From the first: “One two…one two…,” mike test to epic performances by global bands, musicians, singers, dancers and performers – and from the inspirational Artists in Conversation and Planet Talks to chef-led Taste the World workshops, WOMADelaide 2015 was an around-the-world marathon in four days. And despite a record 95,000 electrically charged festivalgoers buzzing about Adelaide’s Botanic Park over the long weekend, the grounds never felt crowded.
I joined the audience at the ‘How Sustainable is Your Diet?’ Planet Talks workshop. On the panel were: Dr Evangeline Mantzioris, UniSA’s expert in nutrition and Louisa Rose, winemaker at Yalumba (voted best winemaker in Australia). And cooking live was celebrity chef: Simon Bryant.
Bryant cooked MSC-certified Coorong yellow-eye mullet and green beans with his homegrown tomatoes, local organic eggs, caperberries, Kangaroo Island salt and mountain pepper. Knobby club rush created a bed upon which he smoked the fish, which was finished in a desert lime dressing.
“We can all do better when choosing our ingredients,” said Bryant, as the fish sizzled away. “Legumes and lentils are nitrogen-based, and are a cover crop, which is kind to the soil. And caperberries are grown in dried-out Murraylands. They actually grow in the worst conditions, so capers can do no wrong environmentally!”
Bryant also asked us to be ethically aware when cooking with native foods. In some cases, despite us thinking we are doing the right thing by eating healthy, it can lead to uncontrolled harvesting. In 2013 quinoa hit a popularity high in the Western world, leading to a price spike in South America, rendering it unaffordable for many locals.
Dr Mantzioris, said: “Both in terms of food nutrition and sustainability, it’s what you do for the majority of the time that counts.” She added: “Did you know that each cup of coffee we’ve enjoyed has used 150 litres of water during production!” The audience gasped in sync.
Bryant then added: “What we buy is a political choice!” He advised us to limit animal source protein, especially beef, goat and lamb, which emit high levels of methane (cattle alone contribute 15% of global CO2 emissions: five times more than air travel, and twice that of the Internet). He reminded us that pigs and chickens are gentler on the land, as are olive and canola oil (cold-pressed only).
And the take-home message from Bryant was: “Feel grateful for food. Enjoy it, but be responsible!”
My favourite quote came later, from Bob Brown during ‘The Silver Lining in the Cloud of Climate Change’ planet talk:
“We need nuclear energy!” stated Bob. From the audience, eyebrows raised until he added: “And we have a nuclear reactor. It’s 93 million miles away and already serves our needs!”
I also claimed my spot for Traditional Irish band, The Gloaming. And the second that Martin Hayes put bow to fiddle, smiles as wide as the Emerald isle itself painted the audience. The group serenaded us through adagios and crescendos, with the virtuoso pianist, Thomas Bartlett, skilfully fluttering his keys, re-inventing the millennial music of Ireland for a contemporary market. Toes tapped, heads nodded and hands smacked knees throughout the seated performance.
Infectious joy and jubilation continued as I strolled between century-old Moreton Bay figs, eucalypts and pines in this most handsome park—until the clouds puffed over. There were pink clouds, blue clouds, green, yellow and orange, exploding in the air. I’d walked straight into Artonik’s The Colour of Time parade. A locomotive chain of people snaked through the grounds, dancing to celebrate a depiction of India’s Holi festival, throwing their coloured gulal powder to the wind, painting people and their clothes into graffiti-like artworks.
If you’re not yet a four-day marathon WOMADelaidean, I strongly urge you to start training for next year's jamboree. It’s South Australia’s ultimate escapist festival—thrilling, enlightening and highly educational. And It’ll put you tangibly in touch with our precious planet.