Sunrise Celebration 2009 was a smaller event on a new site on an organic farm. As we would be close to the main arena we hoped our visitors would feel fully part of the event and spend most of their time out of the GAMA field
When some of us arrived on Bank Holiday Monday we found the GAMA camp was on the highest point of a hill with magnificent views in all directions as far as Exmoor. We were between the campervan field and general camping. It was reassuring to be next to the medical centre. Plumbers were already installing water pipes and we had a tap but no sink or drainage. The compost loos had been built in the campervan and tent camping fields. The rest of the crew and their children arrived on Tuesday. We planned to set everything up on Wednesday but force 6 winds and rain made it too dangerous to put up the marquee as a base for all our activities
Thursday was the first day of sunshine. The wide access toilets and electricity arrived. We put up the marquee and collected three tables, one for refreshments, one for information and one for children to play in the shade. We also had ten chairs. Unfortunately, because of confusion arising from changes to the map, the ramped shower and its soak away drainage were put in the medical area with a lot of obstacles blocking access. Other showers, without ramps, were at the bottom of the hill . There were no other wide access toilets at Sunrise. As the compost toilets had several steps it was difficult for many of our visitors to go to events at the far end of the arena
More and more visitors arrived – far more than Sunrise had led us to expect. People fitted in at the end of the GAMA area or across the path in general camping, but still used our facilities. Three people working in the arena camped with us because of the needs of themselves or their children. We also welcomed day visitors at the weekend. Daylight was adequate until 9.30pm. The campsite had two strings of light on poles along fire lanes which were on all night. We used fencing and a banner to direct passers-by away from the wide access cubicles to the compost toilets and introduced a wristband system.
We found we had not been listed for a radio and had to send out one of our crew for communication with the production office, gate and the safety manager. This meant that we had no way of knowing when visitors arriving at the gate on foot needed assistance. The gate crew provided GAMA visitors in vehicles with our logo postcards so that they could drive up and be helped by our crew. In emergencies we could ask the medical centre to use their radio. We had a tap in the GAMA area without a sink or drainage. The water pressure was unreliable but Sunrise provided emergency supplies of bottled water
Although we had permission for a fire we decided against it for several reasons
- There was a ban on fires in the camping area so our fire would have made it harder to enforce
- We would have had to supervise the fire all night
- There were young children and people with breathing difficulties in the GAMA camp
- There were benches around the ceremonial fire in the arena so people could go
- There the water supply was unreliable
- There was only a small open space in the GAMA camp
- Mown long dry grass was on the ground, easily ignited by a spark.
There were barrels of water at fire points in the camping and campervan fields.Our crew catering van had extinguishers.There was a general lack of signs and information.The programme has a lot of text printed over graphics. We needed a large print plain text version.The camping area had its own steward crew. Litter pickers covered the whole site and there were recycling bins.Gate crew and stewards were very helpful in identifying and guiding visitors needing GAMA facilities and leaving on Monday. There was a tap attached to the fence along the main path to the arena. As the sink disappeared & there was no drainage, the path quickly became muddy and slippery in spite of the hot weather. We reported this hazard.
Many cafes only had low seating. Much more work needs to be done to spell out the responsibility of traders and exhibitors to make “reasonable adjustments” by providing a few chairs with arms, clear pathways and easy to read menus. We lent five chairs to the nearest music venue, Triban, on Sunday so that more of our visitors could go there. Two of our crew visited music venues offering signs to inform visitors that strobes may be used. None planned to use strobe lights
The festival arena was beautiful. The centre was used for non-commercial ceremonial and chill-out spaces including a garden, pyramid with chimes and fire temple. There were carved benches in the temple. There were plenty of activities for children of all ages including an outdoor circus skills day. The GAMA crew kids made friends with visitors and on Saturday evening dressed up in 3000BC/3000AD styles. They also enjoyed shows such as the fire juggling. As there was no metal tracking the paths to and around the Arena would have become very difficult for people with wheelchairs or buggies if the weather had not been so good. We hope this would be provided at a larger event. One of the best cafes for seating.
Sunrise underestimated the number of people likely to be camping in the GAMA field – they didn’t allow for the number of people who booked for 2008, and exchanged their tickets. As facilities at Big Chill were inadequate many people with disabilities and their friends waited until Sunrise 2009. We had at least 50 tents, vans and caravans in the GAMA area. Some larger groups were on the other side of the track in the camping field and campervan area with access to our facilities. We asked for GAMA facilities to be available from Monday 25 May for crew with disabilities, including our co-ordinator, and the families of people working at Sunrise. GAMA camping We had an experienced crew of nine: two at a time on duty from 8.30-10.30 and one from 10.30pm to midnight.
Our co-ordinator, Miki, ran an information line for phone and email enquiries, particularly important for people who are anxious about coming to a festival for the first time. We have a core of GAMA regular visitors and at each festival, we publicise our website and events where we will be running campsites in the future.