In a remote corner of Wales, where phone signal is patchy (as I found out the hard way), one of Meghan Markle’s favourite denim labels hosts an annual get-together for the ‘progressively minded’. It’s intimate, it’s rustic and supposedly it’s life-changing.
Clare Hieatt and her husband, David, spend four days a week running Hiut Denim, which the Duchess famously wore in January (and instantly sent their sales spinning), and one day planning their mini-festival, Do Lectures.
‘We started Do Lectures 10-years-ago as a side project to our business. It was an event for our customers where they could learn some new skills and hear some inspirational speakers to set them on a path if they want to change their life’. Says Clare, ‘It was very small and it is still a very small event as it is dictated by the size of the barn on our farm, that can only fit 150 people, but that’s kind of the beauty of it as well’.
Though they founded this three-day event before our current social media fever pitch, the Hieatt's have always ensured it's been both intellectually and aesthetically stimulating. Guests sleep in a circle of teepees and enjoy gourmet banquets, wander through woods and then sit entranced by a series of cosy talks. Clare recalls hosting Colin Greenwood from Radiohead for a Sunday morning chat as a personal favourite, as well as Sir Tim Berners Lee, the founder of the internet, and Perry Chen who left the tepee and launched Kickstarter. ‘It’s an eclectic mix of people’, she admits, but that’s the charm. That and the food, and the bucolic setting.
To celebrate a decade of Do Lectures, the Hieatt’s have written a book, Stay Curious: How We Created a World Class Event in a Cowshed, which is out on the 4th of October. ‘We wanted it to be more than just a picture book of the Do Lectures, but be a useful tool as well,’ says Clare, ‘if you have an event, or party, or a wedding there are actual tips that can help you. It’s very much out style, which is very outdoorsy, using all the natural elements of where we live in west Wales.’
You can see an excerpt of the book’s ‘Detail’ chapter below:
How to lay a Do dinner table
Meals at Do are relaxed and informal. There are no seating plans. There are no reserved spaces. The food is served at serving stations and people take their food to a table and find a seat. Speakers, attendees, volunteers, musicians, cooks, all sit together like one big family. Cutlery is in pots, wine is in carafes, water is in jugs, so there is a lot of pouring and passing and serving each other, which breaks the ice and kick-starts conversations.
The indoor dining spaces, like the food barn at Do Wales, are softly lit with twinkling lights and an abundance of candles. Greenery, like ferns and moss, dress the crevices in the old stone walls and window recesses. The table decorations are kept very simple: a single stem in an old milk bottle, a pebble or two holding paper napkins in place, a moss-covered log doubling up as a tea-light holder. The tables are old wooden trestle tables, and they are paired with a random mix of folding chairs, stools and benches. The dining experience spills out of the food barn to a courtyard covered by a bespoke canvas awning which has been made to hug a copper beech tree in the centre of the space and provides shelter from rain or shade from the sunshine.
Legendary meals at Do
1. Anja's beetroot crumble. A meal served back in the day when Do was held on a wet April weekend at Fforest camp. Warm, comforting, wholesome. Who knew a single vegetable could be so fulfilling?
2. Mimi's breakfast granola. A wonderful way to wake up after a night under the stars in Do USA.
3. Jen's Lamb Curry. Delicious and hearty with so many super tasty chutneys and accompaniments.
4. Eduardo and Ranga's Sri Lankan mussels at Do USA. Fresh out of the sea, cooked to perfection, served with cold beer.
5. Bertha's Sourdough Pizza. The most tasty pizza ever, cooked in a wood-fired oven in the back of a Land Rover. It's has become a tradition for the last meal of Do Wales.
by Jen Goss
2 medium onions
4 cloves garlic
3 tbsp sunflower oil
3 tsp freshly toasted
& ground cumin
3 tsp freshly toasted
& ground coriander
2 sticks cinnamon
4 whole cardamom pods
½ tsp chilli powder
1.5 tsp ground turmeric
1 kilo diced lamb shoulder
3 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp greek yoghurt
300g cleaned spinach or chard
2 tsp garam masala
Small handful chopped coriander
Preheat the oven to 170ºC/Gas mark 4.
Peel the onion, garlic and ginger and blend into a paste in a food processor. In a casserole dish or heavy bottom pan that has a tight fitting lid, heat the oil and fry the onion paste for 5 minutes. Add the spices and fry for another 2 minutes.
Add the lamb and coat with the spicy paste and fry for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. When gently bubbling, cover and put in the oven for 2 hours. Stir after the first hour and check the liquid, if it feels dry add 50ml water.
After 2 hours the meat will be nice and tender, add the yoghurt and stir, then add the spinach and stir again, it will cook in the residual heat. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in garam masala. Garnish with coriander.
Serve with basmati rice, dahl, poppadoms, raita and a selection of pickles and chutneys and a nice cold glass of beer.
Decorating with flowers and foliage
The flowers we grow are not exotic or showy, they are simple, country flowers that look at home on a Welsh farm. Sweet peas, roses, cornflowers, poppies, oxeye daisies all ramble and self-seed through the gardens. They are picked and placed in miniature vases as single blooms for windowsills or grouped in small bunches on the tables. A simple dis-play in a glass vessel is elevated when placed in front of the vibrant green of a moss-stained wall.
For a large part of the year, our climate is mild and damp, so we have plenty of green foliage, lichen covered branches and lush ferns to pick and use. We add them to crevices in the cool, stone walls of the barns and they seem to bring a calm, peaceful atmosphere to the spaces.
One of the daily duties at the Do lectures is updating the chalkboards. We have chalkboards for workshops, for the daily menu and for the talks' schedule. We put a lot of effort into writing these boards; the style of the lettering, the use of quirky illustrations, the choice of words – they are all extensions of the way we look after and communicate to our attendees. They are an informal way of keeping everyone up-to-date with what's happening, allowing us to communicate in our own Do style.
Taking our time to create a thing of beauty that could easily disappear in the rain and is going to be wiped away and replaced a few hours after its creation, is worth all the effort. For us it's about making every little detail reflect who we are, no matter how short-lived it might be.
We don't just chalk on chalkboards. We use pieces of slate, stone and pebbles to communicate simple information. Chalk is also a great way to present the best quotes from the talks: almost as soon as the words have been spoken, they appear in hidden places as reminders of the day's events.
At some of the past Do Lectures we have been joined by artists who have turned inspirational words from the talks into pieces of art. At Do USA, Cumbersome Multiples set up a printing press in the back of the Hop Barn and printed posters of the words spoken by the speakers as they were doing their talks. At Do Wales, paper-cut artist Erica Francis George, made stencils during the talks and sprayed the words in hidden spots around the farm to the delight of those that found them.
The Do styling toolbox
1. Peebo 4Artist Markers 4mm in white. Oil based opaque, glossy makers that can be used on wood, metal, plastic, glass, ceramics and much more.
2. A staple gun.
3. A hot glue gun.
4. Refillable gas lighters to light candles.
6. Florist's wire.
7. Plastic flower water tubes and caps, for hydrating single single stems of foliage or flowers in displays.
8. A selection of nails, screws, hooks and tacks.
9. Chalk pens of various nib sizes.
10. Heavy duty sticky tape.