Every Monday morning we will publish a newsletter documenting life at DARP through a different resident. This week is eco-anxious artist, environmentalist and fermenter Sean Roy Parker. Follow him on @fermental_health
I’ve been trying to leave London ever since I got back from my research trip to USA in November 2019. Having stayed in a remote ranch in Tennessee learning about fermentation, I then volunteered at a biodynamic farm in Massachusetts planting crops and cooking. For the final week of the trip I went to NYC, and got depressed. It wasn’t the people I was with, they were great, but the same claustrophobic feeling I got in London. Everything felt similarly heaving and fast, incessant. There was a neurotic energy in my body, and it’s stopped me from being present.
It would be tiresome to list all the reasons I wanted to leave London, and demonstrate a personal habit of defining myself by what I am in opposition of. I knew that leaving the city would not guarantee me happiness, but a chance of it. I want the fresh air in my lungs and soft turf under my feet everyday, not just on holiday. The vast, unspectacular grey of metropolis and neverending pressure I felt to ‘succeed’ was ruining my self-worth and drive. The slow, generous and wild abundance of nature is a daily gift that we should have access to for maintaining good mental health, to form relationships with other human and other-than-human beings and give back to in practical ways.
Overall, my desire to leave was driven by the knowledge that I would perpetually live in either tiny or extortionate (or both) rented accommodation for the rest of my life, juggling my arts career with battling feelings of ineptitude and servitude. I have come to intimately understand the requirements that I need fulfilling, and it's amazing what some open space can do for mood.
Having been at DARP just over three weeks, the arrival is still pretty fresh in my mind. I remember feeling so calm, a slight excitement and nervousness, but no anxiety or stress like I usually would moving house. My friend Luke was able to help pack the van, and Helena drove the zipvan with my life’s belongings in it up the M1. She text me later that day saying how she could feel my elation on the journey. They helped make the transition memorably smooth, as if it was meant to happen exactly that way.
Living collectively is something I have thought about for a few years, particularly as my personal and professional interests have veered further towards environmental and nutritional sovereignty. My recurring half-joke about “going off-grid” is slightly closer to materialising, while immersing myself into communing immediately after a year of almost total isolation is a bit of a shock to the system! The reality of being here is yet to properly hit, I know when it does I’ll try to fully appreciate the personal strength it took to make a change.
DARP holds a warm, chaotic energy: a semi-dilapidated building filled with objects and memories of recent history, of a strive towards an alternative educational future, of a local landmark that has shaped many overlapping lives. The rural setting engenders broader conversations about stewardship, co-creation and reconnecting with the land beyond our individualised, environmentally unsustainable city life.
Some journal entries:
To celebrate Spring Equinox we cleaned out our shame cupboards, emptied our anxiety bins and mopped the misery floors.
We used some King Alfred's Cakes I foraged, Daldinia concentrica, to light the fire, stuffed notes for change in a Christmas tree and torched it while singing Johnny Cash and F*Choir.
Barbecued bananas with peanut butter for afters 😋
Ad hoc common meals are breathing life into the dead systems shaped by individualistic food culture.
Relinquishing personal ownership over ingredients, recipes and equipment engenders the spirit of co-creation and builds trust and kinship with plants, spaces and each other.
We are working on commoning our pantry, gleaning surplus from local farms, foraging abundant flora and scavenging from bins in order to diversify our diets and support alternative flows of materials.
Bin quiche, surplus parsnip chips, garden nettles, shop pickles, combo salad.
still layered up against the chill, slowly removing sheaths and bandages that were wrapped tightly for many years ~ although my first month in Derbyshire has been hectic, constantly busying and unpacking and renovating, I'm beginning to slow ~ monitor my breath, check in with myself, feel rather than think
the elation I felt in the van on the way here has barely dissipated, my cold city bones have been thawed by the embrace of my rural co-habitors ~ human and nonhuman bodies entwined in clockless space where the axles of ownership & authorship are spinning while stable like a gimbal made of old wood