Sunrise 2012

By any standard, this year's Sunrise Celebration ought to have been a disaster.

We awoke on the first night to find someone had tried to get into our tent (and that in the supposedly secure Crew Camping field); twenty minutes later they tried again, my "what the fuck" being greeted with an unconvincing "oh sorry mate, wrong tent." Morning confirmed foul play. Many had had their valuables nicked - by a stroke of luck ours were locked in the car.

Then I lost a day to a particularly vicious migraine.

And then there was the rain. Torrential, unremitting rain. And when there's rain at a festival there's mud. Fields of pristine grassland turn quickly to puddled clay, a sticky syrup of tiramisu that sucks at your boots and your spirits and gets in everything, on everything, under everything, until all differences are erased in homogenous brown. Try walking in it without slipping. Try dancing in it. Try keeping your spirits up when your clothes are damp, your socks are wet, you feel the first bite of a stinking cold, and then someone accidentally walks off with your wellies (thankfully theirs were dry and a good fit too).

But oddly, we managed. In fact, it was one of the most inspiringly, life-affirming and heartening festivals I've ever been to (and I've been going for twenty five years). I'd do it all again tomorrow.

We saw some great music: the Warsaw Village Band, The Egg, Green Angels, Duncan Disorderly & the Scallywags. Celtech played a blinder on the main stage and even brought the sun out.

We went raving in the Solar Dance stage and danced like it was 1987 (well, not Nomi - she would have been 3). The music and lasers were mind-bendingly good.

I gave a talk on the Judaeo-Christian notions of time underlying much of the current 2012 millenarianism (as you do), and gently argued the case for a more pagan, spiracular framework for thinking about psychedelics (if you're interested, a version of the talk is coming out in a book later this year - more soon). It seemed to go down well.

But really, what made the festival so good was the chance to reconnect with alternative culture, with different ways of living, thinking, doing, making, and, yes, playing. It gets lonely out here. We all need to recharge.

There were some truly inspiring talks (about which I shall blog later) and a lot of creative beauty. Here's one example, a tent with a load of candles in. Very nice. But then we learned that these were peace flames. Someone lit a candle from the smouldering fires of Hiroshima and that flame has been kept alight ever since in the name of peace, in the hope that it might never happen again. There are peace candles burning continuously around the world. Suddenly a beautiful night sculpture took on a whole new level of meaning. I found it profoundly moving.

What little sun there was was short lived and on Saturday night a storm front moved in. All bands were cancelled on the main stage. It rained for twelve hours solid. I'd be lying if I said we didn't feel utterly miserable, curled up in our little tent, trying to sleep amidst the booming lurch of dubstep and the squish-pop-ah! of people doing balloons. Come the morning there were now great lakes of mud and a river of refugees wanting out and heading for home. They should have stayed. By mid morning the sun came out again and a fine, dry wind blew up from the south west. It felt like a blessing, a reward for our perseverance. We lazed in the new stone circle, drinking chai, letting ourselves go gently pink in the sun.

Wod played on the Sunday evening, in the new, specially provided dance tent, with a proper sprung floor lovingly made by Rob the Farmer (to whom much gratitude is due). It was a small, intimate gig, but nonetheless intense. People were sat outside too, listening as they watched the sunset.

We left shortly afterwards, ready for home, but with that bitter sweet feeling of wanting and not wanting to go. The festival always has to end but I suppose we take some of it away with us, and I don't mean the mud.


  1. "But really, what made the festival so good was the chance to reconnect with alternative culture, with different ways of living, thinking, doing, making, and, yes, playing. It gets lonely out here. We all need to recharge."

    Amen to that.
    It's important. Yes, it does. And yes we do.

    Next year, for us.
    Looking forward to recharging with you both at Unciv!

  2. It was the first time I have been to this festival. I get the impression with a cloudless skies it would be outstanding. Still collecting my thoughts, but I found Saturday kicked off at about 11:30 pm when the atmosphere mellowed and people had a great time in the tents. Highlights: Warsaw Village, The Imagined Village (I had seem Martin Carthy solo two weeks before) and quite a few more I have written down at home.

    All in all: I will go back again, next time with better weather.

  3. lovely pix and report. i spent four blissful days and nights in the caravan, heading out for select moments of extra-curricular pleasure. the finest mix of everything available to our culture and at the perfect scale. nice spot too. i tried (and failed) to put on a stage, which dampened mine own spirits a little, but otherwise, yes, what a wonderful do. matt



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