“Boom is not only a festival, it is a state of mind. Inspired by the principles of Oneness, Peace, Creativity, Sustainability, Transcendence, Alternative Culture, Active Participation, Evolution and Love, it is a space where people from all over the world can converge to experience an alternative reality.”

What started in 1997 as a small psychedelic trance festival in the north of Portugal, is now a weeklong transformational music & arts gathering that grew up to 35.000 participants with a focus on integrating sustainability and environmental awareness, showcasing some of the best music and psychedelic arts around and being an example of applying principles of permaculture to a festival production. The Boom website states “Festivals must provide tools for change. It is Boom’s commitment to create a reality that relates positively with the environment and contributes to the education and knowledge of all.”. There’s no sponsoring or corporate presence, the display of advertising or brand presence is banned and the festival is entirely funded by ticket sales.

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Afternoon sun at the funky beach floor
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The main dance temple right after the opening ceremony

Earlier this year I applied as a volunteer and initially had no luck with this travel project, for the obvious reason that most web development and design matters are handled prior to the festival. I was lucky and I still got an email while travelling in India and got a position at the Liminal Village tent, the cultural hub of the festival.

I grew up in the south of Portugal and my first Boom Festival took place ten years ago in 2004, so this year was a trip down memory lane. I arrived a few days before the festival kicked off and came all the way from India to board a bus in Frankfurt that took me directly to Castelo Branco in Portugal, 36 long tiring hours. It was a real experience to see 30.000 Boomers flow through the gates, set up their camps and populate Boom city.

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Boom’s healing area before the festival kicked off

Working at the Liminal Village area

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Liminal Village screenings at night

As much as Boom is about music and arts it is about new ideas, education, scientific knowledge and community interaction. At my workplace, the Liminal Village, there were workshops, talks and presentations during daytime, while during nighttime a selection of documentaries were screened.

My job was to watch over the area during the night, press play for documentaries and pass around a mic in case there was a Q&A. Interesting, amazing but also exhausting nights that included highlights such as an intense psychedelic performance and showcase of Tripoteca (an psychedelic film & arts festival) and screenings of great documentaries like Gringo Trails or Ungrip, among many others. Daytime talk highlights for me included the visit of Dr. João Goulão, Portuguese national drug coordinator, a Q&A of Burning Man (US), Boom (PT) and Fusion Festival (GER), as well as talks about Boom itself, Permaculture and the different sustainability measures in place.

Although I didn’t work in my usual fields, it felt right to contribute to this gathering. I was blessed with an amazingly skilled team from all over the world and thankful to be part of it.

An example par excellence of what a green festival should be

From my perspective, the 2014 edition was an example par excellence of what a sustainable festival should look like. From recycled materials, compost toilets to bio-construction, the Boom crew really made an effort to create a green festival that goes beyond the “leave no trace” idea and that actually adds to the site. Of course it wasn’t perfect, but I consider it the greenest festival I’ve ever been to with an amazing crowd that kept the site clean. Hats off!

I’m not into fast psychedelic music anymore but there’re plenty of alternatives and the four dance areas showcase an eclectic selection of music, plus visual art displayed on site is stunning. Another thing worth mentioned is the Healing Area of the festival. Offering a big variety of courses, workshops, therapies and free treatments this area is great alternative to anyone who didn’t come for dancing but instead to meet likeminded people, explore alternative medicine and re-balance their minds.

Boom is the conscious approach to a festival that our world needs and I’d like to see more commercial festival promoters come to Boom, be inspired and go down the same road. See you in two years!

I’ll leave you with a few shots from before and during the festival. More news about my time in Portugal soon!

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  • http://goodthingseverywhere.com Lukas

    Shortly after publishing I came across this article about transformational festivals in the US… don’t particulary like the way it is written but I think it is a good trend: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/25/fashion/Burning-Man-Creates-a-New-Breed-of-Festivals.html

  • Dschanni

    Tears in my eyes … missing the good times there.
    Thanks for the great article, Lukas. <3

  • rike

    amazing pictures, i wish i could have been there