Our first Festival March 2021

The inaugural festival got under way on 12 and 13 March. The fact that the pandemic forced it to take place online did in no way diminish the enthusiasm of our contributors and the warm response from our Zoom webinar audience. With audience attendance peaking at over 100 for a sessions it was a great tribute to the quality of our speakers.

The Festival started with an introduction form the Dean of St Davids Cathedral, a true supporter who not only gave the weekend her blessing, but also appeared to lend the benefit of her experience in discussing mental health and also spirituality and wellbeing. 

The Festival strove to achieve a balance between the local and the global. Sue Denman and Mollie Roach explained the work and aspirations of Solva Care. Mollie took us from the inception of the organisation to its current work. Solva Care has attracted attention from around the UK for developing a model of care that is the envy of other communities. Sue has helped Solva Care build on the early work that Mollie achieved, winning funding and employing people to help in its work. 

The closing session on Friday evening was a stimulating and provocative session featuring Paul Mason, the former Newsnight economics journalist and Martin Shipton, editor of the Western Mail. Paul, an unapologetic Marxist, was frank about the failure of some so-called socialist models, but his enthusiasm for a more egalitarian society came through undiminished. Far reaching ideas indeed.

Saturday morning got us off to a brisk intellectual start with John Osmond, one of our founders, engaging with Gareth Wyn Jones over his book, Seven Revolutions and the Challenge of Climate Change. This proved an excellent session to follow that of Paul Mason’s the night before. Gareth’s analysis of climate change was detailed but accessible.

With Dr Sarah Beynon, we once again returned to St Davids where her work with insects on her farm and research centre, is breaking new ground. It is time to rethink our farming model, the intensive approach driven by hard economics, is bad for our economy, agriculture and health.

Sarah is a farmer and researcher who believes the role of insects is undervalued, time for a more balanced approach with insects playing a greater role, even as food. 

The mental health issues faced by members of our rural communities was discussed by a panel that featured Eluned Morgan, Minister at the Senedd, the actor Jerome Flynn and Teddy a young person who has faced mental health challenges. This session was chaired the Dean, who drew out from the panelist the pressing need for this often-ignored issue to be openly discussed and addressed.

Our festival went truly global with our next session featuring a panel that included Michelle Holliday, joining the discussion from Montreal and Hunter Lovins taking the digital highroad from Colorado. St Davids social entrepreneur Andy Middleton, a prime mover behind the DO lectures, led the discussion. These were experienced environmentalists (Hunter Lovins has addressed world leaders) who lit up the Saturday afternoon with sharp insights and inspiration examples of what can be achieved.

We returned to mental health with a session that included the Welsh poet Mererid Hopwood and Dean Sarah Rowland-Jones. Amanda Stone guided a timely discussion on the spiritual side of mental health and how poetry and religion can invigorate.

Having discussed the future of the world, it was appropriate to address the future of the United Kingdom. Our chosen politicians, Adam Price, to whom we are grateful for the initial idea for this festival, was joined by Alun Davies and David Melding. The session was chaired by Sir Simon Jenkins and it is a great tribute to his tact and chairing that the discussion generated was reasonable and reasoned. Why cannot the debates of parliament and the Senedd be conducted in such a reasonable way? The St Davids Festival of Ideas shows the way!

To conclude the Festival, we were led on a psychogeographical ramble by the poet Peter Finch in conversation with John Osmond. What is it? What is this way of writing? Peter talked of the irrational random way of gleaning information and entertainment from pointless rambling and wandering. 

Eluned Morgan brought the first festival to a close. We are inspired to do it all again next year. It will be better, more diverse, more radical and more practical — what can we actually do to make a difference. The local becomes global, the small steps lead to big changes. Join us again in 2022.

Some of the feedback from our speakers

“That was a huge success. Llongyfarchiadau.  I look forward to next years offering!” Eluned Morgan

“I managed to listen to the session with Paul Mason. Excellent in my view.” Gareth Wyn Jones

“I enjoyed it and yes they were almost too well-behaved.” Sir Simon Jenkins

“It truly was my pleasure.”  Hunter Lovins

“I greatly enjoyed Paul Mason’s event, which followed on naturally from my enjoyment of Paul’s book. He’s a remarkable and engaging polemicist.” Martin Shipton

“I very much enjoyed the political exchange -it is good to hear the issues they covered dealt with seriously and as though they mattered.”  Mollie Roach

Read about the history of the Festival here