Reflections on Boom and the 2014 FCS Symposium from Alan Dearling
A Psy-trance party. A spiritual experience. Shamen and women, braves and a few (very few) elders! An eco-trip into a variety of ‘possible’ futures.
A celebratory set of stages and spaces: the Healing Area; Sacred Fire workshops and stage; visionary art; Alchemy Stage – mostly full-on dancing; the vast Dance Temple; the Chill Out gardens; the Liminal Village with its talks and discussions and various markets and feeding/drinking spots. It’s all that and much more….24 hours each day for six days….
40,000 participants; dance crazy Boomers in the main. Add to that 800 performers and 2,000 staff scattered around the Boom village. Boom festival takes place in alternate years. It is a very special gem, located around the shore of Idanha-A-Nova Lake, pretty much slap-bang in the middle of Portugal.
I’m a presenter at the Liminal Village, helping to co-ordinate the Free Cultural Spaces 4th Symposium, telling tales of the first psychedelia in the ’60s, the early festivals such as Windsor and Stonehenge, punk, reggae, Travellers, squats, eco-protests, techno, sound systems such as the Spiral Tribe and Bedlam, and the more permanent free spaces in intentional communities including Findhorn, Zegg, Tuntable Falls and Crystal Waters. Together with Chiara Baldini from Boom, Aya Waalwijk from Ruigoord in Amsterdam and Jordan Zinovich from Autonomedia in the USA, we worked hard to involve the Boomers to look at how this all fits together; how these ‘his’ and ‘her-stories’ link with the ‘here and now’ of a massive psy-trance festival . And even more importantly what happens after the festival. The next steps lie in how we can spread the creative energy – how the participants share their ideas and passions around the globe – plant and nurture them…
I’m at Boom to sell the message that we – the ‘free cultural spaces’ – whether they are festivals, intentional communities, squats or eco-villages (and more) are the ‘Many Tribes’ – but together we are ‘One People’. I’m here to try and spread enthusiasm for, and engagement in, the creation of an internet, World-wide Web of Hubs – linking together the diverse range of Free Cultural Spaces so that they can exchange ideas, information and co-operate more successfully in making their dreams into realities.
We’re following up three similar (but very different) events held at Ruigoord Village near Amsterdam. But it’s a younger, more hedonistic affair, at Boom. Probably an average age of about 22 years old. Hey though, they want to speak to us ‘oldies’. Indeed, there’s a spirit amongst these trance-dancers that echoes the ‘60’s hippies. They’re into discussing ‘green’ eco-issues: permaculture, spiritual experience, ecstacies with and without the help of drugs. And even more mind-blowing, there’s hardly any litter….around the whole site….there’s a mutual respect for the environment. Astonishing, but great to witness and experience first-hand.
There’s little ‘live’ music. It’s mostly dj-sets with a heavy pounding, chest-thumping bass-line. The Alchemy and Dance Temple stages cater for the thousands of swaying, gyrating dancers whose eyes shine brightly. These are not the stoned hippies of yesteryear. Water is drunk in enormous quantities. Beer too, but not like at UK festivals, where often the punters just want to get shit-faced. The Sacred Fire stage does put on some live acts, book-ended with djs playing mixes of dub, global and fusion music. It’s my favourite area, as my partner Marjo, loves the Healing Area with its spiritual themes and workshops. She is now an official ‘Boom Idiot’, courtesy of the Clown Workshop run by James Montiont.
Everyone enjoys their own ‘personal’ festival. A unique, individual journey around the tents, stages and areas that make up Boom. You can go for a swim, eat vegan raw foods or indulge in a donner kebab. Boom is not a place of hard-line rules. There are composting toilets for all and it mostly works well. Stilt walkers, poi jugglers, fire jugglers, hoola-hoop twirlers and robotic djs intermingle with the dancers and onlookers and there are even giant aliens threatening to take the Boomers off to their space ship. Boom is an off-the Earth kind of trip. In UK terms, Reading, Leeds or T-in-the-park, it’s not – thankfully!
Arrived on the Boom Bus via Madrid not knowing what I’d learn. What experiences lay in wait. The young Boomers have revitalised my optimism. They are passionate, show oodles of respect for their surroundings and each other. Do I like psy-trance, electronic dance music (EDM)? I understand it a bit better. It’s not just a single sequence of repetitive beats. There are shades and subtleties waiting to be discovered. I enjoyed and danced to System 7, Perfect Stranger and Gaudi. As djs they offer a richness of rhythms and world samples. I’m out of my comfort zone with some of the other dj sets – in particular those that feature industrial noise, single metronomic bass beats, and little else that I can discern or understand. But shit, I’m no expert on EDM!
But there are links being forged between Boom, its Boomers, and other Free Cultural Space Communities. The Liminal Village was the ‘gateway’, the stepping stone, for this evolutionary process. There were presentations on drugs (lots of them), feminism (lots more), love, politics, psychedelic experiences, freedom and festivals. And on the final day at our Free Cultural Spaces Symposium, a tapestry of inputs on the links between festivals such as Boom, Fusion (Germany), Burning Man (the USA); Thylejren and Christiania (Denmark) and Ruigoord (Netherlands). Next year the Symposium is moving in its fifth incarnation to Christiana and a theme of ‘ the individual’ and ‘ the collective’.
Boom is extraordinary. The organisers proudly claim:
“In Boom we dance under the full moon, a global tribe of thousands of people in a temple without religion…we celebrate our love for psychedelic music and spiritual practice of freedom, respect and mutual support.
In Boom, ‘out the box’ ideas spread like seeds…We transcend our everyday life, our limited identities, the illusion of separation…In BOOM WE WAKE UP to never fall asleep again.”
And at night time, when you are in your tent trying to get a few hours kip, it does feel as though this will never, ever again, be possible…as the Boom thuds through your heart, your chest and your inner being…
Life is not the same after becoming a Boomer!