AfterBurn report: MicroBurn 2018
13th – 16th September 2018
as submitted to Burning Man Org
Introduction and Event Information
MicroBurn 2018 was our fifth annual event, and again it took place at a family run Eco Farm in Powys, mid Wales. Based on feedback from the 2017 event, we increased the duration from three to four days, and, in keeping with our name, we chose not to increase in size, with the same number of memberships, about 175, available as the previous year. MicroBurn’s strength is its strong sense of community, and remaining at this size allows relationships and collaborations to grow year on year. Participants came from across the UK, with a strong showing of burners from outside of the London burner hub, and there were even a small number of participants who travelled from overseas to join us.
In the run up to MicroBurn 2018 the Core Team worked hard to formalise the MicroBurn organisation, and on the 11th of July 2018 MicroBurn was incorporated as a Private Limited Company. Two of the core team are Directors, and a further two are members of the Board. As well as providing some legal protection for our core organisers, this move puts us in good stead to build on in future years.
MicroBurn is run by around twenty Leads, covering all areas, and all planning is done on Slack and via online meetings, as we are spread over the UK, and sometimes even further afield. We have a strong participation ethos; a burn this size needs a high proportion of volunteers and everyone is encouraged to do their bit. Twenty volunteers came up to three days early for Set Up, and over the four days of the event everyone did an average of about 1.5 volunteer shifts each.
Our first planning meeting happened in January 2018, memberships went on sale in early June, and the event happened in September. After the event, both participants and Leads were surveyed to get their feedback in order to start to prepare plans for 2019.
MicroBurn 2018 was a very successful event, with a lot of happy participants who enjoyed the wide range of activities on offer. We were again mostly fortunate with the weather (not guaranteed in Wales in September!) and it was a very satisfying conclusion to months of careful planning to see a sunny, colourful field of burners enjoying themselves, being creative and looking after each other.
In 2018 we changed name of “tickets” to “memberships” to encourage participants to feel less like they were buying a ticket to a weekend of entertainment, and more like they were joining, and participating in, a community event.
Up until this year tickets have automatically included inclusion in the Kitchen Project, but for the first time in 2018 event memberships and Kitchen memberships were separated with the benefits of giving participants more flexibility and reducing the number of people Kitchen were catering for. Instead of catering for 175 people, this year Kitchen catered for 130, which is more manageable.
In total, 172 memberships were purchased, comprising:
172 full adult memberships (including 11 Low Income)
3 child memberships
2 free carer memberships
As MicroBurn is situated on a farm and we have a good relationship with owners. They, and their volunteers, who live and work on the farm, are very welcome to join in our event. This year five farm volunteers claimed wristbands at Gate.
We also sold 50 vehicle permits in an attempt to limit the number of vehicles onsite, as there is very limited space for parking and the previous year there had been issues with cars getting stuck in muddy fields and people being unable to leave because of double parking. In the end this proved unnecessary as the good weather meant that the ground was solid underfoot and we were able to use an extra field on site for parking, but we will likely keep the vehicle permit process in place for next year.
Ticket sales, including parking permits, additional donations and memberships of the kitchen project, generated £14,213. The total amount of money spent was £12,660, with £2,585 of that being spent on food, the breakdown of other costs is shown below.
What Happened at the Event?
The total number of participants at MicroBurn is comparable to that of the biggest camps at a big burn, so it has always felt, and operated, more like one large themecamp than a burn with lots of camps. That said, increasingly groups of participants are wanting to bring their own structures – or adopt one of the existing yurts on site – and share their creative spaces with everyone else. This is something we want to encourage in future years as it brings variety and creativity and enhances the whole experience. 2018’s micro camps were:
Cwtch bell tent
Beats, Brews and Blankies
We also always have a bar, The Legless Arms, providing a variety of the usual, and less usual, drinks to thirsty burners.
MicroBurn’s diminutive size is reflected in its art. This isn’t the burn for colossal works of art, but the quantity and quality of art is increasing year on year. In 2018 Art Grants, which also cover performance and decor, were awarded for the following projects:
Pimping the Portaloos
Geometric Abstract Face
Beats, Brews and Blankies decor
Decor for Cwtch bell tent
Rainbow Sheep Effigy
The Portaloo Pimping was particularly popular, with each of our half dozen or so portaloos decorated from top to bottom in a different theme, and some participants made a special effort to visit all of them over the weekend. There are plans for next year to encourage artists to adopt a portaloo each, to encourage more people to get involved in creating art and decorating spaces at MicroBurn.
The other art work of note this year was the Rainbow Sheep Effigy, by far our most ambitious effigy project to date, and widely appreciated and admired.
About 40 workshops, entertainments and other delights were scheduled in advance to happen, with many more being added to the schedule during the event. They ranged from silk painting to hill walking, live music to bread baking, oil wrestling to a men’s circle, and a wide variety of other events. On the Saturday night most participants packed into the Chapel for the famous MicroBurn Cabaret, showcasing the best – and strangest – of MicroBurn’s creative talents.
Participant safety and wellbeing are a priority at MicroBurn, and much thought and effort is put into keeping everyone safe and well.
For the first time this year, MicroBurn contracted the services of a trained medic to be present and provide care to participants as required. The cost was considered well worth it for the wellbeing of participants and peace of mind of organisers. MicroBurn isn’t as remote as some other burns, but it is still very rural and a good drive from the nearest medical care. Despite there, thankfully, not being a great demand for his services, (and no reported major injuries or illnesses) we will definitely be engaging a medic again next year.
MicroBurn’s Rainbow Rangers looked out for us all throughout the event. Two training sessions were held, and the Rainbow Ranger rota times expanded, compared to the previous year, to cover 20 hours a day. Between 6am and 10am, when typically almost everyone is asleep and nothing happens, the Event Lead on duty (a 24 hour role) was on call should a sober, responsible person have been needed. No major safety incidents were reported during this year’s event.
Welfare Enough again provided Welfare support for participants at MicroBurn. Welfare was based in a quiet yurt and was open 24/7 to participants. Training was provided at the start of the event to new Welfare volunteers.
Effigy and Temple Burns
We have a dedicated Fire Safety Lead, as well as our Health and Safety Lead, who organised all fire safety equipment, liaised the Effigy and Temple build teams, and, for the first time, coordinated a team of fire marshals for the two Burns.
All in all, MicroBurn 2018 was a very successful event, thanks to the huge amount of preparation and work poured into the event by everyone involved. Plans for the 2019 edition are already underway, and we intend to return again to the same venue. Due to our commitment not to grow the event in size, for the foreseeable future, the ongoing challenge is finding other ways in which we can grow and develop and challenge ourselves. There are certainly some processes that can be further improved, such ticket scanning at Gate, and Kitchen’s continual challenge of feeding so many people on a budget, but going forward we will also particularly focus on expanding the quality and breadth of art at MicroBurn.