How Festivals Can Accelerate Personal Transformation

Whilst music and art are enormously important in the curation of festivals, it is consciousness and the capacity for a festival experience to change the way we think which is becoming increasingly relevant in a world where social media breeds an impatient thirst for instant gratification.

When a word is used enough, it inevitably gets wedged between two speech marks, hijacked by opportunistic marketing teams then fed into social news feeds and, over time, loses its gravitas.

Transformational is one such word. But, however much it may get overused, we shouldn’t disregard the weight it carries and what it truly represents. Festivals have been around for millennia, people congregating and uniting as one to celebrate traditions, to give thanks for life and reconnect with friends and family.
They are gatherings that can be so highly concentrated with sensory overload and positive energy that they have the power to change people’s perceptions of themselves in an instant, and in turn project that energy into their day to day lives. As humans we are all a summation of our experiences, and the relationships we build shape our behavioural patterns.

Whilst we come together to celebrate as one, we do so in an environment where we are encouraged to express ourselves on an individual level. Of the 200,000-odd people at Glastonbury for example, each and every one of them will have a different story to tell by the end of it, every single year – even close friends and lovers.

In general the festival-loving demographic, regardless of background, are open minded, or at least willing, if only on a visceral level unbeknownst to them, to accept new realities. This enhanced consciousness and openness to new experiences is the essential prerequisite to having a transformational experience. The festival itself then acts as the catalyst. Some things, which may take years or even decades to realise about yourself in the ‘real world’, can be brought on in a matter of days, or even in a single moment, at an event where inhibitions are lowered and the atmosphere is safe and permissive.
In our capacity as both festival goers and organisers, we find ourselves in a position which allows us to appreciate and bene t simultaneously from the transformational effects these events have on people. In writing this piece I was asked, albeit indirectly, to explore my consciousness. I was inspired to look back upon my life in festivals and calculate the sum of my experiences, to weigh each one against the other, and in doing so revert back to key moments in my own personal growth. As a result composing this has been far more emotional than I had previously imagined. Retrospect has reminded me of the gargantuan amount of pure, unadulterated joy I have been exposed to as a result of the love and dedication of others.
The festival I am part of is part of me, and it’s changed my life irrevocably for the better. But beyond the experiences I have shared with my friends on-site in Leicestershire, I have my own history. Shorter than some, longer than others, and it all started at the Car- ling Reading Weekender in 2005… Completely unprepared, we descended on what looked like the Somme. There is no other way to de- scribe it other than a battle eld, but instead of hardened soldiers ardent for glory, there were hordes of goths and rockers, diluted, much like the beers, by groups of intimidating hooligans baying for booze. After watching The Darkness and The New York Dolls play, we caught a brief glimpse of a member of Dirty Sanchez (Wales’ answer to Jackass), smoking some- one else’s pubic hair through a bong filled with another person’s urine. He then proceeded to drink said urine, and at this point we decided to head back to our tent, which had become amphibious in the marvelous British weather.

Eventually we made it back safe and sound – at one point we had to hide behind a bar in order to strategically evade a centurion of (younger) teenagers, all of whom were sporting t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “I Hate Morrissey”.

Leaving Reading on the Sunday I couldn’t help feeling that the Hari Krishna cheerily trying to sell his religious literature at the exit may have targeted the wrong crowd – I also couldn’t help feeling that I too wasn’t a fan of Morrissey. Still, I bought a book from Mr Krishna and drove home. That book remains on the shelf at my my parents’ house, a stark reminder of that very first weekend in battle. I didn’t come out of that festival with a new outlook on life, and there were certainly no biblical revelations to speak of. But there was definitely something intoxicating about it, there was an energy which was infectious and I was conscious that I wanted more of it.

It wasn’t until 2007, and “The Wet Year” at Glade back when it was at Aldermaston, that I had arguably the most important festival experience of my life. The excitement in the air was tangible, as was the rain, and for four days I swam around the site elated almost to the point of self-combustion. I fell head over muddy heels in love with festivals that weekend, and even more in love with electronic music thanks to a truly subliminal performance by Trentemøller of his album ‘The Last Resort’. It was during the opening track ‘Take Me Into Your Skin’, that myself and my great friend (and Noisily co-founder) Will, first spoke of organising a festival.

Perhaps it could have been a pipe dream that never happened, nevertheless we were inspired and wanted to create something that had the same effect on others. In the decade which has passed since that moment of clarity in the knee-high mud of Glade, there have been many instances where the surroundings and experience have lead me towards answers in my- self, shifting the paradigm of my thought processes and opening up my consciousness to answers with- in. It’s almost as though festivals are a giant group therapy session.

A festival is an invitation to be yourself but turned up to 11, it’s a no holds barred playground where self-expression is given room to thrive, and some of the world’s best events for this liberation of self are contained in pages of this weighty bible. If you are craving a release, have a penchant for hedonism, a whole lot of love to share, or simply want to get to grips with yourself, there really is no better environment to transform than at one of these celebrations. Festival experiences are ones wherein the very best elements of your personality come into being. Pieces of you which may have remained suppressed under the weight of day to day life, and the expectations of an antiquated society. The age of the stiff upper lip is drawing to a close, giving voice and stature to free thinking, allowing a generation to express themselves and how they feel, without fear of being ridiculed, or better still, with the innate courage to rise above it.

Photo credit : Juliana Bernstein

Written by : Charles Audley

‘Life’s a game, life’s a game, life’s a game.’ – Oregon Eclipse

Wise words, and ones worth contemplating for a second. Especially as they came from the mouth of a streaker who managed to stylishly pull off what must be the pinnacle of any dedicated streaker’s career; exposing himself to the tens of thousands watching one of the rarest and most monumental astronomical events that a human can witness, a full solar eclipse.

 

We were in Oregon, a group of collaborators from Ooligan Alley (our Burning man camp) and Noisily Festival representing the UK at the Global Eclipse Gathering. Noisily was one of 16 events from around the world invited to take part in this one off gathering. Our team of over 20 had become a close knit family forged by seven long hard days building in Reno, and together we had constructed an enormous arrangement of LED Obelisks in celebration of the moon’s passing in front of the sun and as an ode to the UK’s ancient monument, Stonehenge.

 

Our new family was echoed and magnified time and time again at this event, as new friendships were forged, old ones were reignited and cemented. Strikingly, these relationships were formed with a total irreverence to nationalities and borders. In an environment where people are unrestrained by the heavy confines of societal pressures and hungry for new connections, both in their relationships and their mind.

 

 

We live in an age where information and ideas are king, yet new ways of thinking about our way of life are often stifled by the old guard, trampled by convention and ignored by short sighted growth based economies. In the festival environment, creativity and new concepts can flourish and spread, taking hold in receptive minds and rippling out into the outside world.

 

These are environments where people are kind to each other, they consider their impact on the environment around them and take the time to let go of some of the psychological armour which is necessary to survive in the modern world.

 

And surely this is all we need in the game of life, for people to be geneous-hearted and truly connect with their fellow humans on a deeper level. Once this necessity is recognised and lived every day, everything else will follow.

 

 

Why would we throw litter on the floor when we know that someone else has to pick it up? Why would we willfully pollute when we know how damaging it is to our lungs and those of our friends and family? What sane human being would inflict physical or emotional pain on another if they truly recognised that goodness and humanity that they knew was in themselves?

 

Of course our problems are infinitely more complicated than that, and being kind is not going to save the planet on its own, but being reminded of the essential goodness of humanity once in awhile allows a foot in the door for the collective consciousness to move towards a place of universal kindness and unity.

 

The Oregon Eclipse was a haven – for seven days, our beautiful global community talked, shared, loved and partied. Throughout that process they made valuable connections which will nourish them and their friends and families and hopefully act as a catalyst for the necessary shift in the collective consciousness that we need to start ascending the massive mountain we have to climb.  

 

Article by : Lachie Gordon Athié

 

Flying in Black Rock City

We’re cruising, gliding and swooping through the open desert on our bikes, far away in the distance a massive flying saucer looms out of the dust like some recently landed alien mirage, shimmering in the distance. 

Weird distorted noises, irregular bass thumps, whooshes and poofs all emanate from the busy horizon. The shape of a huge octopus can be made out, all eight of its arms thrusting up and down and pumping out 12ft high flames, a life size tyrannosaurus rex walks past with a lazy gait just at the edge of our vision. But we seem to be alone, looking out in the other direction yields endless perfectly at desert, it’s enormity and sparse expanse calling and opening our hearts to the boundless possibilities of life.

What were you expecting to happen? This isn’t some vivid dream, this is Burning Man, in my opinion the most extraordinary and inspirational place in the world. A temporary city where everything is built by the participants simply because they want to, there is no money (it runs on a gifting economy – everything is given with no expectation of return), crime is virtu- ally non existent, litter is not a thing and people are just nice to each other, and look after each other… the whole time! A place where you see the most incredible things that you have ever seen, every 10 minutes. But why is it so different? What makes this often called “party in a desert” much more than that flippant description? Well, something happens to you when you step into the Black Rock desert for the first time, before you see all the mind-blowing art, before you meet the amazing generous people who populate the city for a few weeks each year. It’s as if the sparse white dusty floor on which the city is built breaks opens your mind to it’s own in nite possibilities, it’s a blank canvas and you can’t help but want to fill it. Suddenly you’re faced with the question, ‘What am I going to do?’ because one thing is certain, as soon as you’ve seen what everyone else is doing, you’re going to want some of the action. And then it turns out that the only way to answer this question is to rst answer other questions, ‘Who do I want to be?’, ‘What is it which represents me enough for me to give it to the community?’ and ‘How will I contribute to this incredible space?’. When these questions are asked in the midst of one of the most overwhelming, mind blowing experiences of your life, often under the influence of various mind altering substances. When you’re in the clutches of sleep deprivation, in a place where you have license to be anything you want. When you’re surrounded by inspiration exponential to that of the ‘default world’, you rapidly begin to find new and positive ways of thinking about yourself, your friends and your place in the world.

It was my second year at Burning Man, three of us arrived four days before it officially started and had sailed into the event. We parked up at 2B (the address system at Burning Man is based on a clock with ra- dial letters) on the edge of nothingness, where our camp was soon to be. The advantage of our location at Black Rock City is that we have a unobstructed view of the sunrise, which produces the most magical time of day, a time when the light is just perfect, bathing the alkaline dust in a warm amber light; a stark contrast to the harsh white terra in the midday sun. We watched our first sunrise in awe, shattered after a hard day’s work and long night’s drive, yet energised by the excitement of spending the next 10 days in the best place on earth, as well as the pending arrival of our latest acquisition… It had probably only been five months before, sitting around a kitchen table in London, pondering the plan for our camp (named Ooligan Alley) and what our 2013 offering to The Burn would be, when somebody said, “What about if we buy a plane to use as a DJ booth…”. Fast forward to Burning Man, my comrade Fede had gone off in our truck to look for our ‘DJ booth’, leaving Josh and I to wait in case it turned up at our address. The excitement had started to ebb as the sun did the exact opposite, the thermometer climbing ever closer towards 40 degrees and a stifling heat. Our water supplies ran low and as midday arrived, whilst the meagre shade thrown by our only piece of camp infrastructure, a generator, was extinguished. Should we run for it? We peeped our heads out from behind our mechanical island, scoping out the nearest oasis from the relentless sun, when a plume of dust caught our eye.

 

THE PLANE.

As the dust settled we danced around the massive low rider truck in uncontrollable excitement! There it was, the front 30ft of a Boeing 727 looming on the trailer. The events that followed, at the end of Au- gust for the next three years, were consistently and consecutively the best weeks of my life. Piling up a huge stack of Funktion One speakers, building flame throwers, LED signs, organising light formations and partying with thousands in front of our beautiful, staggeringly loud creation. Blood, sweat, tears, building unshakable friendships, occasionally losing it at those friends through exhaustion and overwork; battling storms, unforgettable adventures, highs, lows, and being overwhelmed by the multifaceted kaleidoscope that is Burning Man. It’s life on fast forward, and I have been irreversibly transformed for the better by these experiences. It’s the old adage that everyone tells us as children, “You can be whoever you want to be, and do what- ever you want to do” and then, somehow, the next 20 years reinforce the opposite. You reach your thirties and find yourself stuck in the same old groove, convinced that the world is how it is, and no one can change that. Your dreams downtrodden and “reality” so firmly implanted in your brain that you are unable to accept new ways of thinking. For me, taking an amazing concept, which seemed ridiculous and impossible – such as buying a Boeing 727 and transporting it to the desert in order to party around it for ve days, then dismantling it all and going home – changed the way that I looked at ideas. It took a raft of concepts and catapulted them from the mad and unobtainable, to the totally achievable. The final experience of Burning Man is the burn- ing of The Temple on Sunday night. The temple is a place where throughout the event, people can go to contemplate, to leave messages for lost friends and family, or to simply get away from the madness of the city. It’s a very different affair to the raucous, adrenalin fueled destruction of the Man on the Saturday. 20,000+ people sit around what is often the most beautiful structure on playa in silence, and watch as it’s consumed by fire. Burning any of the exceptional pieces of art and architecture that exist for one short week in Black Rock City does sometimes seem like madness, but this emotionally charged burn is a perfect example of the effect that it can have on people. Its cathartic release and powerful cleansing effects remind us that nothing lasts forever, but while we’re here we need to make the most of it, and burn like that fire – strong, incandescent, beautiful.

 

Written by : Lachie Gordon Athié

 

Sustainability and Community at Splore

“I would say we have zero litter on site,” said Kublikowski. “Part of that was the introduction of reusable cups for all of our drinks, so we don’t have cups littering the site as many festivals do. We have an incredible community of Splorers who really understand what a pristine environment we have. They really get it, and very few people drop their litter. When it comes to disposing of their litter correctly, we provide bins which are divided into recycling material, compostable material, and waste material. Everything that’s served to our audience from our vendors and our bars comes in either recyclable or compostable packaging, therefore generating no actual waste for the landfill.”

Full article HERE

Written by : Gary Farrow

This is what it’s really like to spend nine days at Burning Man

In the dark hours of the morning, deep in the open desert, long-time “Burner” Stewie sits with his back to a flimsy orange plastic fence. Ski goggles perched on his head despite the lingering dust storm, he turns an embroidered badge over and over in his fingers. Bearing a map of where we are, it reads “EDGE OF THE KNOWN WORLD”.

Full article HERE

Photo credit : Claire Dodd

Article written by : Claire Dodd

Cultural sharing at Oregon Eclipse Festival

As the grand occasion we have all been waiting for ticks closer, a Shinto shaman chants a throaty song in Japanese as she lifts a string of white beads to the sky. A shaman from Peru produces an ayahuasca plant from the jungle as an offering. Then, the sky turns black and cold, and everyone bursts into ecstatic howls and song. Without really understanding why, I find myself crying while staring at the sun.

Full article HERE

Photo credit : Juliana Bernstein

Written by : Michelle Lhooq

A Brazilian Shaman reveals the dark-side of positive thinking

 

I believe in the contrast in life. When you embrace the full spectrum of who you are — including the sadness, anger, insecurity and fear — all the energy you used to fight against yourself becomes available for living and creating. There’s the same amount of energy in the “positive” as there is in what you call negative or shadow. Emotions are pure life force, and you can only access the full power of your consciousness when you allow the wholeness of your emotions to come through. Yes, there will be pain, sadness and anger, just as there will be love, joy and enthusiasm. These emotions will find their natural balance, and this balance is much healthier than dividing into good and bad.

Full article HERE

Written by : Rudá Landé