The purpose of this blog is to share my research on the alternative culture and economy of the Totnes area.
In the spring of 2006 I applied to the University of Liverpool to undertake a PhD in Geography on ‘Alternative Economic Spaces’. The idea was to study a place where there appeared to be a concentration of people trying to do ‘alternative’ economic things. The supervisors had broadly identified a number of possible sites for the research but I was very keen that it should focus on the Totnes area if I was the chosen candidate, for a number of reasons. Firstly, having visited the area a few times there did seem to be something about it that was different. Secondly, it had a reputation as somewhere which was alternative and which had experimented with alternative economic ideas. Thirdly, I was aware that Transition Town Totnes was due to be launched later in 2006 and this seemed like the latest example of a number of experiments that had taken place in the area. I was offered the PhD and having persuaded my supervisors that the research would be best undertaken in situ, my family and I moved to Totnes in August 2006.
I spent the next 2 years trying to get under the skin of the different types of alternative economic activity that exist within the area. Even now I feel like I barely scratched the surface but I had a constant desire to try and retain a breadth of analysis, rather than focusing down on a niche, even though this arguably made the whole process a lot more difficult. Methodologically the research involved some semi-structured interviews, rooting around in the archives, and quite a bit of ‘participatory’ method, most notably by getting heavily involved in one of the most recent alternative economic experiments, the Totnes Pound local currency.
I hope that this blog will provide an opportunity for people to comment and debate what I have been researching. Even thought I interviewed over 50 people there are still many gaps and I hope that people will be able to add to the overall picture that is built up.
From a research point of view it is an opportunity for me to verify my data and test the validity and robustness of my arguments. I hope also that it will help people to understand the ‘alternative’ side of this area of Devon, something which is much discussed and often mocked, but which also merits some serious consideration.