A crazy dream we can all have together
Festivals are places to experience the world as it could be, a world that springs into life for a shared experience over a dreamy summer’s weekend. And, as Michael Eavis is fond of saying, makes the world a better place. Or at least nudges it in a different direction. A good festival is such an immense thing to pull off that the people who create them have to be driven to bring a vision alive that’s well worth the months of preparation and planning and the huge investment of time from the army of collaborators and helpers.
When we started Peace in the Park in Oxfordshire five years ago we had a crazy idea to break down the perceptions people have about meditation being boring, hard work and done by wacky people. Wouldn’t it be great, we thought, if people could come and enjoy the highly energising feeling of uplift we get from meditation, even if they don’t really want to meditate? So we started imagining a festival of ideas, music and fun that happens in an incredibly beautiful setting with an ambiance of deeply chilled relaxation, where you can relax with a cup of tea under ancient cedars, stroll into a fascinating talk and stumble across gorgeous enclaves of music that waft you into a wonderful headspace. With a woodland teaming with natural activities for kids and families, a fairytale theatre amid sprawling oaks, a Feelgood Space for young people and places to imagine a beautiful future. And yes, if you fancy dipping your toe into the actual experience of meditation, then we’d make that as easy and fun as possible by creating enchanting meditation pavilions that satisfy the most hardened cynic.
Holding the festival in the grounds of the Global Retreat Centre made the vision that much easier to realise because the actual setting already has an amazingly warm, peaceful and creative atmosphere. Of course, it helps that the grounds have an enchanting history of connections with authors, philosophers and poets who were inspired by the place to dream of beautiful and imaginary worlds. Authors like Lewis Carroll, thinkers like Rousseau and poets like Whitehead plus Utopian garden visionaries like Capability Brown and William Mason. The sheer beguiling beauty of a landscape that flows uphill and down dale past breathtaking views to ancient woodlands through to wild flower meadows. And, if you find the right path, will open out into a secret garden with meandering enclaves of temples and gods and engraved sonnets.
But perhaps the biggest help in realising our crazy vision was the boundless enthusiasm of the 300 plus volunteers who actually host the festival, who are all of them Utopians in their own right. Each one a meditator from different walks of life from finance to furniture-makers, shop workers to artists, musicians, authors, journalists and nurses. All of them brought together by the dream of a more peaceful, loving world.
Because we want to make the event open to everyone, there are no entrance fees, just whimsical donation boxes that 10,000 festival-goers fill up with thank you notes, envelopes and scrunched up bits of paper, containing just enough to cover costs.
So yes, we want you all to come to this secret part of Oxfordshire in the warm July air to experience a beautiful and crazy vision. Its for dreamers and hard-nosed changemakers, cynics and Utopians. Its for kids and grown-ups, families and singles and everyone in between. Its for people who like to linger under a tree and watch the world go by, those that like to explore ideas and people who like to stride through long grass and imagine themselves an intrepid explorer of a different kind; for folk who like to eat a wood fired pizza and those that like to savour a beautiful future. As Rumi so eloquently put it, “Beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”