What happens when National Geographic Traveller create a festival?
The National Geographic Traveller magazine(uk) came to life for the first time at The Brewery on Sunday 17th September, and boy did it go off with a bang! The festival opened with a mesmerising percussion performance from the Japanese composer Joji Hirota and his Taiko drummers, and was followed by adventurer Benedict Allen gracing the stage. He captivated the audience with his tales of solo-exploration across the Amazon basin; from taking part in a six-week initiation ceremony with the Niowra tribe to nearly being assassinated by Pablo Escobar's men, I can understand how this venturesome man has gained the title of being one of the last great living explorers.
Next up I sat in on the chef Jonathan Phang's cooking demonstration cum comedy show. He entertained and inspired during his fourty-five minute slot, making succulent jerk chicken and a spiced butternut squash soup. He gave the audience tasters of his dishes, before packing us off with a goodie bag full of Caribbean snacks and spices. At this point I decided it was lunch time and made my way outside to the Eat Drink Love Italian pop-up tent where I was handed an Aperol Spritz. A complementary drink as you queue? This isn't your usual festival. Balancing a heaped plateful in one hand and a cocktail in the other I headed to the communal area and watched in on a Taekwondo session as I nibbled on my Italian mini-creations.
After lunch I made my way downstairs to the Travel Writing Masterclass session: Finding a story. I had pre-booked myself onto three of the travel writing workshops, as I knew they would be popular and wanted to avoid disappointment. The deputy editor of the magazine hosted all of the dynamic sessions, and he and the National Geographic travel writers gave detailed insight and sage advice about the industry- with great anecdotes to boot.
Feeling energised and encouraged, I wandered back to the main area where I was given a glass of Austrian red wine to try and found myself picking up loads of snacks from a confectionary stand. I was really impressed that all the food and drinks were included in the ticket price so I made sure to made the most of it. I found a comfy corner to sit in, and as I flicked through the latest edition of National Geographic Traveller magazine I could hear the faint rumbles of a Joji Hirota class coming to an end, and an announcement that Babbel was about to begin their 'Learn to speak German' session. The only downside to the day was the age-old predicament everyone finds themselves in when attending a festival; who are you going to see when you have to choose between two bands? Or in this instance, a Japanese drumming workshop, a learn a language seminar or a National Geographic travel writing session?
Late afternoon I popped into Travel Geeks:The Modern Rambler featuring guest speaker Julia Bradbury where the panel discussed hiking in the great outdoors. I then found myself watching some Flamenco whilst lining up for a Sri Lankan tea tasting with Dilmah, which was followed by a walk around the Puglia photography exhibition and ended with a virtual reality experience of the stunning landscapes and landmarks of China. I really enjoyed how throughout the day I was transported to a different country within a few steps. "It's like they've picked my brain and created a festival just for me!" I beamed to the bartender as he handed me an Old-Fashioned at the Monkey Shoulder after party. And with a few more cocktails under my belt, and a new found friend I made a B-line for the travel writers and editor of National Geographic Traveller to enthusiastically tell them how incredible the festival was (and then slur my way through my Spirit Animal journey whilst they looked on bewildered).
I woke up the next morning and blamed the goat in me for that one.