Just over a month ago, I found myself on a bus, in a storm, heading to a plot of land roughly 112km from Berlin for a festival named Kiez Burn, which was taking place for the very first time in Germany. With the exception of Aurora, aka “Burning Argentina”, a tiny event where just 120 people were present, this was my first Burn and I was brimming with excitement and intrigue.
The “Just Being” kiez
Despite the forecast predicting rain all weekend long, the weather significantly improved after the first night and I spent most of Friday exploring the festival site in the sunshine and dipping my toe into each of the camps to see what was going on. Just as Berlin is home to different kieze, i.e., neighbourhoods, each of which has its own character, Kiez Burn is made up of several camps, all with a unique style and focus. The camp I had applied to be part of – Just Being – offered a space for relaxation, and attracted a more conscious crowd. I was mostly drawn to it because I didn’t think it would be as wild and druggy as some of the other camps, and I was right. The people at Just Being were unbelievably kind generous; even though I hadn’t actually managed to join, as I applied too late, they willingly shared their space and all their food with me, which I was extremely grateful for. It was a group that I felt extremely comfortable and happy with, and slowly, over the course of the weekend, I was really able to fully relax and switch off (something that never normally comes easily to me).
Camp Pyjamcakes was another prime spot for relaxing and chatting to people. They served pancakes in their pyjamas to anyone and everyone, which I thought was such a fantastic idea, and was naturally greatly appreciated by all those that attended. It was there that I did my first workshop, which was on consent and practicing saying “no”. Seeing as consent is one of the festival’s core principles, it was great to have this reminder to take responsibility for the community by asking permission before hugging or touching anyone, and it also enabled us all to get to know one another more intimately. The intimacy level went up a few notches during the kissing workshop, which followed soon after, and consisted of everyone walking in a circle in two directions and asking permission to kiss those they wanted to. There were ten different types of kisses in total, beginning with the most innocent and least tactile – an air kiss – and progressing to a kiss on the hand, then the forehead, then the ear, a butterfly kiss, an eskimo kiss, a peck on the cheek, a peck on the mouth, a kiss on the mouth and finally, a kiss with tongues. After that, we did an activity which I can best describe as ‘kissing meditation”. Firstly, we were split into two groups: apples and mangos. Then, the apples stood in the centre of the circle with their eyes closed, while the mangoes came and kissed them in different ways, on different parts of their bodies. One minute, I would feel nothing, then all of a sudden, there would be three people kissing me on various parts of my body – it was very exciting! Interestingly enough, it was here that I met most of the people that I went on to spend time with throughout the festival, and a couple have now become good friends.
The Kinky School camp was pretty much what it says on the tin; somewhere to get naughty, playful and adventurous. I didn’t spend that much time here, but I did take part in a Tantra workshop, which was definitely more amusing than arousing. To introduce ourselves, we had to go around the room each saying our name and one word to describe how we were feeling, then making the sound we make when we orgasm, which the rest of the room had to repeat afterwards (that was certainly an effective way to lower everyone’s boundaries). The rest of the workshop consisted of different exercises in pairs that were designed to make us more open and connected, but like I said, for me it was purely entertaining. Perhaps I simply wasn’t in the right zone.
Playing around at Multi-Culti Circus
Multi-Culti Circus was the camp for music, as well as fire juggling, poi, hooping, acrobatics and other circus activities. The DJs here played an array of different styles, but my favourite had to be Marius Melange with his driving Techno. Mitte was another place I ended up spending a great deal of time at, for there was music at all hours of day and night here too and, as someone who can’t get enough of dancing, it drew me back time and time again.
Other than dancing, attending workshops and basking in the sunshine, I spent my time admiring all the impressive works of art that so much time and effort had clearly gone in to. The creativity demonstrated at that place was remarkable, and all the details and little touches, from flickering lamps, to elaborately decorated signs, to an eclectic toilet soundtrack meant that I was constantly noticing new things, even on the last day of the festival. The costumes people had brought along were also highly creative, and the place was just a picture of colour when everyone got dressed and made up. If you weren’t donning a whacky costume, you were stripping off completely; there wasn’t much in between it seemed! I spent equal amounts of time doing both, but the naked moments were undeniably my favourite. On the penultimate day, after emerging hot and sweaty from the sauna (yes, there were saunas) I joined the “human carcass”, essentially a production line for washing bodies. Each person who wanted to be washed would walk between two rows of people, who were either given the role of soaping, rinsing, or drying, using their cupped hands as a squeegee to remove the water. After being “promoted” from dryer, to rinser, to soaper, it was my turn to be washed (yippee!) The first thing I got asked was “Do you have any boundaries?” to which I answered “no”, thereby giving everyone permission to wash me literally all over. That was certainly a novel experience.
Sharing my experience of sobriety
I decided prior to the camp that I would join a friend of mine who, like me, is teetotal, in giving a talk on being sober. I really didn’t think anyone would show up, but to my surprise a few people did, and they listened intently as we each shared our experiences of getting sober and giving up all mind-altering substances. If I was able to help or inspire even just one person, then that would make me very happy.
Dancing in the bubbles
The last night and day of Kiez Burn were the best for me, as by that stage I had really settled in and was starting to feel truly at home. Along with a few others from Just Being, I helped prepare a Tom Kha soup for our final meal, which we sat and ate all together. The, after a short sleep, I woke up around 4am and began my morning handing out ear plugs from Welfare to those who were heading bedwards and needed to block out the pounding beats from Mitte. I spent the next few hours dancing and taking part in a kitty massage workshop, where I played the role of a cat massaging its owner, then received a deep, intense massage from him (which I very much needed). The two of us then decided to do some meditation after that and give the sauna another go, before hosing each other down with icy water to cool off. Two hours before the bus was due to leave, a 90s rave began, but nobody seemed to want to dance so I was the only person flailing my limbs around for the first half an hour or so. Gradually though, more and more people began to join me and, by around 5.30pm, Mitte was filled with colour and movement once again. Possibly the best moment of the entire weekend was when the heavens opened and it started to rain for the first time in days, just as the DJ began playing the classic I’m So Excited by The Pointer Sisters, and everyone gave it their absolute all; rarely have I seen that much energy and pure, childlike happiness contained in one space. It was absolutely incredible. Needless to say, I found it difficult to tear myself away and ended up having to run to the bus, which was about to leave without me.
Overall, Kiez Burn was a very memorable event, and it has inspired me to take part in similar events and get more involved in the community of Burners, as it was the people at the festival that made it so special – hopefully I’ll see a few familiar faces at Where the Sheep Sleep this weekend, and I’ll definitely be joining everyone at Kiez Burn 2018.