A Burst of Festivals of the Commons: Italy, Greece and France

There has been a real surge of festivals on the commons in recent months, and in the months ahead!   The First International Festival of the CommonsFestival Internazionale dei Beni Comuni – will be held in Chieri, Italy, from July 9 to 2.  The event is a cultural happening sponsored by the borough Chieri near Torino. 

The festival will consist of meetings, round tables, music, cinema, theatre, art and performances (hashtag, #commonsfestival).  The primary focus, organizers declare, is “how to live and produce in common…..The Festival will be well more than an extemporaneous and spectacular event: it will bethe beginning of a shared journey to the imagination and construction of a more just, open and participated society.”

While there will be plenty of focus on “global theories” presented in Chieri, there will also be a focus on how to reclaim “those local spaces left empty and useless by the crisis of Fordist production.”  A number of panels will look at how to develop alternatives that are not just sustainable, but generative, and political models that let people share responsibilities and choices. 

The legendary Brazilian musicians Gilberto Gil will perform reggae, samba and folk with Caetano Veloso on July 10 at Piazza Dante in Chieri.  Tickets are available now. Free culture fans will recall that Gil, besides showing exemplary courage as a political dissident in Brazil decades ago, was Culture Minister in the early 2000s and an early, critically important champion of Creative Commons licenses.

The Chieri festival will feature a number of headliners such as Vandana Shiva from India; Italian legal scholar, politician and commons theorist Stefano Rodotà; Italian legal scholar Ugo Mattei; Salvatore Settis, President of the Scientific Council of the Louvre; Italian jurist Gustavo Zagrebelsky; and a number of prominent Italian writers, directors and cultural figures. 

I am pleased to join this august roster of commoners for a panel on “The State of the Digital Commons” on July 11 at 10 am.  I will also have the opportunity to celebrate the release of the Italian translation of Think Like a Commoner, as masterfully translated by Bernardo Parrella.  Professor Ugo Mattei has contributed the preface.

There’s another festival of the commons coming up in October – Le Temps des Communs, which will take place in a variety of Francophone locations http://tempsdescommuns.org/Temps des Communes, from October 5-18.  More than a dozen partners and sponsors are organizing the festival:  Fondation Charles Léopold Mayer, Conseil Région Ile de France, Fondation Mozilla and Région Rhode-Alpes, as wel as Vecam, Mairie de Brest, the Open Knowledge Foundation, La Quadrature du Net and Brussels Commons, among others.

In the past month, there were two other notable festivals on the commons:  The Ouishare conference in Paris, and the Athens CommonsFest.

The Greek event on May 15-17 was the third annual occasion of this festival, moving its location this time from Heraklion to Athens.  The Greek event had an accent on tech commons – or as the conference organizers put it, “to promote freedom of knowledge (or free knowledge) and peer-to-peer collaboration for the creation and management of the commons.” 

The Athens festival hosted an exhibition, talks, screenings and workshops, all with the aim of promoting commons-based peer production and the philosophy of the commons.  There were talks by free software pioneer Richard Stallman, economist Massimo de Angelis and British co-operative finance expert Pat Conaty.  There was an exhibition of projects that embody peer-to-peer production, self-management and self-organization practices, which included Peliti, VIOME, the 136 water initiative, the Elliniko and Thessaloniki social clinics and hackerspace.gr.

You can find a copy of the CommonsFest program here.

Finally, the Ouishare Fest 2015, a three-day event in Paris about the collaborative economy, was held May 20-22.  About 1,000 people converged to discuss the future of collaborative consumption, open source software, makers and fablabs, coworking, crowdfunding, alternative currencies and horizontal governance. The event frankly embraced the dilemmas that it currently faces with a subtitle, “Lost in Transition?” which refers to the push-and-pull on sharing innovators by business and socially minded activists.

Neal Gorenflo of Shareable provides a great overview and summary of the Ouishare Fest, noting that a recurring topic was addressed in the keynote talk, “Venture Capital vs. Community Capital,” by Nick Grossman. The great potential of the blockchain ledger – the code at the heart of Bitcoin – for building new types of sharing communities, was apparently much on the minds of conference-goers.  It also seems that the fierce surge of the “sharing economy” (i.e., tech-assisted micro-rental economy) has “catalyzed a counter-movement to create democratic sharing economy platforms,” in Gorenflo’s words.  A lot of attention was also given to “sharing cities” such as Amsterdam and Nijmegen, and other sharing initiatives.

Inspiring to hear of all these gatherings to explore the potential of commons in their many guises.