An Alchemical Romance: Back to the Olde Days – Alchemy Festival review 2011
The following review of Alchemy Festival 2011 – held in Lincolnshire, England, on the 16 – 18 September, was written by Huni Bee. Photography by Aum.
The car was heaving, like some sort of brim-full devouring beast, as we set off from our little box to the countryside. We had no kitchen sink, just an array of comfortable things and some bits and bobs to keep our cockles warm for the colder September nights. It became all too clear as we left Norfolk that the Lincolnshire border played host to some sort of invisible monster with a tree eating addiction; hidden from the eyes in a mist-like paste, which encompassed the horizon, as far as our little beads could see. There was flat land… for what seemed like eternity.
Eventually, we travelled past a particularly intriguing piece of level, de-tree-ified soil and our little-wheeled, transporter device-icle swung itself around towards the right… colours lay before us! Cones in all hues of the rainbow. Splashes, blotches, glitter… leading us down the beaten track entrance and on to a beautifully understated field of mystical magic. We had arrived.
Smiling faces greeted us from all sides and a mad chaotic rumble ensued, in an attempt to locate the correct corner of the field, past the office of discombobulated beans. It made for a half hour or so of entertainment and we were all kindred spirits by the end. The greatest of arrivals.
A short time later we were settled. Camped up with a womble and some crusty traveller types, between the psychedelic breakfast marquee and the healing field. Hypnotic repetitive beats and some synchronistically peaceful vibes. Perfect for a good nights sleep; should we want one.
The dusk-filled sky brought with it a family vibe as we gathered around our lovingly hand-crafted camp table. We discussed the ways that English festival life used to be and the parties that our elders were lucky enough to have been such an integral part of. And, as the night sky rolled on in, and the nebulaic clouds framed the opal tinged half-moon, we took up our feet on the offer of a stroll across the field to the Hungry Elephant café, where we could slowly sip down a cup of Geordie spiced Bedtime Chai and meet the interesting folk who we’d be falling in love with over the coming three days.
The night gradually, gracefully transformed into dawn, and with a feeling of comfort and a sense of belonging, we headed tentward to dream.
Morning brought with it a sense of fulfilment, as myself and King Aum, camera in tow, set about bimbling toward the music. Mushroom shaped dome stages took up the fields and neon painted decorations were scattered about strategically, enhancing the sense of togetherness that was so relevantly present to begin with.
Many introductions were had and many a squire and squiress integrated into the ever growing family that is life. After a jolly good bimble and an array of different sized and shapen hugs, we found our way to one of the many art pieces that lay around, waiting to consume some shiny passersby. And that it did. It was a table. A table which had been lovingly adorned with historically accurate paintings, in the style of one of my childhood favourites, ‘snakes and ladders’. There, we learnt that pacman had a larger affect on our psyche than originally anticipated, that the rubix cube was invented in 1974 and that when the Saxons invaded England, it all got a little bit dark and magical. And there we stayed, for hours, luring beautiful strangers with our smiles and promises of lateral thinking conversation.
As dusk approached for the second time, we travelled onwards, through a forest of giant hallucinogenic mushrooms, lit up with the glow of a thousand fairies contained in tiny alighted jars, to the local apothecary.
Brothel style bottle lamps hung from the ceiling and the space encompassed a ‘knowing’ kind of energy. Runic was the name of the tallish pixie lurking behind the sweet shop style counter. He had many a potion to claim, for a price. Fly Agaric to Peruvian Torch Cactus. Syrian Rue to Kava-Kava. Something ancient and powerful to tickle anybody’s fancy and, in exchange for a couple of licenses to smile, we were rewarded with a shot of miracle juice…
…and the night ascended… ascended into repetitive beats, bright lights, happy voices and dancing ‘til our toes fell off. And my dad, who’d acquired my toasty warm monkey suit, sporting a rainbow striped scood and some wellies, said that Zetan Spore did a blindin’ set!
Friday transformed effortlessly into Saturday as we wandered back campways, to pass out… stopping briefly at the enviro-loos, to catch a couple of snap shots of the pot plants, which had been so lovingly placed inside. Heighten the mood and embrace your inner nature whilst you’re lavvin’ it up. Perfect.
Saturday played host to the festival’s fire show; gathered a stones throw or two away from the communal fire pit, which, adorned in the shape of a snake, brought continuation to the elemental theme of the main arena. Tribal drum rhythms played in time to silhouetted staff spinning. Poi flew about in circular motions, crossing themselves to create patterns of fire in the night sky. Hoops cascaded bodies like waterfalls, dragon-like breaths illuminated everything around them and in the background, a phoenix rose from the ground to burst into lavender flame. On either side towered tin drums, with floral shapes carved out, creating shadows through the crimson flickers nestling the ground, whilst the coal pit made a home for braver feet. The crowd cheered as explosions echoed into the atmosphere and all was warm, and well.
As the dawn shone through the clouds, lighting the sky with a faint glow of peach, we found some friends. Offered a pine cone each and an array of the brightest of pigments, we sat down around a few flickering candles to paint, for a glimpse inside our souls.
Sunday brought with it a Shamanic Journeying Workshop. Too necessary right now to have passed up. The healing area, located a small jump over a once babbling brook, played host to florally decorated shelters, willow domes and mind-altering and relaxing therapies, including Iridology and Ayurvedic Yoga. Gong baths, recaptured on new fangled technological robots for re-sampling later, were scattered about for donations, to brighten your mind-waves in the comfort of your own bed. And rebalancing was on hand for those more keen on cosmic travel.
As I wandered down towards Runic’s tent for my shamanic journey, a band of rainbow dancers embraced the midday sky.
He drummed and I travelled to my Frithgarth. My own personal space of inner peace, where I met my guide, an Ethiopian man, underneath the great tree where the nine shamanic worlds collide. He told me I was beautiful and gave me a ball of shining light. He said that it was mine, and it would give me strength and courage to help me on my way with life. I asked if there was a space he could take me, where I could be free but return here; ‘not in this lifetime’ he replied, so I thanked him graciously and left.
As I wandered back into the field, I was greeted with an array of shining smiles and a brass orchestra, parading to a Jules Holland style ‘enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think’. A perfect summary I thought, to a fairly perfect, old school event.