Grassroots Gathering 2008, 30th May-1st June, Ireland

Grassroots Gathering 2008 benefit flierCall-out for GG 2008, June Bank Holiday weekend 30/05/08 to 01/06/08, Dublin

The Grassroots Gatherings – an institution of the movement-building seen in Ireland post-2000 – are coming out of hibernation this June Bank Holiday weekend in Dublin. But it won't be quite like before...

The story so far

The upsurge in social movement struggles around the turn of the century, from the streets of Seattle to the barrios of Argentina, from the townships of South Africa to the docks of South Korea, set the tone for much of the oppositional politics seen in the 2000s. Drawing clear lines around such moments is always difficult: establishing when something has peaked, when something has hit a plateau, and when something is in decline. But UK-based collective The Free Association captured a widespread sense of unease regarding this historical continuum in summer 2007 when they observed that “the 'we are winning' sentiment of the couple of years following Seattle has disappeared and been replaced by, at best, head-scratching and soul-searching. More a case of WTF than WTO...”

The social movements landscape of Ireland did not go untouched by this chain of global events: we've had our WTO moments and more recently our WTFs. From 2001 – a highpoint of the international wave of struggle – a key local symbol of global developments was the Grassroots Gatherings, open get-togethers for anyone who wanted to transform Irish society and the world in radical ways – 'grassroots' ways, in their focus on real democracy, and bottom-up methods, in keeping with the ethos of global networking bodies born in the turn of the century moment such as People's Global Action (PGA). Though never really intended as organising platforms, the Gatherings made up a key hub of Irish movement-building and action: reclaiming the streets, building social centres, resisting war, environmental destruction and EU neoliberalism, the networks formed around the Grassroots Gatherings took their place in the global uprising against capitalism.

But reflecting the collapse of that 'we are winning' sentiment internationally, the Gatherings themselves had stalled by the end of 2005. It's not as if this marked the death of Irish anti-capitalism – far too many good things have happened in the meantime, and too many great people have got on board for this to be true – but the sense of distance from the heady days of the early part of the decade has become stronger. Lots has changed since Seattle.

So why resurrect the Grassroots Gathering in 2008? Falling back on forms that have already broken down, until they break down again, is a self-defeating strategy. It's what you might do when you have no strategy at all. We need a time capsule back to 2003 or 2004 – to a happy-clappy lucky dip of the same old workshops on the same old campaigns, skill-shares and alternative lifestyle ideas – like we need a hole in the collective head.

But unless we want to wallow in cynicism, and bail out of history like so many broken, bitter ex-radicals before us, what we do need - and what is more challenging - is to create a space in which to be critical about our mistakes and handicaps, rather than just look back on them with a baleful eye; to learn from them, and to start to look forwards and outwards.

Maybe this means admitting that the forces set in motion at the turn of the decade have run their course. Maybe it doesn't. Maybe it means we can't speak of a 'movement of movements' anymore. Or maybe we can. Maybe it means that the idea of a 'Grassroots Gathering' is obsolete.

But one thing it definitely means is this: amid the legacy of the turn of the century moment, a political sensibility (and maybe even a critical mass of people) now exists here that didn't exist ten years ago: one that's committed to radical social change, but not trapped in the dismal cul de sacs of Leninist, Stalinist and other dogmas. Whatever else has happened, we have broken through the 'end of history' of the 1990s. Our local experience of post-2000 anti-capitalism has been idiosyncratic (compared to wider trends, the course of Irish history often is); without the same movement traditions to draw upon as elsewhere, we reached our high-points later, and while some other nodes in the global network have even collapsed, ours hasn't. Activists from overseas sometimes remark that the movement in Ireland seems fresh and outward-looking, unburdened by much of the baggage found elsewhere.

It may be that our situation is marked as much by opportunity as by defeat. So what are we going to do about it?

What's happening?

While this Grassroots Gathering, like past ones, retains a vital element of straight ahead 'popular education' – with workshops on themes as diverse as Militant Research and Biotechnology – running through it are also some more focused workshop streams.

One of those 'streams' looks outwards: 'Radical civil society and the state: hopes, fears and experiences' is geared not so much towards the concerns of a typical Grassroots Gathering activist milieu, but towards those of community workers and activists, who will join us at this Gathering, and whose struggles against the vicissitudes of Irish society parallel the goals of the Grassroots Gatherings.

Another stream looks forwards and, to some extent, inwards: 'Thinking about the Grassroots Movement' takes in sessions on strategy; on how to create movement cultures of respect and solidarity; and on the question: across our uneven efforts to build networks regionally, nationally and globally, who are we, anyway, and what is it that unites us?

While some workshops are yet to be finalised, a list of confirmed sessions is below. Follow the links for more information and blurbs on workshops and streams. Watch this space for the final timetable, coming soon. Fun and games throughout the weekend provided with help from Electronic Resistance, Seomra Spraoi and friends.


Ground zero for GG 2008 is in the heart of Dublin's Liberties: the building's called Casadh, and it's at 13, Newmarket Square, D8. A map will be posted below.

Other stuff

Take a look at our wish-list if you'd like to help out. We might even have a few openings for last minute workshop proposals, so don't be shy about dropping us a line. We hope to make Grassroots Gathering 2008 a child-friendly space. We also hope to accommodate anyone with special needs, so if there's anything we need to know, get in touch as soon as you can.

Contact for all correspondence; or

Tel: +353 85 724 3832


Information on sessions and streams at:

Texts on the history of the Grassroots Gatherings:

Laurence Cox, "The Grassroots Gatherings: Networking a 'movement of movements'".

Terry, "A short history of the Grassroots Gathering"


Stream A: Radical civil society and the state: hopes, fears and experiences

(1) Radical civil society and the state: hopes, fears and experiences
(2a) What do we know?
(2b) Is what we're doing working?
(3) Plenary

Stream B: Thinking about the Grassroots movement (big 'G')

(1) Catching up on who and what we are
(2) Going places: strategy and the Grassroots movement
(3) Solidarity? Building a healthy movement culture

Stream C: Learning about grassroots movements (small 'g') – and everything else
(1) Timeline of the 'Movement of movements'
(2) ABCs of social change
(3) Militant Research
(4) What would it mean to win?
(5) Biotechnologies, food sovereignty and climate crisis
(6) Migrants in the movement
(7) The war against war
(8) Community garden wander
(9) Social centres network update
(10) The 'gathering of gatherings': round-up from a season of meets

More details and reader at