Wednesday, 9 October 2013

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Jonny Gordon-Farleigh

DORCHESTER-born Jonny Gordon-Farleigh grew up in Dorset before establishing youth groups in East London and New York city. After graduating in English Literature and running a community food garden in the capital, he founded online magazine, STIR, which grew into a quarterly print magazine launched in April. The 29-year-old lives in Pymore, Bridport with his wife and two-year-old daughter.

WHAT is the premise behind your magazine STIR?
The principle behind STIR is that the majority of journalism does a really good job of presenting readers with the problems we face, but offers little in terms of alternatives to these problems. So instead of convincing our readers we are in a mess – which we already know – we promote the alternatives: The students who responded to their rent doubling in ten years by establishing the UK’s first student housing co-operative, or the consumers who rejected supermarkets’ treatment of producers by forming community farms, or those who decided to move their money into community banks and credit unions.

CAN communities effect change?
I would argue that the community is the only agency through which anything changes. We have to remember that social change only becomes recognised in legislation because there has already been decades of protest, campaigning and lobbying that makes it impossible to resist.

FAITH in politics, banking and the media has been rocked in recent years. Do you see STIR as being born of this disaffection?
Yes, definitely. But this disaffection does not have to result in apathy or demotivation. There has been a shift in energy away from electoral politics towards local initiatives. We can never feel as effective as when we are part of a co-operative which installs solar panels on the roof of a local brewery or which starts a community-supported agriculture scheme. So yes, the magazine is a direct response to these failures but at the same time it divests hope from representative politics and reinvests it into our communities. As June Jordan put it: “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

HOW well does the STIR ethos fit in with a modern Dorset? Could it have existed here when you were growing up?
There have been organic farms and whole-food shops in Dorset since the early 1970s. At the same time there is a new urgency and impatience that comes from a very visible lack of political will to seriously deal with the financial crisis and climate change. The emergence of the Transition Network in 2006 has had a very positive effect in linking up activities that are trying to transform the environment, our food and energy systems, and a economy based on reckless growth. There have, of course, always been people in Dorset trying to address these problems but the difference now is that these attempts are part of a bigger project. I’m really excited by the reception the magazine has already received at local events such as The Sea Needs Our Say in Bridport a few weeks ago.

WHAT made you produce a print version of your online magazine?
Our original intention was always to publish in print but because of the cheap accessibility of online platforms we started there. This gave us nearly two years of experience and we published nine bi-monthly issues online. The launch of the quarterly magazine came as a response to the success of a crowd-funding campaign where we raised over £5,000 to publish a book of articles and interviews from the online magazine with newly commissioned artwork. We also wanted to publish longer articles unsuited to online reading, commission more original art which is impossible to appreciate on a screen, and reach a broader, offline community.  

WHAT can I do, tomorrow, to start to make a difference in my community?
Firstly, either join those active within your community or create a new one.  One good place to start would be your local transition initiative and I wouldn’t wait until tomorrow...

WHAT keeps you awake at night?
Thinking that I should be doing more.

AND what gets you up in the morning?
To check if anyone has bothered to reply to my emails and, if they have, the prospect of new collaborations with inspiring people.

A DOZEN words to make the world a better place?
Be the change you would like to see in the world (Gandhi).

STIR website:


Local Stockists: The Bookshop, Bridport; Fruits of the Earth, Bridport; Strummer Pink, Beaminster; Five Penny Farm; Bridport’s Saturday Farmers’ Market Stall


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