The Future of Festivals
As festival culture has reached the mainstream at a global scale, it is beginning to diversify and integrate with urban settings and daily life. The celebratory community it has cultivated is finding a grounding in permaculture communities and intergenerational councils. In some cases it demonstrates respect and support of Indigenous peoples who have maintained an intact relationship with sustainable culture.
Since 2009, Bloom Network (formerly Evolver Network) has been forming an international network of local hubs for collaboration. Blooms connect together the initiatives in a region that help people practice sustainable and just lifestyles. We have established a base in 32 cities, and are beginning to coordinate bioregionally to support sustainable infrastructure, skill-building and decolonization efforts.
I have spent my tenure as a “Sporeganizer” focused on researching and designing sustainable business models for visionary entrepreneurs. I see grassroots activist groups focused on resilience who are struggling to make ends meet within the dominant capitalist infrastructure. At the same time, I meet healers and artists who have visions for community businesses that would restore healthy relationships with land and our bodies, but who lack the business skills to bring these ideas to fruition.
As a solution, I developed an urban festival that could reach across cultural divides and restore a true public commons space where people could skillshare with each other and match resources. Initially called Hive Mind, it is an open-source brand: any organization can adopt the business model intact or in part, freely copy or modify the graphics and sponsorship packet. It can happen under any brand umbrella, as serves the needs and interests of a community. My goal is to offer this festival yearly in a different city each year, and to share the model with all who would benefit from it.
Bloom Network has also designed a miniature traveling version that can plug in to festivals and conferences, representing a coalition of civic engagement groups and healing practices.
Here are the elements of this festival:
One can reach out to invite the Indigenous people of the area and ask what would be of support to them at this time.
Classes in local herbalism promote access to preventative healthcare. With the use of walipinis and greenhouses, plants from other climate zones can be cultivated. A field trip could be taken to plant an herb garden together. Herbalists can teach how to make tinctures from dried plants and alcohol or glycerin. A small amount of basic education about our bodies, such as our adrenal and immune systems, can go a long way in decreasing serious ailments that may develop over time due to urban stress and toxicity in our foods. Finally, a plant share is always a fun way to connect.
A mini healing village can offer massage, sound healing, nutritional consultation and talk therapy, etc. Ideally this area is sponsored by a company so participants can access it for free. This can be a way for participants to be introduced to a practitioner or a modality of care that they might not otherwise spend money on exploring.
Workshops about sexuality and society can open the door for deep healing, individually and collectively.
While illegal in the U.S., entheogenic plant ceremonies, such as with san pedro, mushrooms and ayahuasca, have long been a foundational practice for healthy community. By sharing information about the benefits of legalization, safety, and integration tools, workshop presenters can support harm reduction and public education about these powerful allies from nature. A group at the forefront of this effort is ERIE, the Entheogenic Research, Integration and Education Group.
Alternative Economic Models:
For many people, money is a barrier to lessening one’s impact on the local ecosystem. Alternatives exist to meet our needs and nurture the plants, animals and waterways that support us. Time banks are a way for people to trade services based on hours: I can put in an hour of my time as a graphic designer or community organizer, and I can spend that one hour on someone’s services to teach me Spanish or cook me a gourmet local meal. Crypto-currencies like Bitcoin allow value exchange outside of the banking and surveillance system. The Open Money app empowers people to crowdfund a project by intaking state-backed currency in exchange for a new currency created specifically to support and circulate services within the community project.
Community funding pools can provide microfinancing based on local relationships. Finally, philanthropy itself is transforming as more financiers wish to invest in projects that have positive impact and social integrity. The HUB network is a coworking center with over 50 locations internationally, where people can plug in to that movement.
It is possible to jump entirely off of the money system and not only survive, but thrive. Skillshares and workshops on alternative economy models can empower people to live the life their heart is leading them toward, now.
At the core of inequality in our modern villages is social injustice. Legal systems, the media, and the dominant economic infrastructure all profit off of division, poverty, racism, sexism and more. Social justice workshops can include basic education on frameworks of liberation, and techniques such as dynamic facilitation for conflict resolution and collective decision making. People can role play to “call out” and “call in” when one experiences racism and other forms of social violence. Restorative justice can be introduced, where instead of prison, a community comes together to talk through what they would need to rectify the harm done. Frequently this leads to healing and lower financial impact for the entire society.
Worker-owned cooperatives are a business model that support social justice, where the employees share the profits. The U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives and the Sustainable Economies Law Center both offer great resources for how to start one.
Deeper democracy within existing infrastructure can help bridge wise policy. Festivals can teach dialogue tools such as somatic relating, compassionate communication and dynamic facilitation. Perhaps a local civic official would attend and participate in a demo. Local media producers can discuss campaign strategy for the grassroots. CivicMakers is an innovative startup that is collecting democracy practices in an online database. The Evolver Editions book, Empowering Public Wisdom by Tom Atlee gives a basic overview of community-guided policy. Bay Localize has a set of civic policy templates for urban farming and local clean energy.
The festival itself becomes a community think tank. Panel discussions on topics such a holistic health salons or right use of technology often lead to participatory dialogue about how to address local needs. By keeping the presentation part short and the dialogue long, the whole event shifts from being a dichotomy between presenter and audience, to a community sharing their wisdom and creativity together! Many follow up tools exists for participants to stay networked together, and it’s possible to pair festivals with hackathons when technical infrastructure for specific projects are needed.
Documented heavily throughout this book, permaculture presents tools for place-appropriate farming technologies. It’s also a broader philosophy. For example, permaculture finance is the practice of making financial systems that benefit people, planet and community. Many cities now have permaculture guilds and Transition Towns where people can plug in to learn skills and build gardens. Long Beach, California has their entire local food business community networked together under a program called Long Beach Fresh!
Related to urban farming is the concept of a fibershed – sourcing all fibers and labor for clothing within one’s bioregion. Plants and fungus can create vibrant dyes without using chemicals.
Science & Technology:
Scientists can teach about local watersheds and innovations in materials science. Engineers are often great problem-solvers, from water issues to civic software. Increasingly the decentralization movement in terms of land use and technological infrastructure is converging, to good effect. Inviting science and technology practitioners into a holistic commons space often bridges political and cultural divides in ways that open everyone’s minds.
Demos might include small-scale sustainable energy production such as rocket stoves and biogasification. RE-Volv presents a revolving solar fund to install solar in cooperatives and nonprofits around the country. Local funding circles are beginning to crop up as community lending tools for other sustainable infrastructure and community care.
It’s helpful if the music and art at the event represents the diversity of the people living in the region, to make the event accessible to a representative demographic. Traditional world music instruments often provide a connection to ancient rhythms and songs from times when people lived more in balance with plants and animals. Poetry about social justice and empowerment lifts people’s spirits up and builds community. A scheduled festival-wide moment of silence can create a space to sense and feel each other outside of our egoic identities, spoken language, and the loud noise of electronics. Shutting off the electricity grid at the festival to the extent possible can support this embodiment experience.
Local-grown food and drink vendors create a high vibe for the event with legal medicinal plants that nourish and foster connection.
Finally, people can record audio of the presentations, similar to how Bioneers does it, and package those audio recordings for sale or gift to spread the awareness further. I’m happy to host recordings via Bloom's website.
In three years of hosting this festival in the Bay Area, I’ve seen people’s lives transform upon being immersed in a culture of empowerment, access, and DIY community building. We have also designed a traveling version of this offering that can plug in to festivals and conferences, representing a coalition of civic engagement groups and healing practices.
Even if an educator is not available locally for a specific topic, the abundance of internet videos at our fingertips can fill in with as little infrastructure as a $300 pocket projector and an indoor room.
We have all the resources we need to restore healthy relationships and inspire each other to greater creativity, so let’s do it together!
Thank you for reading and caring.
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Illustration by Laura Fox - "Ecovillage Birthing Device". It's her layout for a festival that leaves behind an ecovillage.