From small seeds…growing with the Earth Pathways team

By Kate Large

The Earth Pathways Diary team, from left: Brian Boothby, Marion McCartney, Annie Keeling, Sue Sturt-Bolshaw (standing), Debs Milverton and, front: Jaine Rose, Glennie Kindred

The Earth Pathways Diary has been a huge hit in the Pagan community and the team behind it is now working to help get other projects up and running. Kate Large found out more about its seed funding project.

Since it first appeared in 2009, The Earth Pathways Diary has become a firm favourite with environmentalists, Pagans, artists, writers and activists. It celebrates the work of writers and artists from around the UK, using seasonal cycles and the Celtic Wheel of the Year as the structure and context for all of its artwork and writing. Also included are Moon phases and signs, sunrise and sunset times, moonrise and moonset times and some astrological information relevant to these isles – useful for planning anything from a ritual to a dawn walk.

What is evident in every edition of the diary is an abiding love and passion for the land,  a collective vision of a future that is sustainable, fair and beneficial to all things that have life.  “From the very beginning,” explains Annie Keeling, one of the Earth Pathways team, “we set out to encourage others to connect with the land, learn from its rhythms and wisdom and be inspired by its awesome beauty. We’ve always held the strong belief that once we engage deeply with the Earth, we begin to appreciate both the wonder and the fragility of the web that connects all things… and we are honour-bound to care for her.”

The idea for the diary was first conceived in summer 2007 by Glennie Kindred and Jaine Rose, following a conversation at the Big Green Gathering. Both women had admired the American We’Moon diary, but wanted something that related more directly to this land, and featured contributors from the UK. “Everything evolved from genuine heart-energy and trust, in spite of the fact that Glennie and Jaine had no money to begin with,” Annie explains.

“The diary only happened because they sent out the message to friends, and friends of friends, ‘lend us £100′. They eventually raised a staggering £2,500 in a few months thanks to everyone’s generosity.”

The diary now has an extremely loyal following of readers and sells sold out most years by the beginning of January, says Annie. She estimates that they now print between 6,000 to 7,000 copies a year and 2015 also saw the launch of the first Earth Pathways wall calendar, which was enthusiastically welcomed by all.

“We have always regarded community-building as essential to making the changes that are crucial to the future of our Earth, which is our future, the future of our children and of the generations to come,” Annie explains. “So, it was natural to set up as a co-operative and we’re also registered as an Industrial Provident Society, which means we can use a percentage of our profits to support ventures that further our ethical values.”

The focus of this is the Earth Pathways Seed Fund, so called because its role is to help seed new UK initiatives that build a better relationship with the Earth. The ‘vision’ for the diary had arrived fully-formed in Glennie’s mind, Annie explains, and establishing the seed-fund was part of it.

“When I asked Glennie about this she told me, ‘I was thinking about when I was young and there was something called the Enterprise Allowance Scheme that you could apply to for money to help small projects – that’s how my original books came about. But there’s very little like that these days.’ So the intention was always to release some of the diary profits to help young people get projects underway.”

It was almost, she adds, as though Glennie knew the diary would be successful. “People believed in it from the start, and the seed fund is about believing in the creative ideas of others and giving them a boost. In this way, we are living our values and can hopefully make a positive impact.”

In the past, funds have been donated to Friends of the Earth to support its anti-fracking campaign as the Earth Pathways team strongly believes that fracking is hugely detrimental to the Earth. “But fundamentally,  the seed fund is all about supporting grass-roots people  – after all, that’s how we ourselves evolved,” Annie explains.

“We place a great deal of value in a having a hands-on approach and enjoy the fact that we all get to read the funding applications and make a decision about them. Feelings can run high when we have to make final choices, but that’s as it should be – if you’re genuinely moved by what someone is trying to achieve, you should champion them.”

In the early days, the Earth Pathways Diary made very little money and there wasn’t a lot to go round. The largest Seed Fund grants would have been between £50 and £250, but over the years as the diary has become established and built up a dedicated following, “the team can now award larger amounts, especially to those initiatives that get us really excited,” says Annie.

“Whatever the project is, it has to meet our guidelines and be sustainable. We rarely fund ideas alone. We really like to see something that has already begun as a result of someone’s own ingenuity and determination, and we also like to see that the project has a good chance of continuing to grow beyond any funding we give to it. Gut-instincts play a part too,” she adds. “It probably sounds old-fashioned, but if it excites us and moves us, if it stirs our passions and has been well thought-through, then we reckon we’ve got something that works and we’ll support and nurture it.”

Since 2011, the team has funded a diverse selection of projects, including an educational course on nature, biodiversity and wildlife; bursary placement for a herbalism course,; various community gardens and allotments, and an animal rescue centre. “We’ve funded garden tools and an apiary for a local bee project, given funds to a forest garden, a Sacred Grove project and to the ‘Wool Against Weapons’ campaign,” Annie recalls. “Last year, our grants went to a hedgewitch eco-storytelling resource for schools (The Little Hedgewitch by Jules Cooper – see page xx for our review), a womens’ earth-centred magazine and an outdoor nature kindergarten project.

“We’ve always seen the diary as a hub for earth-loving people and ideas and our Seed Fund is another link in a much larger networking web,” explains Annie. “We ourselves drew huge inspiration from community-led initiatives such as the Transition Town movement, permaculture, and other eco-pioneers and we wanted the Earth Pathways Diary to be a positive means of linking all that together. We think we’ve managed to do that in an open-hearted and creative way.

“But,” she adds, “we couldn’t have done any of this without the people who first supported us and our vision of a more sustainable future for all. Our seed-fund honours that same spirit of trust and encouragement – it’s a helping hand that says, ‘yes, we believe in you too’. The more readers who buy the diary direct from the team at www.earthpathwaysdiary.uk, the more we have for the Seed Fund, and it helps us fund the next edition too. Thanks, and Blessed Be!”

 

Recent Seed Fund projects 

She Who Knows magazine is one project to receive Earth Pathways seed-funding. Says Isabella Lazlo, co-editor: “The Earth Pathways seed fund has supported us to complete our first year cycle with the magazine, creating four beautiful editions, mapping the seasons and the cycles of our lives as women. Both the financial investment and the sense of having elders backing us has been hugely valuable, enabling us to invest in new skills and reach out into the world with our magazine”.

The Little Hedgewitch by Jules Cooper also received funding. It inspires children to take an active interest in our magical hedgerows and to promote the importance protecting our future wild spaces. The book has been read to children in schools and other venues where wild edible food, medicine and wild plant magic is displayed. Following a reading, children have been involved in wildcrafting activities using wild plant ingredients that are featured in the book either in the text or illustration. Cover design by Gordon Milton, illustration by Femke van Gent. (Permission granted to use the pic of the children by headteacher of  Llanfachraeth primary school, Sharon Harp). Photograph by Jules Cooper.

The Wool Against Weapons campaign received seed funding to support its creative and direct action campaign against renewing Trident.

If you’d like to be considered for Seed Funding, complete the details on the Seed Fund form and send it back via email. Alternatively, contact the team in the first instance if there is any aspect of your application that you would like to discuss. Decisions on all applications are taken at an AGM held every April/May.