Sunrise Celebration – the UK’s most rocking sustainable festival – is a trailblazer for conscious entertainment, says Will Gethin
Sunrise Celebration, which returns to Gilcombe Farm near Bruton in Somerset for this auspicious 2012 year on the “No Glastonbury” solstice weekend of 21st-24th June, takes up the mantle from Glastonbury as flag bearer for the spiritual revolution on the UK festival circuit.
A Mecca for earth pilgrims, spiritual activists, conscious party animals and a diverse miscellany of English society, all united by an evolving common consciousness – Sunrise – winner of the Guardian’s ‘Ethical Travel Award’ 2011 – offers the elusive combination of the chance to learn about creating a more sustainable lifestyle while having a wildly good time.
“Anyone looking for a festival to fill the Glastonbury-shaped hole left by Michael Eavis’s decision to let his land lie fallow and lend his loos to London in 2012 need look no further than nearby Bruton, in Somerset ,” wrote Steve Hawkes for BBC News Online.
Arriving at Sunrise is like stepping into a Utopian parallel world – a Burning Man-esque wonderland coloured with carnival vibes, circus and theatre performances, cabarets, visionary artists and fancy dress processions. Wander through magical new sites and landscapes including the Temple of Unity, a Tibetan arena and the Serenity Field in honour of Solstice with its astrologically aligned Stone Circle – serenaded by a wild profusion of sounds, from Psy-Trance, Dubstep and Bhangra, to Electro Swing, Balkan Gypsy and fringe sounds of the future yet to be discovered.
A four day music extravaganza with over 13 stages and state-of-the art light shows, Sunrise brings a feast of musical highlights including The Imagined Village, The Egg, Gaudi, Benji Vaughan, Mungo’s Hifi, Warsaw Village Band and Banco de Gaia. And yet all at minimum impact to the environment.
Run by Natural Communities CIC, a trading arm of the Natural Communities Foundation, Sunrise is a charity working to support harmonious living on the planet. Every aspect of its planning and delivery strives to be as ethical and environmentally friendly as possible, while it also provides an innovative forum for social and environmental education, covering alternative technologies, eco building, green crafts and permaculture. Sunrise was also the first festival to have site-wide compost toilets and an organic, local food and drinks policy.
“We believe we have the most comprehensive green policy and strategy of all UK music festivals,’ says Sophie Docker, festival co-organiser, “and we aim to keep Sunrise in the front line of the debate, while providing practical information to take home on how to minimise our impact on the planet and live an empowered, sustainable life.”
A festival known for walking its talk with its use of solar and wind power, stringent waste and litter management and free water refills to minimise plastic drinking bottles along with many other ground breaking ideas developed since its inception seven years ago – Sunrise is widely acclaimed for its authenticity and lack of green wash.
Sunrise’s promotion of alternative transport solutions for festival goers was a key factor in its winning of the Guardian’s ‘Ethical Travel Award’ in 2011. One of its major objectives for 2012 is to increase the number of people travelling to the site by bicycle and public transport. To ease train travel, Sunrise has set up shuttle buses to and fro the local train station, while the festival’s provision of a Reuse Camp this year bringing 100 recycled tents from Glastonbury 2011’s disposables, complete with sleeping bags and mats, relieves cyclists of carrying so much of their own gear. Furthermore, locally produced organic goods will be delivered to the festival by horse drawn carts – and as ever, fun transport options on site include horse and carts, rickshaws and fancy dress bikes.
“Sunrise’s commitment to sustainability and ethical, organic approach to partying is truly impressive,” said Gemma Bowes, the Guardian’s Travel Editor. “They don’t shove their ideals down your throat like a politician would; instead they demonstrate how the world could be a happier, greener, kinder place by demonstrating their ideas in a fun way, and putting on a magical, zany, wonderful show…we hope other whopping, more commercial events will take inspiration from Sunrise and think about how they can ensure they have a solely positive effect on their environment and guests.”
In 2012, Sunrise aims to be greener than ever, reducing waste and its dependency on biofuels, increasing rates of recycling and investing more in renewable energy technologies. It will also continue planting the Sunrise community woodland, launched in 2011 with the seeding of a wildlife haven at Gilcombe Farm as a resource for current and future generations. Sunrise also plans to become the first ‘Transition’ festival, building a strong resilient festival community grounded in the local area and demonstrating sustainability across all levels of production. Other new green initiatives include reusable pint mugs, disposable nappy recycling and a new campsite waste station from Upcycle (whose ‘Exchange’ allows you to swap your rubbish for recycled goods).
The festival will host a wealth of workshops, talks and performances from leading eco-spiritual pioneers and activists, including ‘One Giant Leap’ Jamie Catto, ‘Extreme Pilgrim’ Peter Owen Jones, celebrated permaculturalist Patrick Whitefield, Sufi Whirling maestro Sheikh Ahmad Dede and legendary peaceful freedom fighters, The Lani Singers from West Papua.
Sunrise’s ethos to be the change it wishes to see extends into the business world. Set up as a Community Interest Company (CIC), it commits 65% of profits towards its community of interest. Like the UN and many leading edge social entrepreneurs across the globe, Sunrise engages a triple bottom line principle in its business operations, whereby the cost and benefit to society and the environment are accounted for alongside monetary profit.
“Changing corporate structures is a crucial aspect to the revolution, freeing massive organisations from the impact of their profit driven activities,” says Sophie Docker.
Sunrise’s efforts to create positive change in the wider world include a ‘Tibet Village’ at this year’s event to raise awareness of problems facing Tibet, where the Chinese government’s restrictions on freedoms and basic human rights have recently intensified. The village will include documentary screenings, talks and Tibetan charity information stalls to inspire festival-goers to support Tibet.
Sunrise proves that a magnificent celebration can be enjoyed without damaging the planet. The amazing carnival atmosphere and nightlife aside, wholesome daytime activities range from traditional crafts like felt making, green wood work and bushcraft workshops and walks, to learning about alternative technologies and sustainable construction.
“Spreading the message is a big part of the revolution taking place right now,” says Daniel Hurring, co-organiser of Sunrise. “The more people learn, the more we can grow to make the change possible.”
Sunrise Celebration runs from 21st-24th June at Gilcombe Farm, near Bruton in Somerset. Ticket prices: Adults £115 / Families £255 (2 adults & 2 children)/ Teens £70 (16-17) / Children £25 (5-15) / under 5 FREE. Live-in vehicle or caravan £30 / Car Pass £15. Tickets are available via The Ticket Sellers (0844 870 0000; www.theticketsellers.co.uk); Bristol Ticket Shop (0845 108 0259; www.bristolticketshop.co.uk); and Access All Areas (0207 267 8320; www.accessallareas.org)
For further information visit www.sunrisecelebration.com.
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Since 2004, Will Gethin has worked as a holistic explorer and travel writer, writing articles for the Independent, the Evening Standard and various lifestyle, wellbeing and environmental magazines, including Tatler, Harpers Bazaar, Resurgence, Kindred Spirit and Yoga Magazine. During this time, he has also worked as a communications consultant, promoting humanitarian and intercultural organisations like The Isbourne Foundation, IT Schools Africa, The Makhad Trust, Tribe of Doris and Afrika Eye Film Festival. In February 2012, he set up Conscious Frontiers as a PR, communications and events agency to give voice to the growing movement of people working to propel a shift in consciousness. He also founded a Guest Speaker programme at the Isbourne Holistic Centre (January 2008) bringing leading edge conscious living authors and presenters like Byron Katie, Graham Hancock, Peter Owen Jones and Brandon Bays to Cheltenham to present educational talks and workshops. From 1993-2003, Will worked in music, consumer and arts PR for London agencies, ultimately working as Account Director for Virgin Megastore at Borkowski PR. Will is also a Contributing Editor to Life Arts Media.
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