The WAW Gathering 2014, here’s what went down over the weekend of 3,4,5 October.  Words by Pat Nourse.

We had great hopes for WAW, but we are humbled by the response we received to the gathering. We wanted to bring people together to feed each other and be nourished, to come with open minds and leave with full hearts, and we’d like to think that in those goals we’ve been successful. On the first day, we took a group of people from all over the world and all over the city, some perfect strangers, some old mates, and we took them out of their comfort zone, launching them on a hilarious regatta across Albert Park Lake, showing them sides of Melbourne they’d never seen, setting them challenges as cooks, posing them questions as people, and shooting them repeatedly in the head with paintball guns. We broke bread with them, and we ended the day as friends.

On the second day, WAW Talks, our guests shared a striking range of perspectives, running the gamut from exploring aboriginal agriculture and Thai eco-Buddhism to rapping about natural wine and telling jokes about terrorising soil scientists. Daniel Patterson urged us to “stay off the fucking internet”, Will Dayble taught us the meaning of sobremesa, Chris Ying examined the motivational power of unhappiness, Isaac McHale talked about pursuing your own voice, and Leila Haddad made a convincing case for makers of all ages. Basketballs were dribbled, hoops were hula’d, portraits were spray-painted, clay was thrown, pots were banged, dahl was eaten, hip-hop was danced, songs were sung and guitars were shredded, just as assumptions were challenged, thoughts were provoked, connections were made and perspectives were enlarged. We laughed. Some of us cried. And everyone left knowing more than when they arrived – and wanting to know more still.

The final day, WAW Gives, was about everyone coming together to raise money for Helping Hoops, a Melbourne-based not-for-profit which teaches life-skills to disadvantaged children through basketball. The good and the great who purchased tickets were treated to a very different sort of charity lunch, with nametags and marquees replaced by a guided tour around the remarkable Rippon Lea Estate. Wandering into the lookout tower, into the cellar, around the lake, under the windmill and the like, they found themselves among groups of chefs and volunteers who served them dishes from a one-off cuisine informed by ingenuity, generosity and spontaneity. It also happened to be pretty bloody tasty, whether it was Bo Songvisava, Michael Ryan, Mark Labrooy and Myffy Rigby making a luxed-up “Illegal Train Track” salad of chicken and bunya nuts, Matthew Bax mixing Four Pillars gin and verjuice under a beeswax garnish, Roy Choi, Daniel Pepperell, James Viles and Darren Robertson fashioning tacos out of suckling pig and sorrel leaves, or any of a host of other brilliant ideas. More than $25,000 was raised, and a great many good times were had, not least by the small but thirsty contingent who were present afterwards to see David Thompson transform the leftovers into one of the all-time greatest red curries the city of Melbourne has ever seen, much to the glee of his new acolytes.

As WAW’s dreamers and doers, instigators and investigators, we can truly say it has been both a pleasure and an honour to take time out of our everyday lives to do something special with a group of talented, giving and mighty passionate individuals, not least in the service of something bigger than our own concerns. And whether you participated as a cook, a member of the audience, a volunteer, an artist, a diner, a donor or a dishwasher, you have our sincere gratitude.

Till next we gather.