Synergy Gatherings are community out-reach and engagement events that harness the power of creative and cultural media to raise awareness of topical social issues. They facilitate dialogue and consultation between a variety of organisations and individuals working in the grass roots, voluntary sector as well as between local government and the communities they serve. They use the power of creative media and enterainment to communicate progressive social messages, enagaging people in subtle ways to develop a progressive culture as the basis for lasting social change. By being fun and enteraining, they also attract a wider range of people, particularly the young, than would normally be engaging with social or community issues.
The events seek to raise awareness of issues relating to climate change, sustainable development, well-being, new economics, healthy and conscious living, diet / nutrition, development, social justice – seeking to develop new and sustainable ways of living as we prepare for an era of peak oil, increased energy costs and the challenges associated with developing a low-carbon, low emissions economy. The events, in particular, seek to explore whether the changes required for adaptation to climate change and peak oil will require the sacrifices that are often portrayed as necessary or whether many of the changes will in fact improve the overall quality of life and well-being of the wider population.
The events feature a combination of components:
- A mini-conference / debate / panel discussion on a topical social issue, featuring invited speakers from NGOs, local, regional or national government, grass-roots community based voluntary organisations and members of the wider public.
- Musical performances from DJs, live bands, acoustic singer-songwriters, spoken word performers, visual art exhibitions and other forms of performance art, particularly those with performances that are inspired, informed by social issues or communicate about them.
- Films, videos and video installations that both entertain and inform, often in subtle rather than explicit ways.
Community music and dance workshops to enable a greater degree of participation than is found at most events.
Information stalls and displays from participating NGOs and grass-roots community organisations.
Workshops and other activities to raise skills and awareness.
- A café serving healthy food and drink to promote healthy living, nutrition and diet.
For more information about the Synergy Project events, including numerous photos of the many rooms and performances, please visit the Synergy Project website.
Community Outreach and Development
Synergy Gatherings seek to develop an extensive network of organisations and individuals working in the broad area of well-being, ecology and healthy living to share contacts and knowledge, develop collaborations and partnerships. Networks generated by Synergy events will enable participating organisations to share information and opportunities and devleop pattens of mutual suport and collaboration.
Synergy Gatherings also seek to engage the active participation of volunteers and interns on work placement schemes in the design and delivery of the project, capitalising on local community and cultural capital with a strong emphasis attached to a culture of empowerment, active citizenship and ‘Do-It-Yourself’. Volunteering at a Synergy event is an easy and enjoyable first step towards becoming a more active and engaged citizen.
Synergy Gatherings therefore act as a focus for a broader community mobilisation and engagement strategy that seeks to develop community capital and capacity to promote grass-roots led social, economic, cultural and spiritual regeneration. They are part of a model that combines the dynamism and efficiency of the social enterprise sector with a strong understanding of the need for stronger networks between different agencies working towards shared goals.
The way in which Synergy night-time events are delivered will vary, depening on the licensing environment.
In the early days of The Synergy Project, the standard model was an all-night format, running 10pm-6am or even 8am. This catered for a younger demographic, although the conscious content of Synergy events is such that it attracts a more mature audience than most standard club nights.
At the SOne Club in London, where Synergy was born, a wide variety of different forms of entertainment were offered along side a ‘conscious’ fringe of awareness-raising stalls, debates and discussions. The main space hosted dance music, a live room hosted festi-folk and world music bands, the Chill Out had a variety of different performances as well as DJs and a gallery space combined chill out DJs with visual art. The healing area provided a deep chill environment, welfare services and a variety of complementary health services such as massage.
A large team of welfare stewards served to look after the audience and identify problemetic issues and point people in the direction of the in-house medic or inform security of problems which were very rare due to the peaceful nature of the crowd.
Organisationally, the events are run by a team of event managers handling venue liaison, finance and promotion, supported by a team of room coordinators who handle the programming of the individual line ups, their room budgets, decor and sound / light. The finances of the events are structured in such a way that the more people who attend, a series of bonus rounds are allocated to room budgets effectively giving the crews running the rooms a stake in the event.
In addition all-nighter events, Synergy has also run a number of all-day events, with workshops, films, discussions, debates etc during the day followed by an evening of multi-media entertainment but finishing early than the all-nighers. Audience figures for these events are lower, with the production being run more on a community, semi-voluntary basis, creating opportunities for trainees who will be learning production and management skills as part of the mid-week delivery to help to put on the show. Once again, a series of bonus rounds give those participating an incentive to market the events and to generate the audiences.
Synergy Open Mic
While based in Camberwell, every Tuesday the Synergy Centre hosted an acoustic open microphone night. At ‘Synergy Tuesday’, members of the community gained exposure and experience as well as connecting with other local creative people. The open mic sessions served to provide an entry-level performance opportunity to aspiring musicians or spoken-word artists to develop their performance skills, at the same as providing more experienced performers with an opportunity to showcase their work, network and seek further opportunities.