Passionate people drive our communities, our businesses, our creativity. The Festival of Open Minds in Bega from 13-15 September celebrated their vision. Now in its second year, the Festival brings together national and local ideas and identities with the aim of strengthening regional communities.
Ian Campbell, founder of the Festival of Open Minds and About Regional, says that like many small businesses in Southern New South Wales, his local media company is powered by a small, passionate team.
“We love our community, we look for ways to support and promote our people and organisations through articles and interviews, telling their stories, and now with an event designed to inspire, expand and energise our hearts and minds – The Festival of Open Minds,” he said.
A former radio broadcaster, Ian left his position with ABC South East NSW in 2016 and set out to establish a new media service focussing on local news and stories. About Regional today reaches 55,000 unique visitors – real people.
After partnering with the Bega Civic Centre to present the Sydney TEDx live stream talk-fest, Ian wanted to try something more interactive, more local and more real. The first Festival of Open Minds followed in September 2018 and created a huge buzz. Reflecting on the 2018 Festival, Ian said about 350 people turned up.
“All the early bird tickets sold out, there was really a terrific response.”
This gave Ian the confidence that About Regional, the regional stories journal, did have a role to play and a future in the region.
The intention of the Festival of Open Minds is to bring people together to share an experience and build understanding and knowledge.
“We live in a time of overwhelming amounts of digital information, About Regional is part of that,” Ian laughs. “But I really hope we go beyond the clutter and help people talk about some of the stories of our time, the stuff we are all confused and bamboozled about, stuff that needs to be talked through, and community events and conversation helps us to process what’s going on in the world.
“As far as the Festival of Open Minds goes, it was the connections made in the foyer or sprawled over the gardens at lunchtime, eating and chatting, that added depth to the experience.
More and more people are feeling isolated, for all sorts of reasons, people coming together to share an experience creates a bond. There’s sometimes a magic that happens within an event and the people there are all privy to this shared moment – isolation is broken.”
What was on the 2019 program?
Leading the conversations at the Festival of Open Minds in 2019 were:
- Tim Costello, Chief Advocate, World Vision;
- Nas Campanella, blind Triple J newsreader;
- Pastor Christie Buckingham, spiritual counselor to executed Bali 9 drug smuggler Myuran Sukumaran;
- Aly Khalifa, founder of Oceanworks, focused on harvesting plastic waste from our oceans;
- Emma Booth, para-equestrian competitor, represented Australia at the 2016 Rio Paralympics;
- Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall, comedian, joke writer, grew up in Tathra;
- Sassi Nuyum, aka Meaghan Holt, rising Aboriginal writer, performer;
- Corrine Gibbons, songstress and choir director;
- Jonathan Kenna, Australia’s Ambassador to Sweden;
- Captain Phil Holliday, Sydney, Port Kembla and Eden Harbour Master;
- Damon Davis, long singer-songwriter and the original man of oopmh;
- A local panel of leaders including Erica Dibden – Tilba Milk, Louise Brand – road safety campaigner, Kate Toyer – Moruya vet and transgender advocate, Warren Foster Jr – Aboriginal artist and leader.
- Jackie Randles, Manager Inspiring Australia NSW.
Listen to the podcasts
Podcast recordings will progressivley be available from About Regional via this link