When I told people I was going to a conference in West Wales, people looked at me like I was mad.
"Do Lectures? Where? Why?"
And my gain. I first heard about Do from my friend Ross, who went to the Do Lectures in Wales a couple years ago. And when I was accepted to attend this year, I was excited, but also nervous. Would it be what I thought it was?
The spirit of Do is hard to explain but easy to love, once you’ve experienced it. It’s a small and intimate event that’s not quite a conference, not quite a festival, not quite anything we’re used to. You’ve probably never heard of the speakers. You’ve probably never been asked to hand-write answers and draw a self-portrait to apply just to attend. You’ve probably never camped in a tent at a conference. You’ve probably never taken a workshop on rabbit skinning.
But you’ve probably never had so many great, meaningful, fulfilling conversations with interesting, talented, accomplished people. You’ve probably never had food, coffee and wine as good, each with a story behind where it came from, how it was prepared, why it’s there. You’ve probably never experienced lectures so personal, so heart-wrenching, so stimulating to the soul.
Do is about conversations, and everything about Do encourages interaction and conversation among everyone there, speakers, attendees, organizers, staff, volunteers. Everyone is there for a reason, and everyone has a story.
David Hieatt, who cofounded the event with his wife Claire, describes how they find speakers:
"Our job is to discover those people who are doing interesting, amazing things, people we don’t know about yet."
When you look at the speaker list, the names don’t jump out. But when you’re there, listening to people, the stories do. The lectures aren’t the most polished and professional, and they aren’t the most intellectual or focused. But they are real. Heartfelt. Amazingly intimate and open. Sharing their stories, how they came to find what they do and why they do it. And worth every ounce of your attention. 1
But Do is more than the talks, it’s the entire experience. Waking up in a tent, taking a cold shower before heading over to the event. Drinking great coffee and tea and talking to everyone during the breaks. Talking about big and small ideas and how to make them. Eating great food over long tables in a stone barn. Taking workshops about subjects you know nothing about. Saying yes when Anthony asks you if you want to go find a wild swimming hole. Learning about coffee and flat whites from Tim. Drinking and talking into the night around the campfire. Talking to David, Andy, Mark, about why they started Do, and about how it’s spread to Australia and California (so far). Going to bed happy, full, stimulated, and exhausted.
Why did I go? I wanted something to experience something different. I wanted to spend some time among the sort of people that wanted to go to Do. I wanted to see and experience this castle in the sky that I had created in my mind.
Accomplished. And looking forward to returning.