Groundswell Gallery for September 8, 2019

So Sunday’s program at Groundswell began as every Sunday should: with a foraging walk. A large group met Diego Bonetto at 8am at The Living Classroom and spent a beautiful hour with him identifying edible and useful species around the place.

Back at the marquee the missing coffee cart preoccupied a few minds, but we needn’t have worried as the first session on ‘The art and science of adaptation’ was an absolute firecracker. Charles Massy, Rachel Lawrence, Ian Milliss and Ananth Gopal(pictured below with MC Adam Blakester) stirred up a bunch of ideas on how change happens… and what prevents change. The session flowed from compelling assertions about what needs to change if we are to address the climate crisis to reminders of how awkward and painful change really is in our private lives. You know it’s been a healthy discussion when you feel both motivated and rattled!

After this we heard from the formidable duo Sarah Burrows and Anita Taylor from Red 8 Produce. They took us through the ethos and strategy behind their mobile abattoir start-up. It was a magnificent illustration of rural innovation anchored to the health and wellbeing of the land, animals and people, and the fortitude required to cross the countless legal, safety and investment hurdles they face. The irrepressible Lee Fieldhouse (fully trained carpenter), with wife Kirsty and daughter Coralie in the wings, then shared their infectious love for the earthworm and the microbe. We got the lowdown on how their company Island Biologicals cultivates enormous quantities of worm poo, and saw some wonderful microscopy images and video that revealed the microbial activity at work in even the most parched and degraded soils. There is always biology waiting to be activated, which is precisely what this phenomenal poo can do. Kirsty’s instagram posts at @islandbiologicals contain abundant interesting info, be sure to give them a follow. 

After lunch ‘I’m walking on sunshine’ brought together participants from three of the projects from ‘An artist, a farmer and a scientist walk into a bar…’ As chair, Lucas Ihlein didn’t get to talk much about his carbon-focused project with inventor Allan Yeomans, but took on the important task of unpacking what it means to work across and between the disciplines of science, art and agriculture. All the participants on this panel brought their own experience of this journey to the table.

Lucas, Mark, Hayden, Erika/Juniper, Bjorn and Georgie

Lucas, Mark, Hayden, Erika/Juniper, Bjorn and Georgie

Mark Swartz solar leaf.jpg

Mark Swartz (artist) had brought an intriguing object along: a large welded steel leaf adorned with a solar panel. He, Bjorn Sturmberg (solar scientist), Erika Watson and Hayden Druce (farmers, Epicurean Harvest, with baby Juniper there for the occasion) talked about their collaboration, which will one day culminate in a solar canopy as a ‘storey’ within a food forest in their market garden, shading plants while harvesting energy for electricity. Georgie Pollard went atomic as only an artist can, describing the magical, seemingly impossible process of producing biochar through pyrolysis, whereby the carbon atoms created in an upside-down fire don’t connect with the oxygen atoms and thus don’t create Co2.

Then came the final session, steered by Southern New England Landcare powerhouse Sara Schmude, with the support of MC Adam Blakester and expert land steward Jill Moore-Kashima. Inspired by the firecracker adaptation discussion, they threw us in the deep end with these questions:


There was an eruption of earnest conversation with strong voices emerging from the audience who hadn’t been part of the formal program. Finally, Garry McDouall offered a heartfelt reflection on the value of the collaboration between The Living Classroom, Bingara’s Vision 2020 team and KSCA, thanking the participants. He then returned to the world of art and imagination via an old recording of Laurence Olivier’s rendition of the poem ‘Time’, from the musical of 1986. 

After that we all milled and slowly dispersed, with a wonderful group of folks staying to help tidy up and pack down, so that the Living Classroom could be available to host an education group on the Monday morning.

I, Laura, wish to thank all the artists, collaborators, speakers, and Rick and Garry for making the BIG commitment of time and energy that the Groundswell/Pulse weekend required of all of us. They were of course so busy running things that they are sadly not part of this collection of photos! Vicki, Justin and Alex for video and photography, thankyou. Leanne and Amelie, for delivering fantastic workshops, and Jen and friends for bringing the Community Weathering Station. THEN, there are the incredible people who arrived out of thin air to assist, including Lizobel who washed, cleaned, carried more than anyone, Isaac who volunteered time to video and Tim who was on deck for any random task. There are also many members of the local community, like the superhuman Megs, Tony, Chrissy, John and Karen, Lee, Susan, the SES crew and others whose names I do not know who worked so hard to put on the inaugural Pulse of the Earth Festival: this was a huge adventurous undertaking for a small community. Let’s do it all again sometime!