The Edges

There are those weeks when it’s business as usual. Meetings, inboxes, bills, bins, cleaning the fridge out.

And then there are weeks when you step out into something magical and transformative…

Like the The Big Retreat Festival 2024.

A fabulous early summer cocktail of all the vital things in life… human connectedness, community, creativity, wellbeing, celebration and song.

Sitting on the banks of the Cleddau Estuary, on the Western edge of Wales, is an invitation to gaze out at that horizon, look up at the sky, tune into that ancient oak woodland full of birdsong.

Pause. Breathe. Think.

Before that well-trained brain turns to more practical (and equally important) matters: will it be Indian street food or slow-cooked lamb on a spit for dinner? And is there time to jump into a hot tub or Om in the Shakti tent before Gok Wan takes to the stage and gets us all dancing under the stars?

Climate Fresking with Carlos

Shark whisperers, bug hunters, and so much more....

Cymbrogi has been hosting the Darwin’s Den at the Big Retreat since the start, bringing our own particular passion for all things sustainable and future-focused into an already inspirational mix of wellbeing, mental health and creativity. For 3 full days, our tent is packed with change-makers shaping new worlds, building purpose into communities and enterprise, educating a next generation on green skills and the confidence to take on a climate-changed world… Poets, storytellers, artists, activists, educators, scientists… shark whisperers, bug hunters, and so much more.

And this year we’ve upped our game. 

We’ve heard from a Future Generations Commissioner (correction: not ‘a’, ’the’, because there is currently only one in the world and he’s here in Wales –  Derek Walker!); we’ve listened to best-selling author of ‘Citizens’, Jon Alexander, tell us to wake up from our consumer slumber and embrace our inner citizen! We’ve heard from Faith in Nature, the world’s first company to invite Nature to take a place on its Board… And that’s just for starters!

We’ve talked the future of food, fashion, energy, enterprise and, well, life on earth..we’ve built offshore wind turbines, climate smart cities, written love letters to Nature.

A love letter to nature!

This is a place where ecosystems collide and new forms of life take shape....

When it comes to ideas and creation, the edges have the Edge.

Even science backs us on this one.  As Rachel Carson, marine biologist (and one of the world’s greatest environmental heroes) wrote..’The edge of the sea, where the drama of life played its first scene on earth and perhaps even in its prelude; where the forces of evolution are at work today, as they have been since the appearance of what we know as life…’

This is a place where ecosystems collide and new forms of life take shape. It is fizzing with energy, transforming, emergent. It is a place in which I thrive, in which I grew up, and it’s where Cymbrogi was born.  And we too, sit on the edge of two ecosystems – one stuck in the prevailing broken, ‘business as usual’ model of education, the other, emergent and focused on equipping young minds for the future.

Will future generations thank us?

Charles Darwin on the HMS Beagle, and that famous journey that changed the way we see the world....

But in between the big conversations about what if, and what next, we pause to look out at the estuary, those views, that horizon.

And there’s an infinite sense of the possibility in that pause.

I like to imagine it might have been the same feeling that one adventurous ancestor had when he woke up every day to this view over 200 years ago.  The one that shaped his life’s greatest work. The one that saw him share a cabin with a young man called Charles Darwin on the HMS Beagle, and that famous journey that changed the way we see the world.

And in our small way, we too are here to change the way a next generation sees the world. Not as a place in which to simply consume, compete, extract, distract, discard and doom ourselves and the planet.  But as a place in which to build new and emergent systems that foster collaboration, community, citizenship, wellbeing, and a deep love of nature.

And that’s what the Big Retreat is all about. A manifestation of all those ideas in 4 incredible days, fizzing with life and emergence on the Edge.

Awesome work, Amber and your tireless crew. The forces of evolution are indeed at work…We can’t wait to see what’s emerged by this time next year!

Foraging with Garry: nature's treasure hunt!

A HUGE thanks to our incredible line up this year, including… 

Derek Walker (Future Generations Commissioner for Wales)
Simeon Rose (Creative Director – Faith in Nature)
Nirushan Sudharsan & Ameerah Mai (Future Generations Leadership Academy)
Jon Alexander (author of Citizens)
Dr Verity Jones (Climate Change Champion and Educator, UWE)
Mark Shayler (Sustainability maverick and author of No Profits on a Dead Planet)
Lou Luddington (Artist, Poet & Photographer)
Al Brunker (Creative Wizard and Poet in Residence)
Sam and Amy (The Darwin Experience)
Car y Mor
Celtic Deep
Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum
Carlos Terol

…and an incredible merry band of volunteers!


Main photo courtesy of The Big Retreat Festival

Share this post:

"Thank you so much for such a fantastic day on Monday! We are going to hold our first changemaker club next week!"

Young Changemakers Participant