Shambala Festival 2016 Talk

Heatwaves, thunderstorms, sustainable talks, insect dinners, dancing and acrobats summed up our August bank holiday at Shambala Festival! Our cofounder Richard, presented at what is the most sustainable and eco-minded festival in the UK. ‘Adventures in Utopia’ was the theme of this year’s festival showcasing music from around the globe, workshops in art, dance, permaculture, music and poetry, talks on everything from racism to Brexit to the migrant crisis and of course some delicious culinary tastes – strictly vegetarian and vegan. The Dandy Lion Cafe served up substantial breakfast wraps containing vegetarian sausages, beans and eggs and The Thali Cafe produced moreish spicy samosas and fragrant paneer curries. There was enough variety to sample a different cuisine for every meal of the four days.

The only exception at the solely vegetarian festival was the Mophagy Insect Bar which provided us with a dinner of crunchy ‘sky prawns’ and ‘land guostines’ ie: bugs and crickets the night before the talk! This of course was to fit in with the festival’s sustainable ethos and a testament to the amount of meat we consume. It is 20 times more efficient to raise insects than beef, insects produce fewer greenhouse gases than livestock, they provide more protein than meat and of course the economic sense stacks up too. Although the insects went down really well in the form of chilli and pad thai with adults and small children alike, I envisage we still have a a long way to go to convince mainstream UK to use insects in our cooking although the powdered form may work.

There was just time to catch a glimpse of the headliner Sister Sledge – but just a glimpse as Richard needed to be fresh faced and bushy tailed for his talk the next morning at the beautiful Garden O’Feeden! This brand new venue at the festival held talks and debates from foodie experts and exciting new sustainable food businesses (including us! ?)

The following morning brought blazing sun and blue skies and Richard gave a fascinating talk not just on the farm but elaborated on the future of food as a whole. He transported the audience into a world of exciting new technology which can be used to deal with an ever increasing population, food shortages as well as addressing the important issue of food waste. It was great to see that much of the audience were already familiar with the work of Growing Underground which gave way to an engrossing Q&A session afterwards. Just in time too, as a pretty epic thunderstorm erupted for the next two hours turning the site into a mudslide for the Saturday night! It did not however dampen anyone’s spirits everyone was out in full force dressed as fabulous unicorns and other mythical creatures.

Other fantastic talks included Sutton Community Farm who accosted a lucky audience member with the challenge of eating some of their rather unusual shaped and sized veg! Mamaby gave an insight into their healthy samosas which finance women in Indian slums. Whilst food waste writer Tristram Stuart explored food waste and the biological and spiritual motivations behind sharing food. An example of this was the eating altruism of bonobo apes and their communal behaviour of sharing food (yes, amongst other things!)

The Ugly Fruit Float illustrated the amount of perfectly good fruit and veg we waste in this country. They filled tables with blenders and mountains of free ‘ugly’ fruit where anyone could rock up and make a smoothie for themselves. In fact there were many interactive events like this which encouraged adults and children alike to have fun, explore sustainably and make new friends.

Not sustainably related but important for our world all the same, was a fantastic talk from Adam Elliot-Cooper who traced the legacies of the British Empire to the world’s racial inequalities today. In fact it was refreshing to hear all of the young speakers and poets and their passionate insights into matters that affect our society and the wellbeing of humankind.

The last day of the festival kicked off with a non religious Sunday Assembly of recitals and interactive singing and dancing. Packed with the feel good factor the session made you seriously question why we don’t randomly sing and dance more – just for the sake of it! The festival finally ended on a literal high as acrobats performed gravity defying stunts suspended above the Shambala fields and lake to spectacular fireworks. Shambala was a fantastic few days and very different from the other festivals due to its utopian and sustainable emphasis. Everyone was friendly with a smile on their face. There was a collective vision giving hope that a more sustainable world that benefits everyone is very much achievable.