The Do Lectures. Done! (pt.4)

The first lecture of the last day was postponed half an hour. Because everyone was still in bed. At 3am the night before everyone had gone straight from the teepee where Katy Carr and Bass Clef performed so brilliantly, and walked the 30 or so metres to “the pub” (a tiny renovated cottage of sorts where they stocked loads of that gorgeous Pen Lon beer. And then Katy had brought out her ukelele and started singing sea shanties. It all gets a bit blurry from there on in…

Katy Carr performing in the teepee before Bass Clef tore it up with his sample-tastic dubstep.

Katy leading a sea shanty singalong at about 3am in “the pub”, with Duke Stump on my right, providing backing vocals….

When everyone did blearily emerge from under their canvas we were treated to a lively and funny talk from “El Gigante”, Ben Hammersley. Ben’s one of those blokes that seems to have done everything. He’s a war correspondent (great photos from Afghanistan), a consultant to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, editor-at-large of Wired UK, ultra-runner and a very nice guy too. And it’s difficult to hate him because he’s a lot bigger than everyone else in the room. Ben’s talk was about numbers and stats. But in a good way. He talked of making sure you’re measuring the right numbers when assessing the success of something and how, when put on a wall, numbers will always go up. <note to self – need a big wall graph of Dizzyjam sales>. I quizzed him afterwards on why Wired had decided to launch a UK magazine when publishing was in such a spiralling nose-dive at the moment. He believes it will work because it’s concentrating purely on being a magazine and nothing else. In other words, concentrate on the “it-ness” of whatever it is that you do, and do it to the best of your ability. But I’ve still yet to find out why he had an egg in his pocket…

Caroline and Helen
Caroline and Helen

Alice Taylor from Channel 4 plays games. Lots and lots of games. She’s an uber gamegeek. But if anyone ever understands the corellation between games and education then it’s her. After a flash of neurochemical-biology (succeeding in tasks makes our brains reward us with dopamine) we were treated to advance previews of some of the brilliant educational games she’s working on for Channel 4. Excellent stuff!

Adam Lowry from from Method cleaning products took on the big boys with his environmentally friendly products. And before long they were copying him. One thing that everyone seemed to be in agreement with was that so many “eco” products had failed because they required to make a sacrifice. In other words, they were a bit rubbish at doing their job in comparison to the competition. Method aims to be the best, regardless of whether their products are “green” or not. I also love their attitude to resourcefulness (“because the little guy has to be more resourceful”), and their unofficial mantra – “What Would Macgyver Do?”

Andrew and Marcin
Andrew and Marcin

The last talk was delivered by Alastair Humphreys, a brilliantly energetic explorer who’d driven overnight after delivering a best-man speech to talk to us. He once cycled round the world – it took him 4 years. I hope he told his mum where he was going. He loves testing his own limits and says that “if you fail, at least you know what your limits are”. I loved his zest and energy for life, and the challenges and “micro-adventures” he sets himself (“find a daily dose of self-discipline”). He spoke of the joys of cold showers (erm….right…!) and that if you go to bed 10 minutes late and get up 10 minutes early every day, you earn yourself a whole extra 5 days a year, and a whole year over the course of your life.

I’ll leave the final word of the lectures that year to him:

“Set your goal. Then begin it”.

The thing that struck me most about the Do Lectures is that despite there being 20+ utterly brilliant and inspiring lectures over the course of 4 days, some of the best and most inspiring conversations were happening over the dinner table. Everyone there believed in doing something, and when you get 100 people like that together in a beautiful setting, things are bound to happen. The lectures themselves just acted as a catalyst.

Before dinner we had an hilarious axe auction, all donated by Gabriel, of course. Obviously everyone wanted an axe after his talk. They’re such beautifully crafted things. I live in a first floor flat near the centre of Cardiff, and I was desperately thinking of reasons to justify buying one! I was soon out of the bidding though, as prices went sky-high (all proceeds going to the Do Lectures), and impromptu auctioneer Oli Barrett kept the crowd laughing and cheering. He’s the one with the big cheesy grin in the pic below 😉 Then I finally got round to having a bushcraft lesson (or “getting my Mears on” as I preferred to call it) and attempted to make fire with Nick (MD of those delicious Teapigs teas). Despite a solid hour of what amounted to rubbing twigs together, and again dripping in sweat, it was not to be and we left the woods aching, sweaty and with our manhood very much under question. We took solace in the fact that nobody else had managed over the course of the weekend either.

From the top: Helen, me, Nick, Oli, Nigel, Mark & Simon
From the top: Helen, me, Nick, Oli, Nigel, Mark & Simon

I left camp later that night to drive back through the wind and rain to Cardiff, leaving a lot of people loving the folk band who were playing in the canteen, knowing I would definitely be back next year. I could actually hear them as I walked down the long country road towards where my car was parked. And, at the risk of sounding pretentious again, I felt like there was an incredible energy coming from Fforest. A hub of inspiring people who want to go out and “Do”. People who want to change the world, all gathered for one brief glimmer of time in a magical setting. I just pray that we can take all that back to the real world….

A few videos I made at The Do Lectures

The veranda at night
The veranda at night

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