Lexington, KY – A concert event this weekend at the University of Kentucky will mark the return of renowned author, poet and environmental activist Wendell Berry, who pulled his papers from the school in a dispute over its relationship with the coal industry. "Artists for a Sustainable Future, Which Side Are You On?" will feature Appalachian writers and folk musicians who are opposed to mountain top removal coal mining. Ron Pen, the director of UK's John Jacob Niles Center, which is hosting the concert, says having Wendell Berry appear sends a strong message.
"Wendell is certainly a well known name. He is highly published and highly regarded. In some ways the whole movement is galvanized around his poetry and essays. But, he's really just one other voice; one other Kentucky citizen who has some opinions and he expresses it with a pen, and we express it for the most part with banjos and voice and fiddles; instruments like that."
Pen says the program will feature Appalachian writers, storytellers, and musicians who advocate for an end to the destructive mining practice.
"Here a number of musicians that were highly sought out for the World Equestrian Games and they saw on the tent that it was being sponsored by coal and they didn't want to be part of that so they looked for an alternative voice and an alternative venue, and they came to me (and asked) could we do this at the university and as the Niles Center is a part of the university I said sure I'd be happy to embrace that."
The Saturday evening program will feature readings from Berry and storyteller Octavia Sexton, plus musical performances from Carla Gover, Randy Wilson, the Reel World String Band, and Kentucky Wild Horse. It starts at 8 in UK's Memorial Hall.