July 11, 2020

Small Groups and the DoES Liverpool Salon

A few weeks ago in her fortnightnotes Laura James pointed to The Small Group, an article exploring what defines the je ne sais quoi of groups like the Bloomsbury Group or the Homebrew Computer Club and the like.

I held off reading it for a while, as it felt like something that I'd want to write about and would need a bit of time for that. Seems I was right.

I'm a firm believer that these long-lived, small and reasonably close-knit groups of peers are important places to nurture each other's practice, encourage explorations of new ideas and to change things. Brian Eno calls this a scenius, and there's a reason I often quote him in talks I give about DoES Liverpool.

I think I've been part of a few small groups, although only with any "success" (more on that later) since I moved to Liverpool.

Initially it was the Geekup Liverpool group, which basically gave birth to DoES Liverpool. That's been a key group for me over the past decade.

Francis Irving and I also explicitly tried to conjure up one, based loosely on his experiences with a group in Cambridge that spawned mySociety and other civic tech, and my occasional appearances at the sadly-victim-of-Covid-and-London-property Shepherdess "salon". While it led to an enjoyable regular breakfast crowd, it didn't quite spark in the way we'd hoped.

That sense of something missing, of almost-but-not-quite, lingers on.

It's not something I can ever properly pin down.

It could be that it's a more diverse group and so isn't as focused on coding, given my current feeling of going-it-alone with my "15 minute city" experiments, despite the group exploring interesting maker and activist avenues.

There's probably a hefty dose of the perennial grass-is-greener of watching other groups seem more successful.

And I think a lot is a frustration that we're not fully realising our potential. I see so many ideas and work lying around, not having the impact they could, seemingly perpetually overlooked, with people picking away at them often as an extra-curricular activity, rather than being able to devote themselves to it full time. I think that's what I mean when I put "success" in quotes earlier.

Maybe this is always what it feels like in the middle of the scenius, and it's only truly apparent to outsiders or with hindsight. Maybe we're just not as good as I'd hope we are. Maybe we just need to talk about what we're doing, and about what we see each other doing, more. Maybe it just needs one of us to break through to the next level and then help the rest up.

Posted by Adrian at July 11, 2020 11:01 AM | TrackBack

This blog post is on the personal blog of Adrian McEwen. If you want to explore the site a bit further, it might be worth having a look at the most recent entries or look through the archives or categories over on the left.

You can receive updates whenever a new post is written by subscribing to the recent posts RSS feed or

Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Note: I'm running the MT-Keystrokes plugin to filter out spam comments, which unfortunately means you have to have Javascript turned on to be able to comment.