All pictures used in compliant with the photographers. Header picture: iljahuner.com
Having visted festivals ranging from big mainstream pop festivals like Rock Werchter (Belgium) to Sziget (Budapest, Hungary) to Cannabis Liberation Day in Amsterdam and everything in between (whether smaller or bigger), there was one type of festival definitely lacking in my experience: the community gatherings.
(…)there was one type of festival definitely lacking in my experience: the community gatherings
What I mean by that, are festivals you may have heard from: Burning Man (original one in the Nevada desert), Boom (Portugal) and perhaps the original: Woodstock (back during the ‘summer of love’ in 1969).
And so I’m happy to report I’ve finally attended one: Beyond festival 2016 in Liempde!
I had heard about the festival from friends in Amsterdam and was pumped to find out they (luckily) were forced to move out of Amsterdam to Liempde, a very small village nearby my operating city.
Due to insufficient funds thanks to an impulsive trip to Berlin a couple weekends ago and not being able to decide whether to go to the first Burning Man in the Netherlands or settle for Beyond festival, I was lucky enough to obtain tickets during the week before the festival through a friend of mine volunteering at Beyond.
I found one impulsive fellow relatively fast, being joined by the third on Saturday. Off to Beyond we went!
Transcending Beyond Festival 2016
I remember this freeing moment during which we were coupled and one of us had to wear a blindfold while the other person guided you through the field
We ended up arriving just in time for the opening ritual on Friday and as such were able to participate in the ‘denaturalization’ ritual on Saturday. I remember thinking on Friday ‘I haven’t taken enough drugs to do this’, after which I quickly realized how bullshit that thought was. Because I absolutely loved the rituals even though I was hesitating at first. It became relatively easy to quickly learn new friends and really let your ego go, which was the whole point of the exercise.
I remember this freeing moment during which we were coupled and one of us had to wear a blindfold while the other person guided you through the field. This became very natural, until I was actually asked to just run for a couple of meters. It blew my mind, only to be guided towards the ‘tunnel of love’, which were two groups of people creating a tunnel of hugging and touching individuals. At the end, I walked straight into a hug with what turned out to be this cute and lovely girl.
Organizations are able to participate in the festival by building a stage themselves.
At the festival itself, there was basically no timetable present like you would find at regular festivals. Instead, organizations are able to participate in the festival by building a stage themselves. This ranged from a reggae/dub stage (with King Shiloh and the always lovely Covenant Soundsystem), to Acid/Techno with the Zodiak Commune, a stage where you could hang out and jam on instruments yourselves, weird artsy objects, 24/7 electronic music at Betoetert, the Berghenk experience (making fun of the dreadful queueing at the Berghain club in Berlin) and of course a warming campfire accessable for the camping goers.
I really learned to (finally) love reggae too, dancing at Covenant Soundystem and later listening in while laying in the field with direct access to the sun. There, I was able to freely manipulate the sun between my fingers and continue staring at the trippy henna tattoo on my hand.
But one of the most beautiful experiences for me personally, was Camp Zero: a dome build with life vests from actual refugees escaping war zones to safer havens.
Both on Saturday and Sunday, there was live music of a combination of Syrian, Turkish and more nationalities combined with Dutch musicians, bringing to life a transcending vibe easily surpassing any kind of limitations whatsoever. We danced, sang, laughed and in doing so bridged gaps between people and cultures. I remember writing in the log I kept in my notebook: ‘For this moment, everything is perfect (and I’m here to witness it)’.
‘This is where i want to be!’
Countless joyful moments were experienced at the campfire every night after the main festival area closed and the tribe gathered around seeking warmth and company. I can read back in the log I kept in my notebook things like ‘This is where i want to be!’ and ‘INTENSE HAPPINESS’. Later I would write I couldn’t believe I could ever be so happy with just a bucket, as we jammed on them like drums together with 6 other individuals long past sunrise.
During all this, we would sit around and you would hear the techno music playing in the back of your head, coming from a DJ area nearby. Until you basically couldn’t take it anymore and just had to dance it off. My god I felt alive!
The spirit of Beyond Festival
But it really was until Sunday, after Camp Zero, when it dawned on me the true spirit and idea of the festival. Much I recognized in fact from the 80’s movie ‘My dinner with Andre’ (that I really recommend watching, it’s actually fully on YouTube), in which Andre explains the theatre being a metaphor for life and his experience with a beehive (best explained in the embedded video below).
Because it’s a participating festival, it is the audience which is both the entertainment and the entertainer, a dualism which was constant throughout the festival and reminding me of countless quotes ranging from Ghandi (Be the change that you wish to see in the world) to Jim Morrison (There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first).
And while much I haven’t covered in this piece, and really experience it yourself, you’ll just have to come yourself next year!
So I would like to hereby thank the organization for this beautiful lasting memory, my friends (for tolerating ending up as my tripsitter), everyone I met and spoke, everyone I haven’t spoke but would have loved to get to know, always wonderful Covenant Soundsystem and of course last but not least my good friend for the two tickets!
Until we meet again, my dear cosmic travellers!