Summat's going on

A festival of ideas and northern resilience

2nd March 2019

A community festival of ideas and strategies for making the world that bit better will take place in Leeds this weekend, 8 to 9 March.

Hundreds of people from all walks of life will come together for Summat 2019 at Old Bridge Street Church and Notre Dame College in a spirit of community, creativity and resistance.

Summat will provide a forum for people from all walks of life to discuss real-life issues that affect their day to day lives, in a fun, engaging format, and a supportive, inclusive atmosphere.

More than 60 organisations will come together in Yorkshire’s finest city (fight me, Sheffield and York) to give people the opportunity to share ideas and strategies.

Spread across more than 10 stages and rooms at Notre Dame College in Leeds, attendees will have their pick of more than 20 panels, workshops and events. From Dreaming of Open Borders, to Community Wealthbuilding 101, to How to Ban Nuclear Weapons, there’s a lot on offer from this broad and ambitious programme. It reflects the spirit of the festival, which seeks to challenge the idea that it is only politicians and the powerful who should think about and discuss the great challenges of our time.

Ed Carlisle, a member of Together for Peace, one of the many groups attending the event, said: “Politicians are always heading off to summits about important issues. Summat gatherings in 2009, 2011, 2014 and 2016 gave everyday people the chance to discuss these issues too, but in a much more fun, more Yorkshire way! Summat is for anyone who dreams of a different future, anyone itching for change.”

Yorkshire has a vibrant history of resistance and people bringing about change

With a number of recent reports showing the extent to which the north of England has suffered as a result of government cuts, you could maybe be forgiven for thinking of northerners as downtrodden victims, beaten into passive submission by a near-decade of unrelenting austerity. As it happens though, we’re made of sterner stuff. 

Summat is about dispelling that notion, and showing that not only are we resilient and creative today, but that we’ve got a long and proud tradition of it.

Fikir Assefa from New Economy Organisers Network, said: “Yorkshire has a vibrant history of resistance and people bringing about change; from the Luddites to free school meals, to free education. Politics isn’t just stuffy, slow and technocratic. Grassroots politics is for all people who care about social justice, people and community — its emotional, energising, colourful and beautiful.”


One of the main panel discussions from Summat 2016

Not just talks and panels, there’ll be music, poetry and other performances; as well as tasty delights, an art exhibition, a zine fair and a free creative creche for children 4+ running throughout the day, too. In the marketplace area, you’ll find stalls run by organisations from Leeds and beyond, including Global Justice Now, Extinction Rebellion Leeds, Hands off our Homes and Frack Free Leeds.

Maya Goodfellow, journalist and author of a forthcoming book on immigration with Verso Books, will appear at the festival. Goodfellow covers gender, race, politics and racism, and has written for the Guardian, Al Jazeera, the Independent and more. 

Also appearing will be Nim Ralph, a community activist and writer who speaks on issues ranging from disability to gender to environmentalism. Nim is a co-founder of QTIPOC (queer, trans and intersex people of colour) London and was previously named by the Guardian as a “Youth Climate Leader”. Black Lives Matter activist Josh Viramsi and anti-poverty campaigner Julie Longden will also address attendees.

A lively group session from Summat 2016

For the real heads, proceedings will kick off on Friday 8 March at Old Bridge Street Church with Three Acres and a Cow, described as, “Part TED talk, part history lecture, part folk club sing-a-long, part poetry slam, part storytelling session,” and promises to tie together hundreds of years of British history with very current issues, like Brexit and the housing crisis.  

Summat 2019 is organised by Leeds Tidal, a provider of training, events and resources for activists, which aims to support their work to be more effective, whether it concerns social, economic or environmental justice, at whatever scale. Maia Kelly of Leeds Tidal stressed the need for this type of event. 

“It’s as important, if not more important, for the big issues of our time to be discussed on a community level,” she explained. “Because that’s where real meaningful change begins. This is our way of arming ourselves for an uncertain future; by building tight communities of resistance based on love, friendship, shared visions and experiences of collective joy.”

Tickets, available here, are on a donation and pay-as-you-feel basis. According to a past attendee, the Summat might be just what you need to spark a bit of positivity and optimism amid our current chaos.

“I felt very energised and supported by ideas and actions on the day,” they said. “I also came away with much more hope — a big thing as I have been feeling so down recently with the political climate as it is.”

2nd March 2019