It feels to me like we are in high summer, where the transformational festival community is bursting with new growth in leaps and bounds: new festivals, new projects and new advances.
Gosh, where to begin? …I have to say that Envision Festival in Costa Rica has grown to be the darling of our community. There are more event producers at Envision than at any other event, and because of that a leadership summit following the gathering serves to deepen the bonds that knit our community together more and more. Part of the love for Envision is the pure sweetness of tropical Costa Rica, a rural nation that is has advanced to clean water and thus makes travel much more pleasant, but they also have no military, which makes for a happy, peaceful people. The tropical flora, butterflies, jungles and even monkeys accent the stunning beaches. But there is more to Envision. Their work with the regional indigenous communities brings a depth and richness to the sacred elements that truly touches everyone’s hearts; and the overall themes of permaculture and land stewardship generate hands on projects that get everyone involved. Not to be missed, in the tropical sunshine, are the mud pies (haha).
Please know that I can’t possibly cover all of the more than 120 events on our continent in this writing, but I’ll strive to give you a taste of the adventures of 2014.
Lucidity Festival, (Santa Barbara), just in its 3rd run in 2014, is blowing me away with the cutting edge strides they are making for the entire transformational movement. Truly collaborative, in just a few years, the Lucidity family has become a year round force for breakthrough creativity, brainstorming the future they want to see for humanity. Internally, they are experimenting with new models of cooperation, compensation and ownership and their round tables are constantly outputting new ideas for transformational culture. Their festival is set up in 7 camps, each with a unique focus – healers camp together and create a village of healing arts, there is a children’s village with amazing programs for empowering young leaders and another focused on yoga and meditation. Each of the 7 camps offer workshops in their area of study. In the center of the Lucidity grounds, is yet more educational focus at Lucid University. I was especially impressed when they held a panel of writers on sacred commerce. Their tactic was to hook the speakers up with each other months ahead of time, to form an alliance, with weekly conference calls, laying tracks for a much longer strategy for change than the traditional hour long discussion at the event. Even the food was cutting edge, with more superfoods on the menu than you can find at Whole Foods, and kombucha on tap! There was of course tons of music and art installations, but most exciting of all is the Lucidity Mythos. The Lucid Family have brewed up a new mythology of the personal journey to awakened consciousness, escalating from there in 2015 into the collective awakening. This Mythos is laced through every element of everything they do. The storyline is illustrated in all of their art, music, and promotional materials, and is woven into their workshops, their activities, their decorations and more We’ll talk with the Lucid Family about their Mythos and the collective awakening in our upcoming 2015 Festival Guide.
The breakthroughs at Lucidity are influenced greatly by the amazing work of Jamaica Stevens, perhaps the single most influential thinker in our movement. Her newest project, called “Re-Inhabiting The Village” took form, grew wings and then leapt in flight in 2014. While repeatedly bringing festival producers together to weave alliances and clarify shared visions, she introduced models for co-creation that spur rapid growth and build solid foundations for a strong future. In 2014, she helped form a producers alliance that will share resources, reduce costs, and that will perhaps purchase land that will save events thousands of dollars each year while simultaneously moving the festival movement into intentional communities or eco-villages. In 2015, she will release a collaborative book, also called “Re-Inhabiting The Village”, written by thought leaders across our community, plus a website with resources, and consulting services to give producers the skills and tools for more successful events.
Simultaneously, the yoga & kirtan festival community is growing rapidly. Wanderlust produced 11 events in 2014 and Bhakti Fest three, and many others had glowing ticket sales. These events are serving a need, as people strive for health, wellness and deep soul nourishment. Many of these events (as are others) are offering seva (service) opportunities beyond the event, by branching out into caring projects in their communities or helping the needy in far away lands.
While the West Coast has been the heart for decades and continues to grow, the entire continent is taking shape, with events in the East, the Midwest, the South, across Canada and into Mexico and Central America. The 2014 Festival Guide featured 67 events but in 2015 we’ll have close to 120!
On the East Coast, we saw six new events from New Jersey to Florida, each deeply rooted in sacred ceremony, education and spiritual growth. The Great North Festival in Maine, not brand new but still young in 2014, holds the anchor for the north shores, and Miami in the south. Even New Jersey (Future of Artistic and Revolutionary Minds) and Connecticut (Unifier) surprised us with the emergence of new events. Ashville, North Carolina, the little pocket of West Coast culture in the east, continues to be a major gathering hub.
High summer, as always, brought thrills of color and celebration. Some weekends featured as many as 8 events, scattered from coast to coast. The great Grandmother of Us All, the Oregon Country Fair, in her 45th year, sold 46,000 tickets, with more than 20,000 volunteers. Delighting old and young alike (now 4 generations!) with 18 stages – tons of circus, stilt walkers, giant puppets and music of every genre; she leads the pack with fully developed programs in recycling, sustainability, and land stewardship on their fair owned 400 acres. Though OCF has many systems for us to learn from, top on my radar are their youth programs. Little kids are easy to entertain, to care for in camp or take to a playground, and adults find their place according to interest. But youth so often get lost, traveling in packs and having no real place to fit into the community. In all my years in production, I can easily say that one of the great challenges has been finding constructive ways to keep our youth safe and engaged. At OCF, at age 13, youth enter “teen crew”. Centrally in the fair, they have their own hangout area, and pre-fair begins with trainings in all sorts of topics from safety and emergency response, to job performance and drug education. Adult crew leaders place the kids out into all 63 crews, and through their teen years, each one’s “career” is managed, so that they experience a range of jobs and skill sets. After hours, the teen center has music and snacks, and there is always an adult they can talk to. The fair also features a youth stage for young performers. When the kids come of age, the teen crew leaders work long hours to place every graduate on an adult work crew, and crew leaders across the fair are urged to take on graduating youth to fill open positions as a family value. The kids at OCF see themselves as valued members of the village with a place that has honor and purpose and I believe it impacts their lives positively, far beyond the gates of the fair.
A remarkable phenomenon of 2014, was the gigantic growth of the Flow Arts community. I believe we are close to 40 events now in North America. These little gatherings hold only 1-300 participants and focus on workshops that train in fire dancing, aerials, hooping, acro-yoga and other circus arts. What makes them special is the self discipline and tempering that these arts require, producing more evolved, centered and attuned youth and adults who then return to the larger gatherings and infuse our community with depth and focus. The popularity of the Flow Arts, while sparking many adults, is engaging our youth in ways we’ve never seen before, and many are finding it leads to lifestyle changes toward healthy living, stewardship and service. I find this extraordinarily exciting!
In a community this big, we’re going to see storms and high water as well as luxurious sunny days. Life happens. Gratifly, a dearly loved gathering with a sweet vision and sincere intent, had logistical problems in 2014 that may prevent its return. Transcendence, a new arrival in California, was a thriving success, until permit errors on the landlords part, got them shut down. Symbiosis too, sadly crashed over water issues due to the drought and never opened their gates…they will return in 2015 – watch for our announcements! Many other events will close their gates or shift to every other year, because of struggles to stay afloat financially. Now, with the dawn of the producers alliance, we can hold these events in our circle and assist them to recover back to solid ground… and to rebuild if they choose to, with strategies for success going forward. Young events will have access to long time veteran producers and the wisdom gained from years of experience. This has promise to give our community unprecedented strength and stability as we build a future for more than ourselves, but a planet in turmoil.
Quietly under the radar, Illumination has been exploring a new way of gathering. Taking advantage of the quiet hours between midnight and dawn, participants sleep during the day and then (drug and alcohol free) dance with fire and drums for hours and hours, to build connection to one another and spirit. Hearts open and light radiates from the sacred circle, as deep intention takes root and grows in magnitude. Held on the same site, the week before Beloved, they lay tracks for the larger gathering’s participants, nourishing the land, and creating an energetic Earth healing that is far reaching.
And dearest Beloved Festival, the heart of the West Coast, is ever pulsing her beat, infusing us, reminding us that the work we do is Sacred. Every aspect of production planning for this event is designed to help participants remember their connection to one another and to experience our Oneness. There is just one central stage, so that people can stay together and share the same focus throughout the weekend, a far more “still” strategy than you find at events with lots of activities. The land itself is formed by steep hills that cup the central meadow, and workshops are selected for their teachings that knit people closer. The music is selected for its depth and intention too, and the entire weekend of music is choreographed as one ongoing sequence of experience. Beloved is an event better lived than explained, and I encourage you to make it if you can.
Burning Man follows Beloved, as does Faerieworlds, and the many events celebrating fall Equinox which is also the International Day of Peace. Earthdance continues its legacy, honoring the IDP and uniting people in all of the 300 or more Earthdance events around the world by broadcasting a four minute song and prayer for Peace simultaneously. This is life changing to experience! Otherwise the Earthdance events are full on festivals with lots of dance music, vendors and workshops and all of the elements we have come to love.
The true stars of 2014, hands down, were the volunteers. Hundreds and hundreds of hard working folks, give up their jobs, their livelihood and even their homes in some cases, to travel from fest to fest building infrastructure, working the gates and the stages, putting long hours in the kitchen, or on security or managing trash. These are the life blood of our community and the ones who make our celebrations safe, fun and wonderful! Kudos and thanks to you all, for an outstanding performance, we are deep in your debt!
Stay tuned for the upcoming 2015 Festival Guide, and a bonus surprise that you are sure to like. Go to festivalfire.com to get on the mail list, and be the first to receive it when it launches in early February.
Psssst – we are still looking for the STELLAR photo of the year for the cover. If you’ve seen it, let us know!
Talk to me….what’s got you excited about 2015?