So here I am, home again from Druid Camp. A simple name for a complex community gathering, and one I’ve been going to for around twenty years now. This year, for the first time, because of (well) stuff, I’ve been directly involved in it all as part of the core team, alongside Mark Graham. But this post is about being at the camp not the unimportant governance back-story. Here’s a first brief playback of the fun I had.
Running over five days, Wednesday through Sunday, in the north of the Forest of Dean, Druid Camp this year was set in a woodland glade with oak trees and coppiced hazel surrounding a gently sloping grassed arena. In the middle distance you may see the brown waters of the River Severn.
I’m going to confess right now – even I didn’t get to see all of Druid Camp! I don’t think it’s possible to do so, in fact. I’ll present the blackboards in a moment, that are the result of each ten o’clock morning meeting, and you’ll see there are often concurrently running workshops. But there’s nothing there to tell you of the kids who were led in woodland games, zip-wire adventures and theatre. There’s nothing that speaks of the camp fire sessions, the walks along sunlit paths in green woodland, impromptu shared community discussions or the laughter as the stars came out above us. And the complexity of the spontaneously developed Saturday ritual, and the fun of it, and the love within it… not on the blackboards…
The main speakers, scheduled so that everyone could attend if they chose, were awesome. I particularly enjoyed Professor Ronald Hutton’s background to the crafting of the Mabinogion, and Penny Billington’s discussion into the fundamental concepts of the Awen. There were some excellent discussions too in workshops, on Druidry and Activism, on the cultural history of Brewing around the ancient and medieval world, and even Archery on the field behind where all the cars were having their own special camp gathering, well away from the noisy Druids!
And the music! Fantastic! Well at least, the music I wasn’t involved in, at least, because I took part in both the lunchtime blues sessions with ZZ Birmingham, and the woodland choir that later ended the closing circle (with added handfasting!). The photo’s below show, in random order, Z Z Birmingham and his band (Arthur has a weekly Blues show on Radio Glastonbury you can access over the Interwebz, which is very good indeed). Seize the Day are also regulars at Druid Camp (and also at green and social activism protests around the country!). Always welcome is Mad Magdalen, filled with dark folk music and brilliant energy. And finally a new discovery for me and for Druid Camp, Dusk Brothers are a phenomenon! Playing homemade cigar box slide guitars while, at the same time!!!, stomping on a mad number of drum pedals, effect boxes and stomp pads to produce a sound that took your head into somewhere full of dancing beat and blues.
Of course, there were points for further improvement. Some folk didn’t feel great about the magnificent woodland composting toilets and instead filled up the only available turdises (including the one specially ordered for those with limited mobility). Some felt the cafe needed more staff and more menu, and the firewood quality was debated. But I loved the composting toilets (even the squat stalls), and it felt quite alien coming home to pour litres of drinking quality water onto my poo first thing on Monday morning…
The main thing though about this Camp is the community of people who come. Many are year on year returners (when I worked for a living, Druid Camp week was widely known to be sacrosanct and everyone knew I’d be on leave then, come what may), while the newcomers are welcomed by the people and by a comprehensive Druid Camp Virgins talk on Wednesday evening. People have met and married at Druid Camp. They’ve had kids and brought them, and they’ve grown into young Druids of their own making. We’ve lost folk into mystery, and celebrated their lives and commiserated with their families. After some twenty years, Druid Camp has a lineage.
And that lineage now goes forward with a new Druid Camp Association. The main web site will be closing soon (a job on my list!) but early next year the magic will brew once more, as the cauldron bubbles… and who knows what drops will shoot out this time!