Soundcheck 2012: Streams in the Desert recap

Soundcheck 2012: A challenging, creative, joyful and ultimately hopeful weekend.

More than 150 people gathered in the Rag Factory for the weekend of Soundcheck, the annual gathering of SPEAK Network, transforming it from a blank canvas into a colourful community with its own kitchen, café and even a pop-up cinema.

We were joined by members of the SPEAK International family, with delegates coming from the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Denmark and Nigeria. On Saturday, Ruth from SPEAK Nigeria shared some moving stories about oil spills in the Niger Delta, giving some powerful context to our corporate responsibility campaign. We linked up with our friend Shane Claiborne over Skype and he reminded us to be a community, have fun, play pranks and maybe turn ‘Shell’ into ‘Sheaven’, then in the evening Rose Hudson-Wilkin challenged us to think about who might be the future MPs among us as we seek to speak truth to power. The evening finished with DJing and VJing from our friends from Time to Turn. During the days we enjoyed workshops on everything from prayer to permaculture, community art to the arms trade, and learning how to make new things out of rubbish!

Sunday saw 12 baskets of bread arrive at the Rag Factory for an agape meal where we were challenged to think about food waste, inequality, and how sharing bread together can be a powerful levelling experience. Then we heard encouraging stories from around the country and the world about what people in the Network a getting up to. In the afternoon we had an opportunity to consider what real economic justice looks like in a panel discussion with voices from the world of banking, the Church, Occupy and the student community. On Sunday evening we watched ‘Just Do It’, a documentary about climate change activists, and discussed how we could do more direct action as a network.

On Monday, we took to the streets of London for our own campaign actions, bringing our Corporate Accountability campaign to the doorsteps of three less-than-ethical corporations with prayer, song and creative actions involving some black paint outside Shell, and a ‘die-in’ of a sandblasting worker outside Dolce and Gabbanna. We finished the day in parliament, meeting our MPs and handing in our MP3 petition calling for greater access to justice for victims of corporate abuse. You can read an in-depth account of the Day of Action here.

Everywhere you looked at Soundcheck, people were busy making it happen before your eyes. Cooking up a vegetarian feast in the kitchen, participating in a community art project, welcoming people as they arrived or jamming in the noisy space, it was the creative energy of the people in SPEAK that made Soundcheck so inspiring.

To me, SPEAK Network is a stream in the desert, a sign of hope in a sometimes weary and cynical world. From turning old drinks cans into flowers, sharing dumpster-dived bread together, to turning an old factory into a hive of creative activity, Soundcheck 2012 was a demonstration of how we can reclaim the broken, refresh the weary and surprise the cynical with colour, life and newness.

Sarah Henderson