There is an energy about John Winning as soon as we get on the phone. He’s created something major, and he wants you to know about it. He has the air of someone who is well-travelled, well connected and has seen it all. But he also doesn’t want to keep that from anyone. On the contrary, he's excited to put his experiences in front of people. That’s what he’s trying to create with Human Kind, an event that is somehow both indefinable and major, which will take place at Luna Park from 16-18 March.
Winning started planning Human Kind last year and has amassed 50+ global thought leaders, musicians, wellness leaders and comedians. One of the headliners is global health leader and 'Iceman' Wim Hof who will take guests on a once-in-a-lifetime breathing and ice experience. Guy Sebastian and Reggie Watts will also take the stage as well as Jim Jefferies, Matt Mullenweg and Sarah Ellen.
When I ask him if he's looking forward to the festival, he swiftly corrects me, "well, I don't call it a festival. It's just Human Kind. But you could label it however you want. Some people like to put a label on things. We call it a summit, a conference, a festival, an event, an experience. I've heard all of the above, to describe it. And it is all of those things under different definitions.
It's an enormous feat putting together such an event within the 10 or 11-month timespan that it took when similar events take years. Winning tells me that people told him it was a big ask, but he doesn't seem to mind, "we're probably not as organized as most. But I also said to my team, Burning Man and Glastonbury are the worst organised festivals or events that I've ever been to, but they're also the best."
Human Kind is a not-for-profit. Every year Human Kind runs, profits will be distributed to a different organisation or charity that aligns with the Human Kind goals. This year’s chosen charity is AIME, a dynamic mentoring program supporting Indigenous students through secondary school and into university, employment or further education
The seeds of Human Kind came together in what sounds like an afternoon of techie debauchery with some of the biggest tech names in San Francisco. "I was djing a party with the co-founder and CEO of Reddit a guy by the name of Steve Huffman. And in the crowd were many of my other techie friends, one in particular by the name of Matt Mullenweg, who is the founder and CEO of WordPress, and my other dear friend who had taken me to the same party. And her name is Sophia Li, who is the founder and CEO of a company called Clearmob. And basically, she said to them, 'oh, I just got back from Sydney, have you ever been?'"
When they said they hadn't Sophia Li "closed" the deal by asking when they were planning to go and convincing Matt Mullenweg to give a talk to Winning's team. He had his first speaker. "From there, I went, well, it's a bit of a waste. We've got one of the biggest heavy hitters of the internet and our generation in tech. But why would I only share that knowledge with my team? Like, let's do something cool in Sydney."
It only snowballed from there "And so I called Wim Hof who is a friend of mine and said 'Wim if I did an event in Sydney around March would you come and do some breath work and ice bath stuff for like some really cool friends that are coming from all over the world?' And he said, 'Sure, if you do the event I'm there.' And then I rang the father of one of my godsons, Seth Troxler, And he basically said, 'sure, if you do an event in Sydney, I'll DJ for you,' and I went, Oh, now I've got cool music. I've got probably one of the world's best health and wellness people. And I've got one of the world's best tech and business people, all coming from different ends of the globe."
Each speaker is so diverse, they don't seem to have a thread that links them. When I ask if Winning does see the commonality between the speakers, he tells me "100%, they all have an amazing superpower. They've worked out what it is, or they believe they know what it is. We all have an amazing superpower, some of us just don't know what it is yet... And then hopefully, that'll inspire other people to think about which one of these people relates to them, and how they can learn."
This is when he shares that they are going to be profiling the audience and the speakers using neuroscience to link the audience through a personality profiling model. I inquire as to how this will be done. "We're going to profile all of the speakers and the talent and profile the people in the audience. And they'll get their results. And we'll discuss the results. So when the speakers are there, you will understand which speakers are like you. And it might also help you understand [that] I know I'm a lot like that person. Maybe that's something that I'd like to try."
Another spectacle of Human Kind will be the 'Wheel of Fortune' a turbo take on the elevator pitch where audience members can pitch to a handpicked group of musicians, industry insiders, investors and venture capitalists for the length of a ferris wheel ride.
I wonder who this festival is for, as it seems as though it's for everyone, and Winning agrees. "Anyone that is curious, visionary or wants to be bold or good. If you're evil don't come."
At its essence, Human Kind feels like it's about community, "people attending are the event. That's the biggest thing. It's like, we import all of the ingredients that we believe will reshape our future, in the most optimistic and positive way, in our opinions possible."
"Our event is for people like me, and people like us. And I believe that anyone that is visionary and curious and good and bold is like me, and like us, and that believes in science. But who's also open-minded to believing in, Indigenous systems thinking and understand well, how the Indigenous survive sustainably for 60,000 years, maybe there's something to be learned there."
I wonder how people are meant to feel walking away from Luna Park. "I want someone to feel like their mind is blown and words can't describe what they just experienced... If someone asks you about it, you just say, 'Look, you can't describe it, you just have to go and experience it for yourself.' I think that we've got all of the elements to do that, and all enough quirky, and amazing and creative people in all different fields to be able to create this recipe of curiosity and stimulation."
"I'm hoping in 10 years time, it'll go down like a Burning Man or a Glastonbury. Then in 10 years time, we will burn it like a burning man."
To view the full lineup and purchase tickers, visit the Human Kind Website.