GBS Interviews

2022 GBS Co-Chairs Paul Kirtley and Lisa Fenton’s Immediate Reflections

Immediately after the 2022 Global Bushcraft Symposium came to a close Paul Kirtley and Dr Lisa Fenton, the two Co-Chairs of the 2022 Global Bushcraft Symposium, somewhat tired, and perhaps a little dazed, sat down with GBS roving cameraman Ben Gray, to give their immediate reflections on the GBS. Watch and listen to the video of the conversation on this page. Subtitles are available and a transcript is included lower down this page.

People Mentioned in the Conversation

David Delafield
Cody Lundin
Cat Bigney
Joe Flowers
Jamie Dakota
John Rhyder
Jason Ingamells

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Lisa Fenton [00:00:00] My name is Lisa Fenton. I have been co-chairing the GBS, so co organising and sort of supporting the organisation of it and the ideas and how it forms and what we really, truly wanted to do here.

Paul Kirtley [00:00:21] Hi, I’m Paul Kirtley. I’m also co-chair with along with Lisa. And we’ve been organising the event. I guess I’ve taken maybe more of the the hard organisational side, but Lisa and I have formed the concept of it together and brought it to fruition over the last three years. So yeah, it’s been great. Well, we’ve just finished, we literally just finished saying goodbye to some of the overseas speakers and the vibe has just been amazing. The atmosphere has been super positive. Everyone came with an open mind, came with an open heart. I think we’ve progressed understandings, we’ve cross-fertilised ideas. We’ve got a lot of things to go and think about and reflect on. And the dust will certainly take a little while to settle, but it’s been amazing.

Lisa Fenton [00:01:07] Yeah, it has been amazing. I think there’s been so many different aspects of the field brought here, from survival psychology to bushcraft education to primitive skills. There’s been such a diversity of speakers here in terms of backgrounds from practitioners, professionals, PhDs, professors. We’ve had input from so many different aspects where people are deeply embedded in the thinking of the practise. And to bring all of that together in one place has been really, really rich. As Paul says.

Ben (Cameraman) [00:01:51] Yes. Why have you sacrificed so much time? And has been huge, hasn’t it, but for a good reason?

Lisa Fenton [00:01:58] It has and certainly Paul sacrificed a lot more time and energy. However, yes, I have been involved for three years and was also very committed to seeing this come to fruition since the first Global Bushcraft Symposium that we both gave keynotes at in 2019. When we were there, I think it was very evident to both of us that this was an important global exchange of information and knowledge amongst people who are deeply respected, who have been in the profession, whether whether from a military specialist background or from civilian practise. But that global exchange of knowledge, I feel, is really important and something that we need to keep going. And yeah, I just think it’s really important and more and more important.

Paul Kirtley [00:02:54] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it came from an idea of wanting to bring people together on a professional level to exchange ideas about best practise, to exchange ideas about what we teach, how we teach it, and not just get stuck in silos and geographic silos and subject silos cross fertilise in those ways as well. And that was one of the reasons it was set up that certainly what happened in 2019 and I think time will tell, but I think we’ve done a very good job of doing that this time. We’ve certainly brought the right people together, and it’s going to be very interesting to see how that flowers out into other avenues going forwards and how the GBS goes forwards. I think we’ve also built the momentum for the GBS as well this time certainly. And you know, they started from a standing start last time and as David Delafield said to us today, he handed us a baby and we’ve helped it grow a little more and will hand it on further. And let’s keep building this. And I think one of the things that I was keen to do, there was such a good atmosphere in Canada of sharing and I think they’ve probably always been a little bit better at that. In terms of their community of bushcraft and outdoors people, I think there’s been less, “Oh well, this is mine and that’s yours” and competition. I think maybe it’s maybe just because Canada is a bit bigger, but certainly in the UK, as reflected on my by Jason yesterday there was a sort of ring fencing of my company versus your company, my school versus your school. And you know, we go to various events and everyone’s got their own stall and it’s all branded and you know, this is our territory and that’s your territory. And we’re all trying to vie for customers. And, you know, there’s none of that here. It’s neutral ground. We’re all here to share. We’re all here to get on a network. And I don’t like that word. But, you know, we’re here to increase our friendships and increase our conversations and look for ways to cooperate, not necessarily in business, but just in terms of ideas as well.

Lisa Fenton [00:04:55] Yeah, it’s actually been quite an emotional time I think for a lot of the people that have come here, both delegates and speakers, to sort of bring down those barriers and make connexions. It’s, um, I think that in itself is really valuable.

Paul Kirtley [00:05:12] Yeah. I think that the people from the UK that were here this time, that weren’t there last time, got a sense of why the last one was so important. You know, they feel the same way now as, you know, Lisa and I did after the last one. And Patrick, of course, is there and some of the people that, you know, we brought that to the Bushcraft community, the Bushcraft industry, not that we like that word, but, you know, we’ve brought that to the profession here. And I think it just it strengthens it if embraced it. Yeah, absolutely. We’re in this post-pandemic world. We’ve all been shuttered and. Stopped at home and, you know, restricted and constrained. And, you know, there’s that for us to get over as well. And of course, we decided that we take the previous forwards before that and so we’ve had to manage through that. And then I think there’s this big relief of everyone being able to come together, which is something in itself. But I think also more than that, because we sense that back in 2019 as well, which was pre-pandemic, that there’s a real value in people coming together, there’s a real value in people speaking informally. And we certainly made space for the informal discussions here as well. We know we’ve had keynotes, we’ve had workshops, we’ve had demonstrations, we’ve had breakout speeches, and that’s all relatively structured and it’s material that’s prepared. But then there’s been lots of opportunity. Everyone’s in the same canteen at lunchtime, everyone’s in the same accommodation, everyone’s in the same room in the evenings, just socialising and maybe having a drink. And those conversations are equally fruitful. Everyone’s super excited about, you know, sharing ideas, maybe, you know, I’d like to go and do a course with Cody, which I always wanted to do, but it’s just spurred me more. Cconversations with John Ryder about Cybertracker. And again, that’s been something that’s been on my radar, but I’ve never really committed to it. But hearing John talk about it, both in terms of his presentation, but also speaking to him in person, you know, offline, you know, just over over a drink later on, it was really, really useful. And I think there’s a lot of energy around various collaborations. And, you know, I’ve got invites to go to lots of different things and go on, you know, go to go to Frostbite, go visit somebody in the jungle, go and do this. You know, maybe we could do this. And there’s lots of energy about otherwise of collaborating going forward. And I think that’s one of the you’ve got this energy that drives creativity and ideas and sparks things that, you know, some of them will, you know, fritter away and fizzle out as ideas, perhaps just because that’s the way life works. Right. But some of them will carry on to other things. And I think that’s really, really super.

Lisa Fenton [00:07:46] Yeah, yeah, definitely. I think, you know, there’s been so many international opportunities for collaboration and I think well, I mean, obviously the shuttering away of COVID, where we’re all sat behind computer screens and stuff, it definitely had its limitations. And it’s a completely different experience being here and having those. It’s the corridor conversations, you know, that starts where everyone takes a joy in it, where you can just grab someone and go, What did you think about that? And you know, have you seen this? And I’ve been meaning to get in touch with you for years and now you’re here. It’s great to see you. That creates that kind of cross-fertilisation and that strengthening of community and understanding of who we all actually are, instead of the impression of who we all are. So it’s a very humanising experience. And I think but the fact that we’ve been through so much, just to take one positive out of it, is that there’s a feeling of those international collaborations. Hey, we can we can catch up again on Zoom or something, you know, that we’re not just disappearing off. And so it feels even more like a continued community, almost because of the way that we got used to using technology through COVID that we can. Everyone feels more comfortable about using that. And because we’ve met each other, it doesn’t feel like you’re just talking to a stranger on Zoom.

Paul Kirtley [00:09:14] And, you know, the technology that’s come up around that has facilitated a lot. I mean, we didn’t have a single in-person meeting organising this. Not one single meeting, other than when first agreeing to do it, when we’re both in Canada. And most of the team we’ve had working on different aspects have been remote, you know. I think we’ve had meetings online sort of in different directions, Zoom, Skype, etc. and I’ve been to the venue a couple of times, only once since COVID and Theme Camp organiser Jaime Dakota came with me because he’d never been to the venue before and we managed to do the whole thing remotely with a team. You know, there was some of the team that we were working with in Canada. They were involved in the last one and then some of the rest of the team around the UK and you know, a few years ago that would have been impossible. So the fact that some of those teleconferencing technologies and group messaging systems have become so sophisticated and easy to manage has actually really helped as well. So I think we’re getting some of the benefits, but still the goal is to get together in person. That’s where the real magic happens.

Lisa Fenton [00:10:21] Yeah. So I think those bonds and emotional connections and professional connections and, I don’t know, the respect that’s developed and the the opportunities that have arisen to, you know, go to the jungle with Joe or, you know, for me really want to collaborate more with Cat Bigney, we were talking about. And there’s just those. All of us have made lots of. Different connexions and strings and I think that’s really exciting to see coming up…. it’ll become evident who sort of starts tp collaborate with who and what they get up to and follow their stories and then you know, in two years time when there’s the next Global Bushcraft Symposium, we’ll be able to catch up again and find out what everyone’s been up to, or say “saw you on Alone”, you know, something like that?

Paul Kirtley [00:11:15] You know, it’s I think, you know, there’ll be the things that go on away from the GBS as a result of the GBS. But I think the other thing that’s really apparent is that there’s a need, a desire to carry the GBS forwards with the GBS being the centre of that community that are doing things together in different ways. And for that then to grow and strengthen going forwards. And we’ve had conversations during this both with people who are here and people who aren’t here about how it goes forwards and even how it goes forwards after that. So we’re in discussions about the next two now. And whereas the last time it was like a tentative do you think you might want to take this on? Now it’s a case of, okay, how do we move this forwards? How do we do this again in a way that’s meaningful and powerful and it doesn’t just become cranking the handle. It’s has a different sort of granularity, a different setting, a slightly different context culturally and geographically, but with the same core values that we can then keep building on it going forwards. And I’m really excited about that.

Lisa Fenton [00:12:21] Yeah, I think, you know, just moving away from that, the fun stuff if you like, of the buzz, but it’s slightly more seriously. I think it’s also creating more coherence as a profession that, you know, we’re all seeing actually we’re coming from the same standpoint over a lot of things and there’s a lot of overlap in our principles and ethics and that, you know, there’s perhaps a need for us professionally to have a bit more coherence. And, you know, in this country and globally, people doing different things, doing things differently because the terrain is different, but the principles are still the same, I think.

Paul Kirtley [00:13:00] Yeah, yeah. And where there are maybe some edges to that, there’s some very interesting but constructive discussions going on as well, which is all very positive. And yeah, it’s, it’s been amazing on multiple different levels and I think we’ll carry it forwards now.

Lisa Fenton [00:13:13] Yeah.

Paul Kirtley [00:13:13] I’m not going to do another one though. I think Lisa wants to do it is one that will be very supportive of of where it goes next. And I think, you know, we had the Canadians behind us for this one. We’ll take it forwards with some other people and they’ve got us and them. So, you know, in terms of the organisational team and the experiences we’ve had, they’ve got that momentum to carry it forward. And you’ve also got, you know, the cohort of delegates from those different geographies that are also going to go and spread the word and build and want to come back. Everyone’s saying and asking when’s the next one? Where is it going to be? I want to go, you know, let me know. Okay, yes. There’s a there’s a bit of euphoria in an event, but I think that will actually carry forwards in greater great momentum.

Lisa Fenton [00:13:57] Yeah, there’s been a lot of euphoria. People have really loved it. The feedback has been amazing. I think me and Paul will enjoy it when we get home and reflect because that’s the nature of it, isn’t it? Yeah. And but you know, there has been so much appreciation for the work that Paul and I have done here and desire to keep the momentum going. So yeah, it’s that in itself it’s just a massive reward and that’s what we take away from it really. And that is all we take away from that. But it’s everything again.

Paul Kirtley [00:14:36] You know, I think I think anybody watching this will realise this. But this isn’t a commercial event. We’re not trying to make money, we’re not trying to sell things. We are trying to exchange ideas and knowledge and best practise, and we’re trying to do it in a way that’s accessible to as many people as possible. There is no profit motive other than it just washing its face and being able to go forwards with momentum. And that’s that’s super important as well, because there is a there is a commercialisation at one end of this subject, which, you know, just to be clear, this is not a commercial event.

Lisa Fenton [00:15:08] Yeah. And I think there has been some assumption that this because every other event similar to this one, not every is necessary, but some others similar to this have a commercial background. This is an assumption that this is and and it’s not at all. So everyone that’s come here has done so voluntarily with everyone that’s helped organise it has done so voluntarily. And all the speakers have come here to share their knowledge freely.

Paul Kirtley [00:15:34] No-one has taken the speaker fee. You know, some expenses are paid, but other than that, it’s just to make the thing happen. Nobody’s taking a wage or a fee or anything for this. Yeah, it’s great.

One reply on “2022 GBS Co-Chairs Paul Kirtley and Lisa Fenton’s Immediate Reflections”

I did not physically attend that Symposium, but I attended the first in Canada, and after having viewed the video presentations from this Symposium (yes, purchasing the videos was a much cheaper way to have gone there economically), a kinship is clearly seen. We are a community, and, those of us who may not necessarily be masters of any particular trade of survival or bushcraft (just mere practitioners) do not feel exempt from the community. The skills we use, and now have opportunity to share and acquire with and from others we have met since, are immeasurable and valuable. There is a clear understanding that no one owns any skills, and that the best way to perpetuate the techniques is to share them in their proper contexts and proper methodologies. I personally feel privileged to feel a belonging among such proficient and selfless members of this tiny community. Thank you both for your hard work and kind participation in promoting these skills.

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