Written and updated since 1993. Updated Oct. 2014.
ConFest is a conference festival that commenced in 1976 in Australia and continues to this day as a space to explore alternative ways of living. During Easter 2014 over 870 workshops took place at ConFest. Workshops at ConFest are an open process.
You will typically find the workshop notice boards set up near information.
There are typically multiple workshop boards available for any one day, and typically two days workshops are shown (one days workshops on each side). From then on workshop boards are rotated with say Monday’s boards being reused for Wednesday.
Someone is constantly monitoring the integrity of the workshop process. Bogus workshops are removed.
Please use the workshop notice boards only for workshop notices. Someone sees some other kind of notice on the workshop boards and soon others copy this, and we can soon ‘loose the boards’. The same goes for the appearance on the workshop boards of children’s drawings and mindless adult graffiti. They are removed as soon they appear. There’s plenty of space for children’s drawing in the arts village and the children’s village.
The names of the workshop spaces are on the tops of the columns and a nearby map shows where to find the differing workshop localities. There are times down the left hand side of each board.
Around fifteen workshop spaces are created by hanging tarps from trees or star pickets for shade.
Some signage goes up to help you locate the workshop spaces. Asking others for directions is great fun even if they don’t know where the workshop spaces are.
You and others can create and name other workshop spaces and write up the name on the top of any blank column, as well as on the map. Ask at information about sign making processes
We used to have around 17-19 workshop locations in the 1990s. Now we are having over 40 places. We had around 360 workshops at Easter ConFests 2007. By 2013 New Year we had 753 workshops and we had 873 at Easter 2014 with 253 workshops on one of the days and another 2 days with over 200 workshops.
In the 90s it was common to see over 150 people in a workshop. With around the same numbers attending ConFest (around 3000) and far more workshops, the numbers attending any one workshop have dropped.
In preparing your own workshop space, walk the site and ask around re energy – is this the ‘quieter’ area? Is this okay for this kind of workshop? Ask your camper neighbours. At ConFest, strangers are friends you have yet to meet.
Assistance is always needed and appreciated in setting up the workshop boards, the shading and lighting over the boards, in setting up the workshop tarps and signage – so ask at information and they will link you into the volunteer process.
Finding a Location
Workshops can be one or more hours. Chalk is placed on the ground in front of the boards. Block out the time you need and write in your workshop title, theme and some description. Look what other people have done and be guided. For example, typically one or more damp rags are also on the ground to make corrections. If you are going for more than one hour some folk rub out the lines between hours and put a box around their workshop description.
You are Encouraged to Put on and Attend Workshops.
The workshop process is an open one – anyone can run a workshop on anything - you do not need anyone’s approval or permission. This openness is something that is highly valued. It also however brings with it a call for care and respect of others and our selves. Refer the Paper On Being Safe at ConFest.
With this openness, DTE does not recommend, or vouch for or ‘guarantee’ any workshop.
Generally, people speak very highly and warmly about their workshop experiences.
You are encouraged to make your own judgments about what workshops you attend and whether you stay at a workshop. Leave if it’s not to your liking.
Occasionally in the past people have had concerns about some workshops. A couple of people running workshop over the years have been asked to leave ConFest and not return. DTE will not hesitate to do this if circumstances warrant it. DTE reserves the right to refuse entry. DTE’s policy, on legal advice, is to give no reason for refusal. We reserve the right; and occasionally, after very careful consideration of context, DTE exercises that right.
If you are unsure of whether or not to attend a workshop, we encourage people to take a friend. If you have a concern, raise it with the others attending the workshop or with the person or person’s running the workshop. You can also raise your concerns with the people at information, or at first aid, or any of the DTE core group, or any of the DTE directors. Core group people may be identified as the ones carrying and using the CB radios.
Further information on the ConFest Workshop process may be found in a Laceweb paper called Evolving Self Organising Systems.
A section on ConFest Workshops as a Self Organising System may be found at An Example of a Self Organising System at ConFest.