As research for “Im Wilden Osten 2018″ I asked people at Subsonic and Earth Frequency which festivals they would recommend. Multiple people independently from each other mentioned ConFest as one of a kind and a unique experience that would change me! They said it’s run almost without electricity and every guest is also a volunteer who has to participate for at least 2 hours.
I was curious and went to their website. That’s what I was first confronted with: “ConFest is a volunteer run non-profit music, arts, lifestyle and workshop event held in the bush of NSW Australia. The focus is on bringing people and alternative cultures together to have fun, relax, communicate, learn, develop ideas and promote personal growth.” ConFest.org.au
The next day I found myself sitting in an old man’s station wagon driving westwards. His name was Len and with his 63 years he still seemed to be in the perfect shape and mindset to go there. He was looking forward to this special event, somehow obvious because he had been there the last 20 years in a row. But the festival itself is much older. Len could tell me everything since the very first days in 1976 when Dr Jim Cairns, a former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, was upset with the current system and searched for an alternative, focused on community living. He gathered like-minded people around him and founded the “Down To Earth” association. Together they set up the Conference Festival as a prototype and gave the people a space to think, try and develop their ideas.
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The secret of ConFest’s success may lie in its organisational structure.
The commercial circle is a good place to enter the festival. With a food corner and lots of possibilities for some new clothes and jewellery this is the only area where you pay with money. The biggest tent and also a common meeting point is the chai tent.
Besides that, the rest of the wide area is for camping and is organised in villages. Some villages run a kitchen, where you can get freshly cooked food in exchange for vegan food donations or by helping the chefs. Others provide workshop areas which are mostly connected to their names in some way i.e. PermaCulture, Rainbow, Bliss, Family, Gypsie, Nude, Polyamory etc. Also there are some special constructions like a steam tent/sauna, warm showers, a massage tent and an open stage. Basically any group of people who have an idea or a topic can start a village, which will be funded by the money from purchased tickets. This concept gives the festival a rich variety and, in a way, its uniqueness.
To keep the costs low for everybody, you have to participate for at least 2 hours. One afternoon I went to the volunteers kitchen to help prepare dinner. In the end I spent almost four hours there, but the team was great and we had a lot of fun, even though we didn’t know each other before.
Besides the minimum amount you are of course welcome to play a bigger part. People who participated for more than 24hours could get back their ticket costs and additionally gain “Down to Earth” membership. As a member you have the opportunity to vote for the future development of ConFest.
First I didn’t believe Len when he warned me about the disarray of the festival area with roughly 5000 people sprawling across the huge property. But at night you really shouldn’t underestimate the spacious bushland with its 400 year old trees, lots of small tracks and very little signage.
Sustainability at its best!
When I was at Earth Frequency I thought I saw a clean festival, but at ConFest they don’t even provide garbage bins. There is literally no rubbish! This is possible because everybody keeps their village clean and takes home their own waste. Food at the commercial circle is served in edible cabbage leaves, dried corn leaves or plastic plates and bowls with a high deposit of $10. The drinking water comes filtered from the river close by, the excrements of the toilets are buried in a hole underneath them and during the night campfires and torches are the only lights you’ll see. Village constructions are almost completely made out of recycled/reused materials and as you can see in the picture below, workshop areas aren’t sophisticated at all. With just some carpets and pillows everything is ready to go.
By the way, the organisers of ConFest own the property on which the festival is held. It is so huge that they are able to rotate to a different location every few years to lower the environmental impact and pollution.
The picture below shows a delicate area of the festival. The river side with the steam tent (on the right, not really in the picture), the mud pit (front) and the shower area (on the left, in the background). It’s fair to say that the majority of people ran around naked.
By the way, a side note from the homepage was “clothes are optional”. So nudity or at least topless was quite common.
The Info Tent with its huge workshop boards embodies the main reason to come to ConFest. The plethora of options you can attend is mind-blowing.
A few examples:
– What is permaculture?
– How to build a pizza oven?
– How to build a sustainable home?
– How to create a jungle (again)?
– Learn how to drum
– Destiny reading
– Heal your inner child
– Yoga (in all variations)
– Tantra Massages
– Spontaneous Choir
– Naked Bush Walk
– The Art of Kissing
– Spanking Workshop
– The Mud-Tribe
– Astronomy reading and interpretation
– Living in a poly relationship (Q&A)
– Maintaining healthy relationships: Poly, Mono, other
– Reconnect with your Birth Vision
– and sooo much more!
The pictures below are unfortunately from the last day of the festival, that’s why some time slots are empty.
Also at the Info Tent you can find the message board. It’s old school but essential for communication in a reception free area.
Often workshops look like this. Just a simple gathering under a sunshade.
The mud tribe manual: Jump in the mud pit and cover yourself completely with mud. Afterwards put some additional earth and dirt on your wet mud skin. Then choose an animal and behave like this as long as the tribe rages around (1-2 hours).
Or here you see remnants of some previous activities like the color powder massacre and the wall built out of local ingredients.
The “birds nest”. A very special place close to the festival area, built just with loose branches by an Austrian guy many years ago. You enter through a small hole at the bottom of the nest and squeeze yourself through the branches. About 15-20 people fit on top. It’s recommended to go there by night!
– In-harmony-with-nature festival area next to a river
– Very sustainable, leave no trace and BYO (everything)
– Almost no rules: everything seems to regulate on its own
– Wide range of knowledge shared through workshops
– Huge variety of entertainment
– Lovely people full of honesty, kindness and intimacy
– All generations under one roof (from 0-99 years)
– Affordable and open to everybody
– “You ARE the festival” feeling
– Minimal and conscious consumption of drugs (i.e. alcohol)
– Incredibly good feeling to live without a wallet and a mobile phone
– Few flies, no mosquitos
– Only acoustic music
– Easy access by ID, without printed or digital ticket
– Needs more toilets (especially at the end of the festival)
– Too many terrible DJs at the silent disco
Moulamein, NSW (11 hours from Sydney or 6 hours from Melbourne)