Quality speakers draw 3300 over weekend

Philip Tremewan
Philip Tremewan
The range of high-profile speakers and engaging topics attracted more than 3300 people to Aspiring Conversations, held in Wanaka over the weekend.

Speakers included Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, former Irish president Mary Robinson, and Nasa astrophysicist Jennifer Wiseman, among others.

Festival director Philip Tremewan said having such high-profile names "sets the bar damn high for next time". However, he believed the event was more about the conversations  than the people having them.

"The high-profile names are good, but it’s the quality of thinking that matters in the end. It’s about people who speak with passion and conviction about stuff that matters."

He was delighted to see Ms Ardern speak candidly on Friday evening, where she and Mrs Robinson discussed climate change and child poverty.

"When she’s campaigning it’s about political slogans, but [on Friday] she went beyond those slogans; she went into something she’s passionate about and convinced about," Mr Tremewan said.

Climate change was an "ongoing thread" throughout the weekend, he said, and one that had always been a theme for Aspiring Conversations since it began in 2005.

"Climate change has a big impact on all our lives, a big impact on this community. It’s going to affect people here."

"We are only just becoming aware of what those impacts are and how we’re going to start dealing with them."

Mr Tremewan said his team wanted "to sustain this level of conversation" over future Aspiring Conversations.

While he believed the event was ultimately a success, the capacity of the Lake Wanaka Centre, which seats fewer than 400 people, was a small concern.

He said he would meet Mount Aspiring College principal Wayne Bosley tomorrow to discuss the possibilities of including a new performing arts theatre as part of the school’s development plans.


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