Venues for Conversare

August 31, 2010 |  by  |  Uncategorized

Conversare is a context for participation. It is a social gathering for people who look at the world straight in the eye to engage with like minded others in a spirit of curiosity, an attitude of awe and a willingness to contribute. This means the opportunity to meet lively people, purely for the joy of doing this, and to sharpen interpersonal skills.

The event is designed to be in tune with the dimension of ‘spiritual fulfilment’ which is experienced as ‘close connectedness’ between people who may have not met before. It is lightly facilitated by a host and is great fun!

Where to hold Conversare gatherings? The general idea about this since the beginning of the enterprise has been ‘public places.’ This is to make possible – and to make clear – that anyone is welcome to attend.

One such place I have had had in mind was the British pub. This perhaps stemmed from the romantic notion that they are the hubs of their local communities and that introducing this different way of socialising could strengthen this role, at least in some pubs. This thought was sparked by my noting a report in July 2009 which received much coverage that pubs were closing at the rate of 51 per week around the UK. Just a few months ago this was 39 per week.  Could adding Conversare events to their repertoire help stem this tide?

I explored the potential of this notion during a visit to the UK recently, partly through speaking to people who manage pubs and by having a look at a number of them in towns along the coast from Brighton to Eastbourne in East Sussex. Also several in London.

The main impression I gathered was that pubs, at least the ones with which I made contact, were not suitable venues in which to hold these events, on two counts. Firstly that the ‘pub culture’ – the purpose for which most customers seemingly go to pubs and the manner in which they interact (or don’t) is not conducive to wishing to meet new people in a spirit of curiosity and playfulness.

The second is the matter of having a space which can be set aside to be private and quiet.  My observation was that few pubs have such a facility.

I had similar impressions of two pubs which I visited in Troy, near Albany in upstate New York in the US, while attending a conference there.

There may be stalwarts in the UK and the US who see things differently and who may wish to bring this innovation to the attention of their ‘local’.

I wonder if you have ideas on public places in the area in which you live in which to hold this kind of gathering?

Since being back in Hong Kong a very suitable venue has come to my attention. This is a new community centre in Discovery Bay on Lantau Island.  Bookings have been made under the auspices of a program called BMSE (Body, Mind, Spirit and Environment) which is a service of the NAAC (Neighbourhood Advice-Action Council). Conversare events will be held once per month on a Friday evening beginning on 17 September and continuing mid month until the end of the year, in the first instance.

Please feel welcome to comment on any aspect of this project which catches your eye.

And please do bring this fledgling blog to the attention of people who you intuit would wish to know of it.

What can happen? <smile>

“A few weeks after that meeting I still remember the people there fondly and I am genuinely happy to see them.” 
Maggie G, a previous participant

Alan Stewart


  1. I got this web sirte from Ms. Gail West. i am taking a numer of facilitation courses delivered by her and Dick.
    Would like to join your meeting to practice the dailogue….Will try to join one time at least.

    Will there be any chance to organise the meeting in the day time during weekend? I live very far away from the Discovery Bay.

  2. Conversare…I love the sound of the word and everything it evokes. Just a few weeks ago after a visit to her home town, my 28 year-old daughter decided to relocate to Canada, her native country after living in the US just north of New York city for over 16 years. I can still hear her describe what it felt like to be back among friends and family. Mom, she said, it was so much fun. Without any fuss, a bunch of us were all together on the back porch at a friend’s house, just talking and laughing. We must have been 15 people and nothing had been planned. It was so different than what I’m used to when we have to plan ahead and most times it’s just a few of us meeting at a restaurant or a bar. For her, I knew it was all about being in community and that Alan is what you are creating: community hubs so people can enjoy each others’ company again like we used to when I was a kid. It involved dancing, singing, talking and breaking bread together children and adults. Thank you for inspiring us to recreate centers of community wherever we are. Sometimes in life, we lose our way and forget what’s most important. You are reminding us to look around and think where the new and old gathering places might be. I will let this simmer in my mind and who knows some day, “conversare” will take hold on this side of the ocean too! Suzanne

  3. I learn about this Conversare events thru Gail West, and would like to join when the schedule fits.

  4. Alan,

    I’m very very impressed. You’re a blogger now! What about placing a photo in your profile (“About Alan”)?

    I’m certainly going to pass this site along to friends.


  5. Don’t you love Suzanne’s comment about “reminding us to look around and think where new and old gathering places might be?” I do as she touches nicely on the purpose of the Conversare experiment which is to locate places in which people who may not know each other get together purely to enjoy a time of lively company.

    Do such places exist? Did such close relating only happen in bygone times or can it be experienced today? I would say they do and ‘yes’ it can happen for people who live modern, urban, busy lives. How is this possible?

    I would suggest that there are three main ingredients necessary for this wholesome relating to happen in metropolitan areas. All three may be found and pulled together with the will to do so and diligent searching …

    1. Suitable venues
    In my recent post I described my search in vain for these while on visits to the UK and the US. And my delight in ‘discovering’ a most suitable place in Discovery Bay – where I live – on Lantau Island in Hong Kong.The room now booked for a series of events is spacious and ‘friendly.’ And the staff of the venue, a newly built community centre, are particularly helpful. Plus, as mentioned, our gatherings are in tune with their program called BMSE (Body, Mind, Spirit and Environment).

    2. The people who show up
    My sense is that these are adventurous, fun loving spirits, people who enjoy being part of something different from their usual ways of socialising. Such people may also be described as courageous risk takers as they may not know anyone present at a gathering. In spite of this they are prepared to come along and play their part in diverse activities – which by their nature make for real enjoyment when everyone pitches in – participates!

    Even if you have not thought of yourself in this way – yet – the ambience of a Conversare gathering could encourage you to be so. Does this appeal to you?

    3. A host
    This person has the role of helping everyone present to feel welcome, included, at ease and ready to participate. The host outlines the program for the event, ensures that this is understood and reminds everyone that ‘whoever comes are the right people’ and that ‘whenever we treat each other well good things happen.’Not least of this is having a lot of fun!

  6. I was honoured to see the words of The Conversing Cafe – which I wrote especially for Alan years ago – in the midst of this special new connecting space. I was trying to express musically what he says so loud and clear about the power and virtue of simple pure conversing. It seems we tend to value least the things that are most familiar to us; we take them for granted, not realising how profoundly important they are

    I was struck by what Dani Goel wrote elsewhere in this Conversare: “I am intrigued by the issue of connections and personal relationships in the modern world. When urban living relegates people to having thinner human/ physical connections and how personal endeavours / enterprises like Conversare come in to redress this gap and natural human craving for close personal contact.”

    Connecting is absolutely crucial – in a biological sense and a spiritual sense – and, in this changing world, we need new venues in which it can happen. The social online networks are huge experiments, but so far most of them lack the essential ingredients that Alan has outlined for authentic human communication. In fact they seem to me to encourage inauthenticty (if that’s a word).

    I applaud Conversare. But I think we need to do more than that. We will need to use it and build it and grow a spiritually strong network where good things happen because we ‘treat each other well.’ I hope to join in some more when I can.

    Congratulations to all who are here.

  7. Lloyd

    I greatly appreciate your insightful and encouraging comment on this emerging Conversare blog. It is through such support that the project will proceed, iteratively through ever widening circles.

    My role, as I see it, is to create contexts in which participation among strangers in public places leads to the experience of close relating. As you are aware, the experiment is underpinned by solid theory composed from diverse sources.

    One of these which has recently re-entered my consciousness, is Positive Deviance. Its fundamental premise is that:

    ‘In every community there are certain individuals whose uncommon practices and behaviours enable them to find better solutions to problems than their neighbours who have access to the same resources.’

    While the Conversare project may be seen to have arisen from the mind of a deviant it will likely be nurtured and nudged by spirited non conformists.

    You and others who contribute to the online conversing add sparkle and ideas which may touch the lives of readers of the blog in ways that cannot be predicted.

    What can happen?


  8. I am so looking forward to the Conversare this coming Friday, Sept 17th, on DB.
    I love the natural rhythms of conversation at the meetings, when what moves people to connect is the pure enjoyment of each other’s company. It becomes clear that our main sustenance, as human beings, comes from being together, talking. And of course, sometimes, singing.

  9. The ‘natural rhythms of conversation’ – what a beautiful phrase Maggie used! I am fairly sure, as a biological scientist, that the waxing and waning of emotional structures within each of is is what shapes all the meanings that we make and the sharing of these meanings with one another is primarily emotional – although we think of it as rational. It is a ‘biosong’ – the music of life.

  10. i like this. we use to have s thing called coffee and conversation. the difference between your conversare and coffee and conversation is ours was held at someone’s house and the people asked to come were asked to please bring a friend or two. i am so happy to see this is still going on albeit with a different name. the feelings are still there. friendships are made ideas exchanged and ideals examined. all for the good i think

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