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Being at LoveJam, a festival where Baby Boomers are in the Minority


10 Minute Read

I felt cynical on the way there. I knew I was going to be a rarity. Festivals often feel as though they belong to my generation. Talk about entitlement. Yep, that was me. Putting out festival entitlement.

Oh no said a loud voice in my head, not young facilitators, young teachers of yoga, young breathwork teachers. Hell is a festival like this. It’s going to be endlessly rosy in the worst way. Spiritual bypassing with the flowers intact. What do they have to say to me at 68? Been there, got the Make Love Not War T-shirt.

At least we had a bell tent. I’ve always aspired to own a bell tent and now I could pretend with this delightful borrowed five-metre lovely from my friend Jake. I could at least relish that. I’d even taken fancy lights to adorn it. Not to mention a puce pink garland.

Here we are – arriving on a field in Cambridgeshire, using our grand age to take advantage of passing through the barriers (we can’t park here and pull a cart full of our stuff across the field, we’re too old) and something else happens.

The clouds darken, a rainbow appears. It is a heavenly portent. A message from the festival gods. A double rainbow. We bathe in this extraordinary light, this is a sign of the times.

I still have my ‘observer’ hat on. Vegan cafes, a sober festival with no alcohol, an upcycling clothes stall, a lot of Hemp talk and products. A main marquee with the Hemp Redemption stage – all huge pagan drapes and hangings, a van which half made up the stage, tassels, fairy lights and a very young technician. At first, I thought he was a small person and then I discovered it was Xi, a thirteen-year-old ‘lege’ – as my niece who is co-creating this LoveJam Camp Out 2021 puts it – who plays didge, juggles fire and tends to the musical equipment on stage. In his spare time.

As the light fades, we – I am with my other niece, Mils, and Asanga, my partner – wander over to the sacred fire, which is located behind some odd mounds. A dandy poet declares words of love and honour. There seem to be Vikings amongst us as well. Long haired young men with bare chests and long coats. Violins. Accordions. A young woman sings into the wind, laments, stories of freedom and connections to the ancients. I realise quickly that ANCIENT is a very important word at this festival. It’s everywhere – on lips, hips and in philosophies.

I’m not listening to their hearts yet, I’m still on their style. Modern medieval, I conclude. But there’s Rasta thrown in there. And a lot of natural fibres. No makeup, just face paint.

The next morning is the Opening Ceremony – we gather (maybe 100 of us out of the 600 that will be present on Saturday), Nathan, my niece Zena’s boyfriend, who’s 27 and founded LoveJam by inviting a few people to Victoria Park in London to drum together– starts us off with acknowledgements. He’s also had his grandfather die in the last few days so is trying to cope with that as well as running the camp. He invites offers to lead it and up steps PK – short hair, black humour, a lot of it and a wolf at her side. Well, okay a dog. PK takes us to the four directions and we honour their qualities and what they will bring to the camp while we move around this axis. Someone else invites us to freesound (new verb to me) and lo there are wild, cascading sounds. The dandy poet proclaims our virtues. A blonde-haired young woman sings with passion. That’s it we’re ready to go.

There’s a lot of Nathan-venerating, I worry slightly and hope there isn’t a guru-type situation brewing – after all, that’s where so many communities in the 70s and 80s went awry. By giving too much power to one person and pedestaling spiritual leaders.

One of the joys of LoveJam is that in attendance with my family. Invited by Zena – niece and co-visioner of LoveJam – my other niece Mils is here, my son, Marlon, and his girlfriend, Lina are soon to arrive. We’re an encampment. My sister, Ro, and her husband, Martin, are staying in a Shepherd’s hut a mile away. We’re eating together outside. We’ve made roast vegetable tarts and blackberry – from the hedgerows of Wales – pies. And we’re toasting the proceedings with tonic and lime. They are so tasty. Who needs gin? What a pleasure! And a blessing to be able to do.

And then there are the workshops and the dancing. Tonight we go exploring in the woodland music village. A relic from the Secret Garden brigade, it is a wonderland of trees with a pink neon heart stage called funnily enough New ANCIENTS stage. There’s some psytrance whirling – not my kind of sounds so we find a pathway which leads us to another new world – a fire, wooden structures, huge ones all around, more lights, mandalas specifically made around an oak tree, a young man turns up with a flute and blesses the arboreal altar, a few naked beings scamper towards the sauna in the next area. It’s cinematic. One from the Heart.

The red sign on one of the other trees says – not all those who wander are lost. 

Exactly my ethos.

A quixotic creature with a swirling light tail passes by. A mythical reminder that we are in fairyland.

We walk back to the tents, past so many bell tents, and gatherings of musicians. Guitars, flutes, drums – they regale us with their haunting tunes as we meander.

One of the advantages of not having alcohol is that I’m up and ready for Phil’s yoga at 8 the next morning. He’s a Scouser, who is part of the organizational trio – Nathan, Zena and himself. He also seems to know an awful lot about mudras and Sanskrit. His session is fast and furious. Backbends, front bends, warrior poses, full wheels if you so desire, sun salutations. I do what I can do which is quite a lot. I observe Mils doing some great binding in front of me. My arms are too short for binding but I’m a star at bending. It is dynamic and I appreciate that as well as his devotion to the practice.

And then there is a highlight. Naked swimming in the lake. I wasn’t sure if this was going to be socially possible. I’m with my partner, and my son and his partner. But Asanga and I decide to go for it. And Marlon and Lina lie down and look away!! It’s that thing about the freedom of strangers and the boundaries around family. But I’m so glad we did ditch our clothes and allow that cold water to seep over our bodies. There was hardly anyone around and it was a holy moment. In homage to water and bodies. Amid the water lilies. And so refreshing. There was even a wonderfully positioned carpet over the stones so that walking in can be graceful!

There’s lots of nakedness over the weekend at the lake and it’s so welcome. And lovely. And innocent. These gorgeous bodies. I change my dress code when more of my family is around – brother in law, sister – and opt for a costume. I notice and feel proud that my LJ co-visioning niece strips off and jumps in when her dad is in the water. Great confidence and knowledge of what is right for her.

Nathan is running a Breathwork and Intimacy workshop next. He developed it himself. Impressively – and this is one of the key differences with younger facilitators – he stresses that intimacy doesn’t mean that fire of passion, that it’s not about exchanging that fire and asks for our consent on that front. Everyone’s hands go up. Which really clarifies and distinguishes sexuality and intimacy and prevents blurry lines.

The breathwork was simple in a good way – six breathes in and then out. A grounding support. To recorded bells so we could be in unison. And then the intimacy exercises which most I am familiar and comfortable with. It’s about being open, in your heart and just receiving and giving from that place of love. But wow, what a gift to do with this community. We give each other heart words/appreciations while gazing right into the other person’s eyes. We are walking slowly around the tent until Nathan invites us to stop in front of someone. After a few times around the tent, I realise that Marlon, my son, is in there still. Some people faded away as we came to these structures. And then we’re in front of one another, and unconditional love is pouring forth. I am crying first and then tears roll down his cheeks slowly. We use the breath to ground ourselves and carry on looking deeply into one another’s eyes with such everlasting tenderness.

What a supreme moment!! How blessed we are to both be in the same workshop and get to do this exercise together. This is a first for us. Being in a workshop at the same time.

I honestly felt after this experience, I didn’t need anything else from the festival. It had given me this precious witnessing. But the festival went on giving.

At 5 pm, a band sets up at the end of the pontoon which extends into the lake. It is like being at a wedding, the perfect location. They play Brazilian tunes and a Forro class with partners starts in the middle of the lake. I joined briefly but I am not feeling it so I go rogue and solo

I dance in the breeze. Giving everything to those minutes.  Surrounded by fresh water and naked loveliness, caressed by eddies of air, it is rapturous. My body spins around, limbs twirl, head bobs. It is an utter joy. A sumptuous young woman joins me, we go wild together. We let go into melting and communing. And laughing with our flesh.

In the evening we make our way down to the Hemp Redemption stage and Mobius Loop, these Lancashire musicians who have songs about veganism and death, get the entire tent dancing. And singing. Rollicking, proclamative, political, humorous, they are like crazy cabaret dervishes. My favourite song is Dance Dance Dance while you can, We’re all going to die, Dance Dance, Dance while you can. I sing it very very loudly.

It could be an Advantages of Age anthem. I sing it with determined abandon. I couldn’t agree more. Dance now while we can. We break out into ceiliad -stripping the willow. The joy of dancing and singing about death at the same time. The next day they are down at the protest nearby which is about closing down the beagle puppy farm where they are sold for animal testing. Mobius Loop sing about ending slavery of all sorts, including these puppies. Campaigning and dancing at the same time.

On Monday morning, there’s the closing ceremony. We gather around the sacred fire. Nathan, Zena and Phil do their thank-yous. People stand up and declare themselves grateful. PK does a closing speech – speckled with expletives, honesty and fire. I decide that I need to speak. To honour the young that have created and facilitated this festival. I mention that it’s often the elders/olders that are respected and honoured, but that I also think there’s a fallacy about older people having all the wisdom. We are not automatically wise because we have lived for a long time. We can learn so much from each other.

And then I simply thank them for creating a festival so full of love and kindness and inclusivity and sweetness. That it has enabled me to expand into my better self and also to fulsomely be here.

You will gather that I am no longer cynical about a festival run and peopled mostly by young people, instead I am inspired and ignited on an intergenerational level.

www.lovejamcommunity.com

Interview with Emma Meadows from the UK’s first woman-only Festival – WomanFest!!!


1 Minute Read

Please Introduce Yourself

My name is Emma Meadows and I am 46 years of age.  I am a Shamanic Womb Wyse Practitioner, Healer and Teacher and I work closely with women both individually and in groups. I heal, teach and facilitate women to enable and empower them to self heal and reconnect with the truth of who they are, in deep relationship with their personal Womb Wisdom and Spiritual Allies.  The combination of these energies makes for a potent mix of uncovered ancient wisdom within us – which we can all tap into – and the strong powerful awareness of who we are in ourselves as women as we step forward together in these changing times to bring our gifts and knowledge to the world today.

Largely inspired by my own Womb Wyse journey, involving life, death and all the in-betweens – my training and experiences have lead me to work in various ways over 20 years with Womb Wysdom, including Shamanism, Healing and Teaching,Art, Tantra, Fertility, Birth and Death, Writing, Voice and Visualisations. I have worked with many women supporting them in various ways, eg; fertility, to regain Womb Power following a hysterectomy as well as Soul Retrieval, Healing Womb trauma and harnessing Womb Energies, developing and strengthening these for personal empowerment, spirituality and deepening self-knowledge.

It was through my work as Shamanic Womb Healer and Teacher that I came to be involved with WomanFest and as part of the Core Team I am really excited to be holding the Women’s Circle for the four days.   The festival is being held this summer in Frome, 16th-19th August and tickets can be purchased via the website www.womanfest.co.uk or our Facebook page. There are still some concessions left at £165…a bargain!

How did WomanFest come about?

From the desire to gather together as women in a safe held space where we can celebrate our all our juicy ‘womaness’ in many varied, colourful, wonderful, beautiful, magical, gentle, loud, wild, crazy, innovative, creative, sexy ways!  Women have always gathered together in love and friendship, to share their wisdom, visions and experiences and pass knowledge from generation to generation.  Through hundreds and thousands of years of oppression, suppression and patriarchal control still we have found ways to come together and now the veils of this oppression are lifting and women are stepping into a new paradigm together in love and sisterhood in a way that hasn’t been seen before, bringing our deep knowing and wisdom carried through our DNA into these times we find ourselves in.

Why do you think now is the right time?

This is why it is the perfect time for WomanFest!  We are standing together again visible, stepping into our power, pushing boundaries, declaring what is and isn’t ok for us, hearing our voices, speaking our truths in new ways to meet these times we are in. We come with all that we bring from our ancient ancestors, our mothers, our grandmothers, their mothers and grandmothers, aunts, great aunts and so it goes on back through the ages, as sure as it runs through our veins today.  We are the elders of tomorrow and this festival gives us space to show this and to shine in our power and wisdom.

Traditionally mothers were honoured and celebrated for bringing human life into the world, There was no greater doing than birthing new life.  Wombs and Vulvas were known to be magical places of sacred depths, the great universal mystery held in every woman.  Older women, the elders of the community were honoured for their teachings, their healing knowledge, plant spirit wisdom, blood wisdom, the magical universal ways and they had many stories and ceremonies to share, passing these teachings to the community and younger generations.

In our society today, we have lost much of this way of living, in particular through organised political and religious structures. We have forgotten how to celebrate and honour all ages of life, all forms of wisdom and as a result, we are significantly dominated and subsequently disempowered by corporates and systemic constructs which serve only themselves.  The way of women is to serve life in all its forms, the all and the everything in love, compassion and cooperation – WomanFest gives us the freedom, time and shared space to do this.  Here we will be opening ourselves up to each other again, serving each other with our offerings while receiving from each other in sweet gratitude, bringing what we know deep within ourselves as women, to the world today.  For some women, this will be the first time they have shared their gifts with others and we celebrate this, we welcome this, we are encouraging this – we have so much beauty to enrich each other with!

At WomanFest, everyone can safely offer a workshop or a song or a prayer in a safe space in which it will be received with love, joy, thanks and open hearts.  WomanFest is a space where we can share our gifts, strengths and talents while opening up to new experiences, learning from each other and having an amazing time enjoying ourselves in our womanliness!

What is the vision for WomanFest?  

We are so strong when we are united in love and a shared vision of healing the world with love and ceremony- we are leading the way and WomanFest gives us an awesome platform for all that juiciness to come together and grow, be nurtured, gain strength and momentum for us to remember who we are and stand true in ourselves and with each other.  In this way we are beginning to dispel beliefs that we may have been raised with such as we must compete and compare ourselves with each other, that we are bitchy and catty with each other, that after having children we are not so employable, that when we reach ‘a certain age’ (whatever that is!) we have nothing more to offer society, that old people – our elders – should be separated from the whole community and place in homes away from those who are dear to them and places that are familiar to them.  We want to dismantle these structures and co-create new ways to be together rooted in old traditional ways such as our gatherings.

When we take each other’s hand and share our gifts, we enter into the space of lovingly giving and receiving and this is what Radical Participation is all about in WomanFest, that we are all coming and co-creating this gathering together – we are sharing our gifts and receiving each others’ in mutual love and support! Wow, that’s radical!  So everyone buys a ticket or volunteers and shares their gifts in Workshops, Ceremony, the Arts, Spirituality, Healing, Stallholding, Music, this is a Festival of Co-Creation!  In this way it is clear to see how older women are so vital in this process – we have so much to offer and share with our younger (and older!) sisters, it is an intergenerational Festival where we can share the gifts of our experiences and heart knowledge gained over the years, our sacred stories, prayers and songs and the footsteps of our ancestral pathways, journeys that have brought us to where we are today.  Just as our ancestors would have done we now have the opportunity to pass our knowledge onto younger generations.

WomanFest is open to women of all ages, from those young women who have come through the sacred passage of their first moon cycle to the elders who have passed the sacred passage of their last moon cycle and those years beyond the gateway!  We are all bringing something to WomanFest as we Co-Create a new way for ourselves as women in this world.

What will be happening at the festival?

We have got So much going on at WomanFest! Music of many flavours, Shamanic Ceremonies, Yoga (clothed and Naked), Kundalini Meditations, Dance workshops, Movement workshops, Goddess workshops, Bodywork – sensuality and Sexuality Workshops, Art, Crafts, Writing and Song.  All these take place in a variety of tents -the Women’s Circle Tent, The Women Rising tent, the Embodiment Tent, the Creativity and Expression Tents. There is also a Woods Tipi to rest and relax if the mood takes you.  We have wonderful stalls for women to sell their offerings.  There will be the Awesome Cunty Cabaret – a sizzling sensation of music, theatrics and Radical Participation performances.

I heard that there will be yoni steaming? 

I will be holding the Women’s Circle throughout WomanFest where, amongst other things, we will enjoy the Shamanic Ceremonies – one of which I am co-holding –  the Jade Egg workshop, Gong Healings, Womb Wyse Stories and the Sex Magic Ceremony.   WomanFest women will also enjoy a Yoni Massage Demo in the Women Rising tent and Yoni Steaming in the Woods Tipi.  Yoni steaming being an ancient practise of healing and cleansing the vagina and womb using a blend of herbs infused in hot water.  The steam from this infusion can amongst other things, release toxins, calm and/or relieve menstrual pains, support a healthy moon cycle, tone the vaginal and uterine muscles as well as bring deep relaxation, improve general circulation and bring about a greater sense of wellbeing.

Why is it important on a wider societal level?

I feel there has never been a better time for WomanFest – We are living in changing times, all around us we are now seeing women gather together and claim their power both individually and collectively. The Feminine Energy is rising and we are standing together in juicy strength and potency. We are standing in our true power, reclaiming our voices and most importantly, we are gathering in love, because in the end that is all there can be to co-create the new ways. In love, we can co-create new ways that no longer tolerate separation, division and pain. It is our time to lay down the swords of defence, attack and intolerances and pick up the flag of compassion, kindness, tolerance, understanding and love.  In this way, as older women leading the way and as younger women coming with fresh eyes we hold the threads of our ancestors and gather together to weave a new cloth for the times we live in and for the generations to come and this, I believe, is the essence and magic of WomanFest.

An All-Woman Radical Participation Festival, Frome, Somerset
Hurry! Tickets selling fast.  Click here to buy.
16-18th August 2018

AofA People: Leah Thorn – Spoken Word Poet, Activist, Lecturer


1 Minute Read

Leah Thorn is a spoken word poet, activist and lecturer based in Folkestone, Kent. Her ‘Older Women Rock Festival,’  financed through crowdfunding platform indiegogo, kicks off on 18th February – 12th March.

HOW OLD ARE YOU?

67

WHERE DO YOU LIVE?

Folkestone, Kent

WHAT DO YOU DO?

At the moment I’m developing a project, ‘Older Women Rock!’.

I am a spoken word poet, activist and lecturer, published through performance, film, anthologies and magazines in England and the United States. At the heart of my poetry is the autobiographical exploration of identity and issues of liberation.

I collaborate with filmmakers to create poetryfilms. With Ewan Golder, I made ‘watch’, an award-winning film using Super 8 film, poetry, storytelling and photography to reveal the impact of dementia on a father/daughter relationship. I have made two poetryfilms with filmmaker Clare Unsworth, ‘count’ about everyday sexism and ‘shhh!’ about the systematic silencing of women. Both have been selected for screening at international feminist film festivals.

Much of my work is with women, including –
Folkestone WOW Festival, 2015 and 2016;
Residencies at Drayton Park Women’s Mental Health Crisis House, London 1996 to the present;
Women’s prisons including York Correctional Institution, USA; HMP Bronzefield; HMP Holloway; HMP Peterborough and HMP East Sutton Park.

I am an International Fellow at The England Centre for Practice Development at Canterbury Christ Church University and for the past ten years I have led poetry workshops in prisons nationally. In 2012 I was awarded a Winston Churchill Travel Fellowship, visiting women’s prisons across the United States with dance and theatre companies. In 2013 I received a Royal Society for Public Health Special Commendation Award for my contribution to Creative Arts and the Criminal Justice System.
To view my TEDxWomen talk about the use of poetry as provocation and witness with women  in prison visit
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yySZ3p4XnDY

To see examples of my performance and facilitation work, visit www.leahthorn.com

TELL US WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE YOUR AGE?

It’s wonderful, I have more influence in the world than ever before.

At the very same time it feels hard to be invisible and underestimated as an older woman.

WHAT DO YOU HAVE NOW THAT YOU DIDN’T HAVE AT 25?

A confidence in my own thinking and a wealth of diverse experiences

WHAT ABOUT SEX?

Not an important part of my life

AND RELATIONSHIPS?

I am in a committed 30-year relationship with a man who is very different to me in terms of race and class. I love the way we work together to sustain our connection

HOW FREE DO YOU FEEL?

In terms of how I live my life, I feel free to make decisions but I’m aware that it is impossible to be free in a society that values profit over people

WHAT ARE YOU PROUD OF?

One thing I’m proud of is how I had the idea for ‘Older Women Rock!’ and went on to make it happen – in a way that is a unique synthesis of all I know and all I do

WHAT KEEPS YOU INSPIRED?

Acts of resistance and a refusal to be quiet and compliant, like the Women’s Marchesowr-1

WHEN ARE YOU HAPPIEST?

When I’m dancing. Zumba Gold. Exploring places with my partner.

AND WHERE DOES YOUR CREATIVITY GO?

Into projects like ‘Older Women Rock!’, into making poetry, films, writing and performing poetry

WHAT’S YOUR PHILOSOPHY OF LIVING?

To live full-out and politically aware and engaged until the moment I’m no longer alive.

AND DYING?

Having seen my parents’ end-of-life, I decided to stay as emotionally and physically fit as possible. I use limited finances to enlist the support of a homeopath, osteopath and masseuse

ARE YOU STILL DREAMING?

Envisioning rather than dreaming, as for me the term dreaming doesn’t contain action and commitment to change.

WHAT WAS A RECENT OUTRAGEOUS ACTION OF YOURS?

Upcoming – a Zumba Gold flashmob outside Primark and Asda in Folkestone on 11 February. I’m enjoying gathering older women together and encouraging them to ‘strut their stuff’ in public!

Older Women Rock kicks off 18 February, 7.30 – 10pm at the Space Gallery, Folkstone. For more info, click

For more info, click here.

Ageing festival goers are fueling a ‘glamping’ boom  


3 Minute Read

A trend in Britain as internet search data reveals more people are Googling the term than at any point in history.

Ravers who attended the UK’s first large-scale commercial festivals in the Nineties and Noughties, many of whom have now grown up and started families, are booking glamping holidays in droves as they attempt to relive their wild days in a more civilized manner, surrounded by home comforts.

Read the full story here: Ageing festival goers are fueling a ‘glamping’ boom  

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