What is it about Earthsong Camps that have people flocking back every year?
You know you’re nearly at the Earthsong field when you start to spot the road-signs saying “SLOW – Fairies Crossing.” That’s the bit when your heart throws off its chains and you begin to inhale properly again.
Earthsong Camps came into being in 2007, andthis year three separate camps will run between May and late July at venues in Tipperary and Clare. They were the dreamchild of renowned drum teacher and community musician John Bowker, with the aim of creating a magical healing space that offers an escape from life in the “system”. The camps offer a place of safety for people to come and be themselves – “a nature reserve for human beings,” as Bowker calls it.
What this looks like on the ground is a page from a kid’s storybook – a field with circles of tents, a forest, giant-sized dream-catchers swaying in the breeze, a café where the seats are bales of straw and at the centre of it all a grand Big Top which serves as the meeting place for all sorts of important events. A sign on the fence reads: “This field may contain nuts,” and for anyone who ever felt at odds with “normal” life, the place is like home.
All of the Earthsong Camps are strictly drug and alcohol free, which is a rarity even among eco-friendly festivals. No electronics are allowed on camp, and phones can only be used offsite. The idea is for everyone to “be here now” – to be properly available to connect with yourself and others and not to miss your own experience. Rather than a hardship, the rules are accepted more like a gift – a rare escape from the pull of the digital world. All music onsite is created by the campers – an empowering experience for anyone who has previously only connected with music as a passive listener.
The safety of this world without alcohol and drugs makes Earthsong an especially appealing place to bring children and teenagers. For little ones, their days at camp offer them something most have never experienced before – the freedom to explore nature, people, creativity and a model of human relationships that they may never see any other time. To see a man hug another man and hold him while he cries, to cook on an open fire, to sit in the middle while around them a bunch of unconnected grown-ups learn to sing a harmony so beautiful it would make an angel blush. After dinner, a human train travels around the camping circles to collect the little ones for their bedtime story, read by gentle and funny grown-ups with space in their hearts for other people’s kids. And it makes you happy-sad to see them skipping away and you ask yourself: “What could it be like, if life was like this all the time?”
For kids and teenagers growing up around the Earthsong ethos, you can sense the possibility that they will learn how to heal themselves regardless of what life brings their way. Over the years, John Bowker has done powerful work with teenagers and this is one of the strongest currents flowing through the Earthsong week. Teens have the possibility of camping in their own circle, and it is a sight to behold to see them devour the freedom and responsibility their independence brings. Dedicated teen-workers are there for guidance and support, and a full timetable of workshops are on offer in music, movement and the healing arts.
The workshops for all age groups are at the heart of the camp, and once the ticket price is paid, access to every class is free. There are numerous workshops on offer, including dance, drum, family constellations, astrology, creative writing, laughter yoga, conflict resolution and drama. The workshops range from raucous fun to deep personal development classes. Depending on what you bring with you (inside) when you get there, you will probably find the medicine you need.
This is part of the magic of Earthsong – that everyone’s experience is completely individual. For some people, it is a week of pure fun, and for others, a time of profound healing. Earthsong offers a massive opportunity for personal development work, with so many workshops available and the likelihood that you will meet a kind healer on your way to the compost loo, who is happy to offer you time and support. For many, this annual visit to a simple field in the countryside has become their yearly chance to recalibrate their lives – to remind themselves of who they really are and how they want their lives to be. There can be sadness for what has been lost, and then the celebration of discovering yourself again.
Behind it all, Bowker and a team of dedicated coordinators keep all the systems running smoothly, so it seems like this village in a field was always there. They come on weeks before and build it all – café, crèche, playground, cabaret, hot showers, sauna, and beautiful cosy venues to run workshops in. And when it is over, they restore the field to its pristine state, removing every last trace of the settlement that was there. Then the cows come in and graze the field again, until the next year.
And when you go home, when you step back through the wardrobe and they’ve hardly noticed you were gone. You might start to tell them a thing or two about it until you realise there’s no point, they won’t believe a word of it, unless you take them back next time and they see it for themselves.
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For booking information on the 3 camps, visit www.earthsong.ie
Ann Hill is a writer and alternative business coach. www.yourlifeswork.ie