November 14, 2021

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By Noah Ritchie

2019 marked the congruent launch of the Sydney Coast Hope Spot and Ocean Lovers Festival in New South Wales, Australia. The festival is a 4-day event that includes live entertainment, art, technology, science, and other avenues to show the myriad ways ocean lovers can make a difference. Although the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic restricted the festival in 2020 and postponed their expected return this fall, the festival is looking to make an exuberant comeback this coming March of 2022!

What is Ocean Lovers Festival and how did it start?

Festival founder Anita Kolni says this idea started with her considering “how to come up with a way to share hope and solutions for the ocean in a time where people feel a lot of despair.” Rekindling a profound love for the ocean is the antidote to fear caused by impending threats the ocean faces. After all, it’s not too late to start reversing the damage that’s been done. Kolni states that it all comes back to “inspiring people to fall in love with the ocean, because if they do they’re more inclined to protect it.” 

 

Anita Kolni

 

Kolni teamed up with OCL’s Executive Director of engagement, Carolyn Grant, and they decided to create a platform where the public can receive vast but digestible ocean information alongside practical ways to engage. “We discovered so many niche groups all doing their bit.. Lots of really interesting citizen-facing stuff… and not many people actually hear about these projects,” states Grant. They sought to combine all sorts of work—from plastic-free movements to marine scientists to indigenous elders to sustainable products — into a single space of access, thus multiplying the reach of all these groups. Kolni and Grant brought the idea to the local city council, proposing the historic Bondi Beach as a place to kick things off, and they received tremendous support. Theirs is a story that can serve as inspiration to all ocean lovers. It shows us the power of creating a platform to amplify each other’s voices, and that everyone who loves the ocean can use their unique skillset to do something to protect the ocean. Like Dr. Sylvia Earle says, “No one is without power. Everybody has the capacity to do something.” 

 

Anita Kolni, Founder, and Carolyn Grant, Director of Engagement, OLF (c) Franck Gazzola

 

OLF 2022: What you need to know

Building off the success of the inaugural festival in 2019, attendees can expect even more ocean-loving fun this coming spring. Beachgoers can literally turn-up in their swimmers to hear “Science in Your Swimmers”—  various inspirational discussions with scientists and other leaders focused on protecting our oceans. There will be interactive scientific installations as well, such as Volvo’s and Sydney Institute of Marine Science’s Living Seawalls project, coupled with an underwater Crayweed forest at the iconic Bondi Icebergs Pool.  

 

(c) Underwater Earth

 

Underwater Earth, the festival’s fellow Sydney Coast Hope Spot champion, Underwater Earth, will boast their interactive “Out of Sight Out of Mind” exhibition. Using cutting-edge storytelling technology, Underwater Earth expects that presenting the public with what’s beneath our ocean’s surface will only ignite greater interest. This exhibition also highlights the festival’s leap into immersive VR technology, and their hope for future permanent VR installations as a way to teach the history and science of Australian Hope Spots. 

 

(c) Underwater Earth

 

Alongside science-based attractions, “there’s art, markets, music, and other ways to engage you in that festival feel,” says Grant. Eco-markets showcase sustainable products and projects to promote more eco-conscious living and reduce the plastic waste entering our oceans. Attendees can also indulge in live music performed on a solar-powered stage, as well as various workshops, beach clean-ups, yoga, and film screenings.

Bondi Beach holds a rich Aboriginal history. The name itself, originally “Boondi,” translates to “surf” or “water breaking over rocks.” The festival highlights this history through Indigenous Coastal Care Walks, allowing attendees to walk in the footsteps of the Yuin Nation people, learning about their culture and ancient methods of environmental care. Coupled with the present work that Indigenous Rangers are doing, the festival exemplifies how indigenous cultures play an integral part in the fight to protect the ocean. 

 

 

Dr. Sylvia Earle famously urged in her 2009 TED talk, “I wish you would use all means at your disposal—films, expeditions, the web, new submarines—to create a campaign to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas; Hope Spots large enough to save and restore the blue heart of the planet.”

Ocean Lovers Festival truly embodies Mission Blue’s aim to ignite public support for more Hope Spots, using all means at their disposal. Blending culture, science, and awareness, they are establishing themselves as Australia’s nexus event for all ocean lovers seeking to protect our ocean.

Anyone interested in making it out to Bondi Beach this coming March can visit the Ocean Lovers Festival website for more information and details on how to sign up for their various programs.  

(c) Underwater Earth
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