My camera balanced on a pint of Pen-Lon, a 15 second exposure, and a mobile phone for a prop....
My camera balanced on a pint of Pen-Lon, a 15 second exposure, and a mobile phone for a prop....

It’s 7.30pm on a Saturday evening in early September and I have just dragged the three incredibly heavy seats from a 1980’s transit van up a steep muddy embankment (pretty much on my own, i subsequently discover, much to the amusement of my five companions). I am dripping in sweat for the second, and sadly not last, time this weekend. Gerald Miles, farmer and campaigner against GM crops, has just managed to “hotwire” a mini-tractor that belongs to the owner of the land on which we’re staying, meaning we can use that to carry the incredibly heavy bin bags and seats back to the lectures. Paul Deegan, a mountaineer often referred to as “Everest’s dustman” has just pulled his tshirt over his head in joy at this point and started running around the yard in mock footy-celebration style.

Welcome to the Do Lectures 2009, probably the best and most inspiring weekend I’ve had for almost a decade…

The lectures are held annually in the stunning surroundings of Fforest in west Wales. Approx 100 people convene for several hours a day in a large teepee to listen to some of the world’s greatest thinkers and doers in the world of design, sustainability, community building and DO-ing. The food is all locally sourced, freshly cooked, and utterly gorgeous. The free beer and wine is just a bonus. Oh, and everyone (including most of the speakers) sleep in tents with people they’ve never met before.

Before I try to give as brief an overview as is fair for a weekend of such importance, I want to get my only small gripe out of the way. But I think its something that needs addressing. The demographics.

Of the 22 (I think) speakers, only 2 were female. And of the 80 or so delegates, I’m fairly certain all but 1 or 2 were white and middle class (although the male/female mix was fairly equal). It’s not necessarily a criticism, as I understand that many “captains of industry”, and explorers/Doers/achievers tend to be male (and that’s a much wider social issue), so there’s a much smaller pool of women speakers to draw on. And the subject matters will certainly appeal more to those in the white middle-classes, I suppose. But it’s something that struck me almost as soon as I arrived, and maybe there’s something that can be done about it. But, it was a very minor thing and didn’t stop my massive enjoyment of the weekend.

After introductions on Thursday afternoon from Andy Middleton (the chair/”MC” for the weekend) and David Hieatt from principal sponsors Howies, we launched straight into the first talk from “Everest’s Dustman”, Paul Deegan. It’s difficult to sum up Paul’s talk in anything other than the word “passion”. He’s a man who led an expedition to clean up Everest’s basecamp while he was still a teenager and talked about overcoming the barriers to following your passions. He was an ideal first speaker and, as noted above, is the reason I now have aching arms and shoulders.

Paul was followed by Duke Stump. With a name like that, it wasn’t difficult to guess which country he hailed from! As with all the speakers that weekend, it’s so difficult to sum up the content in just a few sentences. He spoke of the world of abundance in doing the right thing, and doing it well. He taught us about “bonfire brands”. Those brands that people are drawn to for warmth, and around which they have conversations. I learned about “the girl effect“, and was staggered to hear that if the US national grid was just 5% more efficient it would be the equivalent of taking 53 million cars off the road. I have pages of notes from Duke’s talk. I’ll post the video link to it as soon as it’s available on the Do Lectures site. It’s one to watch if you run a company, or are responsible for its brand. I also have a video of Duke singing sea shanties at 3.00am on Sunday morning, but that’s another story… 😉

After those two brilliant talks I’d already learned so much and felt so inspired. And there were three whole days to come….