Bringing Eco-awareness into a psy-trance festival
Travelogue article by Elisavet T.
2015 was my second year on Csobankapuszta land. And a year that I will reminisce with great pleasure and great admiration.
I didn’t stay just for the festival, I arrived a few days before and I stayed for a few days after. My intention was clear: I had made links with the people there last year and for me, it wasn’t just about the festival; it was about participating, volunteering and experiencing the potential of the land and its people.
When I first left for the festival, I had no idea that the land had already given birth to other, more permanent community structures. I had no idea that, from the initial intention of psychedelic festival, the main team involved in this effort had started developing a sustainable community, a ‘New Consciousness’ community. I only realised when I stayed there for a month after the festival.
I have been active in the psychedelic trance scene for more than 20 years. Looking back, apart from the actual distinctiveness of what was then called goa-trance, which incorporated melody, ethnic influences and loops, as well as imagery closely related to a search for the divine, there was something else that touched my heart: the relationship of goa-trance to nature. Parties were taking place in the woods, in beaches, close to rivers. We didn’t even have festivals; we just had impromptu parties in Nature, which only a few would find out about. There was no full eco-awareness back then. We weren’t even recycling properly. But nevertheless, the seed was planted. We were still trying to ‘leave no trace’ after we left and usually people would stay in nature for longer than just the party. Something had started.
But this something was lost towards the end of the nineties. Lots of people, including myself, lost their direction. Parties moved indoors, producers and managers came in and the whole experience became more of an exercise in endurance and release of urban tensions, rather than something that we could carry to the rest of our life projects. The festival circuit, starting with Boom festival in Portugal, brought the connection with nature back to life. Sustainability and eco-awareness had started to emerge as a concept and it soon reached the festival circuit too. Not everywhere however. Some festivals were more eco-friendly than others.
When I first visited SUN in 2014, it was evident that eco-awareness was taken seriously by the organizers. Festival constructions and art materials were all showing respect to the land that hosted the festival: recycling bins separating material and ashtrays with the sign ‘recycle your cigarette butt here’ were all around. There was still work to be done; there were only a few compost toilets and food containers were not compostable. But it was obvious that something was starting.
Early in 2015, we received an invitation for membership, rather than an invitation to purchase a ticket. The semantics were obvious; one was invited to participate; not to just attend. Membership did not exhaust itself to the annual psy-trance gathering, but included smaller events, that operated in the sense of participatory learning, knowledge exchange, garden workshops and cross-cultural exchange. The events were celebrations of the nature cycle, the Spring fest, the Rain fest, the Moon fest… As I had stayed longer the year before, and I had seen the beginnings of an eco-community in the making, I knew that Csobankapusztans were working with a vision. They had started promoting the products of the land in the local village of Bercel, in the Nograd region, and they were engaging with the locals. They had become participants of Nograd themselves, active members of the broader ecosystem of the region.
Although I didn’t manage to visit Csobankapuszta for one of these smaller fests, I knew that I would find something evolving there. When the time for the annual gathering arrived, something happened: something that I thought it was a blessing in disguise. Some of the collaborators pulled out, and the annual, psy-trance gathering, was restricted to 1000 participants only. I remember from the forums online, that most people were welcoming the possibility of a smaller-scale gathering. There were a few people worrying but this downsizing was mostly welcome. The rest was to be seen in practice!
And for sure it did. The principles of sustainability and collaboration were everywhere. From the programme that participants received, guiding people to eco-principles in a gentle manner, to the system of donations for the chai shops, the community kitchen and the healing area, to the use of compost toilets and the recycling of dirty water. Participants were reminded to use clean water wisely and to use biodegradable soap, in order to respect the land and its people. Signs in the common areas were also part of the landscape, reminding participants of the rules of nature: “Nothing is for free, everything is give and take”; “give if you can, take only if you have to”. Nature principles that we tend to forget in our hectic urban lives; principles that can actually serve to promote a different human culture, one that allows people to experience their connection to the mother Earth.
Having the number limited to 1000 participants, meant that people had the chance to camp quite far for the noise and engage more with the land of Csobankapuszta, as well as with the structures of a sustainable community in the making: the community kitchen, the solar panels, the vegetable garden, the sacred fire space, the animals, the locals, the care for the land. Promotion of local products was also part of the gathering; close to the community kitchen there was a stand, where people could buy products from local farmers. We weren’t just supporting the psy-trance community, we were supporting the Nograd broader community by familiarising ourselves with the products of the region.
What I observed, and I also later confirmed by chatting to other participants, was that in this gathering, there was a chance to get to know people before any serious stomping took place. The main stage only opened in day three, when we had reached the solar plexus chakra (Manipura): During the first day, the day of the root chakra (Muladhara), there were only physical sounds, singing, drumming, jamming together: experience ourselves first in community, sense the land and its people.
To me, that was the most important message to the gatherers. Get to know each other before you raise the bar of your transcendental experiences. Root yourselves before you proceed; otherwise, you don’t know where you are going. The healing area, remote, quiet and discrete also served as a point of connection, a point of re-centring and engaging with others in a respectful manner. Principles of eco-communities were integrated in the annual gathering: self-realisation and co-operative independence; educate and lead by example; honour and empower self-realisation. The community of psy-trance travellers met with the residents of Csobankapuszta, on order to not only party, but to also exchange information and to promote respect for one another.
As in any ecosystem, diversity is important, otherwise things stagnate. And diversity does not only refer to the flora and the fauna, it also refers to the people involved in a system. If one goes back to biology, the more diverse a gene pool is, the more resilient it becomes. Similar to this concept, the visitors of this gathering added something and took something as well. Some brought ideas, others brought labour. Others brought just themselves and partied. But interaction between people with different intentions and people with same intentions was what made this gathering so unique.
Most festival spaces I have visited throughout the years where always liminal spaces. Liminal: in other words, non-permanent. They serve as a space in between our everyday lives before and our everyday lives after a festival. A psy-trance festival is usually a social space that is assembled and de-assembled at the end. In contrast, the Solar.United.Natives.’ project bridges the difference between the temporary and the permanent elements of a social space. Liminality is still present, as most of the attendees are going to leave after, but the sustainable community of Csobankapuszta is there to stay. People know there is a continuation. ‘Sharing mutual resources and caring for one another’ is another eco-community principle that, to me, expresses this continuation: a life principle that we then carry in our everyday lives.
Elisavet, 4th September, 2015