An event for anyone, from anywhere in the world, that wants to DO something.

One Love Centre, 24 Wallis Avenue, Southend-on-Sea, SS2 6HS 

Saturday 3 October, 11am – 4pm

Maybe you’re already doing stuff in your neighbourhood – cleaning the streets, working with youngsters (or oldsters, or people somewhere in the middle) or are helping people who are vulnerable to gain or regain their voice and power. Maybe you’re running arts, sports or leisure groups, donning a gorilla suit to plant trees and cabbages * , Yarnbombing trees or post boxes (you know who you are), putting your knickers on over your tights and prowling the streets fighting crime, or otherwise involved in useful shenanigans.

Or, maybe you want things to be better, you want to Do Something, and you could use some inspiration.

If you’re not already connected to your local human version of the Wombles – the underground movement of people that quietly (or sometimes NOISILY) go about making the community slightly happier, healthier and generally freer from Those People That Make The Rules – this is your opportunity to connect up with them. And if you are already connected and busy, this is your chance to inspire others.

(NB: As Wombles is likely copyrighted, and, although we are fine with making and getting into trouble, that’s expensive legal trouble that we could do with avoiding, we’ll refer to these doers as Humbles (lit. Human Womble.))

Since instigating Southend SOUP I’ve discovered Southend-on-Sea is fair teeming with Humbles. Akin to the endearing, rapidly multiplying, Tribble, Humbles turn up in every nook and cranny: People that Just Get On With It. Generally, not for pay or kudos (well, maybe for a bit of kudos) but mostly because they’re simply doing stuff they want to do. At the time of setting up SOUP, I held a role with the local council that was all about Building Sustainable Communities. I met with representative groups and proper charities and the like, but, I hardly ever met a Humble. However, a whole new world opened up when I became one myself; when I decided to get on and do something, rather than expecting that someone else should. For SOUP there are no plans, strategies, objectives or targets, and any meetings, if absolutely necessary, tend to be of the Down the Railway over a Pint variety.

A nod here to one of my inspirations: Graham Burnett. He took three things that interested him; Permaculture (a way to live sustainably – see his books), enabling people that society typically disables, and, the aforementioned Railway pub. After the bare minimum of planning, and a small amount of outlay, up sprung the Railway Community Garden. Built and tended by pub patrons and the people from Project 49 – a day centre attended by people with learning disabilities. Don’t think about it, ask permission (unless you really have to) or write a 50,000 word business case, just bloomin well get on with it.

And that’s anarchy.

Which brings us back to…


Unconferences are self-organising, which is perfect for SOUP and for people who are SOUP minded. As I have iterated many a time: the people make SOUP events. I book a venue, let people know the date and time, and whoever wants to get involved (involvees are a different mix every time) builds the event – bringing ingredients, cooking, bringing music and all manner of divers entertainments and distractions. The resultant event is so much fun I tend to forget we’re there to micro-fund Good Ideas.

Unconferences are this on a bigger scale.

At the Great Southend SOUP unconference, there will be a mix of:

Open Space conversations

Which basically work like this:

  • I want to talk about [insert community issue or idea]. For example; dogs embracing more convivial lavatorial habits or, starting an urban woodland. The topic ought to be something I have initiated, want to initiate or can at least influence.
  • I write my topic on a Post-it (other sticky notes are available) and pop it up on a handy wall, flip-chart, table, or other convenient surface (possibly including another participant).
  • Everyone that has something they want to talk about does same. If there are lots of topics, we might agree that some of them are sufficiently similar to be joined together.
  • After a modicum of faffing about with the topics, people form groups around the Thing They Want to Talk About. Discussion happens. The person that suggested the topic hosts the discussion and looks after note taking.
  • Hosts stay with the topic they started, but everyone else is subject to the Law of Two Feet. This means, if you’re not learning or contributing (or you get bored/are distracted by squirrels) you have it away on your Two Feet and join a different conversation. Simples.
  • At the end, everyone gets back together so we all get to hear about everything.

Lightening Talks

If you’ve been up to something exciting – that will inspire people to take to the streets and Change Everything – we want to hear about it. In five minutes. (With time for questions afterwards)


We have no truck with Powerpoint. Unconference unorganisers don’t want to be fretting about technology; with the requisite stress of keeping people amused whilst Trish from IT switches things off and on again.

Use tech if you must, but keep it simple and Be CREATIVE. Preferably, use your allotted five minutes to tell your story verbally – extra points for employing role-play, shadow puppets and/or interpretive dance.

Speed Inspiring

Speed dating for Ideas. People who want to talk about their idea, project, scheme or whatever get to talk to one person, or a small group of persons. The bell rings after five minutes, and people move to the next station. If the roaming listeners hear something they like, they mark their cards accordingly and have their details passed on so that they can be kept informed.

That sort of thing.

We will, naturally, also hold a special SOUP micro-funding session.

If you have your own thoughts about fun activities that will help people share information and leave feeling inspired and energetic, please leave a comment.


Other stuff…

When and where

I initially thought about holding the event in the middle of the UK, so that people could more easily attend from all over. However, it’s much easier to organise such a thing on one’s own patch – where I have contacts with venues and a better chance of putting together something exciting. Furthermore, Southend’s not all that hard to get to (under an hour by train from London, its own airport that connects to some European cities, and close enough to Stansted) and, besides: visitors deserve the opportunity to enjoy our smashing seaside town – perchance even to partake of a promenade along our world famous pier.

We’ve met some wonderful friends at a local alternative education centre, which is also a hub for arts and music. We’ve held two SOUPS there. Known as the One Love Centre (the venue) and EpicQuest (the learning centre) they take their philosophy from the Dalai Lama, amongst others:

“My hope and wish is that one day, formal education will pay attention to what i call education of the heart. Just as we take for granted needs to acquire proficiency in the basic academic subjects, i am hopeful that a time will come when we can take it for granted that children will learn, as part of their school curriculum, indispensability of  inner values such as love, compassion, justice, and forgiveness.”

– his holiness the dalai lama

We’re delighted they’re able to support us. The centre, a new venture, is currently crowd-funding to install a disabled toilet. Please help if you can. 



Just your travel costs to get to us. Unconferences are free, so as to be accessible to as many people as possible. Everyone coming to an unconference is expected to participate, so you’ll earn your keep anyway.

The One Love Centre are offering their premises for free, but have asked if they can request donations for teas and coffees. That sounds entirely reasonable to me! Any contributions people want to make to the centre will be very welcome!

Also, there will be a SOUP element, which means giving people a small amount of funding to take away to make Good Things Happen. So, bring a few bob – if you can, there’s never any obligation – that you’d be happy to put into the pot as a donation.


Next steps…

Keep an eye on the blog site, our Facebook page and Twitter feed. There’ll be an Eventbrite page going up soon so you can book your ticket.

For now, express your interest by joining the Facebook event.


* always wondered what those gorillas in high vis jackets were up too. Suspected some sort of monkey business…

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