposophy and the relationship between science and spirituality.

Our priest, Siobhan Porter, guided us in contemplation on the role of the Christian community in modern society and lead us in a special Act of Consecration of Man in the village church. Sally Murray-Jones and Julian Haxby, representing the Alliance for Camphill, joined us to find out what inspires young people to live in Camphill and how the movement could adapt to encourage longer term commitment to community life. The discussion groups that followed produced many insights that the alliance will draw upon in their work, to support existing Camphill communities and seed new initiatives.

A team of young co-workers prepared delicious meals using produce from our community garden and on Saturday our guests were invited to Esk Valley houses for lunch. In the evening, we joined the rest of the community in the village hall for a barn dance lead by the Occasional Ceilidh Band. Here we noticed how the roles of guests and hosts had fallen away and it felt like one big community. 

Through the joy and togetherness of our conference, we also examined the challenges that the Camphill movement faces in our modern world; recruitment, regulation, personal time and burn-out. Hearing the different ways that communities have navigated through turbulent times was inspiring. Change can be painful, but it doesn’t have to be bad. 

Under a rare North Yorkshire sun, the whole conference felt optimistic, confident and full of hope. The significance of holding this forward-looking event in the Esk Valley was felt by many; our final reflection circle closed with this insight from one of our friends:

“After such an outcry from Botton Village, it is amazing that EVCC is now hosting an international youth conference. The Botton crisis gave other communities fear, now EVCC is seen as an example. This is so reassuring for communities around the world”

Thank you to our community for making space for us to take this initiative and thank you to the Camphill Foundation for helping to cover the costs. It really feels that by coming together in this way we are already answering the question of how we carry our Camphill values into the future. We’re looking forward to the next youth conference!