The suggestion that these hubs are situated by or near water seems apt for our East Anglian geography with its vast network of inland waterways and the surrounding coastline. The element of water has powerful symbolic and performative qualities; in many traditions it is associated with new birth: with baptism and healing, and with renewal and blessing. With its face set towards the rising sun, it may be that these Eastern lands have a particular role to play in bringing to birth social, spiritual and economic innovations.
The history of creative arts camps in this region is one source we can look to for inspiration here. Beginning in the early 1970s with the Albion Fairs, eco-conscious gatherings such as Dance Camp East, NVC camps, Green Man, Midsummer, Bender and Hare Moon camps (to name but a few) have been something of a social laboratory, offering experiences of living simply in community, close to nature. Drawing on diverse traditions and exploring a wide range of practices and processes for personal and cultural activation, the tribal earthiness of these gatherings seems to have met a deep need.
The lands of the North Folk are also home to a rich and prolific religious heritage. In medieval times, Norwich was a major English city, second only to London in its economic and cultural significance. All the religious institutions of Europe had a base here, with the city alone boasting some 22 monasteries and convents, 37 guild chapels and 10 hermit cells at each of its city gates. Nearly a thousand churches were built in the county, with an estimated 650 surviving to this day. The city also housed 36 anchorages (a kind of hermitage) one of which was home to visionary and holy woman Julian of Norwich, who in our times has risen to international status as a pre-eminent woman author and mystic.
It seems there is a powerful lineage of spiritual and cultural devotion embedded here that we can tap into. And of course the religious legacy of medieval times is just one expression of this; there will also be pagan and druidic elements interwoven into the spiritual fabric of these lands, as well as a rich (and ongoing) tradition of literary and artistic accomplishment and political radicalism.
Perhaps all this is in some way related to what we mean by the 'sacred': of that which is precious, and which brings life and invites our love and loyalty. Whether it be in a sweat lodge, in a prayer circle, at a 5Rhythms dance, through the application of permaculture principles, or simply by tending the hearth of land-based community, taking this legacy to new levels could help us play our part in bringing about the rapid adaptation and transformation these times are calling for.
Is there a particular aspect of our local heritage that speaks to you? What traditions and sources of wisdom do you have access to, that could inform and inspire us in these times, and help us build the inner resilience to meet what lies ahead?