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Pete Lawrence - 30 Sep 2019


"Campout felt like home" Theo Simon

It's now a month since Campout and I'm still very much processing the richness and variety of experience that touched me in that field just outside Frome over five heady days. The gathering was so moving for me on so many levels that I've really struggled to find the key to writing about it, preferring to live with the feelings that have been in my heart and other reactions that have been more subtle. Finally I am finding a way with words here. 

We had many excellent speakers at Campout 2019 and a wide variety of experiences and world views were articulated. The speakers were only one part of the story. Alongside that, the sense of love and compassion in that field was extraordinary. I sense that the ripples emanating from it will be strong and sustained.

Ten things I learned or experienced at the five day gathering. These were either reoccurring themes or personal insights for me

1 Rediscovering and welcoming my eight year old self

That sense of wonder is easily lost, submerged or stifled in whatever quest for maturity - becoming a grown up, peer pressure, directives to 'toughen up' or whatever other forces bring about the loss of innocence. More than one conversation at Campout - thanks especially @Ben Gray - led me to adopting a different perspective, less based on judgment and preconception, more about eyes wide open to new experience and that elusive quality - trust. It was a very trusting, very safe space in which to explore, but required quite a shift in consciousness. Once made, that shift really did open up new possibilities. 

2 The power of ceremony

Whether it was the evolution of our twice daily gatherings or the beauty of the nettle whipping session, I revelled in the opportunities provided by coming together in ritual, of being part of a ceremonial circle space where we could all connect, live in the moment and really feel the spirit of others on a deep level, in no small thanks to @LAURIE PYNE in particular and @Ruth Wajsblum for facilitating. The ceremonial Campfire play was transformational for me and many others - and again, all about opening up and trusting.

3 The rhythm of conversation 

Another theme of the weekend was the how people created awareness of the rhythm and nuance of good conversation. Looking others in the eye and really listening was the key to this, not just auto-relating any common thread they heard immediately with their own experience, but really attempting to listen and 'get' the other person, what they were trying to get across . There is no greater respect you can give to another person than to really listen and give them undivided attention. We will all reap big dividends from learning well how to do this. 

4 Singing. 

I didn't get as much chance to sing as I would have liked, but what was evident was the joyous sense of co-creating art, finding ones own space in the overall fabric of the song, being part of something selfless, giving it up for the greater good, something with the power to move and connect. I have been familiar with the potency of the universal language of music  since a very young age and it doesn't diminish, it only gets stronger.

5 Grieving and hope

Only learning to cry for all humanity make sense of this. Knowing that immediately gives context to Roger Hallam's landmark speech. Those who may have arrived on site in time to witness the unusual and unsettling spectacle of feeling many people's grief after Roger's speech's impact missed the point of it all. That the process of grieving in the wake of the 'we are fucked' pronouncement has multiple sides, which put one on a path towards resolution and ultimately hope. If Roger didn't believe that, I suspect that he wouldn't be doing his life's work as he is if he didn't believe in hope.  Hope was in evidence, in abundance - guest speaker Brett Hennig, who convened Campfire's very first Citizens' Assembly said afterwards :

"I left Campout feeling not only inspired but more hopeful than I've felt in years!"  Brett Hennig


6 The 5 Day experience is a journey that you can't 'pop in' to

We are all here to learn and to teach and to realise that a gathering such as thrives on the intimacy and connection that it engenders and allows. The week literally unfolded, in many unexpected ways as it was designed to be a balance between the 'programmed' and the 'spontaneous. Those speakers who mingled and mixed found more of an emotional connection with other Campfirers, as they were able to talk about their chosen subject before and after their programmed sessions and often, the processing of emotional responses afterwards meant that new insights and questions only occurred some time later. More than that, it allowed very human connection to be ongoing and some great friendships were undoubtedly made over the five days. 

7 Leadership and stepping up

Finding our own voice and also a collective voice. Knowing our place, in the terminology of populist leadership 'How can I use power?' becomes 'How can we serve?' 'Where can I play my part?". Campout was a great example of a team forming spontaneously around the event as individual members found their own niche. There is no greater example of quiet, unassuming leadership than @Andie Brazewell, our events manager, who even paid full price for his ticket though he was always in the thick of it, organisationally. 

Everywhere, people were asking 'What can I do now?' 'What's next?' "How can we best harness this energy ?'.  What is now important is developing follow-on procedures and models. We start this process at Trailblazers weekend in November and with the formation of a new steering group. If you'd like to join that or a circle team, have a look at the 'About Campfire' section on the site, available in the footer menu.

8 Campfires bring out the best intimacy. 

The campfire is a great leveller and no more so than during spontaneous conversation and song, or a free-flowing mix of both. Who needs TV when you can have this cracking, fizzing, face-to-face exchange of story, ideas and reflection. 

9 Radical talent spotting

We are all stewards of this earth and are each learning ways of recognising our own skills and talents, but also an awareness of others, their unique spirit, voice, presence. I've always said that there is virtually no greater thrill than being part of a process of introducing others, joining the dots and finding the common denominator and then stepping back and watching the sparks fly. This was brought into sharp focus when @Mark Brookes grabbed my ear and said he'd often been in conversation with someone, seen another person he knew walking by and made the introduction, based on his judgment and knowledge of each person's unique skills and an intuition that they might spark off each other. It is exactly that generosity of spirit and sixth sense - enabling and empowering others - that is transformational. 

10 It all comes back to love

"In Love We Are All One" sung by Beth around the fire was a spine-tingling moment for those who were there and it essentially nails the reason why we're here. Hear it on my film of Campout. (I'm putting the finishing touches to it as we speak)

So, where do we take the energy and how do we apply it to practical action and outcomes?

I’m reading some interesting threads on whether the Brexit mess has radicalised the UK. What am feeling very strongly in my heart is that both Brexit and climate breakdown have radicalised a growing movement of people who are working steadily and urgently to promote new insights into how we find common ground instead of blaming, shaming and promoting notions of ‘other’.

This was in evidence in abundance all through our Campfire Convention Campout last week and revolves around the surprisingly simple formula of listening, loving and extending kindness and compassion. Learning the art of how to have a good conversation and equipping ourselves to be able to listen deeply is a good starting point in the process to finding common ground. In these days where sniping at others is seemingly on the rise, a different approach seems not only truly radical but is probably the only way forward for humanity.

We do need practical solutions, which is getting harder and harder given the speed and unpredictability of change and upheaval.  

We have to be working towards a modus operandi for tangible goals, based around specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-dependent targets. Campfire will be exploring and workshopping how we can quickly and urgently achieve realistic goals - "a structured opportunity for us to share our hearts under the banner of enlightened social change and compassionate responsibility" as member @LAURIE PYNE (treesiren)@ has articulated it.

We need to give rise to a 'Campfire Hero' index - ways to make a switch that will really make a difference. Whether this revolves around 50 ways to be kinder to the world, to become a more active, engaged and responsible citizen or whatever it is, we will be putting our hearts and minds to this in the coming weeks. We will also be stepping up our own Campfire circle teams, actively involvement around whatever your calling may be - tech, mentorship, events,  editorial, admin, innovation, kindling... it's all beginning to take shape (see Membership 3.0 PDF downloadable at foot of this article)

It is this change in mindset that will be at the centre of the change. framing it as 'replacing the love of power with the power of love' is just one example of how important the framing of concepts through language is. Facilitating new models, fresh approaches, some organisation in how we play our parts and find our roles to bring the new visions we have created to life.

View Mark Brookes' photo gallery slideshow (click image below) :

A friend remarked on another social media site as follows "Translating peace and understanding into practical outcomes to resolve local and global issues, at a pace that is necessary and without being treated as small pockets of well meaning hippy snowflakes is the challenge."  

Those of us who were know that this goes much deeper than any throwaway typecasting. And affirms that cycnicism can still be a great barrier to progress - and opening up.

Much of this this comes back to Theo Simon's talk at Campout and his view that being kind is actually the radical way now. Watch this space.

"A powerful, wonderful few days" Jo Berry

To see my gallery click below:





You did it!
Found the time to put your thoughts and feelings in order and share them.
Thank you Pete.

I find myself agreeing with everything in your piece.....but, naturally, with your concluding thoughts around the need for us to connect and connect and connect again...avoiding all notions of 'other', of shaming or blaming or criticising or dismissing.
It is indeed radical to think of the way forward being motivated by kindness, yet I can think of nothing else which would bring about the type of change you mention here, and for which so many of us are calling.

For me, the Dalai Lama's words at Manchester a few years ago are still ringing in my ears:-
"Be kind whenever possible; it is ALWAYS possible".

Feeling moved and joyfully vulnerable to have been so deeply enmeshed in this years Campout, and nourished by the many wonderful humans I connected with.
Now I'm relishing what may ensue, as we draw upon these experiences, and create what we are needing - I realise I've been waiting a long time for that feeling. x


Sarah Jewell

Fabulous article- with the wisdom of hindsight but none of the distance one would expect from a months passing. I suspect we are all still relatively raw and open like shellfish to the joy and grief that was released during those days. An extraordinary privilege to have led and been expertly led through some of those profound sessions. Yes friendships were forged through song, tears and talk that will enrich our lives for years to come and sustain our spirits for the tough times ahead.


Andie Brazewell

A wealth of learning and also a joy to be part of something so special. I agree that you cannot pop in for a day or two into something this important in life. So good to be part of a caring, sharing and loving!! Thanks Pete

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