Mini- Profile: Satish Kumar

‘We have been given these two wonderful legs… We must not live as if we had no legs!’ Satish Kumar.

Long term environmental activist and former monk, Satish Kumar is speaking as part of Celebrating the Imagination, an interdisciplinary approach to imaginative ideas; bridging the gaps between art and science, education and environment.

Satish Kumar first proved the power of his two legs when he walked 8,000 miles as a peace pilgrimage, in protest to nuclear weapons. His journey took him to the four corners of the nuclear world: USA, Moscow, London and Paris.

He travelled with no money and relied on the hospitality of strangers. The success of his pilgrimage is partly due to the power of his legs and partly to his inspiring attitude.

In an interview with the guardian, he explained that he travelled as a ‘human being’ and as a result met ‘human beings’ along the way. He describes how if he had travelled as an Indian, he would have met Americans and Russians. And if he had travelled as a Hindu, he would have met Christians and Muslims. And in this sense, it was a truly peaceful walk as all divisions between people were forgotten.

Satish Kumar is an inspiring speaker and has had a varied career as an author, broadcaster and editor. He has edited the ecological magazine Resurgence since 1973. He has written numerous books; from his autobiography, No Destination to spiritual books like You Are, Therefore I Am. In 2008 he presented a documentary called Earth Pilgram on BBC2, which was watched by over 3.6 million people.

Satish claims that in life we have a choice to live like a tourist or a pilgrim. He distinguishes this as the difference those who complain and those who celebrate.

He believes we should learn to live with ‘elegant simplicity’ and to think of the environment as part of us.

Satish Kumar truly embodies the ethos of the festival: he is a devoted ecologist and a spiritual thinker who believes everyone can become an artist. As well as this, he is the founder of the Schumacher College, which offers transformative courses in sustainable living.

Satish Kumar has devoted his life to imaginative thinking and is a truly inspirational speaker. Come and here him discuss the importance of soil, soul and society on 17th May at Rook Lane Arts. Tickets are available from or


Mini Profile: Gavin Pretor-Pinney

“Clouds are so commonplace that their beauty is often overlooked. They are for dreamers and their contemplation benefits the soul. Indeed, all who consider the shapes in them will save on psychoanalysis bills. Look up, marvel at the ephemeral beauty, and live your life with your head in the clouds!” Gavin Pretor-Pinney

Cloud enthusiast Gavin Pretor-Pinney is starring in, Celebrating the Imagination Festival, an interdisciplinary approach to imaginative ideas; bridging the gaps between art and science, education and environment.

Gavin Pretor-Pinney is the founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society author of the best selling CloudSpotter’s Guide. He believes that clouds are ‘unjustly aligned’ and that as a society we should take the time to appreciate their coming and going above our heads.

The story of the Cloud Appreciation Society began when Gavin Pretor-Pinney was invited to give a lecture on clouds at a literary festival. The name ‘Cloud Appreciation Society’ began as something of a joke, or a catchy title to draw people in, as he titled his talk ‘The Inaugural Lecture of the Cloud Appreciation Society’. After the lecture, he was inundated with requests to join his society and the Cloud Appreciation Society was born.

Gavin Pretor-Pinney’s desire to spread the benefits of clouds began as response to ‘blue sky thinking’. It was this fantasy of a cloudless sky that made him leap to the defence of clouds. The idea of clouds as a bad thing is imbedded in our language. We talk of ‘a cloud hanging over someone’ or ‘a cloud on the horizon’, as if clouds are a symbol of negativity.

In response he believes that:

“We think that they are Nature’s poetry, and the most egalitarian of her displays, since everyone can have a fantastic view of them.”

Our need to watch the clouds reflects our need to slow down in life. Gavin Pretor-Pinney argues that instead of a cloud watcher being a ‘daydreamer’, they are actually more grounded as watching the clouds pass by allows space for ideas.

His cloud watching endeavours took him to the other side of the world when he went to Queensland, Australia to see the elusive ‘Morning Glory’. This search was part of Channel Four’s Three Minute Wonder series.


Morning Glory, image from NASA 

‘Morning Glory’ is a mysterious cloud that appears very early in the morning over a particular area in Queensland. Its presence comes and goes with the changing weather but after weeks of waiting, it appeared.  The cloud formation resembles long cylinders hanging in the air, rolling like waves. Their wave-like qualities even enable gliders to ‘surf’ on them.

To discover why clouds are the imagination projected onto the sky, and to learn more about Gavin Pretor-Pinney’s worldwide cloud spotting network, come to his talk on 2nd May at Rook Lane Arts. This promises to be an exciting and engaging to talk for anyone with an interest in science, geography and the imagination itself.

To book tickets go to or



Mini-profile: Colin Tudge



Everyone who is ever likely to be born on to this planet could be fed to the highest standards of nutrition and gastronomy—and this could be done without cruelty, or destroying our fellow creatures. By 2050 we will need to feed 9.5 billion people—which is as big as the world population is ever likely to get. To achieve this we need only to design farming expressly for the purpose—what in this book is called “Enlightened Agriculture”. Colin Tudge

Colin Tudge is starring in, Celebrating the Imagination Festival, an interdisciplinary approach to imaginative ideas; bridging the gaps between art and science, education and environment.

Colin Tudge is a writer and ecologist, with a special interest in agriculture, evolution, genetics and the philosophy of science. He is the founder of The Campaign for Real Farming, which aims to promote ethical farming. His work is driven by environmental concerns and the desire to change our collective attitude towards the natural world.

As well as his Campaign for Real Farming, Colin Tudge has written several books on the topic, such as So Shall we Reap and Good Food for Everyone. He argues that a current attitude towards farmingis too materialistic, it is a system designed to produce the maximum amount of cash, in the shortest time: turning the earth into a commodity.

 Livestock will mostly be consumed by people already weighed down with too much saturated fat—for the moment mostly in the west, but increasingly in India and China. The poor will remain poor. So will most farmers. The traders and their shareholders will grow rich.’ Colin Tudge

His other publications include The Secret Life of Trees, exploring the hidden role of trees in our everyday lives,and The Link, a book which uncovers ‘Ida’, who at forty-seven million years old, is the most complete early primate fossil ever found.

Alongside writing, he is a broadcaster, appearing on Horizon and Newsnight and working as a presenter for BBC Radio 3’s Science on 3 and Spectrum (1985-1990). He also wrote annual scientific reports for the British Government’s Agriculture and Food Research Council (1987-1990) and was the Features Editor of New Scientist (1980-85)

Come and hear him discuss the importance of imaginative thinking that is required to tackle ethical problems faced by our society today. This promises to be an inspiring and thought provoking talk for anyone with an interest in ecology, agriculture, genetics and the philosophy of science. Colin Tudge will be giving his talk, ‘A different view of life: why genes are not selfish and people are nice’ on 30th April. To book tickets go to or


Mini- Profile: Helen Storey


For me it’s always about collaboration and the more extreme the better… I find that when we only work in very narrow fields of knowledge or ambition around ideas, it takes colliding opposites working together to come up with something that’s entirely new.’ Helen Storey

 Helen Storey is starring in, Celebrating the Imagination Festival, an interdisciplinary approach to imaginative ideas; bridging the gaps between art and science, education and environment.

Helen Storey is an award winning, innovative fashion designer and professor at University of the Arts London, in Fashion and Science. She combines these two disciplines to create work that blends the boundaries between art, fashion and science. Come and hear her discuss the importance of imaginative collaboration between different disciplines.

Her work has a sustainable focus, which is particularly evident in her latest projects Catalytic Clothing and Wonderland. Through collaboration with scientist Tony Ryan, Helen Storey has been able to use their different backgrounds to present new ideas in the application of science and discover practical solutions to current ethical issues.

Catalytic Clothing is a laundry product, which uses nanotechnology to purify the air around us. After a wash, the product will stay on your clothes and react with oxygen and UV light, to clean the air you breath.

Her most recent project, Wonderland, is the result of another collaboration with Tony Ryan. Their workexamines plastic packaging and explores new approaches to its use and disposal.

Other inspirational projects include, Primitive Streak, comprising of27 pieces of textiles and dress that take the viewer through the first 1,000 hours of human life, from fertilisation to the recognisable human form. A double award-winning project, Primitive Streak has toured in 7 countries since 1997 and has been seen by 5 million people.


Helen storey’s work echoes the very ethos of Celebrating the Imagination Festival: she is an imaginative collaborator who creates ground-breaking innovations, through the coming together of opposites. This promises to be an inspiring and thought provoking talk for anyone with an interest in fashion, art, science and sustainable design. Her talk, ‘Wonderland and beyond’ is on 25th April. To book tickets go to or


Mini- Profile: Sacha Abercorn


“At this time, the world we live in is in great need of a balance between our heads and our hearts, so that we may connect to the ‘tap-root’ in us all by opening us to the realm of imagination, inspiration and integration.” Sacha Abercorn

Sacha Abercorn is starring in, Celebrating the Imagination Festival, an interdisciplinary approach to imaginative ideas; bridging the gaps between art and science, education and environment. She is an innovator in creative education and the founder of The Pushkin Trust. Come and hear her discuss the importance of imagination in education and how we can all learn and develop through the imaginative process.


The Pushkin Trust began as The Pushkin Prize in Ireland in 1987 and is now synonymous with creativity, inspiration and expression of voice. It’s founder, Sacha Abercorn, is the great, great, great granddaughter of the famous Russian poet, Alexander Pushkin.


The Pushkin Trust supports creative learning and education across Ireland, opening us to the realm of imagination, inspiration and integration. The Trust began as a programme devoted to creative writing but has since evolved to include other creative arts.


At the core of the Pushkin Trust’s work is the Schools’ Programme, which is a cross-curricular, cross-community and cross-border project involving primary, secondary, Irish medium and special needs schools.


Feedback from the Pushkin Trust has been overwhelmingly positive with pupils saying:

‘I now know that I have an imagination’

‘This has been the best week of my life’

 And teachers echoing their praise:

 One of the genuinely best things about my teaching career was discovering ‘Pushkin’ – truly inspired learning.”

“Pushkin is a truly wonderful gift to the children and teachers of Ireland, north and south, and should be a role model for so many educational systems”


Sacha Abercorn’s ‘Imagination in Education’ promises to be a thought provoking and exciting talk for anyone with an interest in education, creativity and the transformative power of the imagination. Her talk ‘Imagination in Education’ is on 17th April. To book tickets go to or


John Moat: The Inspiration for Celebrating the Imagination Festival


'Midwinter, the red sun on the brink of the tree far side

Of the valley. We sit, she and I, in the frozen wide-eyed

Silence, watch the living come-and-go of our breath.’

John Moat, extract from Coda 4. Read the full poem and listen to an audio recording on the Poetry Archive.


John Moat is a novelist, poet and artist, who views his role as that of an alchemist and a journeyman. His work captures an intense awareness of the natural world and yet remains light at heart and full of wit. The Poetry Archive describes him as ‘His relation to the world is as the singer to his song, in which the music elevates the lyric’.

Celebrating the Imagination takes its inspiration from the life and work of John Moat whose continued enthusiasm for the many facets of the imagination has inspired novelists and novices alike. The Gist is a much a celebration of his work as it is the imagination.

Aside from his creative work, John Moat is the co-founder of the Arvon Foundation, the country’s foremost creative writing enterprise. It’s role as a charity is to provide life changing, creative experiences to people of all ages and backgrounds. From university to primary school, from alcoholics to children in care: the Arvon Foundation aims to show how creative writing can be of benefit to everyone. 


'The unique story you have to tell is essential to the completion of the all-inclusive story of the universe'. John Moat.


The Arvon Foundation aims to demonstrate the transformative power of writing and the importance of encouraging imagination in everyone. An aim that is echoed in Celebrating the Imagination Festival, which draws together various disciplines to show the imaginative potential in all aspects of life. 

In addition to this; he founded Tandem, a teacher’s and artist’s alliance; founder trustee of Yarner Trust, an organisation which offers training for organic small holdings; a former director of the Environmental Research Association; founder of the Extension Trust, an arts and education charity; and for more than 20 years has written for Resurgence, a leading international alternative magazine. 

The Gist, Celebrating the Imagination’s two-day event, was originally a book written in honour of John Moat and edited by Lindsay Clarke. Many internationally renowned authors and poets such as; Seamus Heaney, Carol Anne Duffy, Alice Oswald, Andrew Miller and Maggie Gee contributed essays, each offering a new perspective on writing and the imagination.

Ereshkegel, John Moat,image from his website. 

John Moat will be opening The Gist on 15th March with a talk entitled The Alchemical Clue. To book tickets go to or

Interview: Liliane Lijn

Internationally renowned artist Liliane Lijn is speaking alongside Andrew Motion, James Harpur, Maggie Gee and Andrew Miller on the second day of The Gist.

Her talk Poem Machines, Light, Motion will explore her pioneering use of light and text in kinetic artwork as well as her interest in science, technology, eastern philosophy and female mythology. To book tickets go or

In this exclusive interview she discusses: the relationship between the work of scientists and artists, the development of her Poem Machines and how her work is a “constant dialogue between opposites”.


Liliane Lijn Conjunction of Opposites (Woman of War & Lady of the Wild Things) 2012. Image from Liliane Lijn’s website.

Liliane Lijn interviewed for Celebrating the Imagination Festival:

1. A lot of your work takes its inspiration from science. What is it about science that inspires you? And why do you think it is important for there to be a relationship between the work of scientists and artists?

Science has been an inspiration to me possibly because I am interested in materials and what things are and how they function and how they came to be. Ontological questions have always preoccupied me and different fields of science, particularly research into the micro world – physics – and the macro – astronomy – are preoccupied with the nature of existence as such and also provide fascinating evidence of the possibility of life and consciousness beyond our homocentric world. However, inspiration for my work has come from far more than science alone; nature, industry, dreams, myths and the art, religion and philosophy of many different cultures have also had a very large impact on my work. The great mythographer, Joseph Campbell, wrote in his great book on world mythologies The Masks of God:

…science itself is now the only field through which the dimension of mythology can be again revealed. Can mythology have sprung from any minds but the minds of artists?

2. Science is as much about what we don’t know as well as what we do know. It deals with the mystery of predicting the future. There is something intriguing about a mystery. Do you think this is what allows an artist access to this subject?

Art is as much about what we don’t know as what we do know. I wouldn’t say that science predicts the future. Science looks at what is here and there and endeavours to understand the world and our understanding of it and the relationship between the two. Sometimes art can be seen to predict the future. Or perhaps what we think of as predicting the future is really seeing very clearly the present.

I would say that there are areas we have mapped and areas that are completely unknown and even the mapped areas shift all the time as we collect more information about the world. Mystery is not a word I use very much.

3. Whilst Artist in Residence at Space Sciences Laboratory, California, how did you see your role?

At the Space Sciences Laboratory, I explored. I questioned anyone and everyone who would give me their time. I made friends and then went on to collaborate with a few scientists of various projects. In fact, what I did was to continue a voyage I had started many years earlier. I do not think of myself in the role of the artist who illustrates science and scientific ideas. Science is like a great treasure trove for an artist, a huge field of unexplored territory.


Liliane Lijn Heavenly Fragments, 2008. Aerogel Fragments, work created as part of residency at Space Sciences Laboratory. Image from Liliane Lijn’s website

4. Your Poem Machines are sculptures, poems and inventions. Can you explain how you developed these?

There has been quite a bit already written about how I developed the Poem Machines. Briefly, I was living in Paris at the time but also spent months of the same year working in New York. In Paris I encountered and became friends with many of the Beat generation of poets and was aware of their experiments with language such as the cut-ups. I was interested in light and spent some time also investigating earlier experiments in the Musee de la Decouverte - the Science Museum. An amazing instrument beautifully made called an interferometer inspired me to make a very early version of the Poem Machines. This was made as two cylinders of the same size housed in a box and made to spin at quite a high speed. On them I had printed a series of 3 rows of parallel lines. The outer lines were slightly tilted, whereas the middle series of lines were straight. The spacing also was slightly different. When the cylinders rotated the lines began to create vibrations, interference patterns and colour. I found this very exciting and the idea came to me that words were made from lines so that if, instead of lines, I were to print words on these cylinders, I might still see vibrations but also have content or potential meaning there. A friend of mine, the poet Nazli Nour happened to visit me on the same day I decided to make one of these (I had been thinking of using random words from a newspaper) and told me that she would love me to make her poems move.


Liliane Lijn, Way Out is Way In Poemdrum, 2009. Image from Liliane Lijn’s website.

5. Why is mythology such a great source of inspiration for you?

Myth is the crossing point between reality and dream. Another Campbell quote: “The mythogenic zone today is the individual in contact with his or her own interior life, communicating through his/her art with those ‘out there’.”

6. You once described your work as being ‘a constant dialogue between opposites’, could you explain what you meant by this?

Opposites are what hold the world together. If you think about this in terms of theoretical physics, if matter and anti-matter collide, they annihilate one another in a flash of energy. In our everyday, in our society, opposites are usually thought of in either or terms. I try within my work to demonstrate their interdependence, their reversibility, and their relation.

Mini-Profile: Sir Andrew Motion

Now wind has died in the lime trees
I have forgotten what sense they made,
but not the leaf the wind dislodged
that fell between my shoulder blades.
Andrew MotionFall’ from Customs House

Sir Andrew Motion is a poet, novelist, biographer and Poet Laureate from 1999 until 2009. Throughout his varied career, he has won many awards including the Arvon Foundation International Poetry Competition in 1981 and the Whitbread Biography Prize for Philip Larkin: a Writer’s Life in 1993.

His poetry questions whether any meaning can be found in life’s accidents or random events. As a result, he often explores trauma and war in his poetry and yet does so in a way that hints at the inexplicable nature of these events. He is a translator of their experiences; a translator who does not try to explain but merely presents their voice to us. In his poem Veteran, he describes how the true nature of a veteran’s experience remains ‘hidden in words’.

During his laureateship, he released Public Property, a collection of poetry that addressed the juggling act in his work between his own private concerns and the public concerns of the nation. His poetry covered all the main events of those 10 years, including the wedding of Prince of Wales to Camilla Parker Bowles and the war in Iraq. He also chose to write about homelessness for the Salvation Army and bullying for Childline.

Throughout his career, he has gone beyond the role of just a poet, founding The Poetry Archive, an online resource of poets reading their work, and in 2012 he became the chairman of the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

Motion can create images and tones of such word-carried, world-wearied sadness that you accept their truth while simultaneously believing in their fictive grace.
David Morley, The Guardian review of Customs House.

You can hear Andrew Motion’s talk, ‘Poetry and Prose’, as part of The Gist on 16th March. To book tickets go to or

Mini-profile: James Harpur

‘Poems are merely drips leaking from the universal aquarium of dreams and myths.’ James Harpur speaking to Poetry Ireland Review. To read the full interview click here.

Multi award winning poet, James Harpur is the latest addition to the line up of The Gist, an innovative two-day event combining a range of ideas and disciplines. The poet has five books of poetry published; his latest, Angels and Harvesters, is the Poetry Book Association Recommendation for 2012. His poems have been published in national newspapers such as The Guardian and broadcast on BBC Radio 4. He has also conducted workshops for the Arvon Foundation, Lancaster University and Galway University.

His poetry stems from a wide variety of influences; a love of the ancient, classical poetry of Virgil and Homer; a fascination with spirituality and the reign of Christianity in the western world; the writings of Carl Jung; the medieval dark ages and the journey towards knowledge and enlightenment.

His work addresses the concerns that have travelled through myths and stories to arrive at the modern day. The poems themselves may be grounded in the past but they possess a timeless fascination with the human condition, which speaks to contemporary society.

To find out more about James Harpur and to read some of his poetry online head to his website. He will be speaking as part of The Gist on Saturday 16 March. To book tickets go to or

Mini-profile: Maggie Gee

Image from the Guardian

Completing the Saturday morning line up of Celebrating the Imagination’s two-day series of talks called The Gist is Maggie Gee, novelist and Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University.

Amongst Maggie’s writings are the novels The Ice People, My Cleaner and The White Family, the latter of which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize and the International Impac Prize. She also wrote The Blue, a collection of short stores linked through the theme of ‘blueness’ (Maggie explains her approach in this Meet the Author interview).

Alongside her writing, Maggie teaches creative writing. As a Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University she is involved in both MA Creative Writing and PhD Creative Writing courses; she is also director of the How to Write a Novel course at the Faber Academy.

You can catch Maggie’s talk in The Gist on Saturday 16th March, which also includes talks by Sir Andrew Motion, Andrew Miller and James Harpur. The Gist runs from the evening of Friday 15th March, and tickets are available from The Interalia Centre and Bath Box Office. You can also follow Maggie Gee on Twitter.

A talk series hosted by Rook Lane Arts, featuring a wide range of imaginative perspectives on a number of important cultural issues - educational, artistic, scientific and environmental.

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