Fragments of a Wolf’s Soul: Sunrise Celebration 2011 review

Sunrise Celebration is a four day sustainable living, arts and music festival, which took place in Somerset between the 2 -5 of June, 2011. With a host of workshops, psychedelic talks and music, folk, world, funk, reggae and off-grid living, Sunrise remains one of the most magical weekends of the year. All photography by Mark Falmouth.

I am the Wolf” cried I.P. to the deep blue sky, moments after our tents materialized in the green Somerset field, on Thursday afternoon: “My friends are fragments of my soul” he went on “and I love my soul, I hope it lasts.” At Sunrise Celebration your friends are a few thousand strong. They are the animal fragments, intersecting one another and becoming-molecular; the many movements that weave a four day weekend into the whole soul of the Sunrise Wolf. And as the pack mustered on that opening day, we took note of the calm-before and made our way into the beautiful site for the opening ceremony.

After the darkness of night had fallen there appeared repeating patterns of circles in the Bimble Inn; at once dancing, standing and sitting, threading out fresh vibes from co-incidental meetings, which began to map out the frequency of the Wolf. Proportions became elongated, skew-whiff, running from the grasp of their navigators; prancing ponies with permission to pounce. As friends made friends with friends and when giggling, bright-eyed faces were introduced out from the dark, then I knew the Sunrise Wolf was indeed mustering its fragments once more. Then it was a bimble then bed under the flag of St. Pirans, ready to rise…

…bright and refreshed on Friday morning. Eco-chic artist Lucy Brown of the Princess and the Unicorn led this year’s mini-campsite sun salutation, and once again the sun blazed all day, as we helped her fly-pitch her paintings, tiaras and bracelets. “Fly-pitching” I was later told by a wizened mouth, attached to near-naked male body, “is a lot like hitch-hiking” before suddenly being surrounded by a gaggle of curious folk. When wares are hand-crafted, you’re seeing more than an object, for in it lays the personality of the maker: “You’re picking up a person, not a generic” he said.

Inches above the ground of the top field The Midday Hoola-Hoop Acid Test took place; a test I ultimately failed due to a lack of co-ordination in trying to go round-and-round like the hoop itself. This was reiterated later when a three-foot high Buzz Lightyear flew between my legs, knocking me off balance, much to my friends and Buzz’s father’s delight. Fortunately I landed at the feet of a friendly pirate who kindly helped me up and left me with some words of wisdom: “Get ye now to the Triban tent over yonder, and watch the Scallywags me hearty” and I did. Each and every Celebration recommendation was a treat.

I stumbled into J.R. early on Saturday morning. The night still frosted our vision and though our methods of flying through the festival’s lines of flight had diverged, he told me he needed to borrow my memory. He asked me to remind him that he can access his muscle memory because he had managed it that night, and knew he could repeat it whenever he wanted because he was the “the bendy man with a wizard cloak.” And with that he flew off back into the night, stretching and contorting like he’d never done before.

My musical highlight of the weekend involved me sitting just outside the Triban tent with a cold drink and a head full of dreams. On the stage stood a girl with a ukulele, singing beautiful songs about prostitutes and pigeons. Her voice was incredible.” R.D. (The singer has since been identified as the amazing Lori Campbell, well worth checking out!)

Saturday sparkled psychedelically – glimpses of clarity in amongst the mystical. A fragment from Breaking Convention had spun off and been subsumed into the Wolf. Talks by Drs. Ben Sessa and PsypressUK contributor David Luke in the Portal for the Immortal tent, set the tone for psychedelic integration. Andy Roberts, author of Albion Dreaming, gave an informative and entertaining talk on the history of LSD in Britain. And, Andy Letcher, author of Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom, returned to Sunrise and expanded his critical theory project on the cultural-contingency of mushroom consciousness, emphasizing the need for a diverse approach to its understanding. Fragments of history, approach, use and theory that worked together in psychedelic lines of flight; the Wolf was living the lines.

I’ve been on my tricycle today. I went to the field with my big pink hat and some special bangles I found growing under a tree. Shadows sometimes hide under the tree but I don’t mind because they are fairly friendly shadows.” – I.P.

By Saturday evening the psychedelic thread was fully entwined with the frequency of Sunrise, as both sensual and intellectual awareness became heightened. The awareness of the world was an expansion that could only take place in the intensity of the idyllic spatial contraction of the Wolf. Awareness of the world in which we live, not only how it is run – badly for the most part – but also the ways in which we can live differently ourselves; fragments of a better society. From planting your food, cooking a pizza, to a stroll through the herbs and power plants and truth-raising-thoughts from organizations like SchNEWS; there is another way. If you would like to learn more about alternative living then please check out Sunrise Off-Grid in August.

The Wolf knew what causes to bring into the light. Joel, of the Brazilian Yawanawa tribe, told me about the Belo Monte dam; a plan for the world’s third largest hydroelectric project on one of the Amazon’s major tributaries, the Xingu. Its construction threatens the survival of twenty three indigenous groups; it will pollute the atmosphere with methane and destroy the biodiversity of the basin. Help take action against it by signing the following petition: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/amazon_under_threat/?vl

Our senses too had become heightened and in tiny movements of reflection each fragment came to know one another, and thus the Sunrise soul, better. For example, I was told a similar story by two different people dancing between the clear living Forest Garden area and the information packed Avalon Rising. Both had quite unexpectedly run into old friends and had instantly become aware of the way they smelt. Not in the sense that someone stinks at a festival, but in the sense that everyone smells unique. Neither had seen their respective friends for several years. One had said that their smell had changed and that it had been like getting to know them again for the first time (it was suspected that it may actually have been the first time.) The other told me that their smell had become so distinct that it was as if their memories were only minutes old, and that it was as though there had never been an absence in their presence. Through massaging the senses and heightening the awareness of the self and the world, Sunrise cultivated the intersecting fragments.

The outdoor main stage returned to Sunrise this year; an important space that is housed by the sky and filtered by the breeze. In the afternoon/evening, during the amazing folk and dancing beats of Johnny Flynn and The Sussex Wit, I managed to lose an old friend but also find a new one. Then, during the excellent Lamb at 22:00 Saturday night, I lost my new friend but found my old one again; all the while listening to Lamb play some old classics and some great tunes from their new, forthcoming album. Like the whole weekend, they were not steps back and forth, but rather in and out of miniature exploding events.

When, at four minutes past midnight on Sunday morning, I.P. reappeared and beamed: “It’s my birthday today, I am 27 and I like the moon” we were able to feel a movement of the soul-weave in action, the ideas that can impact the future by enacting out the present. Sunrise is a place of birth, an energetic multiplicity, where the touch, sights, sounds and smells, the sizes, the shapes and the colours, can whisk percepts into concepts, ideas and new meanings. A celebration of birth chimes with all the actions that were mustered there, simply because, like I.P., they can make their way out from the place, carrying fragments of the soul beyond just those four days, bringing change to the world.

By the time Shpongle (DJ set) had started at 02:30 Sunday morning, I knew for sure that the psychedelically inspired Saturday had spun out in fractals: “Two Crowds Beyond” a bearded minstrel had whispered to me over a chai slightly earlier, and I carried his words with me as dimensions flipped that night and sent me sprawling into new collisions.

After catching the start of the banging beats of The Correspondents, with Earthheart’s pint-pourer supreme Y., I started swinging across the top field, when the flipped unfolding occurred. As I bounced through the fire wielders and the steampunk dress, the Victorian vision of a psy-machinated future, with S., scouser Mick appeared in our path and he helped us float over desiring distractions to the dance tent. He even made S. disappear for a moment, before he rematerialized after a cloud of ohms and the acoustic revelation. I was lost for a second, but familiar faces always appear…

…maxed e-motions on a sofa-slide from up high; where I’d been opened, I could also be closed. I entered idealised acquaintance and found only a wave of ill-communication pouring down on me and I fell deep into sudden introspection. Even in times of personal fragmentation however, the Wolf is yet still reintegrating. Shpongle, deep in the too small dance tent, packed tight, body-to-body, in the mutuality of a protective heat, took me off. I was taken on a journey; my body through dance and my thoughts through emotionally lost invisible landscapes. Koestler called this arrival and departure. This is the power of the Wolf; the more we are broken down and lost, the more we can reconnect with: “I could have eaten the whole festival had it only sat still for a minute.”

Then all of a sudden, on Sunday morning, I found myself lying outside the Bimble Inn in a cloudy mood, in a thousand pieces after the previous night’s thoughtful discombobulation; the journey of my body exhausted, and my thoughts upset. Then out-of-the-blue, there appeared in front of me a dread-locked pixie, who chimed two mini-Tibetan cymbals together over my crown: “A moment of clarity for you” she said gently, and the cloud lifted slightly. Then another appeared, with dark dreadlocks and the Wolf’s grin blazon across his face. He offered me a free ride with a pony, which had been blessed with rose quartz and I gratefully accepted: “For clarity, not wonkiness” he said. And then, as the Kindness Offensive sorted me out with some free pineapple, the cloud started being whisked into a final dance-day whirlwind, and I could feel the Wolf roaring again.

If society behaved like Sunrise then there would be no need for the world to use the word war.  Off-grid living, shakes the shackles off and the price I paid for this insight was simply fun – celebrations forever Sunrise.” S.W.

Quickly, fragments began to reintegrate again and the Sunday movement began in earnest. People began to gather as T. and I went on the final day roam of the space. All the durations began to funnel in a single direction, flowing in waves to the ever-impressive, music-thumping and heart-pumping space of the Chai Wallahs tent. Freedom lager and cider fuelled flights and rekindled friendships, as the reintegration of space came to a head. Under the unbelievably funky foot-stomping beats of The Mankala Band, Backbeat Soundsystem, The People’s String Foundation and others, there was indeed a moment of clarity, both for myself and in the bounce of the tent, as everyone threw off self-consciousness and danced the afternoon and evening to life.

When it was finally time to dematerialise and go spread some of the percepts and concepts, the joy-rides and thought-trips, I ran into the incredible festival photographer Mark Falmouth: “How was your Sunrise Celebration?” I asked. “Just perfect, as always” he replied.

Robert Dickins

Robert Dickins is a historian, writer and editor. He is the founder of the Psychedelic Press, co-director of the Psychedelic Museum, and is currently undertaking his PhD at Queen Mary, University of London. His research interests focus on the history and literature of psychedelic substances, and the role of writing in spiritual and magical traditions during the 19th century. He is also the author of the novel 'Erin', and has occasionally be known to perform a poem or two.

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3 Responses

  1. Ian Padfield says:

    i am ensconsed, forming back into the world, having changed my shape(s). But the world, we must not forget, has melted too, and we are as whisps leaving and returning to a cloud. my heart is always with the wolf, though the wolf is now roaming, perhaps hibernating, i know he will return next year, by which time all whisps will be prepared to form new clouds. my tricycle was, of course, a three wheeled metaphor, of mystery, hope, and joy – each combined under a very comfy seat. and the handlebars are cool.

  2. John Watson says:

    Wolfish <3 from me to you 😉 x

  3. gaseeb says:

    Plse forward info

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