ConFest Site Visits - A View from the Past


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From 1976 to the late 2002 ConFests were held on land that was leased typically from farmers. Some sites were used once or twice before DTE – the organising cooperative relocated. During these years DTE used to put on ConFest with little by way of resources – 44 gallon drums (whole or cut in half), water pipe, water filtering/purifying equipment, plumbing fittings, old tarps, old ropes, some old signs, a large tin box of first aid supplies, and assorted tools. At first glance our treasured resources may seem to some to be good only for sending to the local tip. The fewness of resources aided in the shift to a new site. The core group regularly did the site relocations and so we thought little of the task. Relocating to a new site was what we regularly did. And we knew how to do it. A few know how to evaluate a site as to its suitability for putting on a ConFest. One person has looked at over 85 sites; another over 70 sites. A few know how to negotiate with the land owner and how to negotiate a council permit.


Since 2002/3 DTE has only used its own two properties, Bylands on Gulpa Creek South of Deniliquin NSW and a property out of Moulamein NSW on the Edwards River.


From the early days of pre-ConFest Festivals it was a common understanding that:


‘Evolving Community’ and ‘Learning How to Relate Well Together’ were core themes of ConFest. And the best way they knew to evolve community and learn how to relate well was during all of the preparatory work in putting on a ConFest.




o   Looking for and evaluating potential sites

o   Walking the sites to become familiar with them

o   Evolving the layout

o   Evolving the infrastructure


(This focus on social relating (rather than power) is a core theme in New Social Movements evolving in many parts of the World.)


Further evolving of community occurred during pull down, clean up and pack up of the ConFest site.



Purposes of Site Visits


From the above experience emerged the following primary purposes of site visits:


1)        Evolving:


i.      Social relating between the core group

ii.    A very close caring nurturing DTE community

iii.   Understandings and experience about evolving community to take into the wider world

iv.   Mutual help processes

v.    Ways to Engage well within self-organising systems

vi.   Abilities and Agency (can do) in our lives

vii.  Understanding between members

viii.New members and friends of DTE and ConFest

ix.   Wider understandings and appreciating of how and why the DTE community does things the way we do

x.    Enriching the processes of the Committees of the DTE Board

xi.   Providing scope for members and new potential members to participate in the Primary Activity of the Cooperative – ‘Putting on ConFest’


2)             Exploring ways people can work together as individuals and as collectivities. Also exploring group and crowd behaviour during big groups of 50 plus was a constant theme. For example, an archival file note called ‘Colindivism’ describes the interactive nature of collective and individual behaviour in evolving the 1960s Festivals. In talking of colindivism, the file note spoke of festival organising as a time and place where some people acted as individuals. These people did their own thing, though linked in with the various micro-networks. This linking of individuals acting as individuals was called an 'indivity'. Linking of micro-networks was called a 'collectivity'. A linking of an indivity and a collectivity in cooperative activity was called a 'colindivity’ - a social form where individuals following their individual action and interests work well with groups of people who are following their collective passion and way, and each aspect of this web of micro-networks and individuals was doing their own thing in a loose self-organising kind of way. Collindivity is a particularly Australian cultural phenomenon

3)            Learning about DTE and ConFest culture – our way of life together and learning and appreciating our history

4)            Familiarising everyone present with the site as it is constantly changing

5)            Embodying the site - having the site inside us so we can go anywhere in our mind’s eye and appreciate subtle nuances, e.g. land topography and where water will run and lie during and after rain and flood

6)            Being open to the site informing us what to do

7)            Having shared understandings of tentative possibilities as the site changes

8)            Evolving tentative site layouts         

9)            Having the layout emerging from our walking and talking together

10)         Sharing with newer ones all of the aspects of ConFest and how they may best be fostered in the emerging layout

11)         Increasing the quality of our listening and attending competencies and evolving our communal and group processes and group process facilitators

12)         Having an increasing understanding of everyone’s interests, capabilities, limitations, whims, dysfunctionality, and the like, and learning how to live, grow, transform and work together

13)         Having a shared knowing of our various transforming competencies, roles and knowing

14)         Being guided by Dr Jim Cairns comment that ‘social ideology is governed by contradictory altruism, by guilt, and the inability to experience work and action as a pleasure. This results in tendencies towards violence.’ All of the previous purposes for going to the Site were to ensure that working and action together on the Site was an absolute pleasure for the DTE Community, not a burden for the few, or all done by one, heaven forbid, ‘site manager’

15)         As an opportunity to walk with and sit with and listen to the DTE and ConFest elders, particularly those who are the keepers of the Way and the holders of the way of the myriad bits contribute to the magic happening. At the moment a few have the experience and they are getting on in years; its well time to tap and spread their experience

16)         Having consensus emerge from all of the forgoing

17)         Working easily and well together as a mode of evolving community as we layout, prepare, and pack up the site with ease.

18)         All of the above supported by everyone on site camping close together and sharing food and social and celebratory time together as an evolving community; where people who have not done physical ‘work’ are not excluded and where all of these 17 points are ‘work’.


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