For all of us who are fans of the events and designs of Richard Saul Wurman, news two years ago that he was producing EG2006 [the Entertainment Gathering] at the Skirball Center north of Los Angelesbrought hope of a new series of intimate, high brainwave events, in the tradition of TED [Technology, Entertainment Design] which he'd painstakenly created and led through its sale in 2002 to publisher Chris Anderson.
As that event approached, Ricky (as he's known to dearest admirers) disappointed many when he said this was a one-off, and not a series. So, it is with great anticipation and joy that word started slipping out a few weeks back that The Entertainment Gathering will have (at least) an encore at the Getty Center in Los Angeles December 2-4 under the leadership of Michael Hawley, the gifted MIT professor who became known to RSW's crowd as much for the genius of his piano performances as for his professional accomplishments.
"To be honest, I'm a bit weary of high-end packaged conferences, but I never tire of spending great time with incredible people," Hawley wrote to a friend who inquired about his objectives. "I'm designing EG to be the kind of conference I would beg to attend."
Featuring stalwarts of past gatherings like physicist Brian Greene, former Microsoft executive Nathan Myrvold, philosopher-comic Emily Levine and perennial favorite musician Jill Sobule, this edition also inclues concert pianist Leon Fleisher, Toy inventor Caleb Chung and Donald Jackson, the calligrapher to Queen Elizabeth II. And, of course, Wurman as "himself."
No doubt the event will be as extraordinary as ever, and Hawley hints strongly there will be plenty of room to spawn those special moments like occured last year, when on the spur of the moment Bill Nye (the science guy) and Blair Tindall tied the knot in an impromptu wedding in the middle of the conference on the urging of Pastor Rick Warren, who presided over the ceremony.
"So, what I'm aiming for is an event that will be a breeder reactor for magical, wonderfully unexpeted connections like these," he wrote, in an email distributed to several potential attendees, referencing the wedding and other magical moments of EG2006. "I am keeping EG intimate (no overflow room); it isn't an orgy."
Hawley adds that he is agonizing over each presenter, among them many national treasures and people of unique talent, as well as over each attendee, saying he aims to be in touch with each attendee personally to help insure he brings out the best of the best.
Presuming this event builds on the brilliance of the past - and there's every reason to believe it will - participants will certainly celebrate Hawley's almost incidental comment that he intends to continue EG as an annual event, as what he terms "a great big cherry on top of the sundae of LA" - a notion and venue he attributes to RSW himself.