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About Spiralseed – The short version

Spiralseed is an independent, ethical publishing and educational enterprise founded by Graham Burnett in 2001. We publish books about Permaculture, sell fairly traded teeshirts and run Permaculture courses.

The Story of Spiralseed – A little more depth…

The story of Spiralseed began in the late 1970s, back when ‘cut and paste’ still meant putting publications together with scissors and glue, and ‘social media’ was a thriving grapevine of self-organised gigs, cassette tape trading, passing around leaflets and pamphlets and meeting up at demonstrations and protest events. Inspired by punk’s anarchistic ‘Do It Yourself’ attitude, I produced a fanzine called New Crimes on an already ancient printing press that I bought from the local poetry group for twenty quid, and that worked by turning a handle and spraying ink all over my bedroom carpet, much to my mother’s dismay! I’ve been passionate about self-publishing and communicating ideas ever since, and spent the 1980s and 90s producing booklets and pamphlets about veganism, ecology and activism, more often than not surreptitiously printed on workplace photocopiers.

In 1994 I came across permaculture, and quickly realised that it was about more than herb spirals and sheet mulch. In the autumn of 1995 attended a Permaculture Introductory course led by the late Carl Smith, followed by a full 72 hour Design Course run by the north London based ‘Naturewise‘. I can honestly say that I found these courses tranformative, switching my thinking to a paradigm of focusing on solutions rather than problems, and giving me a whole new way of seeing the world. I’d borrowed Bill Mollison and David Holmgren’s books ‘Permaculture One’ and ‘Permaculture A Designers Manual’ from my local library, but despite these being brilliant works I found them quite hard going for a newcomer. I remembered that in the 1970s I’d seen a series of books entitled ‘Beginners Guides’ published by a co-operative called ‘Readers and Writers’. These appealed to me with their use of graphic formats to present complex political or scientific ideas in ways which were easy to understand without being ‘dumbed down’. Titles included ‘Ecology For Beginners’, ‘Freud For Beginners’ and ‘Marx For Beginners’, so why not ‘Permaculture For Beginners’? By late 2000 I felt I’d met my aim of translating the essence of permaculture into such an accessible book format, containing enough information to give a basic overview of its ethos of designing with nature for positive action, whilst at the same time reflecting my own urban/vegan/DIY ‘take’ on the subject. Andy Goldring, development co-ordinator of the Permaculture Association, saw a draft copy and put me in touch with Footprint, a Leeds based ethical print workers co-operative. A few months later, thanks to an interest-free loan from a friend, the first 3000 copies of ‘Permaculture; A Beginners Guide‘ rolled off the Footprinter’s press and the stack of cardboard boxes full of books in our hallway became an everyday part of the furniture.

Spiralseed was set up in 2001 to publish ‘Permaculture A Beginners Guide’ as an independent enterprise, as well as promote permaculture education and earthright living. We now produce publications and run regular courses and workshops, including an accredited full 72 hour Permaculture Design Certificate Course, as well as our own ‘open source’ adaptations of the PDC including our innovative Vegan Permaculture Course and Design 4 A.C.T.I.O.N. (Active Community Transformation In Our Neighbourhoods) courses and workshops. We’ve grown in scale and scope over the years, yet believe we are still true to our original ethos of ‘Vegan, Punk, Permaculture’ – that is, we promote compassionate living with our fellow human and non-human Earth Citizens, we still believe in the spirit of DIY (or better still, Do It With Others (DIWO!)) and we still subscribe to our core values of Earthcare, Peoplecare and Fairshares. We reflect these throughout all of our practices and activities, working in partnership with others who share our concerns around social and environmental justice. We have worked with a number of Transition Town initiatives, as well as projects ranging from inner city housing estates to orchards, animal sanctuaries smallholdings and farms; and with organisations as diverse as Bioregional, Comic Relief, Furtherfield, Naturewise, Arundel Green Camp, Cambridge Sustainability Centre, Plan-It Earth, Designed Visions, OrganicLea, The Idler, Permorganics, Permanent Publications, Vegan Organic Network, NuArc Health and Wellbeing Centre (Puglia, Italy), Wild Earth Farm and Sanctuary (Kentucky, USA), Ars Terra (Los Angeles), Ekosense ecovillage (Croatia) and many others.

Our special passion is in working with individuals, organisations and projects in ways that are collaborative and participatory by unlocking the genius that exists inside all of us. In this way we can develop creative design solutions that are emergent from the group wisdom – we believe that EVERYBODY has the potential to be an agent for change and play a part in moving towards futures that are not only ‘sustainable’ but REGENERATIVE. In other words, not only reducing harm, but pro-actively leaving the world a better place than we found it. Explore our web site and find out more!

Graham Burnett, founder, Spiralseed