Hello, we hope this finds you and your loved ones well.
Disconcertingly warm as this autumn began, winter is very much here; the leaves have been shed, bare branches reach up to freezing skies and growth in the natural world is pausing. Tomorrow night will be the year’s longest as we mark the winter solstice – the depth of darkness and completion of a year’s cycle.
Our animal bodies are called to slow down, rest, eat heartily and draw in at this time, even as our dominant culture tells us to get out and socialise, hustle to push things over the line before the year’s end and so forth. So many are hurting and overwhelmed at this time, perhaps it might support us to heed winter’s call to retreat, be in stillness and allow for quiet, reflection, prayer – even if only for a few moments.
What does it look like to slow, to retreat in a culture that so prizes productivity, visibility and speed? And should we in a time that feels so fraught, with stakes as high as they’ve ever been? Finding rhythms that can be sustained is not a luxury – it is vital to maintaining the hard work of real change over the long term, as we must. So in the words of the brilliant Tricia Hersey rest is resistance.
I am tentatively re-emerging from a beautiful and chaotic, humbling and galvanising, slow yet fast maternity leave. I am trying to hold true to my intention to come back slower, as a means to go deeper and with more discernment; to step up in this moment and for the long haul with joy and commitment.
Gemma, Jo, Kate, Lily, Yas and others have been doing beautiful work in my absence and we are happy to share some of it below – as well as some rich new audio encounters you might enjoy in a quiet moment, and some glimmers of inspiration.
And of course this darkest point of the winter contains the promise of light and renewal – from Friday the days will lengthen as we turn gradually but steadfastly towards the life-giving sun. We send out a prayer of hope at this time, for light, renewal, possibility and peace in the year to come.
With love and hope,
Iris, and all of us at New Constellations
New horizons
for York
During an unseasonably cold week in June, we erected tents in the City of York, creating a ship of wooden masts and canvas in which our York crew would set sail. This journey was an opportunity for a group of people from many walks of life, sectors and fields of practice across York to confront the challenges facing the city as well as to envision and identify pathways towards a flourishing future.
Our York journey was created in close partnership with the Emerging Futures team at Joseph Rowntree Foundation and with co-funding from The National Lottery Community Fund. The wonderful crew who journeyed with us was Andrew Morrison, Ben Porter, Felicity Palmer, Frankie Sewell, Helen Jones, Laura Cooper, Laurence Beardmore, Layla Grainger, Mike Fletcher, Olivia Carpenter, Pete Kilbane, Sam Leach, Sam Watling, Sarah Huggett, Stephanie Wong, Victoria Hughes and Violet Cannon. Listen to their journey in their own words here.
We owe special thanks to the brilliant Yasmin El Dabi, Victoria Hughes and Kate McClaven. To Yasmin for co-designing and co-leading this journey, Victoria for her exceptional partnership and ongoing support of the York crew in so many ways, and to Kate for becoming a much loved member of our team while we designed and ran the journey and for continuing to work with the crew to help them put their ideas into practice. We can’t wait to see what happens next.
Navigating anew
In September, in follow-up to the first Wayfinding journey we created in partnership with Yale’s International Leadership Centre, we brought together a global group of transformational leaders at the beautiful 42 Acres in Somerset. 
The Wayfinding journey creates space for deep inquiry into the set of principles, or stars, that leaders of all shapes and sizes could navigate by in order to find pathways towards futures of human and planetary flourishing. We invited participants to examine this historical moment at the levels of self, group and system, and to dream big and act bravely in service of the future we dream of. It was deeply inspiring to witness the possibilities of what might become once the guiding stars of leadership are redefined; hear the crew's reflections and discoveries as they journeyed here.
Huge thanks to Yasmin El Dabi for co-designing and co-leading this journey, to Hrund Gunnsteindóttir for helping us weave her deep work and practice on innsæi throughout the process, and to Kate McLaven for lending us her talents and beautiful poetry. The crew it was our great privilege to navigate with was Alice Jay, Cat Tully, Christine Lai, Jenna Nicholas, Jo Sparber, Kim Willis, Louis Butler, Manish Joshi, Mark Cridge, Mathieu Le Fevre, Mitya Savelau, Tara McGuinness and Tom Adeyoola. 
Waves of change
We have five inspiring new audio encounters to share with you, including with community entrepreneur and true innovator Jess Steele, economist, development researcher and former adviser to Nelson Mandela Ian Goldin, artist and community activist Lucy Neal, Li Ann and Maarten of the drinkable rivers movement, and teen activist and nature devotee Scarlett Somerville.
As ever you can explore all our audio encounters on our website or by searching ‘New Constellations’ wherever you listen to podcasts.
Glimmers in
the dark
Image: a new photograph from NASA's James Webb Space Telescope reveals never-before-seen details at the centre of the Milky Way and more about the "extreme cosmic environment" in which stars are formed 💫
If the idea of slowing down to go deeper this winter speaks to you, find inspiration in this powerful blog from Laura Storm, Tricia Hersey’s Rest Is Resistance and Nap Ministry, Jenny Odell’s Saving Time and How to Do Nothing, and Oliver Burkeman’s Four Thousand Weeks.
Other books we’ve loved this year have included Birnam Wood, Disobedient Bodies, God is an Octopus, It's Not That Radical, Matrescene and The Bee Sting (Iris also finally read The Overstory – an oldie but a GOODIE), while some highlights of our 2023 listening have included the magickal Witch (we also enjoyed Jonathan Rowson’s essay on Witch envy), the weird but wonderful The Emerald, and Farmerama’s delicious new series Good Bread
It’s been a year of alarming weather and the highs and lows of COP28 but here are seven ways to feel hopeful and a few more: 200 nations agree to move away from fossil fuels, a report from the IEA insists limiting warming to 1.5C is still possible while China is on course to hit its wind and solar power target five years ahead of time and wind power overtook gas in the UK for the first time this year. We also loved this beautiful and tender video series with Christiana Figueres, Rebecca Solnit and Roshi Joan Halifax on meeting the uncertainty, grief and possibility of the climate crisis.
Some other resources we have appreciated as we continue to explore how best to serve in these times have included The Art of Scaling Deep, The GEN Grief Toolkit and the Nature Connected Organisations Handbook, and we appreciated the comforting words of Clarissa Pinkola Estes's letter to a young activist (some years ago but shared widely again recently for obvious reasons).
We have been exploring the possibilities of a self-distributing granting system that mirrors mycelium, and look forward to sharing more about this in the new year, but were happy to see our early research inspire the vision for this exciting new network of community asset developers.
Finally we want to honour the supernova Jess Search who we lost this year. The fierce joy, passion and brilliance Jess dedicated to all she did will inspire us always, and we are so grateful to be among the lucky fuckers who got to know, love and collaborate with her. Thank you always, Jess.

We also lost the great Benjamin Zephaniah, and will leave you with his joyful reading of his seasonal poem Talking Turkeys – merry Christmas to those celebrating.
Thank you for reading, here's to light, renewal, possibility and peace
we hope you have a gentle end to 2023
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