Luminate is an earth friendly festival of music, art, dance, creativity and sustainability.
Returning for an epic sixth year, Luminate 2013 is a place to re-energise on the dancefloor, participate in workshops, be inspired about living sustainably, receive a massage, join in drumming around the fire, relax with a warm chai, watch an enlightening movie, be in harmony with nature, and celebrate a sense of conscious community
Excuse the relative silence for the past week or two, we have been very busy enlightening ourselves, casting off the shackles of society, liberating our souls and spirits, joining in harmony with other creative beings…
That’s enough, Ed.
OK, so perhaps we didn’t get THAT into it, but we have been at the hippiest, free-est and in our opinion, one of the loveliest festivals in Aotearoa. Very enlightening indeed.
The location, biblically named Canaan Downs on Takaka Hill, could not have been more fitting for this week-long ‘creative meeting of souls’. Much like Bristol’s Clifton Downs, Canaan Downs consists of an enormous flat expanse of grassy land although unlike Brizzal, they are located on a mountain top, surrounded by towering forested peaks. The Luminate Festival organisers must know how to sort the wheat from the chaff in terms of their punters, because actually getting there was almost off the scale in terms of effort. After a stomach-churning drive to the summit of Takaka Hill through a series of uphill hairpin bends, a 10km gravel track takes you alongside terrifyingly steep drops until you arrive at your destination, a veritable hilltop oasis. For the record, 10km is a VERY LONG WAY when you’re going about the same speed as a lame sloth, avoiding potholes deep and numerous enough to rival Edinburgh city centre, and getting gradually covered in fine film of white dust.
In spite of this, all 3,000 ticket holders, volunteers, artists, acrobats, animals, hare krishna fanatics and general weirdos managed it.
And it’s well worth it.
Arriving was akin to reaching our very own hilltop paradise. The downs are covered in tufts of yellow-green grass (think Russell Crowe in Gladiator) and dotted with forests, handily separating the various areas. As if having a festival on a mountain wasn’t quirky enough, the whole site is covered with random sink holes. No, we don’t know how they were created (next 20 questions?) but we are taking about huge holes, almost inverted peaks, in the ground. Some might view this as irritating. The Luminators (can we say that?!) made them into features of the festival; for example, the epic (for that is the ONLY way we can describe it) opening ceremony took place in a giant sinkhole – think of it as a natural amphitheatre. Oh, and did we mention the crystal clear bubbling mountain stream about 10 minutes walk from the campsite. Most refreshing shower facilities we have ever experienced. FACT.
So we’re all set for our idyllic, at-one-with-the-earth, hippy fest. To be honest, we approached it with a little bit of trepidation. For a start, it was a strictly no alcohol no rubbish get up. As in NO ALCOHOL. AND NO RUBBISH. AT ALL.
Yeah, we were a bit confused too. In fact, it was utterly brilliant. The no rubbish thing was definitely something that we could use more of in the UK. Instead of wading through used noodle boxes and crushed Strongbow cans by day three, the site remained pristine for the duration of the festival. Each person was advised to bring their own mug or plate or bowl or fork or spoon or chopstick or whatever suited their culinary needs. Whenever you wanted something to eat, you merely handed over the required piece of crockery and it was promptly filled up. If you forgot it (which happened often) you could hire a piece of miscellaneous kitchenware for a pittance (50c) and return it when you were done. Absolute genius. On the campsite, it just made you a hell of a lot more aware of what you were wasting, and a lot more respectful of the environment because you knew that you’d have to clear it all up at the end (and no one wants to tidy up a broken tent that smells of fish. Ray)
The no-alcohol thing was a bit different. As confirmed beer-wine-whatever’s-going-we’re-not-fussy drinkers, we never thought we’d say this, but it actually wasn’t so bad. Although we definitely lost the ability to dance until the early hours (we just got SO TIRED so QUICKLY!), waking up each day without a sandpaper mouth and a brass-band headache was absolute bliss! Also, we remember the WHOLE THING. The names of each act, what we learnt in our Yogic Sleep and Mbira classes, how to do contact juggling – we REMEMBER IT ALL.
In fact, despite the clear no alcohol rule, there were definitely one or two or a few hundred people swigging suspiciously coloured liquids from water bottles. The same went for the ‘no dogs’ and the ‘no camping under trees’ enforcement; hush puppies were prancing around the grounds and people cheekily hooked guy ropes onto the signpost of the latter. Yet, the disregard for rules at Luminate was (if possible) the most amicable disregard that we have ever seen. Unlike other festivals, where there is a clear us vs them rapport between punters and security, this casual rule bending was taken as a given and any sense of insolence or tension was totally non-existent. The organisers knew that they had to state basic rules for box-ticking purposes only; if a tree falls on a tent, or an inebriated nutter falls into a sinkhole, any liability is tactically avoided. And with these stated rules (guidelines), the authorities can leave the hippies alone.
For fear of boring you, we ain’t going to do a blow by blow account (we’ve just checked the time and using a computer is VEE EXPENSE here), so here are a couple of highlights.
THE MUSIC, of course. Some amazing global beats on the Live Stage, which would not be out of place on Glastonbury’s Glade Stage (if that even still exists). Check out Beyondsemble, The Underscore Orchestra, Matiu Te Huki, Carolina Moon and Adam Sheikh if you can. THE KIDS were also fantastic. Never before have we seen so many little ones running around a festival and what made it all the more cute was that they were all mini-hippies! Mullets, face-paints and mud everywhere. Very very sweet indeed. The array of MASTERCLASSES and WORKSHOPS made us do things that we would never have thought of doing before. Contact juggling, acrobalance (which ended up with a broken toe, but we have SO MANY tricks to show you on our return), yogic sleep (recommend this SO much), regular yoga (so sweaty. Regular exercise needs to be on the agenda from now on), contact staff, mbira and many others. Although we’re not accomplished in any of it, by any stretch of the imagination, at least we can say we tried. Another quirk (how bloomin’ quirky is this festival?!) was the proliferation of BIKES at the festival. Can’t be bothered to walk from your tent to the main stage, then cycle.. GENIUS! Standard mention to the FOOD – organic, handpicked, handmade, healthy, superfood goodness. Nyom. (And we did manage to find some meat. Win). There was also a hella lotta FIRE. Never quite appreciated how mesmerizing it is, nor how WARM it is. It gets awful chilly beans up the top of a mountain I’ll have you know. A final mention must go to the overall friendliness of everyone at the festival; volunteers, stall owners, artists and general punters, everyone was a bona fide happy camper.
Saying that, I think we weren’t so fussed on the excess nakedness (including Naked Man. Always lived up to his name), nor were were taken by the slightly weirder masterclasses, such as Family Shamanism (eh??!), Mantra Music and a whole lot of Co-Creator bullsh….
Is seven days of festival too long? Don’t think so. We had an absolute blast and it was the first time we’ve ever left a festival feeling more refreshed than when we went in. However, fun as it is talking about yoga and tantra and the importance of spirulina (?) in your diet and homeschooling and unicycling and doing fire-poi and dancing naked before having a cup of organic sugarless milkless everything-less herbal tea, we have come to the conclusion (in the words of Celyn Thomas) that being a hippy occasionally is fine, but perhaps ‘surf and beer’ is more our style.
For the time being, we’re still walking barefoot and learning how to do hairbraids..