Do "transformational festivals" have political potential? A/UK is joining with Noisily this summer to find out
Noisily aims to be "a crucible for personal development, connection and discussion, in order to seed the healing of our planet" and the Mind, Body & Soul area provides a space for "like minded people to engage with a wealth of holistic practices and teachings, and be part of the party whilst away from the dance floors in the belly of the woods". The intention is to "look inside ourselves and to our communities to find answers to seemingly impossible questions at a time of intense global transformation".
We've previously asked this question here on the Daily Alternative:
Are festivals in themselves a new kind of politics - a way for people to collectively transform themselves, and their sense of community, in directly felt and joyful ways?
...And we look forward to exploring this further with the Noisily community this summer.
Throughout history community-led collective gathering, such as festivals, carnivals, parades and demostrations, have been "alternative" spaces, in which new social options can be considered.
In her book "Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy" Barbara Ehrenreich links the current epidemic of depression with our lack of group bonding rituals and explores how festive gatherings can be vehicles for social change. When asked by AlterNet "how progressives can use collective joy to help motivate people and promote our causes" she answered:
People who are working for change need to think about how to make their events draw on the solidarity and creativity of lots of people together. That's been happening ... but it's something we need to address. Bringing art and culture into politics is a way to express what we are seeking, what our vision of the world is.
Festivals does seem to yield a real 'political potential', one of a more fully engaged and conscious participation - also argued for in the piece "From 60s counterculture to big business: the politics of festivals" by Julia Wolf, published on The Conversation. An extract:
This is a new politics – one of participation. It shapes festivals such as Secret Garden Party, Boomtown and Shambala. These popular British events encourage audiences to help in the creation of the event themselves, through building themed encampments, creating interactive art installations, and donning opulent costumes in accordance to annual, immersing themes.
On the surface of things this might seem like nothing more meaningful than hedonistic enjoyment. There is no doubt that these features are principally about having fun. But audience participation does run a little deeper. It’s about breaking down the kinds of distinctions that inhibit ordinary festival goers from realising there is little difference between them and the person on stage. Their philosophy resonates with that old Zimbabwean proverb: if you can walk, you can dance; if you can talk, you can sing.
The festivals Wolf refers to - which would include Burning Man and the load of festivals (such as Noisily) that are inspired and influenced by the Burning Man ethos - are considered "transformational festivals". Here's an extract from a piece by Charles Audley, one of the co-founders of Noisily, on Why festivals are so powerful in their capacity to accelerate the process of emotional transformation:
Festivals have been around for millennia. The gathering of people as one to celebrate traditions and music, is a life blood of civilisation itself. They are experiences so highly concentrated with sensory overload that they have the power to change people’s perception of themselves in an instant, and in turn the way they project that resonation into life.
As humans we are all a summation of our experiences, and the relationships we build shape our behavioural patterns and outlook. Whilst we come together to celebrate as one, we do so in an environment where we are encouraged to express ourselves as individuals. Of the 200,000 odd people at Glastonbury for example, each and every one of them has a different story to tell.
It’s also very important to remember that people change, mentally and emotionally you are not the person you were ten years ago, and in ten years from now you may be living a different life entirely based on your perception of the world from within.
In general those who attend festivals are open minded, or at least willing, if only on a visceral level unbeknownst to them, to accept new realities. This is consciousness, and this is the essential prerequisite to having a transformational experience. The festival itself is the catalyst.
Some things which may take years or even decades to realise about yourself, can be brought on in a matter of days, or even in a single moment, at an event where there is such a high concentration of positive energy.
In our capacity as both festival goers and organisers, we find ourselves in a position which allows us to appreciate and benefit simultaneously from the positively transformational effects these events have on people. We take a huge amount of pride in the achievements of all those involved in producing Noisily.
Tickets for Noisily can be purchased here. We hope to see you "in the woods".