The Realisation Festival frequently asked questions (FAQs) 

What is it?

A non-profit gathering for the mind and spirit, featuring stimulating talks and embodied workshops at a breathtaking location. A chance to link the “I”, “we” and “wider world” through critical dialogue and soulful exploration.

Is this the first one?

Yes. We felt that there is a need for a place where thinkers and worriers, the thoughtful and the confused, can come and sit with the questions of our times, in all their complexity. We welcome what feels contradictory and heart-felt.

Why “realisation”?

Realisation is about education and awareness, which can be troubling as well as tremendous. So the festival is an opportunity for people to think, to speak, to listen, to feel, to share, to disagree, to wrestle and then to sit around a table and eat together. Put it like this: if realisation is the answer, the question is this: “Where can I go to truly challenge my understanding of and contribution to the life we are living?”

Why now?

Because of a conviction that we live at a critical juncture: a time of reckoning that we need to experience more deeply and reflect on candidly, carefully and courageously. We have also all been living with the challenges of Covid. This is a moment to individually and collectively consider how to breathe new life into the future path ahead. We need to become “unstuck”.

So what will happen?

Hear incredible speakers, take part in stimulating conversations, enjoy delicious food and live music. Workshops will encourage you to think, feel and explore what change looks like, reimagine what we are capable of.

Who is it for?

Those who want to engage with transformative and innovative ideas about the world and society, and who long for an opportunity to share their experiences, thoughts, experiments and practices.

Where is it?

The beautiful St Giles House, Dorset, an extraordinary countryside location that, as the home of the Earls of Shaftesbury, is imbued with centuries of social and political transformation. The Seventh Earl, the Victorian social reformer, is the most famous.

Why is it there?

It is a fascinating space to hold the festival, in part because of its connection with the natural environment, which informs questions around our relationship with nature and the planet. But also because it is such an historic place: if we want to move forward, we can look back at what was and is, to see what can be. Let us spend time here and see what it tells us. We need non-ordinary resources, and St Giles offers qualities of mind, spirit and heart.

How is it different?

Rather than merely presenting ideas, the Realisation Festival probes into ideas: it is an ideas festival that loves discussion. It knows that thinking must align with practice. It also values food and firepits, to spark dreams and debate.

Does it have a particular spirit?

We hope so, in part because it is as interested in the inner life of people and society – inner formation, if you like – reckoning that spirit and soul are fundamental to how people engage with matters of crucial importance. The festival is also informed by notions like beauty as an inner compass, imagination that can prompt the novel and unexpected, and calling which is the appeal of being involved in concerns that really matter.

Why is that needed?

Maybe the solutions to the various challenges we face will look very different from how we currently imagine them to be.

How much does it cost?

We are aiming to keep prices as low as possible. Attendance, which includes food and wine with dinner, is £295. Camping in the grounds of St Giles House is free. Toilets and charging points provided. For deluxe bell tent accommodation add £300 for the three nights. For luxury room accommodation add £655 for the three nights.

Does St Giles have a colonial past?

Yes. For example, slavery is part of its history: the philosopher John Locke and his patron, the First Earl of Shaftesbury, envisioned a society that included slavery in the Carolinas. The First Earl had a plantation in The Bahamas for a short while and one in South Carolina until about 1713. In the nineteenth century, the Seventh Earl, along with William Wilberforce, was a strong proponent for the abolition of slavery as well as a number of other social reforms. The Realisation Festival is committed to a meaningful and genuine reckoning with how colonial history still informs the present. We believe that this discussion is an essential part of the unlearning and reimagining that informs the gathering.

What will the experience be like?

It is a small gathering of around 150 people where the difference between speaker and audience is minimised and the opportunity for cross-pollination of ideas is maximised. The festival rests upon the belief that we don’t only need more ideas and conversations, but time and space to retreat and cogitate with others about ideas that are already shaping society.

Have you thought about the impact the festival might make?

Yes. For sure. We can’t know, of course, but are working so that it might provide a focus for a movement that values the clarity which comes with a renewed consciousness. This is not just an airy aspiration. The philosophical word for it is “bildung”, a notion which was born at St Giles, through the work of the Third Earl. It means education in the broadest possible sense, bringing personal fulfilment and civic transformation. To put it another way, bildung entails a dynamic worldview that values independence of mind and spirit, grounded in ecological and social interdependence. We believe the idea needs urgent attention, and can shape social projects, public policy and institutional values.