United in the sunshine

Review: Boom Festival 2012. Set in the breathtaking Naturtejo Geopark on the Portuguese Iberian Peninsula, Boom is the sunshine festival, next to which, others seem to pale in comparison

Bamboo stages and structures, permaculture gardens and visionary art installations were dotted around the sparkling Idanha-a-Nova Lake – which was warm enough for a daily swim – as the festival attempted to create an alternative model of society.

The festival had its own sustainability project run by Andre Soares, co-founder of the centre for sustainable living, Ecocentro IPEC Brazil. Only renewable energy was used for the festival site’s build and 25% of the energy used during the festival came from off-grid solar power and waste vegetable oil from the local town.

Organisers say that the mayor of Idanha-a-Nova speaks positively of the festival, feeling it boosts the local economy and ensures that that the UNESCO site is looked after and irrigated.

The week-long gathering is very much focused on positive change for our lives, as opposed to the overtly commercial or hedonistic tendencies of many other festivals. The main dance temple was opened by way of ceremony from Mayan descendant Tata Antonio alongside two wonderful activists, shamans and grandmothers Marianna Arboleda de Gaia and Abuela Pilar. Here they performed a shamanic ceremony and the Sacred Fire was lit which burned throughout the week.

Reflecting on the festival, Arboleda de Gaia’s says: “The thing I love most about the festival is the young people. They provide hope for the future and possess the energy to make a change.”

Boom is the most culturally diverse of festivals – with ‘Boomers’ arriving by bus, train, plane, sea and bicycle from 102 different countries. In not many places is it possible to partake in a yoga workshop with indigenous Amazonians, Scandinavians, Mexicans and people from all corners of the globe. This experience made the concept of ‘we are one’ really come alive as everyone managed to find common ground.

“In not many places is it possible to partake in a yoga workshop with indigenous Amazonians, Scandinavians, Mexicans and people from all corners of the globe”

Aesthetically, Boom was mind-blowing. Huge rainbow coloured, sparkling, spinning sculptures fluttered in the wind; the festival swamped by residual mountains that grew colossal into the sky.

Festivals take a huge amount of raw material when you consider everything that has to be built. Complying with the sustainable ethos of Boom, the organisers sourced reused materials from festivals such as Rock, situated near Lisbon. In total, 5,2305 kg of raw materials were recycled.

The music varied from the electric atmosphere in the main dance temple that pumped out psychedelic trance, to a mix of genres in the Alchemy Circle, and the relaxing sound of vocal harmonies and hang drums among lanterns and trees in the Ambient Source and Sacred Fire areas.

I felt that the absence of alcoholic spirits from the main bars, which sold just beer, organic cola and water, allowed for a calmer and more conscientious atmosphere as rowdy drunks were almost unseen. People seemed aware of their surroundings and were looking out for one another. At night people sat round in cosy clusters among the trees, playing cards and making new friends. Taking it easy was evidently far more fun and fulfilling than getting steaming drunk.

Relaxing in a hammock in the Healing Area, Boomer Hugo Sheppard felt that “the negative aspects you come to expect from a festival these days are largely not present at Boom.”

On the main dance floor Boomer Maxime Holdyk from Amsterdam announced to me, with a huge smile on his face: “Everyone at Boom is your friend!” He then proceeded to write it on my arm so I didn’t forget.

Festival goers at Boom 2012. Photo © Boom festival

People of all shapes, sizes, colours and creeds danced together all day and night letting the freer side of their personalities explore and grow with help from a mass ensemble of face paints and glitter.

English festival-goer Steph Hunt says she really found herself at Boom: “Through the mix of inspiring workshops, living in a community with people who care, and having a great time, I have really learned to love myself and those around me.”

The workshops I attended at Boom were phenomenal. I learned about herbal medicine, found my inner healer through meditation, became a belly-dancing goddess and listened to wise words from elder women.

The range of talks from people with inspiring visions for a better future certainly made their impact on my thoughts. Having left for Boom feeling slightly lost in myself, out of touch with nature and disconnected from others, I returned with a new hope for the future, feeling knowledgeable about so many important topics and with a passion for helping to create positive change within our world.