What happens in Ibiza
Shamans and scientists: inside the festival everyone's talking about, with Lily Cole and Pangaia's Dr Amanda Parkes
Sustainability, science and spirituality met in one of Ibiza’s biggest celebrity magnets this weekend. Want to know what happened? I was there. Plus: Lily Cole is auctioning a necklace to raise money for the east African drought: how you can bid.
(It might be worth upgrading your subscription this week as I have some exclusive excerpts from the talks below the paywall at the bottom of this email.)
A utopia for our times
About a year and a half ago a hotel opened on the north west corner of Ibiza. Within days it was playing host to a tsunami of celebrities, influencers, fashion types and ‘people of interest’, partly because we were all coming out of lockdown, and partly because - well, Ibiza. Kate Moss, Alexa Chung, Stella McCartney, Liya Kebede, Simon Le Bon all came, stretched out in their bikinis, (okay, maybe not Simon), downed their green smoothies and then were gone.
The hotel is Six Senses Ibiza, and it quickly became a style page go-to. This summer its Beach Caves became a magnet for artists and DJs (FKA Twigs, Crussen), its farm and chefs creating the sort of menu that leaves your body feeling like it wants to sing, and the spa, wellness and longevity centres offer a rotation of extraordinary therapists and teachers. You can come and quaff rosé and dance all night, or you can hike the hills, bend down for quantum yoga and spend your days in a transformational breathing session.
If this all sounds a bit White Lotus meets Nine Perfect Strangers you’re not wrong: there are shades of psychedelic gurus and ‘colourful guests’, but frankly that just adds to the fun. As the co curator of the resort’s fashion and sustainability store, Agora, I’ve been popping in since it was a building site, and have been endlessly entertained and impressed by its progress. However, it wasn’t until this weekend that I felt the community switch gear from trendy influencer magnet, to the visionary utopia that developer Jonathan Leitserdorf always imagined. The true bohemians of northern Ibiza came together with some of the world’s leading practitioners of science, health and technology to create a conversation none of us thought we would be having. Packaged up as Alma festival, (alma means soul in Spanish), techpreneurs mixed with fitness gurus (Michael Acton Smith of Calm, Taryn Toomey, The Class); meditation gurus with marine biologists (Vishen Lakhiani, Mindvalley, Manu San Felix, National Geographic); facialists with Burning Man musicians (Sarah Bradden, Jo.KE), shamans with nutritionists (Hyacinth and Rosemary Ferguson) and activists with bioengineers (Lily Cole, Dr Amanda Parkes of Pangaia).
In a three day break from reality, the community came together to create a kind of dreamscape that could only exist away from the incessant news scroll of doom. Many were on their way to Cop 27, and left girded with hope and energy to convince the policymakers of today of the urgency of tomorrow. I was right in the middle of it, and this week I thought you might like a snapshot of what went on there.
Tickets were expensive, places were limited and strange and unexpected things happened. People left transformational breathing sessions in tears, Kundalini energy classes left many shaken and shaking (literally) as “clouds of rainbow energy” were reportedly flung around the room. Biohacking pioneer Dave Asprey revealed he likes to take his ozone supplements rectally (Asprey is an acquired taste), while meditation guru Vishal Lakhani revealed a six step hack he insists has had its followers win the US Open and command stadium filling concerts.
‘Surrender’, ‘gratitude’ and ‘manifestation’ were words flung about, and you could career from an aerial yoga session to a shamanic fire ceremony via an Ayurvedic dinner created by the glowing and newly pregnant Jasmine Helmsley. My teary moment didn’t come at sunset as the mindful movement duo, Sanctum, urged us through blue lit headphones to ‘release’ and ‘unblock’ in a moment of physical frenzy, but instead in a profoundly moving talk by the marine biologist and Ibiza resident Manu San Felix. On hand to warn about the degradation of marine reserves in the Mediterranean and his fight to preserve the island's indigenous Posidonia fields, he had just returned from a whale study in Patagonia where he had witnessed multiple Right whale corpses, killed by climate-induced red algae blooms. San Felix has been studying marine life for forty years, and with David Attenborough and Silvia Earle is doing his best to set up the reserves we need before it is too late.
Fortunately, Pangaia’s Dr Amanda Parkes followed up with a talk on the progress being made in labs around material innovation. Whales might be dying, but the scientists have solutions in their labs if only we could just scale them up and get them out. Parkes is a force - a bioengineer by education with degrees from places like Stanford and MIT, and a background in biotech start ups and wearable technology that led her to co-found Pangaia with the Russian fashion powerhouse Mira Dumas. The success of Pangaia proves that fashion consumers care: their colourful tracksuits dyed with food waste derivative, their carbon sequestered sunglasses and their brewed protein tees have captured our imagination.
(For my paid subscribers there’s more of her talk at the bottom, plus a revelation about the extraordinary new material she is working on).
The discussion following Parkes's talk was heated, so we took it out of the midday sun (it was November but still hot and gorgeous) and into Agora where Lily Cole, the model, actress and eco activist, took the chair. Lily is a fiercely intelligent character (she got a first from Cambridge) and her multiple careers (techpreneur, writer, podcast host) mean she has been in a lot of rooms. One of her current projects is a supply chain model with the UN, and as we discussed the problems of transparency, a hand went up in the audience. A 13 year old girl, who had accompanied her Dad, the Burning Man artist JO.KE to the festival, took us all to task. How could we sit there lecturing everyone about fast fashion when girls of her age could never dream of affording the sustainably produced luxury we were advocating? And second hand is all very well, but what about underwear? It was a real moment to have someone of that age address us with knowledge, urgency and a big old reality check. She left with a Pangaia t shirt under her arm (Parkes gifted it to her) and a great future ahead. (She told me later she swapped her tee for one of her Dads rock and roll tops. No matter - when Jo.Ke took over the decks at midnight he was wearing his daughter’s Pangaia).
For my paid subscribers, scroll down for more from Lily’s talk
None of this was in vain. Sharing hope, inspirational models of change and bringing together multiple disciplines in continuous conversation (one audience member asked if he could stage a sustainability hackathon at Agora, to which - YES) gave everyone energy, new purpose and meaning to take back into their worlds.
It’s interesting what can happen when you surrender cynicism and allow hope to enter. In the sun, in a heavenly, beautiful place, amongst such interesting people, it was impossible not to be moved. Whether it's creative visualisation or the law of attraction, release therapy or connection, it was an auspicious start to a week where the world’s policy makers meet to limit the world’s warming to 1.5 degrees above pre industrial levels. That target now looks perilously out of reach, and we may very soon be having conferences to discuss the tech solutions we need to live in a climate-destroyed, over-heated world. Soaring temperatures in Ibiza this summer were just the start - the cool season in Ibiza which allows festivals like Alma to go ahead, may soon be a thing of the past. With renewed consciousness, the 180 or so Alma friends started to melt away, and spread what they learned.
Bid for Lily Cole’s necklace
“I’ve arrived in Egypt for the ‘Africa COP27’ climate summit,” Whatsapps Lily last night. “Whilst we gather to discuss what to do about the climate crisis; global warming is exacerbating a drought in East Africa, threatening over 30 million people with starvation.
I am auctioning off this beautiful necklace, designed by Zambian jeweller, Jewel of Africa, which is 18K gold in the shape of Africa and contains a sapphire, an emerald and a ruby. RRP £795. All money raised will go to Oxfam for their work on the East African Hunger Crisis.”
You can bid for the necklace by direct message on Instagram to @agora.ibiza, or email me direct through Substack. Auction closes November 15th.
Until next week,
For my Premium subscribers, you can find out more about what Lily Cole and Dr Amanda Parkes had to say below.