All images by Leonora Oppenheim. Richard King speaking at the Do Lectures 2011
Over the past few weeks we've been sharing the amazing ideas and themes that emerged from the Do Lectures 2011. This year's inspiring talks are now being launched online in batches (11 so far). The Do Lectures is able to remain an independent event through ticket sales and, thanks to all the attendees, the rest of the world can watch the talks online for free. Today, in this last post in our Do Lectures 2011 series, we're going to look at our final theme - why independence is so important.
Listening in the Do Lectures tent
The themes so far
So for a quick refresh.. so far we have talked about 5 Lessons on How to Love Life & Improve the World Around You AKA Things Are Not Just The Way They Are, What Can You Uniquely Do, Start Where You Live and The People's Take Over.
Operating outside of the centre
All of these themes are tied together by the underlying idea of independence. Thinking for yourself, asking difficult questions, looking inside yourself for your own unique qualities, forging new paths, building new communities, stepping outside of the status quo. Or as David and Alison Lea-Wilson from the Anglesey sea salt company, Halen Môn, so aptly put it: operating outside of the centre. That is to say, being literally "eccentric".
Celebrating being "on the edge of things" is important to David and Alison, not only because they are situated on the edge of Wales and make a business from the sea outside their front door, but also because as a small independent company they are nimble, full of character and able to do things in their own way.
Alison and David Lea-Wilson at the Do Lectures 2011
Genre is a terrible thing
The theme of independence at this year's Do Lectures was firmly set in place by Richard King of Domino Records who tackled the real meaning of "indie". King's diatribe against the current use of this word, and the way is has been appropriated by mainstream culture as a style category, reminded us that indie music is more than a style or genre, it's an attitude, it's a way of life, it's a moral code, even.
Indie back in the day meant independent and there have been many "eccentric" musicians, operating outside of the centre, who took that meaning very seriously. "Genre is a terrible thing, that only shareholders need," says King, who is exasperated by the iTunes music supermarket where every artist is pigeon holed into a category.
Chido Govera planting seeds at the Do Lectures 2011
Breaking down barriers and climbing out of restricted spaces in order to gain independence was a refrain across the talks whether it was Chido Govera who learned how to grown mushrooms from organic waste to survive life as an orphan in Zimbabwe, or young surf photographer Mickey Smith escaping into nature and living his life on the flip of a coin, or Rob Penn who extolled the many virtues of travelling by bicycle - a mode of transport that Robert Smith called the "freedom machine."
Rob Penn's fully customised freedom machine
Freedom from institutionalised systems was also an important thread that wove various talks together. Glen Peters has created an independent source of energy with his solar farm at Rhosygilwen. Michael Kelly of the Grow it Yourself movement and Arthur Dawson Potts of The People's Supermarket are providing alternatives to supermarkets. Mohammad-Al-Ubaydil has allowed patients independent access to their own medical records with Patient Knows Best. Perry Chen helps creatives realise their projects independently through Kickstarter's crowd-sourced funding platform and Zach Smith has brought hi-tech making into people's home with his 3D printing Makerbots.
Colin Tudge speaking at the Do Lectures 2011
Productivity, sustainability and resilience
All these innovations allow freedom of movement and less dependence on the outdated and failing centralised power structures. This in turn increases people's resilience and creative output, positively impacting health and happiness while decreasing wasteful use of resources. As the biologist and Real Farming campaigner Colin Tudge explained in his talk, this is what nature does, "The biological question is one of productivity, sustainability and resilience. All we have to do is emulate nature. If we can plug the economy into the biology, then, as it were, we're cooking on gas."
However, this is hard to do within the current system, says Tudge. What we need to feed the world, he argues, are independent "small mixed quasi organic farms", but this is "precisely the opposite of what the powers that be want us to do." Current agriculture is really just industrial chemistry on a huge scale, maximising productivity for immediate short terms gains.
Doodle from Tom Fishburne's Doodling workshop at the Do Lectures
Organic polyculture of ideas creates change
Fortunately the Do Lectures exist to help us do, in Tudge's words, "What is right, what is possible and what is necessary." If diversity is the key to resilience in nature it bodes well for this eclectic collection of talks. Through spreading their organic polyculture of ideas all over the world the Do Lectures are cultivating independent thinkers and doers to create radical positive change.
More on The Do Lectures
Do Lectures 2011 - The People's Take Over
Do Lectures 2011 - Start Where You Live
Do Lectures 2011 - What Can You Uniquely Do?
Do Lectures 2011 - 5 Lessons on How to Love Life & Improve the World Around You
Not a Dry Eye In The House - Maggie Doyne Tells Her Incredible Story At The Do Lectures 2010
The Do Lectures 2009 - Bonfire Brands
The Do Lectures 2009 - The Axeness of an Axe
The Do Lectures 2009 - Take The First Step
The Do Lectures 2009 - Turn Off Your TV
The Do Lectures 2009 - Big Hairy Audacious Goals