A Commune in the North… of Doncaster!

An ambitious plan to build an egalitarian, income-sharing, cooperative, world-changing, eco-commune for up to 200 people in a working class area in the north of England is beginning to take shape in Doncaster. A Commune in the North (ACitN) is already changing things for the better in Bentley, and they plan to have an even bigger impact in the coming year.
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Imagine a group of people with the ambitious task wanting to set up an egalitarian, income-sharing, cooperative, world-changing, eco-commune for up to two hundred people in a working class community somewhere in the north of England. Imagine if that group of people wanted to do it in Doncaster!

Some might see this as an impossible dream. But there is a growing bunch of collaborators living in Bentley, a former mining town just north of Doncaster city centre, who are definitely up for the challenge.

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A few of those people are locals who, having already been involved with running projects like Doncopolitan magazine and Bentley Urban Farm, are used to people saying “That won’t work around here”, and then cheerfully proving them wrong. Others have come from further afield, but everyone involved was inspired by the vision presented by Cath, the founder of A Commune in the North (ACitN - pronounced ‘a kitten’)…

Commune workshop at the Mother Fhungus FestivalCommune workshop at the Mother Fhungus Festival
Commune workshop at the Mother Fhungus Festival

“I want to create a place where people give according to their ability and receive according to their need; where sharing lives creates surplus time for caring, playing, creating and engaging in the wider world; where different generations live together, learn from each other and look after each other; where most needs for food, shelter and fuel can be met from the surrounding area….

Here’s my dream: not to have to worry about money, to be surrounded by friends, to get cooked for every day, to do a mixture of physical and mental work, outdoors and indoors, to create a resilient and ecological local economy, to be part of a strong community that can pull together in times of crisis and to live in beauty and honesty.”

ACitN members decided that they needed to live more closely together if they were to realise their dream. A couple already lived in Doncaster and were already involved with community projects, so other members decided to move to Bentley at the end of 2022. Almost as soon as they arrived they were able to help save a local community asset. Some of the core volunteers at Bentley Urban Farm were also keen skateboarders. Twisted, the large indoor skatepark at Marsh Gate, was in danger of closure or being sold off to people who were not passionate about skateboarding. ACitN were able to provide the skills and the capital to help turn Twisted into Doncaster Skate Co-operative, a workers co-op owned and run by skaters who were already an integral part of Doncaster’s skate community. This has seen the park transformed into a vibrant cultural hub with a skate shop and vegan cafe, which is now also a venue for live music, poetry slams and arts events.

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ACitN have also helped to breathe new life into Bentley Urban Farm, the award winning ‘upcycled market garden’, which has been fighting food poverty and educating people about food and ecology since 2016, but which found itself struggling since lockdown. ACitN helped organise work days and also ran the catering for the Mother Fhungus Festival, which takes place twice a year (the next festival runs from the 21st to the 23rd of June).

ACitN working in the fields at Bentley Urban FarmACitN working in the fields at Bentley Urban Farm
ACitN working in the fields at Bentley Urban Farm

The long-term plan for ACitN is to build a network of interconnected co-operatives which provide for the commune while also supporting the needs of the surrounding community and the local economy. ACitN has already had a positive impact in North Doncaster, and will continue to support and nurture environmentally and economically positive initiatives in the region for as long as Bentley remains its home. Eventually, the commune hopes to find a site with enough land to grow food and to build a network of homes for commune members, but they always want to be in or near an existing working class community. They don’t want some hidden utopia in the countryside, they want to build alternative socioeconomic solutions in places which need them the most. Doncaster would be the ideal place for this if and when a suitable opportunity presents itself.

In the meantime ACitN will continue to grow its membership and its influence so that it can do more good in and around Doncaster. The commune is open to anyone who shares its principles of ecological living, fairness, openness, solidarity and justice, and who are passionate about making positive change in our region. To find out more, visit their website, or head down to their Weekend Gathering at Bentley Urban Farm on the 9th & 10th of March.

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