The idea of the Kindling stage at Wood Festival is straightforwards. I recruit speakers who are passionate about thinking and action and give them 30 minutes and an audience. The fires of revolution will not take without a little kindling …
And this year, well, it was the ‘Year of the Hedgehog’ at the festival. The amazing Nick Cope had been coerced into writing a hedgehog song – one that happened to feature a hedgehog called Hugh. I even got invited onto stage with him when he performed it, so I could talk a little to the audience about hedgehogs … and when I asked them what hedgehogs did when frightened, well, this is what they did!
Hedgehogs featured everywhere, on the programme, in the craft tent and clearly in my tent. Despite my latest book only just having been published I used the opening slot of the 16 to talk about hedgehogs.
Blessed by the clouds opening, I got a great crowd. Thanks Zoe for photo.
I am not going to go through all the speakers, who were all fantastic – here is an indication of what you missed (if you indeed did miss)
Here are a few highlights …
Steve Larkin is part comedian, part musician, part poet and he brought all three bits of himself along to the tent. He videoed himself and I hope that sometime soon there maybe a recording …
Helen Baczkowska talked on the subject of England’s common land – it was utterly fascinating, intelligent and accessible. It was one of the talks I would have been happy to let over run (but I am a ruthless host).
I was also ruthless this year in kicking out regulars (sorry!) but really it was great to get in so many new faces and voices. One of the only repeats was Lucie Mayer – who has been coming every year to talk about her dream of creating a City Farm for Oxford. And each year there has been a story of massive obstacles, slight progress, irritating bureaucracy and dedication. This year was different. They have signed a 40 year lease on hand not a frisbee throw from my front door.
Kate Sudweeks I know firstly through dancing but more recently as a writer. She was working with a group of girls that included my daughter – a sort of coming of age group – and gave her a copy of the book she had written. Mati loved it, so I recommended it to an agent, who has since gathered Kate under her wings and I hope for great things … So Kate brought writing to the tent and offered it up less as a way of communicating (what I try to do) but as a form of healing. It was impressive.
I have known Helen Edwards for years – when I photographed her dancing with a Butoh troupe I thought I had found her ‘edge’. But no, she is always pushing and this year, in January, she did a ‘Dip a Day’ raising money for homeless charities in Oxford. Swimming in rivers or the sea, ever day, takes some dedication.
Literary agent Jemima Hunt came and talked about how to sell a book – this could have gone on for ages too as she generously gave of her time and roped in my agent – James Macdonald Lockhart too. He was there with his wife, Nichola Deane and the musician Ben Avison to capture the wilds in music, poetry and prose. Clover Stroud talked movingly about her wild love and her new book, The Wild Other. The heart and other wonders featured in Caspar Henderson‘s introduction to his new book. And Kindling Housing Cooperative came and talked about the challenges and successes of setting up an alternative to the daunting conventional housing situation.
Tom Moorhouse manages to juggle being serious ecologist at University of Oxford and a highly successful author of children’s books about animals. So did I get him hear to talk about the minimum viable population analysis he did for us on hedgehogs? Or about water voles, rats and toads?
And last, Sasha Norris, who came equipped with hedgehog, owl and rats, that entranced and entertained while she educated.
Wood was awesome – wonderful people in a great setting – thanks to all who made it possible.