Every year there are more than 800 festivals in The Netherlands. This party training stimulated a diverse group of Dutch people to create their own self organized, donation based, unique way of interpreting collective happiness.
In the land where everyone has attended an orange event at least once, you may stumble upon superman or a mermaid on a Tuesday afternoon in the supermarket. I couldn't find a statistic of how many people wear customs or dress up every month in The Netherlands, but if this could be quantified, it may probably be considered as a typical Dutch habit. Maybe it is a way to deny the bad weather; the worse the weather becomes, the more theme parties you find.
In the middle of this habitat, five years ago a group of people in Amsterdam decided to organize the Oil Dumpling Circus (Circus Oliebol), a new years party where every attendee showed its circus super power while they ate typical Dutch oil dumplings, of course. The success of a theme party relies on the commitment of every participant to interpret the proposed alternative reality; the huge success of the Oil Dumpling Circus measured how good the group could function as a team. They were ready for new challenges.
Since then they called themselves "Konijn", or Rabbit. They organized many unconventional art festivals, transforming apartments, clubs, farms, a bunker and even an uninhabited island into an imaginative reality, which materializes for a few days. After five years, the latest three-day Konijn event revealed the maturity of this organization, whose members have all kinds of careers and life styles, from rocket science to wood experts. Some of the ingredients to prepare the Konijn magic potion are listed below.
The right place & concept
To find a place for partying can feel like an impossible mission or you can be very lucky. It requires a mysterious mystical touch, just like the one you need when you're searching for a new apartment. You need to connect with people, share the values of the community, convince them to believe in the event until finally someone is willing to share his/her space. This time the Konijntjes found a partially abandoned château in the countryside of France. The place inspired the event "The dragons trainers". It was a weekend to feel and act medieval.
To create a fantastic atmosphere requires podiums, secret stages, many artistic motifs, lights, colors, temporary showers, temporary compost toilets, cooking three complete meals for more than 200 people, assuring that the electricity will never ever fail, neither the sound system and gosh, even building a secret tree house. The logistic is always more work than you ever wondered. Every need has a team assigned, with captains and many volunteers. If you're an attendee, then you´re a collaborator, a piece of the machine that makes the event possible.
The last event mixed fantasy with reality when the main founders of the organization, so called mother and father konijn, decided to get married. The love ceremony expressed how they were related to each other and also how were they tiding knots between them and each of us. I lack words to express the special and unique individuals they are.
A festival promises that there is always something going on. "The Dragon trainers from the rabbit castle" was a three-day program full with artistic activities, where singer-songwriters, bands, DJs, choirs and a chamber ensemble musicalized the space. In the pictures you can appreciate how the collective happiness translated into group activities and unexpected emotive reactions. The closing show consisted in waking and walking a Chinese-style dragon, and later burning it while people danced around it.
Every attendee belonged to one of the ten teams that eventually pit their skills in a medieval arena. The teams had particular names like seductive sea lions, sarcastic spinsters and drunken donkeys. There were two workshops that trained you to catch dragons or bring spirit to your team by singing songs.
Eating together at long medieval tables at punctual hours is a continuous activity that needs constant attention. Fortunately enough volunteers sign up and a few very engaged people manage to make it happen. It is also the time of the day to tell news and ask for help.
I admit that medieval times and dragons are not part of my cultural background, therefore I found myself uninspired while trying to design the art of the book program. Finally I used this in my favor, imagining how two Mexican donkeys would react if they knew this event ever existed.
lt took five years of training and engagement from a group of more than 200 people to prepare the logistic super power and the wonderful ambience that the Drakentemmers van Lapin was. If you are curious about festivals where collective efforts are part of the norm (e.g. Fusion, Burning Man), maybe this is the right time to support local underground initiatives near you.