Festival of the Month: Waking Life

Waking Life in Portugal is now in its second year and already seems to be hitting the spot amongst festivalgoers, many of whom described last year’s event as their best festival experience of the summer. British House DJ OCH wrote, “[It was] one of the most colourful festivals I’ve had the pleasure of playing at in recent years” and Christine Kakaire commented in her review on Resident Advisor that “The level of aesthetic detail and artisanship made it clear that the festival was the product of people who have been taking notes at events for many years.” Naturally, this made me curious to find out more. 

I reached out to the organisers, who told me that this year should be better, as they are better prepared and have learned a few things after their experience of the first edition of Waking Life. The measures they are taking to increase comfort and hygiene are probably the biggest changes, and they are also planning to have more shaded areas. Finally, there will be a new chillout stage, further away from the other dancefloors. Other changes can be found in their article A Walk in The Park on the festival’s website.

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Located in Northern Alentejo, one of the most deserted regions in Southern Europe, which only appears to be emptying further, the festival brings life to this sleepy part of Portugal. The main reason for having the festival here is because the organisers wanted to put on an event with a 24 hour license and this location was the perfect size and structure, despite not having electricity or running water (they have to produce this themselves). 

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Waking Life seems to attract an open-minded crowd, with equally open hearts and last year, there were absolutely no incidents. Having a conscious crowd, who are willing to support one another in such a way, and respect the environment, is key for the organisers and for this reason, they don’t promote the festival too much. In 2018, the number of attendees will be restricted to just 3,500, which is still 1,000 more than the first edition. The team are trying to make the festival as noncommercial as possible, which is naturally rather hard, as they rely wholly on private money and ticket sales. They have no sponsorship, though if ever they were forced to choose between getting a sponsor or giving up on Waking Life, they would be sure to select one that ties in with the festival and its values. It’s really a choice between remaining an independent, not-for-profit festival, with fewer people, stages and artists and getting a sponsor to maintain this “purist” line-up, which is so essential to the team. The music is the festival’s main draw, and the reason it attracts so many foreigners, but House and Techno DJs are particularly pricey, and they won’t lower their fees simply because a festival is not sponsored. Variety is also essential for the team and, in the future, they would like to offer more stages with Trip Hop, Ambient, Disco and even Classical music, none of which is easy to achieve on a budget.

The organisers stated: “I think we have quite a special line-up that you don’t see in other festivals. We are really happy with the musical program.” In his opinion, one of the must-see artists is London keyboardist Kamaal Williams and he’s pleased that in general, there is more of a live aspect this year, as he doesn’t want Waking Life to be regarded as just a Techno festival. As it grows, he hopes to incorporate more Hip Hop, Dub and Roots but, seeing as he worked in Techno and House for eight years, he felt it made most sense to begin with these two genres. Ultimately, the idea is to have not only stages, but sounds emerging from all over, such as on the beach, which would fit better with the festival’s organic feel. Overall, Waking Life’s unique selling point is that it combines this organic feel with a friendly (and eco-friendly) crowd and a great line-up, on a small scale. The focus is on building a quality program, complete with non-stop music and performative arts. The team also strongly encourage people to get creative and coordinate unusual activities, such as body scrubbing and painting by naked grandmas and grandpas, as this breaks down barriers and gets you more mentally prepared for a weekend of craziness. If you have any ideas for such activities, or would like to get involved in Waking Life in any other way, visit the Get Involved section on their website.

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Waking Life takes place from June 21 – 24. Click here to purchase your ticket for just €105.


For more articles on my favourite festivals, visit the Festival of the Month section on my website.

Written by: Milly Day
Photos: www.facebook.com/225011164237594/photos/

 

Festival of the month: Own Spirit

With an adventurous spirit and a similar vibe to Boom, Own Spirit, which is held in Aragon in the north of Spain, has one main aim: to enrich the Spanish Psytrance scene. It first took place in 2015 after a series of smaller parties and gatherings held amongst a group of friends named “Own Style”, all of whom are avid music producers. Having discovered Psytrance at a random party, the idea of a festival combining this type of music with alternative therapies came about spontaneously, together with the name “Own Spirit”.

The Psytrance scene is prominent in the north of Spain, so it’s not surprising that Own Spirit attracts an international crowd, with visitors from more than 30 different countries attending last year. Paola Chirico, the Project Manager, and the festival’s director, Francesco Ibáñez, describe the festival as “welcoming, transformative, inspiring and fun.” During the first years, the team managed to develop a concept that included a healing area, family activities, a market and a circus, to name a few features. So whether you want to sweat away in a temazcal, practice yoga, watch a circus performance, or just dance 24/7, you’ll find your place here. Paola added “We like to use the word multidisciplinary festival. You can take what you want out of it.”

After three years of light and change, Own Spirit has been given a new home, surrounded by nature and a crystal clear lake. The birthplace of most of the crew is very close to this location and Francesco had previously organised some smaller gatherings in the area, along with his tribe – this is actually where everything started. The new location has been a major change for the festival.

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This year, the organisers felt obliged to change the festival dates as well, after discovering an eagle was making his nest on the site around the time the festival was usually held. The way in which the crowd reacted to this news gave them the strength to sustain this change, a personal highlight for the entire crew. Naturally, there have been several other challenges, such as building absolutely everything from scratch and designing the festival as a zero impact event, but sheer persistence on their part has thankfully kept Own Spirit alive.

This year, you’ll be able to catch the likes of Merkaba, Kalya Scintilla, Estas Tonne, Outsiders, Vertical mode, Djantrix and Earthling playing at Own Spirit, to name a few. For more information, visit the festival’s official website.

Written by: Milly Day
Photos: Benedetta Broggi

Festival of the month: Forest Star

Forest Star is a magical gathering in Urla Forest in Sweden, which embraces togetherness and claims to be all about the love and unity of the people. Indeed, it has been described by visitors as “the most loving festival that has taken place” over the Swedish summer and Emma Vilda, one of the organisers, told me that for her, Forest Star is about learning from the past and remembering the sacred ways of living, finding a way to heal and grow in the modern world, so that people can help one another create a better world with more love.

The festival first came about when, after years of travelling, Emma realised she longed to find her roots and create a life with a deeper meaning. Back in 2009, around a bush fire in Australia, a vision appeared to her of returning to her home in the north of Sweden to her family’s land, where she would gather the tribes and bring back the roots of the land to them. She envisioned a place in the nature where people could meet and share the magic of life in a safe environment, heal and grow together.

Not long after the first gathering in 2010, Emma made new friends and connections and, together with some of them, she studied old ways of living, including traditional songs and ceremonies, which they wanted to bring back to life. Shortly after, their crew, Urla Tribe, started to be shaped. Now, this tribe come together every year in June to celebrate the summer solstice. They dress the midsummer pole, a symbol of both male and female energy, with flowers and encourage festivalgoers to dance around it as a celebration of life.

Besides this, there are daily yoga and meditation classes, workshops, a handicraft market and plenty of delicious food on offer. There is also a children’s section which includes theatre performances, face painting and a playground in the forest. On the Saturday night, women from Urla Tribe perform a sacred dance on the main stage, undoubtedly one of the highlights.

Emma claims that Forest Star would probably be long gone if it wasn’t for her stubbornness and a very few strong souls supporting them with unconditional love; everyone involved in the festival is fundamental in making it happen year after year. “I think our visitors can feel that we are doing this from our hearts and it’s important for us that every visitor has a beautiful time”, she added. “The festival site is a blessing to us all.”

Forest Star takes place from June 21 – 24. Click here to purchase your ticket.

 

Written by: Milly Day
Photos: www.foreststar.se