26: Survival of the Kindest: Peter Macfadyen – Wisdom in the Community (Flatpack Democracy 2021)

In the week where we saw town council meetings dissolving into unfettered chaos its seems appropriate that our guest week is Peter Macfadyen, pioneer of Frome’s extraordinary town council. Macfayden talks to Julian about how it runs, how to connect councils to their residents, to the web of support they live in, and have lost contact with.

Peter’s career early career saw him spending a decade away from the UK in Zambia, India and Guyana, working with the rights of disabled people. After moving back to the UK, and getting caught up in the boxing day tsunami in Sri Lanka, Peter focus turned to climate change, and through that he moved towards local community organisations and into Frome’s town council, where he spent ten years.

Peter’s unique stance on how to change the way our communities run was originally put down in Flatpack Democracy which in turn spawned a movement, which at its core has the belief that true democracy, where the people’s views shape the people’s society, is achievable. There is no manifesto, no ulterior motive for the good of a “party” or political movement; it works by opening up to the town, asking residents what they need, what they lack, giving them continuous access to the council so there is an ongoing flow of ideas and dialogues about things that need addressing.

Since the release of Flatpack Democracy many other towns have taken the bones of Peter’s idea and applied it successfully to their own locale. As this number grows, and we emerge from covid with a government particularly avoidant of listening to its people, there is a hope that the lessons from Frome will be widely applied to shift an increasingly broken democracy.

Peter Macfayden on twitter

Flatpack Democracy 2021 Campaign, twitter

Flatpack Democracy

Rebel Ideas Matthew Syed

Frome Town Council

Braiding Sweetgrass – Robin Wall Kimmerer

Cormac Russel – Rekindling Democracy

Entangled Life – Merlin Sheldrake

Swampy Guardian article

Julian Abel can be found on Twitter

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