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Thinking Theme Camp? Top tips from your camp compatriots

[bra_dropcaps style=’dropcap2′]s[/bra_dropcaps]o you’re planning your first Burning Seed adventure  — or your next one — and you’re looking at the July 1 deadline for Theme Camp application, and thinking: Theme Camps are cool. I’ll start one. How hard can it be? But if you have the juice and want to set it loose, consider all the options first — there are alternatives to setting up a new Theme Camp.

Theme Camps truly are the (soya) meat and potatoes of a Burn. They create the landscape for our city, they are the 10 Principles of a Burn brought to life, and without them Seed would be less… well, just less.

In the words of the great ObiBob of Ashram Galactica (Burning Man)*:

“The best theme camps aren’t born fully fledged, but evolve towards optimum by learning from interactions and challenges. Do something that grabs people off the street and starts some interaction; not just a one-way service (from you) or a challenge (to them).”

He’s right. It’s all about a shared, participatory, consensual, creative experience. And Burning Seed has seen an exponential explosion in Theme Camps over a relatively short time, from around 10 in 2010 to around 50 in 2014. It’s testament to the creative confidence we have in our community, but here’s a controversial question — do we need so many, or any more?

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Unicorn wrangler and Theme Camp Team co-lead, Jayman

Our very own Theme Camp Co-Lead and part-time unicorn wrangler Jayman says collaboration and/or participation with existing camps is a great way for people, particularly first-timers and/or those looking to dip a toe in the Theme Camp waters, to make the best use of resources.

Running a theme camp for a week is harder work than it seems,” he says. “Why not join forces to create one awesome camp, rather than have lots of small camps operating infrequently with few people?

Daryl, Chairman and President of the Mint Country Club (MCC) agrees. Set realistic goals and know what you’re capable of — if you overstretch yourself and your resources you’ll just end up with a really stressful week, not a joyous one,” he says.

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Mint Country Club’s very own mo man, Daryl Paulger. Gin gin!

MCC is a great example of how to do it right. It’s up there jostling for position among the Seed Theme Camp Titans like Trash Mansion and Bean Bag Babylon (BBB). MCC was first seen on the Paddock in 2012 and has seen steady growth over the last few years. The Camp is literally powered by Gin, mint (the herb), mint (the colour), some solar panels, the infinite energy of Daryl and Di Paulger and their crew of Minty marvels. 

Daryl says it’s literally ALL ABOUT THE 10 PRINCIPLES PEOPLE. “For instance, make sure anyone coming to help you with the camp is firstable to take care of themselves (ie radical self-reliance)… like it’s great to get help but if that person needs pegs to put their tent up or gaffer tape for their shade structure, it’s just going to drain your resources.”

You don’t have to get it right first time, says Jayman: “Subject to our sound guidelines, you don’t need to be an official theme camp the first time around. But whether you’re official or unofficial, make sure you list your events and happenings in the What Where When (WWW).”[bra_border_divider top=’10’ bottom=’10’]

So here’s some tips for would-be Theme Campers whether you’re official, unofficial or just plain off the grid:

  1. The What Where When (WWW) is Seed’s sixth sense. If you build it, they won’t come — unless they can see, smell, hear, taste or touch you. Or read about you in the WWW.

  2. Lighting, lighting, lighting – and more lighting. Help make your city beautiful and sparkly and colourful and flashy. And it’s also good for keeping people safe.

  3. You don’t have to have a massively loud sound-system that literally makes people’s internal (maybe external) organs vibrate. Theme Camps come in all shapes and sizes.

  4. Avoid MOOP – we leave no trace. Make sure you have systems in place to make that happen and to educate your camp and participants.

  5. You don’t need to start from scratch – Check out Adopt a Burgin to join an existing camp. Look at ways of helping out. Run events in Theme Camp spaces or at Centre Camp.

  6. If you have an idea and you really must run with it, throw the idea out there – there’s bound to be others inspired by your idea and keen to get involved. The Theme Camp Facebook page is a good forum for throwing around your ideas with camp compatriots while the state groups will be full of other keen beans.

  7. Think about innovative use of our space at Red Earth City.  Sunset Island literally happened like that – a eureka moment in 2013 for a Burner watching the sun go down over an empty space.

  8. Avoid unicorns. At all costs.

Want to learn more about Theme Camps? Check the Burning Seed website or visit the Theme Camps Facebook page. If you’re planning to organise a Theme Camp this year check our helpful set-up guide. We’d love to hear your thoughts about Theme Camps at Seed — share your comments!

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