Buddhafield ran its Festival at The Gallops from 2001-2008. The site, a few miles north of Wellington, Somerset, features a couple of fields bordered by a hardcore track that was used at one time for exercising horses. I hadn’t been there since the last time we used the site for the Festival and was slightly apprehensive. Simon picked me up in town, but when we got to the crossroads near the site entrance, I have to confess to a mix of feelings as memory stirred.
There’s nothing quite like revisiting a place to be reminded that memory isn’t like a sort of movie I replay in my head. It plays itself out very physically. I was involved with running the Festival Steward Crew at the Gallops throughout our time at that site and each event was consistently, incredibly intense. That doesn’t mean it was painful (although there were acutely difficult moments), but the breadth of demands that had been on me personally mean that my relationship to those fields left me unsure about whether I could settle back quickly or easily.
As we drove on site, my feeling was immediately drawn back to positive association. I was reminded of the many beautiful things about The Gallops, especially the bottom field which had been our main ‘arena’. The Buddhafield Café structure was being erected in the same spot it had been traditionally sited (Simon and I arrived just in time to help hoist the skeleton up), with it’s broad view, diagonally across and down the field. It’s bordered by a solid tree line, gradating into woodland to the north at the bottom of the slope, sheep pasture most of the year round, but in itself full of wildlife. There’re at least two substantial badger sets, and amongst the birds I even saw a woodpecker disappear into a nest hole in an old pine.
At the Green Earth Awakening (GEA) I’d agreed to help manage the Buddhafield Café alongside Ruth. We knew we were planning to run a slightly different format of Café to usual, with the shift pattern being shorter and focusing around fixed meal times (for the first time we’d offered pre-booked meals as an option on a ticket price). During setup, the Café was also anticipating inspection by Mid Devon County Council’s Environmental Health, so there was a certain extra sense of pressure. Being a field Café, and one that is fairly unique, we don’t easily fit an off-the-shelf food management model. There’s an ongoing process of reviewing how we do things, because our food handling practice requires ongoing refinement when we often don’t construct the same format of tent (we can’t guarantee the same workflow for dividing unprepared from ready-to-eat foods: it has to be redesigned each time). And of course at the GEA we’d had to take a the best part of our kit out of winter storage, so everything needed a very good scrub. Happily, our inspection went very well and the Buddhafield Café now has a very healthy five-star rating.
We had a very small team, mainly because we’d found it very difficult to recruit enough folk to help with setup. However the people who did arrive were a very easy bunch to work with and setup went remarkably well. It was a very harmonious week. We eat very well and an end-of-day sauna gave us that Ready Brek glow to counter some very cold nights. I think practically everyone was twitchy about weather, given how awful last summer had been and that we were still working around an ongoingly moody spring. In the end, daylight weather was actually mostly good, although the wind and cold on Friday was a bit punishing.But! What a lovely event weekend! Rosie’s workshop programme was a winner and there was plenty of opportunity to laze around in the sun.
I took quite a few photos and uploaded the best to a photo set under the Buddhafield Flickr account.
There were several talks given over the weekend. Lokabandhu spoke about A Buddhist Approach to Changing the World, Satyajit talked about Awakening to the Earth – An Inconceivably Vast Undertaking and Akasati gave a talk for Wesak on The Wisdom of Letting Go Revealed In the Story of the Buddha’s Enlightenment. (Thanks to The Buddhist Centre and Free Buddhist Audio for their support.)
Lokabandhu did a short interview with Rosie during the event which he’s posted to AudioBoo.
ThankYouThankYouThankYou to everyone who participated! This time next year Buddhafield expect’s to be helping organise the 2014 Triratna International Retreat at Adhisthana near Great Malvern, but we hope to run a second Green Earth Awakening in 2015.