Sunrise festival declares itself first ‘festival micronation’

A festival in Somerset aims to become the first ‘participation nation’, rewarding festival-goers for getting involved, and letting bands choose their own support acts

A festival in Somerset has declared itself the first festival ‘micronation’.

Those attending Sunrise Festival, running from 30 May to 2 June 2013, will explore the idea of living in a free independent state and will be invited to gain ‘citizenship’ by actively participating in creating a new vision of society. Artists will also have a say in how the festival is shaped, with main stage headline acts selecting support bands to fill the rest of their night’s line-up.

Though not officially recognised as a micronation, the festival – formerly Sunrise Celebration – aims to adhere to the main principles of a micronation, operating as open a democratic model as possible and providing the chance for anyone to raise issues, discuss the functioning of the nation and collectively decide what it will become.

“We’re turning on its head the idea of what a nation is, not just mimicking the standards of a nation, many of which are oppressive,” says Sunrise co-director Dan Hurring. “We very much want the people to make this their nation.

“Our independent state aims to offer an alternative view of life: a vision of a society that is not just functional, but beautiful; not just sustainable, but abundant and flourishing.”

However, Hurring is keen to point out that the idea is not to be taken too seriously. “We’re not trying to make a definitive state or actually declare ourselves independent; I’m not sure how far we’d get with that. The idea is for it to be playful.”

On arrival festival-goers will be issued with a visa, which will be stamped when the holder participates in festival activities. “The most participatory people will become citizens of the micronation and get a full passport,” says Hurring. This passport may be used at future festivals and yield special benefits, although these are yet to be decided. “The hope is that this will create something longer-lasting than the temporary community festivals usually have.”

People can get involved by contributing to daily forums, which will discuss issues such as governance, economics, food, health and environment. There will also be games and processions throughout the weekend where people can earn visa stamps.

The Sunrise site will be arranged in micro-regions with a mix of entertainment and educational activities on offer. The Groovy Movie cinema will show films by day and comedy and cabaret by night; the Shire will offer the chance to learn skills such as eco-building and wood carving; and the Green Talks Dome will feature social and environmental speakers including ‘the moneyless man’ Mark Boyle and ecocide lawyer Polly Higgins.

There will of course also be music on offer across several stages, with genres ranging from folk to psy-trance.

To continue the participatory theme of the festival, Sunrise has, for the first time, given headline artists on the main stage responsibility for booking and managing their own line-up for the night. The Dub Pistols’ mix of hip-hop, dub, techno, ska and punk will be complemented by artists including The Drop and Dancefloor Outlaws, while classic two-tone ska band The Beat will be introducing The Skints and a DJ set from Rankin Roger.

Sunrise co-director Jeff Luther says: “This distinctive new approach to programming means we get to showcase the best of UK music from the very people at the helm.”

However, as it’s the festival’s first year as a micronation, Sunrise organisers are keen to let the idea develop naturally. Says Hurring: “It’s an experiment; we’ll take it on whatever path it goes.”

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