Lachie Gordon Athié on how festivals can help to align "I", "We" and "World" - and show a viable, regenerative alternative
Here’s the second in our AlterNatives series - where people give a personal testimony/history about their commitment to empowered communities and the “alternatives” they generate.
What is the potential of festival culture, as the basis of a new kind of social and political movement? This is what Lachie Gordon Athié is trying to answer here. Lachie is one of the Co -Founders of Noisily Festival, an independent festival in the UK. He is also project managing the early stages of a new regenerative land development project in Kenya.
“What are you doing? And why?”
Those seem like two quite basic questions which you should have the answer to, right? I thought so, but it turns out it’s not so easy!
What is it that drives me? Why do I do the things I do?
It felt appropriate to use the Alternative UK’s three “Realms of Inquiry” - I, We & World - as a framework to explore these questions.
Last summer we (my wife Heather and I) decided to leave the UK and become nomads for some time. Over the previous couple of years I had been going through a personal growth journey which started with the collapse of my more commercially leaning events business, causing me untold stress, dances with depression and many related health issues.
My world of a stable future of a traditional profit and growth based ‘success’ inside the system had imploded. The realisation that I’d always known that being part of this planet-eating machine wasn’t right emerged painfully, along with a feeling of being tricked - I’d allowed myself to be persuaded and swept up despite myself.
In my distress I turned to yoga, meditation, silent retreats, Ayahuasca, and more recently, learning in the form of U Lab and a Permaculture PDC. This journey has continued and I’ve spent the last 2 months in Central America, a centre of the exploding global culture of conscious living.
A place where for the large expat communities drinking ceremonial doses of cacao is more common that alcohol, and conversations about constructive alternatives to being a part of The System are the norm.
Permaculture has particularly taken a hold of me. The practice of deeply observing, learning and designing from nature's ways, her cycles of life and death and her endless intelligence and adaptation to new situations has been very affirming and seems to fit in with so much of what I do.
Though I am at the beginning of my journey, the unyielding acceptance of the many wonderful people I’ve met, communities (including my ‘own,’ Noisily) I’ve been a part of and the practices that I've taken part in, have brought me closer to understanding who I am and why I do what I do every day.
They have made me aware of my patterns of behaviour, and through this recognition I’m able to make more conscious decisions to guide my life, as well as be more open to other, new ways of being.
The ‘we’ in my life, and the main focus for my energies, is the yearly creation of Noisily festival and the support of its community, who are now my family. It’s become an entity with a life of its own, one which continues to inspire and drive me. Year on year I’m amazed by the extraordinary people who have been called to water and tend to the seed which myself and 3 others planted 8 years ago.
It’s a community of creatives and designers, people who value the new over the established and who are actively seeking those new ways of living and being that I have begun to investigate.
The growth of Noisily as an event which supports personal growth and learning has been concurrent to my own journey, and 18 months ago I took over the programming of the healing area, which has been growing exponentially in the last 3 years.
More and more people are coming to the festival to connect with themselves, others and nature on a deeper level, rather than just have a party and forget about the world. It's become a safe container for people to make connections which might be impossible outside it, and place for people to dream of a future beyond the current global story which holds us in its grasp.
Noisily is part of a culture which has within it the blueprint for a better future. Not that we should all live in perpetual festival, but that the people who attend transformational festivals, who are actively exploring different ways of being to the ’norm’, hold within them the knowledge of how to live in a regenerative way.
Almost a year ago I was invited by some of this festival family to go to Kenya to consult on an event out there. While I was there, a local land development project, called The Green Heart of Kenya, began crystallising around a number of people deeply affected by festival culture, and I was invited to project manage it.
It aims to be a shining light in amongst rampant over development in East Africa, and the world. The project involves turning 1500 acres of monoculture farmland into an eco village. It will create employment and boast carbon neutral all-income housing, food sovereignty from agroforestry and sustainable business and employment. It will be the first ecosystem regenerating social project of its kind in the region.
More recently, inspired by my experience, I’ve started wheels in motion for the Noisily Action Network, a non geographic experiment inspired by the Alternative UK’s CAN’s (Citizens Action Networks). We aim to directly tap into the knowledge of the Noisily crowd and create a network of doers who can learn from each other’s practices, see how they can interact, and then prototype new ways of living.
They will then be able to give these tools directly back to our festival crowds and eventually, the entire country.
The network's direction will be crowd sourced, at first during Noisily 2019, but then clarified by those who continue to be involved as it coalesces after the event. It will be focused on the aspects of Festival culture which can be taken into the real world, community, shared learning, spontaneous creativity and action.
It’s my belief that if we are to survive this crisis unscathed, we need to remember that we are not separate to each other or nature. In my experience, I, We and World are really all the same thing, and only by coming to know that through direct experience, can we find ourselves on the right path.