Scottish Communities CAN Autumn Unconference – Caro’s view

Caro Kemp, who works for Keep Scotland Beautiful, has shared her experience of our Unconference on 4-6 September 2015:

The Scottish Communities Climate Network Unconference was held at Comrie Croft, a stunningly beautiful mountain biking and eco-camping resort in Perthshire. When I arrived on the Friday evening, I joined a clay workshop where we were asked to fashion it into the shape of an animal whilst keeping our eyes closed. For some reason which now eludes me, I rather ambitiously attempted to make a buffalo. Amazingly enough, when I opened my eyes, its head wasn’t on squint and it actually looked like a (very skinny) buffalo! The point which I took from this was that although we rely heavily on sight, our other senses are perhaps more useful than we realise. After an amazing dinner of lentil dahl, cooked up by Mags and Craig from the Fife Diet, we watched the film ‘Symphony of Soil’, which I would definitely recommend to anyone interested in food, health or growing (probably everyone reading this!).SCCANpic1fromCaroKemppermissiontouse

On Saturday morning we sat outside in the sun and introduced ourselves. There were attendees from Sustaining Dunbar, Al Meezan, The Welcoming Association, Transition Linlithgow and others*, as well as a woodworker from nearby Crieff, an organic veg box scheme operator (who received a cheer!), some free range children, and a very excited dog called Penny.

SCCAN pic2 fromCaroKempBeing an unconference, which differs from a conference in that it is organised and delivered by its participants, I had volunteered to run a workshop for food projects. I showed the CASP programme’s brand new webcast on running a community growing project, and then we talked about how food projects could support each other. The discussion turned to how we can make it easy for people to obtain local produce, and Alan from Transition Linlithgow talked about the food hub which his group have recently started, which everyone seemed to find very interesting. Meanwhile, Louise from Himalayan Centre for Arts and Culture ran a potato printing workshop which was very popular with adults and children – I was jealous of the leaf print tote bags they had made! Afterwards some people went mountain biking, while Ally from Beechbrae Community Gardens led an impromptu mushroom foraging session in the woods, and we found milkcap (not edible), hoof fungus (also not edible) and chanterelles (delicious!).

10430435_927354383991689_6257933659373346499_n  BeechbraeChantarellesTwitter

Dinner was amazing (again!), with an impressive spread of dishes made with locally sourced dishes (including risotto made with the chanterelles). The only problem with this was that we all ate a bit too much considering there was a ceilidh in the barn afterwards! I got to play cajon with the band (it got me out of whirling around with a full belly!) and afterwards Guy and Susan from Dunbar played a great set of folk songs (they managed to fuse traditional song ‘Bedlam Boys’ with Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall’!) and then spontaneously wrote a song (‘Full Belly Blues’). The session then then turned into an open mic session, the highlight of which was Ally singing us the songs that she sings to her bees.

On the Sunday the weather was incredible, once the smoke had died down from the bonfire which Phil from Sustaining Dunbar lit to fire our clay creations, we held an outdoor brunch/Scottish Communities CAN planning session in world café format. In a discussion on how Scottish Communities CAN could become economically sustainable in the longer term, the suggestion I liked best was that we buy something like Comrie Croft using community shares, and run it as a business to fund Scottish Communities CAN activities.

Overall the weekend was very worthwhile; I had lots of fun, learned a lot and made some very useful connections, and I’m sure that everyone who was there had a similarly positive experience.

If you’d like to share your experience of the Unconference, please email info[at]

*If you’d like to know more about the community groups that are members of Scottish Communities CAN, visit