The Power of Art, Conservation, and Lagom at The Long Run’s 8th Annual Meeting

There are not many events that seamlessly fuse live performances of Filipino love songs and Swedish pickling techniques with workshops addressing how to conserve land and culture, harness the power of data for the greater good, and enhance communities through art. However, that’s just a slice of the heady mix of activities and topics that enthralled over 40 Long Run members and affiliates at the 8th Annual Meeting earlier this month.

Wanås Estate in Southern Sweden

Hosted by the world-renowned sculpture park and (since last year) hotel and restaurant, Wanås in Southern Sweden, the annual meeting was an opportunity to side-track from The Long Run’s Southern Hemisphere roots. Two generations of the Wachtmeister family walked and talked attendees through the evolution of Wanås from a sprawling (and in parts crumbling) estate to a profitable organic cattle farm, nature reserve, and art destination featuring over 300 artists.

Two generations of the Wachtmeister family walked and talked attendees through the evolution of Wanås.

Although Wanås’ 800-year-old oaks are miles away from Nikoi’s coral reefs, Sasaab’s Samburu, and El Santurio’s bird sanctuary, the shared experience of conserving land, protecting culture, improving communities, while running a financially sustainable business, transcends borders.

Members prepare for a week of learning and sharing with some Qi Gong exercises

The role of art within the responsible travel agenda was a recurring theme. Wanås Konst’s pedagogical vision is that everyone, regardless of background, previous knowledge, or ability, should have equal access to art. Run by the not-for-profit Wanås Foundation, every year over 10,000 school children visit Wanås to experience art and nature. Many of these children come from low-income families; the most moving example is a project with a local primary school that encouraged pupils, including many refugees that barely spoke Swedish, to interview and present local business owners to the wider community.

 

Co-director Elisabeth Millqvist explained the importance of championing the immediate area and collaborating with local makers, while Marika Wachtmeister demonstrated how “bringing the artist to you (on residency) makes them act like archaeologists — digging up your past and culture for you”.

Co-director of Wanås Foundation, Elizabeth Millqvist, presents Primary Structure by Jacob Dahlgren. Constructed in 2011, this sculpture spreads out under the branches of the surrounding beech trees and is made up of 104 units in 18 colours.

Moving on from creative endeavour, Long Run members shared examples of using spirituality, culture, and business as drivers for conservation, taking the group on a whirlwind tour of Jong racing in Indonesia, reviving folklore in Chile, and restoring pilgrimage routes in Scotland.

 

Other sessions explored the potential of citizen science to raise the impact of conservation data, and how to get the entire tourism value chain (including tour operators and agents present) more committed to sustainability.

Members engaged in one of the many sessions

Succession planning also received much-needed air time. For many Long Run members, a lack of foresight could not only result in the devastation of fragile ecosystems but the loss of livelihoods and destruction of marginalised cultures. The question ‘How do we ensure we’re in it for The Long Run?” was addressed directly by a panel of Sibylle Reidmiller from Chumbe Island, Johan Johnmark from the Swedish government, and Howard Hendricks from SAN Parks, sharing private and public models to conserve biodiversity in perpetuity.

 

A healthy sense of lagom, the Swedish word for ‘everything in moderation’, was adopted; heated debate and inspirational talks were interspersed with rambling in the rain, creating artworks in the woodlands, and feasting in the castle. There were tears, there was laughter, but most important of all, there was momentum to make The Long Run stronger, and go further, in the year ahead.

 

Watch the video below to see a short retrospective of the meeting.

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