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The Good Life Experience


06 Jun, 2018



From adventurers to farmers to journalists to wellbeing experts and more, our speaking line-up is filled with inspiring talks. Here are some of the people who will be speaking at The Good Life Experience in September, and stay tuned as there is lots more to be announced.

In 1993, Dave Lory joined the team working with an exciting new singer named Jeff Buckley, just as he released his first EP. Lory got to know his new artist by joining him on a solo tour of the West Coast. It was the start of a tight working relationship and deep friendship that was rudely cut short in 1997 when Jeff walked into the Wolf River in Memphis for a late evening swim and never came out.

'From Hallelujah to The Last Goodbye' covers key scenes in Buckley’s short but explosive career, the first solo tour, the first visits abroad, the making of his brilliant sole album, the wrangles with his record company, troubles with his band on the road and the struggle to make a follow up album. It climaxes with the week after his tragic swim and how Lory managed the sudden death of a friend and client. Lory and co-author Jim Irvin have interviewed many people who knew Jeff intimately -including The Good Life Experience co-founder Steve Abbott- and have never spoken about their time with Jeff since that tragic day 20 years ago. The book is out now and available here.

As well as presenting numerous hit TV programmes, Ben has rowed the Atlantic Ocean, crossed Antarctica on foot, run across the Sahara and crossed the Empty Quarter on camel. He has published a number of best-selling and Ben Fogle: New Lives in the Wild is now in its sixth series. Ben was recently appointed UN Patron of the Wilderness, and will speak about his forthcoming book about Everest at The Good Life Experience.
Photo: Nenad Obradovic

By Day, Gavin is a Senior Designer for the Interactive arm of Aardman Animations, by night he's a Designer & Director going under the alias of JamFactory, indulging in all manner of passion projects. In 2015 he co-founded the contemporary design store 'STRANGE' with his wife Jane and he wrote his first book 'Do Fly - Find your way. Make a living. Be your best self', published by The Do Book Company. With advice, encouragement and a reminder that life’s too short to not pursue your passion, whatever your age or position – from school leaver or graduate just starting out to CEO ready to head in a new direction, Do Fly will inspire you to change your perspective and revamp your mindset, to develop creative side projects, to stay optimistic and resilient and to discover skills and passions you never knew you had. 

Giles Andreae is the creator of the stickman bard, Purple Ronnie, and of the philosopher/artist, Edward Monkton. With over 100 million greetings cards and 3 million books sold between them, these iconic characters have made Giles the country’s top selling living poet. Giles is also one of the UK’s most popular children's authors, with over fifty bestselling and award-winning titles to his name, including Giraffes Can't Dance, Rumble in the Jungle, Commotion in the Ocean and recently Be Brave Little Penguin and I Love My Dinosaur. His children’s titles have sold in excess of 7 million copies worldwide.

In a period of meaningless mass manufacturing, our growing appetite for hand-made objects, artisan food, and craft beverages reveals our deep cravings for tradition and quality. But there was a time when craft meant something very different; the Old English word cræft possessed an almost indefinable sense of knowledge, wisdom, and power. In his new book, historian, archaeologist, writer and popular broadcaster Alex Langlands goes in search of the mysterious lost meaning of cræft. Through a vibrant series of mini-histories, told with his trademark energy and charm, Langlands resurrects the ancient craftspeople who fused exquisite skill with back-breaking labour-and passionately defends the renewed importance of cræft today.

Alice Holden, is one of Britain’s most pioneering female growers, has spent her life outdoors working on small and large scales – from the kitchen gardens of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage to commercial farms. Currently she is head grower at Growing Communities, an award-winning social enterprise in Hackney, who run an organic box scheme, farmers’ market and urban food production sites. Alice is author of 'DO Grow - Start with 10 simple vegetables', and we are excited to welcome to The Good Life Experience for the first time in 2018. If you have ever wanted to grow your own but think you don’t have the time, the space, or even know where to start, this talk is for you. Alice will help optimise the space and time available to you – even if it’s a window box and 10 minutes a week.

Having been in love with the wild world since childhood, James Wood spent many years developing his skills and knowledge of all things “wild” from mushroom paper to elder berry salt. James is now seen as one of the UK’s top foraging and wild food experts, he’s on a mission to share this knowledge and show people that wild food is something we can all forage, prepare and enjoy. James is the author of “The Foragers’ Cookbook” and has featured on both ITV’s Countrywise and BBC’s Countryfile, his team supplies some of the top restaurants in the UK and he has personally developed the first ever foraging qualification. 

Photographer Rob Evans and brand designer/art director Chris Roberts are the story tellers behind With Love Project. Their first road trip, seeking out makers producing things with passion and purpose culminated in a brilliant book and film 'The Backbone of Britain'. Rob and Chris hit the road again for book two, this time meeting meeting inspirational food and drink producers and tasting culinary delights. For The Love Of Food is out now.
Photo: Arran Cross

Andrew White is one of the country’s leading writers and broadcasters about walking – but don’t ask him what it’s like on the top of Ben Nevis… or Scafell Pike.  He has been to the top of Snowdon – but on the train.  Andrew’s passion is actually for shorter walks – ones which are designed to get the most people outside and discovering the Great British Countryside. As the presenter and producer of the TV series Walks Around Britain, Andrew has walked all across the British Isles, from the Channel Islands and the Isles of Scilly to the Highlands of Scotland, discovering walks with stunning views and fascinating stories – but all between 2 – 8 miles.  Always at the heart is a desire to inspire more people to go walking. He is a regular writer for magazines such as BBC Countryfile, Walk, BRITAIN, Coast, Discover Britain, RAIL and many others, as well as writing and researching the last three editions of the AA Guide to Yorkshire and several other walking guide books.

Sensitivity is messy. It is inconvenient. We think of it as a weakness, yet 20% of the population are 'highly sensitive'. If you are not highly sensitive, you definitely know someone who is. At The Good Life Experience in 2018 Hannah Jane Walker will ask if sensitivity has helped us evolve, has had a purpose historically, why only now we see it as redundant. In a time of political and social division, Hannah brings a community of people together to ask if we can use our sensitivity better, if we can change the story, if it could in fact be our greatest strength.

Hannah Jane Walker is a theatre maker and poet. She makes interdisciplinary work that engages people who feel theatre and literature are not for them. She makes work that asks big naive sounding questions. She makes work that creates real-life human encounters in a room, that connect her to the audience and the audience to one another, by weaving stories and poems and humour and emotion.

Peckham-based social activist Joshua Coombes has been patrolling London’s streets for three years, offering a free haircut to any homeless person who wants one. The 30-year-old listens as he snips, noting the names and stories of individuals routinely ignored by society, then posting their mini-biography -and 'before' and 'after' pictures- on Instagram.'That’s why I begin every post with: ‘This is Stewart… this is Martin…’ Coombes says. 'That’s the first thing: let’s give them their identity back. Then I hit rewind and tell their story.'

The Devon-raised former punk guitarist launched a social media campaign, #DoSomethingForNothing, which encourages others to do as he’s done: give over something, anything, to help people less fortunate. He’s now active in 10 countries, hair-cutting while sofa-surfing, his tonsorial trips funded by non-profits, charities, and brands. Meanwhile, others have been inspired by #DoSomethingForNothing. Jade Statt, a Hertfordshire veterinarian, has launched Street Vet UK, which cares for homeless people’s dogs; Chris Leamy, a Wall Street banker by day, has an evening gig going out and playing guitar for homeless people; and Paul Avila distributes Walkmans and headphones to the inhabitants of Skid Row in downtown LA.

Dan Kieran is co-founder and CEO of Unbound, the world's first crowdfunding publisher. Before that he was a Sunday Times Bestselling author, publishing twelve books. He was Deputy Editor of the Idler for many years and still writes occasionally for The Guardian, Times, Telegraph and Die Zeit.

Dan started Unbound with John Mitchinson and Justin Pollard back in 2011 to find a new way to publish books. Six years on and he is finally using it for a book of his own. It's called The Surfboard, and it's about a week Dan spent with James Otter in Cornwall building a seven foot surfboard even though he had never surfed in his life. Interspersed with the story of making the board Dan tells the story of what the last six years of his life have been like starting and then running a company. Dan went to Cornwall to build the board at a point in the businesses evolution when he felt he had reached the edge of what he was capable of achieving within it. He had to find a way to push beyond the preconception I had of what he could do. And find a way to do it that was consistent with his personality and values.

Kay Ribbons Steen will talk about the unique benefits practicing mindfulness in the woodlands can bring to our holistic wellbeing both to adults and children. Sharing her incredible journey, which started with a walk in our own Billbery woods, Kay will share how being mindful in the woodlands transformed her life. This will be followed by a guided walk on the Estate, where you can experience mindfulness for yourself. Kay is passionate about reconnecting  with the natural world and has led barefoot walks, delivered eco-therapy sessions, trained in social forestry, environmental conservation and now runs our popular natural play sessions, at the Hawarden Estate Farm Shop.

Elle Adams and Rupert Hutchinson founded Living Alive in 2016 to offer accessible and meaningful opportunities for people to explore a wider sense of perspective, rekindle a connection with nature and cultivate more meaning in everyday life.  They take individuals, groups and organisations off the beaten track to hike, swim and sleep out under the stars in amazing wild places; creating unique, purpose-driven experiences that are good for both people and planet.

At The Good Life Experience they will offer a series of interactive talks and workshops; thought-provoking shots of inspiration and revelation, that use simple astronomy and stargazing as a focus alongside some simple, practical tips for how to bring more awe and wonder into your daily life. As we human beings spend more and more time online, indoors and in cities, Elle and Rupert believe that taking the time to look at both life and work from this wider perspective can have a profound effect on the choices we make and be a power-for-good in the world. Following the talk they will be offering a guided ‘solarsystem walk’ on the estate; an immersive experience of the cosmic perspective that helps us grasp the scale of our place in the Universe.

It took 8 years of failure before Alex first became World Champion, but learning to adapt and make necessary decisions turned his previous years of painful disappointment around. It was these defeats that laid the foundations for Alex’s Olympic success and the ability to overcome any difficulties that he encountered on the way. Alex went on to become one of the World’s leading rowers, and one of only three men in the World to win six consecutive major Championships between 2011 and 2016. Retiring from the sport on a high with five World Championship titles and two Olympic Gold medals to his name the father of three went in pursuit of new challenges. Alex spent a month exploring some of the coldest waters in the world while on a pioneering Arctic rowing expedition in 2017. With the desire to push his boundaries and test his mental capacity in a vastly different environment to what he was used to, Alex learnt far more about himself, team dynamics and leadership than he ever expected. It was an extraordinary journey discovering little seen natural wonders, exploring a rarely visited part of the globe, battling dangerous seas, immensely cold conditions, walking the tight rope between life and death, eventually finishing the journey on a little known Volcanic Island, Jan Mayen. The expedition was a resounding success securing numerous Guinness World records and was filled with lessons and experiences that will last a lifetime.

As the father of three young children, Alex’s attentions now lie in exploring the practical, healthy opportunities young people have in modern society. Passionate about the outdoors Alex has written the book Dadventures, a guide full of fun, unusual and interesting activities for families to do outdoors that will create bonding moments and lasting memories. His experiences in sport, as a parent and during his Arctic expeditions give Alex an appreciation and understanding of what is important to him & his family. He is passionate about sharing these thoughts and ideas with others because after all, time is the resource we all want but we can’t buy so making the most of time with our children is essential.

Author Michael Townsend Williams could have filled the tent twice over at last year's festival, so we are thrilled to welcome him back in September. Adman turned yoga teacher and mindfulness coach, Michael is an advocate of ‘welldoing’ – leading a busy and productive life, but not at the expense of our health and wellbeing. And key to this? Our breath. Back in January Michael spoke to festival co-founder Charlie on his Mavericks Podcast. They talk about the way that Michael trains people to be more productive and happier by slowing down and focusing on themselves. On this journey Michael has written the best-selling book Do: Breathe and launched an App. 

Our best friends, gal-pals, bromances, Twitter followers, Facebook friends, long distance buddies and WhatsApp threads define us in ways we rarely openly acknowledge. There is so much about friendship we either don’t know or don’t articulate: why do some friendships last a lifetime, while others are only temporary? How do you ‘break up’ with a toxic friend? Can men and women really be platonic? And maybe the most important question: how can we live in the most interconnected age and still find ourselves stuck in the greatest loneliness epidemic of our time? It’s killing us, making us miserable and causing a public health crisis – to such an overwhelming degree that the government has, just this year, created a post for a Minister to deal with the problem. What if meaningful friendships are the solution, not a distraction? In The Friendship Cure, journalist Kate Leaver’s much anticipated manifesto argues that friendship can cure the modern malaise of solitude, ignorance, ill health and angst. She looks at what friendship means, how it can survive, why we need it and what we can do to get the most from it. From behavioural scientists to best mates, Leaver finds extraordinary stories and research, drawing on her own experiences to create a fascinating blend of accessible ‘smart thinking’, investigative journalism, pop culture and memoir. Kate's book is hot off the press here, and do not miss her talk at The Good Life Experience in September.

RUTH PAVEY |  After years spent living amid the thrum of London, journalist and author Ruth Pavey’s longing to reconnect with the British countryside finally got the better of her, and she struck out to realise her dream. Travelling to the West Country in the late 1990s, Pavey found herself travelling through the Somerset Levels. On seeing this expanse of reclaimed land under its wide, soft skies she was struck by its atmospheric beauty and decided to realise her longheld desire to plant a wood, tree by tree. She bought four acres, and set about turning them into a sanctuary where woodland plants and creatures could flourish – an emblem of enduring life in a changeable world. A Wood of One’s Own (one of The Sunday Times' Books of the Year for 2017) is charming the story of how she grew to understand and then transform this derelict land into an enduring legacy – a verdant paradise rich with fauna and flora. Interwoven with Pavey’s candid and self-deprecating descriptions of the practical challenges she faced are forays into the Levels’ local history and culture, and generous and thoughtful portraits of its inhabitants both past and present. Accompanied throughout by Ruth’s evocative hand-drawn illustrations, A Wood of One’s Own is a lyrical, beguiling and inspiring story; a potent reminder of nature’s delicate balance, and its comforting and abiding presence. 

PETER FIENNES | Peter Fiennes is a writer, journalist and the author of To War with God, a moving account of his grandfather’s service in the First World War. As the publisher for Time Out, he published their city guides as well as numerous books about Britain’s countryside and seaside. Peter's latest book is Oak and Ash and Thorn The Ancient Woods and New Forests of Britain. The magic and mystery of the woods are embedded in culture, from ancient folklore to modern literature. They offer us refuge: a place to play, a place to think. They are the generous providers of timber and energy. They let us dream of other ways of living. Yet we now face a future where taking a walk in the woods is consigned to the tales we tell our children. Immersing himself in the beauty of woodland Britain, Peter Fiennes explores our long relationship with the woods and the sad and violent story of how so many have been lost. Just as we need them, our woods need us too. But who, if anyone, is looking out for them? 

Hodmedod was founded in 2012 by Nick Saltmarsh, Josiah Meldrum and William Hudson after they realised the absurdity of the British relationship with pulses: most of the UK’s beans are exported to the Middle East and Northern Africa, while most of the pulses consumed within the UK are imported from abroad. They decided to do something about this, and started working with local producers of fava beans, a bean which has been grown in Britain since the Iron Age but little eaten here in recent centuries. After successfully bringing British-grown Fava beans to the market, with a highly favourable response from individuals, retailers and caterers, they started to explore other British varieties of beans and peas, as well as cereals and other grains, such as naked barley and quinoa.

Hodmedod works with a network of farmers to source and sell both organic and conventionally farmed peas, beans and British quinoa online and through independent retailers and farm shops. We are excited to welcome Hodmedod co-founders, Josiah Meldrum and Nick Saltmarsh to The Good Life Experience to speak about 'Sowing the Seeds for Better Farming and Food.'.

|Jim Parkyn has been working in stop motion animation since 1998 and with Aardman Animations since 2000. He has recently started his own small studio Fluff and Nonsense and if that isn’t enough, is the creator of ‘The Amazing Scene Machine’ an animated event experience that captures the magic of your event in clay and animation. He has long been involved in Feature Films, short films, commercials and series including Chicken Run, Wallace and Gromit and the Curse of the WereRabbit, Pirates in an Adventure with Scientists, Shaun the movie, Creature Comforts and Shaun The Sheep series among many others. Jim is also an Aardman Ambassador, running workshops in model making and animation and team building events at many schools and venues internationally.

The Amazing Scene Machine is a Good Life Experience highlight for all ages, and this year Jim will give a talk on 'Finding the Play in Clay; How I have rediscovered my passion for plasticine.'

Award winning singer, songwriter and musician Louise Jordan joins us at The Good Life Experience in September to tell the stories -through song- of inspirational women who challenged expectations in World War II. From the woman who dressed as a soldier on the Western Front to the women football players banned by the FA, the ambulance drivers running the gauntlet of enemy fire in Flanders and the so-called ‘surplus million’ single women. Inspirational women, working in a time of conflict, leaving a legacy. These are remarkable stories, meticulously researched and told compellingly through song. 

Mark has over 20 years of experience in environmental consultancy, eco design and the circular economy. He has worked with some of the world’s largest and smallest businesses to help them redesign their products to do more with less, reduce waste, design for recoverability and recyclability, design for leasing and design for refurbishment. In total he has advised over 1000 companies, helping them to save a collective £100 million. Mark regularly appears on TV, radio and presents at conferences. He is a founding partner of the Do Lectures, a Design Council Design Associate, a WRAP technical advisor and a MAS technical advisor. He is also author of the book “Do Disrupt: Change the status quo or become it”. It's a book about disruption. About doing things differently. About having ideas that will change the world. That will at least change your world. It’s also about delivering those ideas.

Alice Guy is a mum of two living in Sussex, and heading up a video games dev studio. She is also a passionate plastic-free advocate. In January 2017 Alice and her family transformed the way their household lived and shopped, and have not looked back! They've changed their habits, and have learned so much. It’s been a brilliant challenge, and there have been some great take-outs for family life. During 2018 Alice is keen to do more to help spread the message, and offer practical tips and advice about making the move to plastic-free living. 

James Greenwood is a veterinary surgeon based in Bristol. Outside of his work life, he has a passion for ceramics and  was invited to take part as a contestant on the first series of the hugely popular 'The Great Pottery Throw Down' on BBC2.  Since then, James has continued to develop a media profile writing for online platforms, delivering talks and working with various charities.  With his passion for animal welfare, veterinary science and an absolute love for dogs - James is currently appearing on the hit new childrens television series 'The Pets Factor', airing on CBBC.  James will be returning to the Good Life Experience for the third year in a row, alongside his one eyed labrador called Oliver.

The Willy Wonka of West Wales, 24-year-old entrepreneur Liam Burgess left school and set up his own chocolate company aged 18. His achievements over the past 5 years are on a scale that few young entrepreneurs could dream of, but his sights are set firmly on the road ahead as he continues to grow his chocolate company at an exponential rate. Liam grew up in the Welsh village of Llanboidy in Carmarthenshire, an area where the dairy industry has struggled but has undeniably left its mark. It’s been Liam’s mission to get all the sons and daughters of past dairy farmers to remain on farm by creating a company that works with local growers to produce quality products in the heart of the countryside.  

Sixty-six million years ago the dinosaurs were wiped from the face of the earth. Today, Dr. Steve Brusatte, one of the leading scientists of a new generation of dinosaur hunters, armed with cutting edge technology, is piecing together the complete story of how the dinosaurs ruled the earth for 150 million years. The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs is a hugely ambitious and engrossing story of how dinosaurs rose to dominate the planet, written by one of the world's leading palaeontologists. Using fossil clues that have been with state-of-the-art technology, Steve Brusatte traces these magnificent creatures from the Triassic period at the start of their evolution, through the Jurassic period, to their final catastrophic days in the Cretaceous and the legacy that they left behind.

Along the way, Brusatte introduces a cast of new dinosaur hunters and gives an insight into what being a palaeontologist is really like. He offers thrilling accounts of some of the most remarkable discoveries he has made, including primitive, human-size tyrannosaurs, monstrous carnivores even larger than a T. rex and feathered raptor dinosaurs from China buried in volcanic ash. At a time when Homo sapiens has existed for less than 200,000 years and we are already talking about planetary extinction, The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs is a timely reminder of what humans can learn from the magnificent creatures who ruled the earth before us. The Rise and Fall of The Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World is out now.

Join leading mental health campaigner Jonny Benjamin on a personal journey through mental illness from childhood to adulthood, and a suicide attempt that changed his life forever.

In 2008, twenty year-old Jonny Benjamin stood on Waterloo Bridge, about to jump. A stranger saw his distress and stopped to talk with him – a decision that saved Jonny's life. Fast forward to 2014 and Jonny, together with Rethink Mental Illness launch a campaign with a short video clip so that Jonny could finally thank that stranger who put him on the path to recovery. More than 319 million people around the world followed the search. ITV's breakfast shows picked up the story until the stranger, whose name is Neil Laybourn, was found and – in an emotional and touching moment – the pair re-united and have remained firm friends ever since. The Stranger on the Bridge is a memoir of the journey Jonny made both personally, and publicly to not only find the person who saved his life, but also to explore how he got to the bridge in the first place and how he continues to manage his diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder. Using extracts from diaries Jonny has been writing from the age of thirteen, the book is a deeply personal memoir with a unique insight on mental health. Jonny was recognised for his work as an influential activist changing the culture around mental health, when he was awarded an MBE in 2017. He and Neil now work full-time together visiting schools, hospitals, prisons and workplaces to help end the stigma by talking about mental health and suicide prevention.

We are thrilled to announce that poet Mike Garry will be back at the festival. Mike was a librarian for 15 years before becoming a poet. His gritty poetry has won the admiration far and wide and his collaboration with New Order in New York's Carnegie Hall received five star reviews. Mike's Ode To St. Anthony, a poem dedicated to the Factory Records boss Tony Wilson and put to classical music by the composer Joe Duddell, went to Number 1 in 3 Official UK charts in August 2015. The video features dozens of dozens of Mike's Manchester friends an colleagues, including Steve Coogan, Christopher Eccleston, Shaun Ryder, Mark Radcliffe, Terry Christian, John Cooper Clarke, Philip Glass, Miranda Sawyer and so many more. Oh and Iggy Pop. We have had it on repeat for months at The Good Life Experience HQ and highly recommend a watch, it's spine-tingling stuff.

Mike has worked in thousands of schools and his books have become schemes of work in educational establishments throughout the UK and his poetry is regularly heard on BBC Radio and TV. He has read his poems in Prisons, Young Offenders units, Mental Health Hospitals, Children’s Homes, youth clubs and local pubs. He’s passionate about bringing live poetry to places it wouldn’t normally reach and to people who wouldn’t normally listen to it.

Eco-chef Tom Hunt will be joined by Doug McMaster of Silo and Nick Saltmarsh, co-founder of Hodmedod and Trine Hahnemann to speak about the hugely topical and important subject of food sustainability. More here.

Come and hear from Isabella Tree, author of Wilding, a book about the re-wilding of land on the Knepp Estate, which Pan Macmillan published in May 2018.Forced to accept that intensive farming on their heavy clay soils at Knepp in West Sussex was driving them into the ground, Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell took a spectacular leap of faith in 2000 and handed their 3,500 acres back to nature. With minimal human intervention, using herds of free-roaming animals to create dynamism and new habitats, their rewilded land is now heaving with life. Rare species like turtle doves, nightingales, peregrine falcons and purple emperor butterflies are now breeding at Knepp and biodiversity has rocketed.

The project has become a leading light for conservation in the UK, demonstrating how a hands-off approach – letting nature take the driving seat - can restore land and wildlife in a dramatically short space of time, reversing the cataclysmic declines that have affected most species in Britain over the past five decades. The story of rewilding Knepp challenges conventional ideas about our past and present landscape, and points the way to a wilder, richer future – a countryside that benefits farming, nature and us. Part gripping memoir, part fascinating account of Britain’s rural ecology, Wilding is, above all, an inspiring story of hope.

Stay tuned for many more speaker announcements, and in the meantime, get your festival tickets here.

A weekend of discovery + adventure, music, food, books + the great outdoors