Wed 25 Aug 2021 7:01AM

[Open discussion] On popularity, organic growth, virgins, and inclusivity

S Saskia Public Seen by 160

I would like to start an open discussion inviting everybody with an opinion on the topic to make theirs heard.

Why? Because I am interested if I am alone with my perception and I wonder what other people think. I am particularly interested in the opinions of people who have observed the growth of other burn events (e.g. borderland) - are there parallels? Also, I think that direct impressions after the event might help KORG 2022 to make informed decisions.

So: What are your impressions on the development and public reception of Kiez Burn?

My personal impression is that Kiez Burn is gaining in popularity. This year I overheard people talking about Kiez Burn on the floors of H13, Knüppel, and other locations. We even got the 'look, there is a significant event'-treatment by the police! :O

I think we cannot act as if we were not an event around Berlin. This means that we offer a 5 day event for a 80 euro price tag (+ very attractive 'burner' tag) when around us there are events where one weekend costs 200 (excl. drinks and food and travel). Sure, they have the bigger line up - but I get the impression that bigger names from Berlin and around the world will join camps and make Kiez Burn more popular in the future.

We had a big percentage of virgins, as it seems. And while the party mood and also the general behavior seemed to be top game this year (with almost no incidents etc.) and the event ran like a smooth sailing ship... there were some aspects that were also very un-burnery, most noticeably the MOOP situation. Maybe I am also unfair when I blame certain issues on virgins...

I wonder if a return to more directed tickets / a cap on free campers and educational approaches for virigins may help with organic and healthy growth?


Kris Wed 25 Aug 2021 9:06AM

This is a common refrain from every burn. It certainly helps to have a remote site that tries to kill you, but you hear it from Burning Man as well.

My biggest surprise with Kiez burn is that it's only five days, having more people come early and experience the city being built and coming to life helps people feel ownership and being part of something special. Like you're not showing up to a pre-built event where things are curated for you. Your brain should be fully washed before the weekend rolls around.

I think being associated with Berlin can be a big strength, the activist and club scene here works hard to foster a good and respectful community. And being able to attend an event with people who have some kind of cool in the default can entice people to participate more.

Regarding directed tickets I'd toot my own horn and suggest experimenting with what we halfway did for Borderland in 2019 with replicating directed tickets. We'd have an allotment of tickets that replicate, that is if you buy one you get two invitations to give away, until they run out. That way established camps can be directed only a couple of replicating tickets, and then give them out first to their established members and then to their friends. This follows how burns usually recruit - you meet someone who's been there. Unlike directed tickets it's little work for the orga to decide who's "deserving", but still gives a way to sanction camps that for instance MOOP a lot.

In my experience most virgins do a lot fit in and often behave better than old-timers, but of course some people just don't know where they are.

So I suggest,

  • Have a 7-8 day event

  • Close the gate before the weekend

  • Replicating tickets

I can really recommend The Scene That Became Cities for more perspectives on this, I have a copy you can borrow.


Kitt Wed 25 Aug 2021 11:56AM

EDIT TO ADD - just want to add --> I would really like to connect with some of the orga/lead role people at burns like Burning Nest and Nowhere or the other UK regionals to learn from them how they expanded and dealt with introducing the culture to a newer scene years ago... I think there's interesting intersections and differences in the growth and community of KB and that's my biggest/most important contribution to this thread. Diversifying the burner cultures that are influencing this one.

I meet a lot of people who would like to join the burn, but have no idea of how to initiate them except one-by-one... as I think the culture of KB is still developing and evolving and finding its own character, I think it's important to be active in 'recruitment' but it's not everyone's jam to do that. It would be nice if there were events that brought some of the principles of the burn were visible and accessible to new burners (decom?) that inspired people how to engage with the principles themselves. I could also see a cute little 'what is a burn/burner?' video produced by Berlin burners to try and explain some of the culture. Some people get inspired by watching videos of Black Rock and wanting to bring it here, some people get inspired by doing. These are just brainstorming ideas.

I also have never been to the burner embassy, full disclosure, which might perform some of these functions.

I think it's also key to recognise that many people in Berlin are artists/performers themselves, so gifting some aspect of their work is a little harder for newbies to understand and accept, and when people interact with art grants for their day-to-day job it becomes a bit competitive at times to try and get funding, which can also be a highly emotionally charged issue. Some of the smaller art projects that received funding were proposed by some of the busier and more involved burners, who in some cases were not able to actualise that art to completion on site. I have a proposal to help with this below...

I think you're right, the Berlin burner scene is highly influenced by the party aspect of Berlin... I see the biggest influences as the city's techno/party culture, the castle burn (which I have never been to, but my perception is that it's a fancy expensive burner party weekend aka 'not for me',) and people who have the resources to have been to the big burn in Nevada, sometimes multiple times. Also The Borderland, which I have also never been to ;) My biggest bias is that my first burns were Nowhere (Spain) and Burning Nest (which is in the UK) so I am always leaning towards bring more of the small, heartfelt art camp vibe... and while the burn seemed 'incident free' I think there is a lot of uphill challenge and behind the scenes work to bring an actualised theme camp to its full potential.

To bring up a difficult subject again... art grants. I would love to see more micro art grants (100-150euros) given in full to small interactive art projects. Things like the radio station or interactive sculptures would have been really nice to encounter, and I think would inspire more people to build and co-create. There's no perfect way to handle grants and each burn does it differently, but this is where the identity of KB could really start to emerge. (I would also LOVE to see some cultural development aspect added to art grants like nest/nowhere who specifically have grants directed towards social issues and sustainability.... )

I would love to see a longer event, but longer than 7 days is not necessary IMO. I'm not sure we have the site for it yet.

I would love to see more theme camps, more small art, more participation... and stronger theme camp identities, and that will draw in the right crowd of people, and activate people to become burners who hold the principles closer in mind.


RMD Thu 26 Aug 2021 10:14AM

Take my view with a grain of virginity:
1) I'd be very keen to have more "obligations" to contribute/participate, in order to counteract the "consumerist" attitude
I wouldn't find it too radical to suggest that ALL freecampers should be required to do orga shifts or dreams or something else.
And likewise for camps (not that I've seen any boring camps!)
[guess this is essentially directed tickets?]

2) [most likely stupid idea but] Another way to increase involvement during the event could be to have people (e.g.: rangers) to go around camps, talk about what's needed, recruit some volunteers on the spot, etc.
This would involve communication between those who spot issues and the intermediaries - like a needs board of sorts - in exchange for "get out of spanking free" cards or so
Another version would be "production meetings" with all camps/freecamper reps also during the event [could also increase the visibility of the orga work needed and a bit more contagious appreciation]

3) More rituals. The effigy thing was the only point where everyone got together and a sense of common narrative between all camps was attempted - so more of that helps? (of course, it should not be boring and too much, etc)

(Also always great opportunities to "demand" participation from camps/freecampers to contribute something to the ceremony)

I'd prefer if we don't have to cause a major fire hazard just for a chance of bringing people together, but whatever.

4) "Banning" people from flying in probably would improve everything as well.

Inclusion arguments are bullshit as flying by itself is exclusionary - and it is a climate crisis we're in, so essentially you're excluding the next people to be killed by wildfires, floods, etc. Furthermore, this HAS to be a "slow" event in order for it to function as intended. Flying in, consuming and flying out is exactly the type of attitude that doesn't make sense here.

Of course, "how" you ban people from flying is a bit of an illusion (much like trying to control freecampers and so on), but it would already make a difference just by stating it - as well as during ticket buying having fun stuff like a dropdown choice of transport and then being refused if you choose flying (or failing questions regarding to the 11 principles), etc.


CJ Yetman Thu 26 Aug 2021 11:21AM

I think there's a misperception that many to all of these problems are related to virgins, free campers, and other people who are not well educated on the principles etc. While that may be the case to some degree, I don't believe that's the driving force behind all the terrible behavior and anti-social stuff we saw at KB this year. Massive LNT problems, graffiti all over the place, pervasive Korg/"production"-will-take-care-of-it attitudes, etc... many of this was coming from veteran burners, veteran KB-ers, people who damn well know the principles and their meaning, but apparently just don't give a shit.


Lise Thu 26 Aug 2021 2:52PM

Yes to educational approaches for virgins! Speaking from the perspective of a virgin: It's easy to find and read the principles, but it took a LOT of reading on Talk to figure out how they are translated into action. Especially for virgins who self-discover (to use Kitt's words) rather than being introduced to KB by a mentor friend, a "How to burn"/"KB 101" would be very helpful to understand not only how to behave but also how to become more involved.

Edit to add two more thoughts:

1) If it was even clearer for first-timers who are unfamiliar with the principles and the "How to burn" that KB requires actual work before, during and after (by translating the principles into blunt "what it actually means" words), that might already help with healthy self-selection?

For example, when buying the ticket, instead of general terms and conditions, you would have to accept "I have read and understood that I will help build the whole thing with my own hands, that I will have to think of and bring everything that I need to survive from food to extension cords, that I will clean festival toilets, and that I will pick up and collect every scrap of waste and take it with me when leaving".

2) The sooner virgins and people who are not part of an established camp get an "onboarding" and come into the process, the more time to learn and get familiar and get engaged (meaning they shouldn't get tickets late in the process when preparations are already in full swing)

And a question: I was also baffled by several "Just learned about this event, now on a plane to Germany" posts on fb in the days before KB. I also remember that many people flew from Berlin to Capetown and back within a week for Africa Burn in 2019. I would also love to participate in a different burn at some point which would involve traveling and I don't categorically blame people for flying, but it just seems so incompatible with LPT efforts in this context. How do you deal with this issue in the burner community?


Vlad Thu 26 Aug 2021 5:03PM

Once I had a very interesting conversation: our kitchen and fridge were adjustement to the jam tent. I was on a way to playa and tried to grab a drink from the fridge. In this very moment a guy came buy, pushed an empty beer bottle into my hand and said: "I would like a refill". after that we had a very long and beautiful conversation cause I really wanted to know how refill system is organized at kiez burn. Sometimes ppl also were helping themselves with drinks, god I dont want to know what was happening when I was not around. The same happened with the food as well. MOOP was a similar experience to Underworld on a smaller scale of course, Sunday night i gathered quite a lot of little shitty pieces of plastic from cigarete and other packages all around our tent.

I guess the only way to fix it is to advertise in big letters during the ticket sales:

At this event there is no food, no drinks, no music, no drugs, no art, no fun unless you bring it with you, you can't buy or sell anything!

This might stop quite some ppl from buying a random ticket.

But on the other hand we all were there, try to get a drink in burning man if you are on the other side of the playa from your base and you dont know anybody here, this is where ppl really learn to beg like the need it.

Concerning event growth, probably the best example is burning man itself, or maybe borderland. As far as I can feel burning events experience a change of generations with all good and bad things coming with it. And communication is a key to making burners understand it. And it mght be not enough just to have 10 principles, cause in reality they are very fuzzy and dont really explain the situation.

It is an interesting idea with locking the gates on wednesday, but I am not sure a very practical one, ppl might be late for some many reasons (like bahn strike this year, or work, or family) nevertheless they can still be able to contribute.

Tickets in my opinion should be distributed through camps (maybe at least 50%) and the rest in a weighted lottery, were ppl promising bring art-workshops etc have a higher probabilty to win.


Kaliope Tue 7 Sep 2021 11:18AM

Did you already see this thread? We had a really interesting discussion (and advice process + decision) about this last time as well :) @Saskia (The Fuzzy Facilitator) @Kris @CJ Yetman @Vlad @Lise @RMD @Kitt


Kris Wed 25 Aug 2021 12:38PM

If you want to improve diversity through sales you'd have to do some sort of affirmative action, staying with first come first served obviously won't improve that. I'd very much support such initiatives, but it's not related to this.

Also note that I said an allotment, not every ticket.


Kitt Wed 25 Aug 2021 12:06PM

Hiya, while some of this is interesting, I am kind of opposed to the replicating ticket situation... while I think established theme camps specifically could almost always use more directed ticket access (this IMO drives participation and co-creation) this would only drive the burn to become culturally more monolithic and same-same... I think we should ponder how to increase the diversity of burners... and I think that takes education and events away from the core burn. I would also not know how to implement this replicating ticket situation. People cannot be entirely self reliant if they rely on a 'who they know' situation to get a ticket.


Kris Thu 26 Aug 2021 10:23PM

I don't know, most people who can afford the trip could probably also afford a 100 eur to realize some art. I'd much rather fund big things, seeing people do impressive things makes me aspire to do similar things (and apply for that serious art grant). I went to Nest once and was really impressed with what some of the camps were putting up for such a small event, the reason of which I guess is because the same projects go to Nowhere later. Borderland only does this dreams platform thing, and is really not getting much art at the event because only has these small sums (and often the dream can be a tent for a camp, or supplies for a workshop). Burning Man funds big things, and those artists often sell the art later to be permanently displayed somewhere, which I assume BMORG gets a piece of to keep funding artists.

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