After months of preparation and planning, last weekend saw the first Northern Permaculture Gathering happen at Oxford Island. Permaculture legend Suzie Cahn started the gatherings off, some eight years ago, and has been central to their organisation ever since. Suzie had decided the time had come for others to step up and have a go, and so a small group of us found ourselves putting together the first post-Cahn event. (no pressure). Kinnego bushcraft centre at Oxford Island is owned by ABC (Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon) council, and they kindly let the event go ahead at no cost, which helped us greatly.

The format for the gathering is open and self organising, and any worries we might have had about numbers or having enough content were soon banished, as volunteers came forward to take care of everything from welcoming visitors to helping in the kitchen, and offering an incredible range of talks and demonstrations. The beauty of the gathering is that you never quite know what you’re going to get, but there is still something for everyone. Around 150 people were there over the weekend, with many more dropping in on both days. Krystal Mohn the cook produced amazing food, some with ingredients brought along by participants, and Jenny Hylands did an amazing job offering wildlife walks and bushcraft with the children.

Happily, we were able to cover all the costs and put aside a seed fund for the next Gathering, as well as creating a set of flat-pack compost toilets to be used next time. We also left a thriving vegetable garden and some permanent compost loos on the site for the bushcraft centre.

WIll we run it again? That remains to be seen, following a discussion with the rest of the permaculture Ireland group, but the year team is keen to have another go and improve on this year’s event. For now we’re having a rest and enjoying memories of a successful weekend.