a call for common land for nomads

A few weeks ago I saw this article http://www.ntnews.com.au/news/our-parks-awash-with-freeloading-backpackers/story-fnjbnts7-1227197443051 and immediately thought: “wicked, I’ve been wanting to have a discussion about this for ages!”

NB: I originally posted this in my lateral drifts blog where I drop down random thoughts as I’m mulling them over. This one turned out detailed enough to just transcribe here. Please feel free to comment/share, I’d really love a big chat around all these issues, especially if you’ve got good suggestions for better ways of living a nomadic life (and free park ups which don’t piss anyone off and aren’t illegal – there are very few of them these days). And if you fancy joining the ‘Common Land‘ cause, get in touch!

So… nomads. Are we “freeloaders” or cultural explorers? The case for nomadicy…

first: not all of humanity wants to live in a corporate world. we don’t all want the threat of a mortgage hanging over our heads (in fact very few even can get such things without rich parents taking up the slack). we also don’t want/can’t afford to live in holiday parks – sure some of these are holiday travellers, but some of us are fulltime nomads. we need access to free camps, common land, which we use in return for taking responsibility for them (because we do actually care about the environment, that’s one of the reasons we choose to live this life, off-grid and self-sustaining).

as mentioned in the article, most of us choose parkups that are away from residential areas so we won’t bother anyone, but even they are becoming privatised. and yes, we do congregate sometimes when we’re travelling round – who doesn’t want a social life? why should that social life exist in pubs and clubs? some of us don’t drink and are far from interested in yet another commercialised environment.

when gathering we all learn from each others’ bus/van designs, share good places to park (which don’t piss anyone off and aren’t illegal) and generally learn more about the world through the eyes of other open-minded cultural explorers. it’s the absolute best way to see this incredible country!

#homeJames has a doppleganger!

second: public toilets get locked up around 7pm in Australia. sure it’s horrid when someone craps on your doorstep (and personally I can control my bowels so I don’t have to do this unless I’m out bush, in which case I have a shovel for that!), but if the toilets weren’t locked overnight this wouldn’t have to happen. also bear in mind that this might not always be the campers – when I lived in Sydney there was an old homeless woman (clearly ignored by any welfare/care system) who used to crap in my porch on a regular basis. and we all know about men relieving themselves in doorways – or anywhere they like! it’s not just nomads who do this, some people are just jerks.

third: it makes me really mad when I see ANYONE littering. we all have a responsibility to our/other people’s environments as well as the planet itself. littering is lazy and thoughtless (whether it’s rubbish or cigarette butts, in fact especially cig butts considering their fire risk and chemical waste). but I’ll bet you have a crappy neighbour who has piles of junk outside their homes or lets their rubbish blow all over the roads. i regularly see drivers/walkers throw butts/rubbish onto streets/pavements: again, it’s not just nomads who litter, some people are just jerks.

in fact at a lot of the places where I parkup by the sea, it’s the fishermen who leave junk (beer bottles, food packaging and even hooks) behind them. providing more bins isn’t always the answer either. I’ve known part-timers complain about there not being a bin at an overnight roadside stop, FFS just take it with you and throw it away (in recycling bins) in town! or better still, reduce your use of packaging entirely so your waste is minimal!

fourth: ‘wearing their underwear’… really?! this is Australia, the whole damn country wears its underwear (aka ‘bikinis and budgie smugglers’) every damn day!! so, yet again, it’s not just nomads who do this!

fifth: washing/brushing teeth – we all have to keep ourselves hygienic. spitting toothpaste or soapy water (onto grass, not pavements) is less of an issue for me when those products aren’t full of chemicals. I use Eco or natural alternatives – I brush my teeth with coconut oil most of the time. water evaporates (or in fact adds moisture to dry ground) and even businessmen spit much worse stuff from their mouths walking down city streets. so, again, it’s not just nomads who do this!

sixth: hanging laundry from trees – I handwash or use a launderette washer then hang my clothes up in the bus (in this heat they dry v quickly) but then I have a reasonably sized vehicle. I’ve seen families at public parks hanging their own tea towels etc up on makeshift lines. what’s the harm in that? and again, not just nomads…

slide I used for a talk recently,  quoting https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/take-back-the-economy

slide I used for a talk recently, quoting https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/take-back-the-economy

so, by all means dismiss us by calling us names like ‘freeloaders’ but be aware that  some humans are jerks regardless of their choice of home or lifestyle; don’t just tarnish us all with the same brush. maybe try to talk to us instead of reporting us to council/police – we’re actually quite personable folk and we’d certainly enjoy an open discussion (no one takes kindly to threats or abuse, so ideally don’t start with that). maybe we could even change each others’ stereotype projections and learn to accept otherness a little more, that wouldn’t do our society much harm, now would it?

bear in mind a nomadic life is not always easy, and it’s certainly not always a holiday for those of us who live this way all year round. we have made this choice, sacrificing ‘the easy life’ because we believe in a better world, one that is not driven by consumerism or the daily commute to provide profit to our bosses’ shareholders. some of us do work in ‘normal’ jobs but most are freelance – and we all pay our taxes like regular folk. some of us aren’t even on the dole! (I know, *gasp*).

and FFS… GIVE US ACCESS TO COMMON LAND! not every single block of our existence needs to be commercialised. if you just give us a place where we can do our thing, we’ll be out of your hair!


I have become increasingly obsessed by The Commons and the freedoms which have been taken from humans all over the world, because: profit.

Since colonisation Australia has never recognised common land, despite otherwise adopting pretty much all of England and Wales’ legal systems. Aboriginal Australians, on the other hand, fully understand the importance of being responsible -and sharing responsibility- for the land and each other.

‘enclosure’ is a new (work-in-progress) live art performance I’ve been playing with which stems from this obsession. It can be delivered as a one-to-one or group experience.

This is the first of my projects exploring this concept and attempting to reframe our society’s obsession with ownership.

Here are some great photos from the Kiss Club event in December 2014. Kiss Club is an incredible opportunity to trial new works-in-progress with an audience who not understand the context of ‘messy space development’ but also provide feedback after experiencing it – gold! Pictures are (c) the owner and republished with permission from Amber Bateup and Tarryn Runkel.

Major kudos to Kaz Therese for the Kiss Club concept and to cia studios for hosting me there.

on humanness

On my way to Perth last year, having just crossed the Nullarbor for the first time, I was interviewed by Bec Brewin for an ABC Local blog post in Kalgoorlie. The article “The never ending road trip: what it’s like to live on a bus” is a really nice overview of what this life-shift has been about for me. The lovely photo set shows the inside of homeJames (something people have told me has been largely missing from my buspr0n collection), in the nomadic equivalent to a ‘good housekeeping celebrity home tour’ (a strange sensation for a non-famous hermit!)

In that post – and in other ramblings on my lateral drift blog – I talk about the humanness I think we’ve lost as a society. I’ve found it hard not to think about this as I’ve made the transition into buslife. I’ve experienced firsthand how open, welcoming and phenomenally generous people can be (despite largely battling for their own survival at the time). Yet it’s hard to find sense in a world which is dominated by corporate profiteering and religious hatred (which itself often just boils down to corporate profiteering) over basic human rights. When even science says poor people are stronger/more generous than rich people I can’t help but wonder why ‘we the people’ have let this come to pass.

I’ve been thinking a lot about our basic human rights, especially those we (some far more than others) have lost. Sure I’m a huge advocate of a basic living wage but our rights go so much further than just income. For me the basic human rights are water, food, healthcare, education, employment, a home (or access to common land for us nomads), electricity and a free and open internet. It should go without saying that we should also have the right to retain our own cultural identities, free speech and to choose our life-partners and belief systems without fear of oppression. Where those rights are transgressed we should have methods of protection and appeal; not just a blanket one-size-fits-all legal system, but one that listens, takes each of our circumstances into account and then decides on appropriate, human-centric, resolutions. The laws which govern us now were developed during times so entirely far removed from present-day existence that much of it needs rethinking and significant reform.

No, this isn’t a simple thing to deliver and it certainly can’t happen overnight. But if our governments really cared about what ‘we the people’ need to survive in contemporary society, all these things would be provisioned before we even start to look at global competitive markets or attempting to force one belief system onto everyone. And yet we find ourselves locked into an existence prioritising profit and religious doctrine over everything else. If you don’t tow the line you are branded a criminal, a troublemaker, an activist… or a terrorist. The only conclusion is that governments (with the possible exception of Uruguay) don’t care about ‘we the people’ at all. How can they when they repeatedly refuse us our basic three r’s: recognition, respect and rights?

So let’s just accept the truth. We have no basic human rights – not just asylum seekers, first nations people and minorities, but all of us. That’s some mouthful to swallow, but if we don’t start recognising it now we cannot possibly invoke change.

I so wish I had answers for all this, but of course I don’t (I’m pretty sure one person can’t single-handedly save democracy, let alone a nomadic artist with no political or economic education!). I’d truly love to demand my right to democracy, to electoral reform, to a return of The Commons, but where is a person supposed to go to demand these things? What right of appeal do we have when the people who make all the decisions have already made it clear that they don’t care about our voices?

I always thought that at least if we didn’t want to be part of the system we could leave, go off-grid, become a self-sustaining hippy in our own self-made utopias. But the more I try to do this myself the more I realise we don’t even have rights there either. A nomadic existence still requires access to water and food (the former in terrifyingly short supply in Australia and the latter unaffordable for those wanting fresh fruit and veg on a less than logical minimum wage); infrastructure like roads and fuel (electricity is sorted thanks to solar but even that is becoming harder for those who live in houses); a place to park (it’s getting harder and harder to find safe and legal free parkups, especially with proposed changes to laws in UK which will only act as precedent); and threats to net neutrality only increasing.

So what do we do? Well for me I’m reading a lot more about positive action and the rights we do have. I’m listening to my heart and trying to combine what I feel is wrong with creative ways to communicate this, and encourage others to do the same. I’m working with communities where my digital culture knowledge and experience will hopefully be able to offer meaningful solutions and an online voice to those who struggle with the most basic literacies. And I’m living the ‘otherness’ life with passion; the more confident I get with buslife the more I appreciate that the freedoms it provides far outweigh the struggles.

I’ve got a few new artworks in the blender and will be starting an on/offline gathering called “The Sunday Afternoon Activists Club“, combining a book club with an afternoon tea. It’s a lighthearted opportunity for me to share some of the most novel media arts activism I’ve experienced and learn more about others; to highlight some of the most severe human rights abuses and also the most trifling (aim for the high and low branches together, why not?!); and for us all to start thinking about what we can do about them, together.

Our first book will be “Beautiful Trouble“, a set of case studies and a toolkit for those wanting to be more creatively active (they’ve even given us a discount code for the book for those who sign up!). And our first discussion topic will be the outcomes of Memefest14 in which we were invited to work with the Brisbane Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy and Grandmothers Against Removals. We haven’t yet set a date, but I’ll update here and on the SAAC blog when we do.

Until then, I’m curious to know how my set of basic human rights compares with yours. If you have one, I’d love to know what they are. Perhaps together we can create a People’s Bill of Human Rights, akin to the great work going on in Queensland. We live in troubling but exceedingly astonishing times. We have never before had so much access to information and each other. So let’s make it count.

wanted: caring home for little knitted bus

All the buses are unique, but this is the only one I made a white roof for, so it's super-unique too!

This is one of those posts where I openly make myself look bad because I want to make sure someone else gets the glory of deservedly looking bloody marvellous.

My crowdfunding campaign ended two and a half years ago and I still owe some of my supporters their rewards. (Yes, this is the bit where I -rightfully- look bad). It’s not that I won’t honour them – hell no, I fret about these ‘debts’ every bloody day – but some are hard to deliver for geographic or timing reasons. And others – like the lovely little knitted buses which Sayraphim Lothian so generously taught me (and you, if you want) how to make – have just been sitting in various stages of materials/production, at times on and off the bus, as I’ve journeyed around being too slow/busy/stressed/distracted/blah to finish them. No excuses there, just me being rubbish.

Aaaaanyway. Yesterday I contacted one of the recipients of said buses, to check that her postal address is still the same before I sent it:

my original email

my original email

Little did I expect this absolutely delightful reply:

erika's reply

erika’s reply

Not only are our two profile pics spookily similar, but check out how I’m the one who fucks up and yet she’s the one who apologises more profusely (and hysterically) about it all! And her twitter handle – @ericajoy – is SO DAMNED APT! What an absolute joy of a woman!

A nice little convo ensued, and a decision was made:

a decision was made

a decision was made

So, if you have an idea for a recipient for this lil fella which is a better ‘good cause’ than it becoming Erika’s dog’s chew-toy (!), comment here on the blog and Erika and I will choose a ‘winner’. The only request we have is that when it arrives, the recipient has to take a photo of themselves and the bus in its new home (or somewhere it feels especially happy) and then tweet it to both Erika (@ericajoy) and myself (@feesable) so we know it’s arrived safe n sound.

All the buses are unique, but this is the only one I made a white roof for, so it's super-unique too!

All the buses are unique, but this is the only one I made a white roof for, so it’s super-unique too!

This is all very ad-hoc and poorly thought through (for example: should we have a deadline? yeah, let’s say a week from today, so by Friday 16th January 2015) and I realise I might end up having to pay a whackload for postage overseas somewhere, but hey, that’s my own damn fault for being so slack.

Oh, and for anyone else still awaiting their reward, I’ll get to you. I couldn’t not get to you, my conscience wouldn’t allow it (and I’m sorry). And go follow @ericajoy on Twitter, because that kinda loveliness is worth having in anyone’s feed.

Hugs to y’all – now bring on the new home! x

STOP! #hammocktime

Kaz enjoying the hammocktime view at Time_Place_Space: Nomad

Kaz enjoying the hammocktime view at Time_Place_Space: Nomad

Introducing a new reallybigroadtrip project: hammocktime

hammocktime is a live art experience which invites you to pause, disconnect from technology and reconnect to yourself and the place you occupy at the time.

The invitation is simple: Stop, switch off your mobile devices and spend 20 minutes in a hammock. Take pause, reflect, and reconnect to yourself and your environment.

This project pops up in various locations, from Cuges les Pains in the South of France to Gungaddy Swamp in Wollemi National Park, New South Wales. Through January and February 2015 we can be found at Freemantle Markets in Perth on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and in March we will be presenting a very special version for WOMADelaide.

Follow hammocktime.cc, our Facebook page or Twitter for updates on events and locations, check out the Flickr set for inspiration or just drop me a line to let me know where you are and I’ll get in touch when I’m in your vicinity.

Oh… and Happy New Year!

lateral drifts

Increasingly pissed off with Facebook’s continued disrespect for our personal rights and privacy, I’ve started using a new platform for my personal ramblings, to begin taking myself out of the anti-Net Neutrality world.

Known lets you publish status updates, etc, which are then pushed to Facebook, Twitter, etc (it’s in beta so there’s a lot more to come too). This means you own all rights to your content rather than giving them away to walled gardens that are more interested in your data than providing the open service you originally signed up for.

Check out more at http://withknown.com and follow my lateral drifts at http://fee.withknown.com.

Nomads in Residence

Since things are starting to hot-up around here it seems to be time to post a bit about what I mean by “Nomads in Residence”.

These nomads are basically my guests in the bus. They must be from the creative digital culture space but I’m really broad about that. By “digital culture” I mean artists, makers, hackers, coders, practitioners, researchers, games developers, animators, filmmakers, policy folk, arts workers, cultural practitioners… ummmmmmm…. other people who play creatively with technology. The point is to be INclusive, not EXclusive, so if you’re not included by title here but feel you should be included by practice then message me regardless.

I have a list of people I have already personally invited. I also have a bundle of folk I have just loved working with/around over the years and will be contacting in due course. But there’s also folk I stumble on/am introduced to who just spark something and need to be invited. For example, I just contacted my first total stranger because her work suits my thinking perfectly, and there might be the perfect match event coming up next year.

And then there’s the unknown-yet-by-me. Of which there are many!

I do not know everyone (or everything). Obviously. This whole project is about getting out there and seeing who/what I don’t know, as well as sharing who/what I do.


The ‘challenge’

  • Location: You don’t need to be from another country; plenty of you gorgeous Australians are on my list. I need to see this country through your eyes and be introduced to your networks too.
  • Your mission: I ask all my “Nomads in Residence” to define where you want to go, who you want to meet and what you want to achieve from your trip.
  • Networking: Once I know your intentions I can help make connections with people you could meet both with me and outside of your time with me. I really encourage you to spend extra time in this amazing country if you can. I can also follow up on people you tell me I should know about in case we can meet them together.
  • Duration: I would love you to stay with me as long as you can, but I understand time is a valuable commodity and you are probably travelling a fair distance. When I started visiting Australia from the UK our costs were often split across a few organisations and that worked a treat, but affects timing/demands, etc.
  • Monies: As you can see from my crowdfunding campaign, this is all very DIY. I would love to offer you travel/accommodation, a nice fat artists fee and a luxurious ‘maker’ budget, but that’s not something I can promise. Especially right now. But I can fundraise (either through crowdfunding targeted to both our communities or through traditional arts funding) and co-productions/shared visits are pretty straightforward to coordinate. You will at least get standard return flights, acommodation/food in the bus and some kind of artist fee.
  • Accommodation: The bus will have a ‘bedroom’ space, a sofa-bed in the ‘lounge’ space, a swag (traditional aussie sleeping bag/tent), and an extra tent. You can choose which you’d like, even on a daily basis.

The Bigger Picture

This often freaks people out when I talk about it; “Your plans are too big, Fee. Calm down and take one step at a time”… Um, no. I think big missions help you better achieve baby steps… but that’s just me.

The big picture plan is to start the model in Australia but then take the concept all over the world. I’ve already been talking to a University in Canada who likes the concept as a research methodology. At some point we’ll run a co-production together to raise funds for a bus and the same process over there. That bus would of course drive across Canada, down to America and then South America, scooping more locals and international en route. I’m also British, so at some stage I’ll be setting up another bus in the UK, which would go to Europe… and so on.

The really-big-picture is that eventually I would like to have a bus in (or within access of) every continent. While I’m not using it the bus would be available for other digital culture practitioners. If they maintain the bus and continue to support the concept (capturing/sharing data, etc) they can have it for free when it’s not being used. If they want to do their own thing then they can hire it and any proceeds will go back in to the project.

National / International

This really isn’t just an Australian project, it’s a digital one. Like the internet it’s inspired by community, collaboration, creativity and connection. The potential is huge but the baby steps are really manageable and realistic. It just takes a little bit of conversation and we can make amazing things happen together.

So if you’re interested, message me with some responses to the above ‘challenge’ and we’ll take it from there.

UPDATE: Get a flavour of some of the Nomads.