Happy September, Friends!
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Wow! August was a smashing month – great hot summer weather and lots of fun to be had. It was a jam packed summer overall, and I’d like to share a bit of it with you….and I’d love to hear how your festival season has been going, especially in regards to some of the strides being made in our community. This might be a little long, but there are some big things happening that I want to share with you.
Just looking at August – Beloved was a highlight for me, they had an all star team running it, and they made some bold new experiments that were dramatic and impactful. There were a record number of fests in August, yet I want to talk about Beloved in regards to the entire festival community.
One of the things that makes the Beloved production outstanding in my eyes, is the immense amount of energy that is given to care of the attendees. This to me is what makes a festival worth going to, and what brings a community back again and again. From greeters at the gate, to absolutely beautiful decor in everything – including the ticketing booth in the parking lot, the wristbands and brochure….before you even enter the site. As a press person, I was granted a meal ticket with my wristband, and even that was designed with gorgeous artwork and a prayer of gratitude on the back.
In the many places where the fest interfaced with me, from the first emails…I was notified that composting toilets were going to be there – stating it as an effort to do a good thing, though an experiment into uncharted realms.
Inside the new toilets were poems by Rumi, and a simple effort at decor, while teams of voluteers kept them sparkling clean. I can’t tell you how deeply I appreciate that effort. A sign asking for patience and grace while the new model was explored and the kinks worked out, was written with care as well, inviting me to be a part of the process….
Everywhere I went this year, producers were wrestling with the idea of composting toilets and looking for models to try, as well as working with local officials to open their minds and allow the trial to happen. It was exciting to see Beloved make the leap, cross the bridge with the health department and though it was clunky as first efforts often are, great strides were made.
Other things I appreciated at Beloved were handwashing sinks in the food court and at each toilet bay. An ingenious design made it possible to have handwashing with running water even in the parking lot and camping areas. I’ll work on getting some photos so you can bring the idea to your fave festival, it was outstanding. Handwashing is hugely needed as our festivals grow for our health and wellbeing, and this simple model was better than anything I’ve seen yet.
Another thing that was big and explorational this summer was the conversation around sexuality – safety on the dance floor and consent in relationships. It began early this spring when one of our long time festies was accused on facebook as a predator and abuser of women at festivals for years. This opened a community wide exploration into the topic and producers far and wide, chatting with one another and festival regulars, began to make changes to address these concerns.
Many festivals, including Beloved and Enchanted Forest – both of which I attended in August, set up workshop spaces specifically to bring in presenters who work in these realms professionally. These workshops were immensely educational and were extremely well attended. They gave all of us a new language and platform for discussion and growth. Mens circles were offered in both events and they were packed to overflowing, creating a space where the many, many unspoken questions came up and began to be addressed. I am hearing that other gatherings have also made these offerings.
Alongside the workshops, new services have also been added. Where before we had medical and security, and more recently psychedelic related care teams – now sanctuary tents are being offered, staffed with professionals to support those who experience sexual boundary crossings, or have past hurts arise during the weekend. These tents too were well attended as much by people who had issues they wanted to address from the past, as those who had incidents on site. From talking with these are givers, it sounds like huge strides in healing were made for many, many community members.
At the same time, an open conversation has begun – what I am calling a “community inquiry”, and I have to say I am so very proud of us for all I am witnessing. Everywhere I ventured at one gathering after another – from the food court, to the production tent, to the dance floor to the vendor marketplace….mixed groups of men and women were discussing sexual boundary crossing, and bringing up deep and meaningful questions that many, many of us have been holding for all of our lives. From puberty (to old age as one senior noted) – there are no skills taught in how to cross the bridge to love and intimacy, and so we each develop our own techniques to access them – some overpowering, some seducing, some taking, some giving what we don’t want to give – all of us without good tools or a language for engagement. Through the workshops offered and the ad hoc discussions, I am seeing us look into the factors that create both abuser and victim, finding that neither is limited to male on one side and female on the other. I’ve heard enlightening questions about the culture that shapes us from early childhood, sharing of experiences that left people only more confused, and relationships that took left turns unexpectedly….and these conversations are bringing healing and new understanding and a safety to talk openly about these unspokens.
At the same time, this year was a launching pad for the new concept of Guardianship, and those cultivating it are striving to generate a social norm toward all of us being the eyes and ears of safety for one another. Guardianship workshops teach what to do when seeing a groper on the dance floor or an overly intoxicated person or someone in need and who to alert. Attendees learn where security, medical and production team members with radios can be found, and what situations might need attention. Guardians are not trained responders, but rather the eyes on the ground, helping refer situations to those who need support. The goal is to eventually have a majority of the attendance at an event aware and knowledgable of safety, of services and where they are located and how to alert help when someone is in need.
The two events I attended in August – Enchanted Forest and Beloved, were also my first alcohol free events and it was remarkable how different they were from any other event I’ve experienced. The calm and sweetness was palpable at both. People were having a wonderful time – there was plenty of around the clock music, dancing till dawn, fun play, and tons of activities – but the absence of drunken rowdies, howling, and most notably – fights – was fantastic.
I’d love to hear more about the breakthroughs in the events you are attending as we learn and grow and experiment together,