Activist, community organiser & veganic farmer
Jo has been a keen community activist and organiser for over 25 years. Her academic background is in social anthropology, political science and inclusive education. Jo campaigns for fairer, more equal, more compassionate and sustainable communities and she develops initiatives and projects that further these values and aims. Her working life has been focused on developing social movements, earth-focused and earthling rights (all animals!) campaigning and systems change.
In 2000, Jo and her partner, Terry, co-founded Skillnet Group CIC (now called Bemix CIC), a social enterprise which supports people with and without learning difficulties to work together equally to challenge inequality and enable positive change. This incorporated several social firms, including a recording and rehearsal studios (West Track), a catering firm (Discovery Catering), an eco-café (The Pulse), a wood workshop (the Eco Shed) and an inclusive performing arts project (Risky Business).
In 2010, Jo and Terry, founded the Abbot’s Mill Project CIC in Canterbury. The aim of the Abbot’s Mill Project is to create an urban hub which will be an exemplar of earth-friendly compassionate living, incorporating an education/peace centre. The entire project will be powered solely by non-centralised, renewable energy, mainly through re-instating a water wheel into the old mill race on the site of the former Abbot’s Mill (the seven-storey mill that once stood on St Radigund’s Street in the heart of Canterbury).
Jo and Terry are the guardians of various areas of ancient woodland and run a low impact woodyard, Howfield Woodyard and Hawkins’ Logs, based on traditional woodland management techniques. This has also become a small hub for other earth-focused enterprises, such as a wood sculptor, a vegan chef and a vegan baker.
In 2013, Jo set up Canterbury Vegans and Kent Vegan Parenting Facebook groups and then, in 2014, founded Kent Vegan Events (which includes a monthly vegan market and an annual festival – both in Canterbury).
In 2015, Terry and Jo established a vegan, eco commune with the aim of establishing a learning environment for vegan, low impact living. They ran this over three years and shared the space with a total of sixteen different people (including a dog and four cats).
Since the summer of 2018, Jo, Terry and their daughter, Rosa, have been focusing most of their efforts on their new project, Vegan Organics Kent (near Faversham, East Kent), which is a veganic (vegan, organic or stock-free organic) farm and agroforestry project and ecologically sustainable working hub based on permaculture/agroecology principles; incorporating low impact building and the use of locally sourced materials, for the benefit of humans, animals and the natural environment. The whole enterprise aims to be carbon negative, concrete-free, single-use plastic-free and off-grid.
Jo has worked as a freelance consultant, mainly in the areas of social justice, equality and sustainability; including social care and support, learning difficulty/disability and human rights focusing on co-production, personalisation, person-centred approaches and self-advocacy development.
Jo sits on the Editorial Board of the Tizard Learning Disability Review and the board of the Centre for Inclusive Futures.