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Reimagining the future : Eno's Campfire challenge


Anyone with half an eye on the media and broken politics should rightfully be despairing. In a country riven with division, a mainstream media agenda that seems in thrall to notions of ‘business as usual’ and clueless ‘leaders’ bumbling around spinning half truths and lies as propaganda in a desperate attempt to get elected. It’s doesn’t take a genius to work out that some pretty radical thinking is urgently needed and some different solutions are sorely required.

With this in mind, and inspired by the collected writings of the late Nicolas Albery, Campfire patron and celebrated artist BRIAN ENO recently proposed the innovative Vision Makers project for the Campfire community, which launches it's 'Spark The Change - Design The Future' event in Frome at the Winter Gathering weekend in February. Tickets are now available via Bookitbee and there is a full PDF programme download available in advance.

Eno and Campfire have invited members of Campfire you to pitch your idea in 3 minutes on Saturday February 15th at the Bennett Centre (proposals finished 31st January - we hope to be doing more at the next such event).  His rallying call: “Disaster sells newspapers, but hope generally doesn’t. The end of an old order is the beginning of a new one. The future is being born. How it turns out depends on us, and what we dare to hope for.” 

Eno identifies a need for a platform that can collect and encourage the sort of new social ideas that often go under the radar. He challenges the Campfire community to “bring these ideas out into the open to be tried and tested and improved.” 

“The big changes start with people thinking ‘How might this be done better?’  even if ‘this’ is ‘simply’ making a pot. It isn’t necessarily the kind of thing making it to the Six O’Clock news or the colour supplements - but it is the kind of thing that will make our futures.” BRIAN ENO

Eno's challenge to Campfire

Everybody knows we’re at a turning point. The old order has become unstable and is breaking down around us. That process is conspicuous, but what is not so obvious is that new shoots are starting to emerge too. The future is being born, but nobody’s paying much attention to it. Disaster sells newspapers, but hope generally doesn’t. The end of an old order is the beginning of a new one. How it turns out depends on us, and what we dare to hope for. 

Nicholas Albery was a man who peddled hope. He founded and ran an organisation called THE INSTITUTE FOR SOCIAL INVENTIONS but unfortunately died in a car accident in 2001. Every year he published one or two or even three books in which he collected together any good social ideas he’d picked up…and the books were bursting with them. For me, it was the best read available.

The ideas ranged from the microcosmic - how to prevent slugs eating your strawberries, for example - to the cosmic - how solve global warming by moving the Earth into a slightly different orbit.

Nick’s death left a great hole: ever since then I’ve been wanting to see an organisation that would do the same job - act as a place for the sharing of new social ideas. There isn’t any money in a lot of these ideas, so they don’t get aggressively promoted and are often ignored by the media. I want to see those ideas coming out into the open to be tried and tested and improved. 

Is that something we could do at Campfire?


Frome launch : February 2020

We would love to take this idea around the UK and belive it could be good way of spreading hope and inspiration around a divided, demoralised, cynical UK.  We have chosen Frome for our first Pioneers session in 2020 as part of the Campfire winter gathering (February 15/16). The Somerset town is home to Campfire and was recently described by the Guardian as the capital of so-called 'flatpack democracy', grassroots DIY politics.


When the revolution comes, it will start here, a small historic market town deep in wildest Somerset. Frome’s got form. It rioted time and again in the 18th century when the wool trade slumped and the price of gruel skyrocketed. Nonconformism flourished. By the 1970s it had become one of those spots where hippies escaped the rat race, a utopia gently scented with patchouli oil. In 2015, it blew a raspberry at party politics, electing a town council entirely made up of independents. It is the capital of so-called flatpack democracy, grassroots DIY politics. You want community? You got it.”

Frome's Bennett Centre : Campfire's Winter Gathering venue

Your Pitch

The pitch was "Ideas can be anything that might liberate people and make the world a better place. Anyone can make a difference and sometimes the simplest, most modest idea can create the most impact, change or inspiration. So, we would encourage you to step forward and think about how to present your idea in 3 minutes and whether it is also relevant to any of the Campfire Circle Teams." 

A full written pitch of up to 2000 words is also required on Campfire by the day before the event. Please keep it in draft form for now.

It’s time to up the ante and look at how we can most effectively give a platform to those who may have the ideas and visions to shape the future. Whatever we have to do, we should aim to do it ourselves and not wait for the political world to slowly grind into action.

Campfire has set up a Project where all can view members pitches after the Winter Gathering

The future is in our hands. Please support this project and come along and vote on the day. Your involvement can incentivise and empower others.

Some ideas from Nicolas Albery’s ‘Cornucopia of Ideas’ (2001)

If you’re looking for inspiration :

1 The Nigerian potter who invented a pot that could keep food fresh for several days longer than normal probably didn’t suspect that the effect of his invention was to liberate village girls from their daily shopping trip and thus enable them to go to school, thereby radically changing the dynamics and possibilities of his society. 

2 A ten-factor way of rating novels

3 Amazonian tribes gain plant knowledge through hallucinogenics

4 Car seats for cats and dogs

5 Restaurant critics to include decibel ratings in reviews

6 A restaurant in complete darkness to educate about blindness

7 Property rights of the poor must be better protected 

8 Restful tunes yield more milk from cows

9 Stress-relieving rocking chairs in public places

10 Sit on the floor - for health, humility and the environment

Some of the more ‘throwaway’ ideas in Albery’s books included rucksacks which display e-mail addresses on them to assist new relationships; hints on how not stirring your tea will help you to give up sugar; paint that never dries to stop graffiti and a suggestion that girls hitch-hiking alone should wait by a post-box and post a card with the number-plate of their lift before setting off.

“Such approaches to world changing are both acts of faith and humility. The act of faith is to believe that humans, offered more promising tools, will make a better world for themselves and others. The act of humility is not to want to decide in advance what that world should look like, but to rely on human creativity to make something richer, more complex and more unpredictable than you could ever have imagined?  BRIAN ENO




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