Wednesday, 5 July 2017

NEW WAVE 'TRANFORMATIONAL' FESTIVALS: Achieving Transformation Through Inspiration

Transformational festivals have been brewing in the societal melting pot and popping up, around the world, for the past two decades now. But what is so special about them? What draws us in time and time again? It’s first important to distinguish between a music festival and a ‘transformational’ festival; which can be described as a “counterculture festival that espouses a community-building ethic, and a value system that celebrates life, personal growth, social responsibility, healthy living, and creative expression.”

This remarkable global phenomenon is not just an excuse to rave and misbehave (well that’s definitely a part of it!) but to immerse in radical inclusion, co-creation, self expression and, in turn, mind expansion. What does all of this mean? Unlike other gatherings, festival goers have the opportunity to get involved; become a participator rather than just a spectator. A lot of the people in attendance are directly contributing to the creation of the event; from artists to dancers, vendors and volunteers. It’s hard to think of many other real world situations where so many other fellow humans are gathered for the same purpose. The closest thing to a religion is the unity provided through self expression and, of course, music. Worship takes place (24 hours) on the dance floor and anyone is welcome! Oh and there’s art everywhere.

Moments before a huge group hug ensued at Envision festival earlier this year 

Us humans really do have a deep need to feel a sense of belonging; be a part of a community and contribute to it in some way or another. Transformational festivals facilitate just that; creating a mini counterculture of conscious community. In these situations, such a high density of quality interactions are achieved through building relationships over the course of only a few days that are so likely to last a lifetime. Why? Because it’s a safe shared space to build trust and unite with your species. No judgement and true freedom of self expression. It’s a time to put all our differences aside and, in times of sheer joy, unite as one. Perhaps this is the antidote to what’s lacking in modern day living.

In light of celebration of this fact, I have taken it upon myself to compile a list of transformational festivals that will take place around the West Coast of North America this summer. This area seems to be a huge hub of activity when it comes to the unique counterculture, which is why I’ll be following the trail. It’s geographically accessible to anyone in the states with a car or a thumb 👍 Hope to see you there… 

The Pirate Party; Montana, 21ST-24th July

The pirate ships have begun to set their sails to the annual voyage that is The Pirate Party! Taking place in the treasure state of Montana, TPP has evolved over the past 8 years into the biggest pirate themed music and arts festival in the Pacific Northwest. It’s growing each year and attracting more and more internationals, such as myself. If you’re planning a trip to the states, you should definitely consider factoring this one in. Surrounded by gorgeous mountain scenery and stunning wildlife, attendees have the opportunity to experience diverse selections of electronic music, creative workshops, hot spring pool parties and so much more. It’s also very affordable when taking into consideration the line-up and all that it has to offer.

The deal breaker for me, though, has to be the pirate theme! Attracting a niche community of land lubbers and sea creatures alike, it’s a fun form of creative self expression that facilitates unity with fellow mermaids/pirates/mythical creatures. I’m a mermaid btw - just sayin’. A truly one of a kind experience, TPP has definitely earned its place on this summer’s highly anticipated festival circuit! 

Looking for a convoy crew to TPP? Check out the Facebook ride share group here

Festival goers Travis Mendenhall & Kitty Deyo radically embracing the Pirate theme (Photo by Z & L Media)

Shambhala; British Columbia, 11th – 14th August

In Hindu and Tibetan Buddhist traditions, Shambhala is a mythical kingdom; and that’s exactly what this magical ranch in the mountains has become over the past 20 years. Shambhala has ‘delighted audiences from around the world offering connection with nature, exposure to groundbreaking new sounds and trends, and a true adventure for attendees from all walks of life.’

Whether you want to chill in the hammock lounge, indulge in the latest electronic music across 6 uniquely themed stages, feed your soul with a series of workshops or even get married at the wedding chapel; there’s something for everyone at Shambhala! Although hugely successful and often a sell out, the family run event has never accepted corporate sponsorship. During the summer months, the ranch becomes home to volunteers and event staff who contribute to repairing and adding on to the many permanent structures on site. How awesome! Let your freak flag fly with 11,000 other weirdos this August. 

 Shambhalan's starting the day with 'Yoga of Bass' at the Living Room Stage (Photo by Louis Bockner)

Oregon Eclipse; Oregon, 17th – 23rd August 

People from all over the world will come together to experience a total solar eclipse in Oregon which will happen during the festival on the 21st of August. Global Eclipse Gathering, a newly created consortium of producers, have created a once in a lifetime event in celebration of the natural phenomena. Such rare and astonishing moments in space and time; most people will go their whole life without witnessing one.

Over 7 days, an epic international collaboration will take place combining 13 events from around the world; each one fiercely independent and devoted to creating out of the box experiences in their own expression/country of origin. During the eclipse, all 7 stages will silence and thousands of eyes will unite as they observe the remarkable occurrence as one. This is going to be a truly once in a lifetime opportunity! 

Kind of what a solar eclipse looks like from Earth. Well, you get the idea. 

Burning Man; Nevada, 27th August – 4th September

The mother of all transformational festivals, Burning Man started as a small gathering on Baker Beach organised by Larry Harvey back in ’86. Fast forward three decades and Black Rock holds host to 70,000 weird and wonderful Burners who travel from all over the world for the week long festivities. Erected in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, Black Rock is a temporary city that pops up for the week before it disappears leaving no trace. Astoundingly, it is the third largest city in state when constructed. This is a real city; with roads and infrastructure, a temple, art installations, houses, bars, restaurants, clubs & hundreds of participatory ‘theme camps’.

"Trying to explain Burning Man to someone who has never been is like trying to explain what a particular colour looks like to someone who is blind. To truly understand, one must participate." There are 10 principles that have been constructed which reflect the community’s ethos and culture. This includes a gifting economy, decommodification (no buying/selling/advertising) & radical self-reliance e.g. don’t turn up to the desert for a week with nothing! Each experience is truly unique to the participator. Nothing can ever really prepare you for your first experience of the Burn but, in the most unlikely of places, you will certainly feel like you have arrived home. 

  Quite literally Burning; last year on the Playa (pre dust storm)

For many of us, it may seem near impossible to acquire the psychical and financial resources that it would take to make this utopian experience become a reality... especially if coming from the UK or overseas like myself! But if there is one piece of advice I could give you, it would be to urge you to do whatever is within your power to make it happen. I don’t mean it lightly when I say that being a part of these kinds of experiences will change your life and how you view the world for the better. It will be one of the most positive experiences you have ever had.

And yes, coming back into the ‘real world’ after being contained in these temporary realities can be a bit of a shock to the system; a comedown. But imagine this principle applied to our whole World! When it’s all over, we return respectively to our day-to-day struggles of living but with a new lease of life and energy; our cores nurtured and restored by the positive exchanges of human interaction we have just experienced. Once we understand things in a new way, it creates a new world; we can go on to achieve transformation through inspiration.

Thanks so much for reading! I would love to hear of your favourite transformational festivals and experiences surrounding them via email or in the comments section below J

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