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|A regional burn event in Europe|
|Location:||Monegros Desert, Monegros, Aragon, Spain|
|Type of event:||Arts, Music, Costumes, Participation. Inspired by the Burning Man Festival.|
|Most recent event:||9–14 July 2019|
Nowhere is a Burning Man regional event in Spain, the biggest such regional event in Europe. It began in 2004 and is held annually in July in the Monegros Desert, located in Aragon in north-eastern Spain.
Nowhere, like any Burning Man event, differs drastically from a music festival. Participation is the key element of the event and every attendant is expected to be involved in some way. Every task ranging from setup over maintaining the gate and perimeter up to first aid are volunteer based. There is no hired workforce aside from transport and logistics. Further, there are no scheduled performers or stages. Participants pay everything they contribute out of their own pocket as there is a strict rule of non commerce.
Similarities and differences to Burning Man
Nowhere's size, cultural background and geographical location produces quite a different event from Burning Man. Given it is Europe's biggest burn event it attracts a very international crowd.
Unlike Burning Man, Nowhere does not include fire as a key feature of the event. Due to the dry area, which is on wildfire alert during the summer, it is strictly forbidden to have any kind open fire, therefore no art is set on fire. Fire spinning is restricted to a controlled area with fire marshals on duty. The burning of an effigy happened only once in 2016 after coming to an agreement with the local authorities. Nowhere uses a Lighthouse as their effigy and a Compass as its logo.
Like Burning Man, Nowhere is created solely by the participants and driven by theme camps which are called Barrios. During the last incarnations Nowhere used a layout that reassembled a compass. This leads to an arrangement of the Barrios in a circle-like shape, in opposition to Burning Man's half round layout. Nowhere further divides the camps into four distinct sound zones reading from the blue zone which has a no sound policy to the red zone which hosts the dance camps. The same goes for the free camping areas. There is no open space or deep playa at Nowhere.
Art is the core of any burn event and Nowhere do not differ from this. Despite this large, scale artworks in the dimension of Burning Man are rare at Nowhere. This is in part due to the strict non burning policy. The logistics of transport, setup, takedown and removal are more challenging to the participants because of this. Nowhere gives art grants for artists up to €3000. Artworks that are meant to be built on the playa require prior registration.
The event has a central shade structure known as Middle of Nowhere (MoN). It is a public space for relaxing, dancing, workshops and socializing. In comparison with Burning Man there is no coffee sold there and commerce is limited to ice only. Other public infrastructure includes: NoInfo which serves as the general point of information, La Cantina which offers volunteers a free meal and Werkhaus, which sets up and keeps the public infrastructure intact.
Until 2017 Nowhere provided a special setup to avoid or limit the use of chemical toilets called Long Drops. These were deep drilled holes which were covered by an open air toilet seat. Participants covered their faeces in the hole with some loose soil after using the long drops. These units were serviced by volunteers. As the event has grown the use of the long drops declined. Nowhere has since experimented with other alternative ways of human waste management. The volunteers have taken over the servicing of the chemical toilets and provide a very clean toilet setup compared to most other events.
The landscape in the region of Monegros near Zaragoza is very dry and has a desert-like feel. Some canyons around Nowhere resemble the desert in Nevada. There is a lot of agriculture nearby, but it depends heavily on a well-developed irrigation system with water from the Pyrenees.
The roots of Nowhere date back to 2002 when UK burners started to organize a decompression party in London. Nowhere began in 2004, in Bardenas Reales, and has roughly doubled in size each year, to the current size of around 4000 participants in 2018. Nowhere has been held in several different locations in the Navarra and Aragon regions of Spain. The current location is near Sariñena in the Province of Huesca.
Nowhere is built on the following key principles, inspired by Burning Man, however they have been adapted and re-edited in an inverted order:
- Self-expression - The freedom to be yourself: Be the person you are. Be the person you want to be. We respect and value you, and expect the same from you. You have the freedom to be yourself. Become who you are.
- Self-reliance - You are responsible for you, mentally and physically: From food and water to a hug or quiet, you need to take care of yourself in Nowhere’s challenging environment. Give yourself what you need – and ask others for help when you need it.
- No commerce - Forget about money – there’s nothing to buy: By removing commerce from our community, we create co-operation and participation. We plan ahead and work together. We live without money to remind us of what’s really important.
- Leave no trace - From dust to dust, we leave only footprints: We care for the environment, and we take care of our home. We clean up after ourselves; we leave nothing behind; we leave no trace we were there. From dust to dust, we leave only footprints.
- Participation Get involved – Nowhere is what we make it: The more you do, the more you get back. When you join others in play and in work, you are part of Nowhere. Your contribution is more valuable than you realise.
- Inclusion - Everyone is welcome to be a Nobody: We welcome everyone for their unique contribution to our community. Include others as you want to be included, with respect, consideration and tolerance.
- Gifting - We give our time, effort and gifts freely: We give to help others and because it makes us feel good. From a cold beer to digging out a tent pole to a small badge, our gifts are from our heart.
- Co-operation - Together we are stronger: From how we work together to how we communicate, co-operation is at Nowhere’s core. If we can make life easier, we will. If we can make life better, we will. Together we are stronger.
- Community - A family of individuals, we look after each other. A diverse group of separate self-reliant beings, we are united in our need to be part of something larger than ourselves. Community, others, self – united by tolerance and joy.
- Immediacy - Make now count: Be now here, be nowhere. Make now count. All this will soon be gone, so enjoy now. Experience, participate, be. This is all there is, so enjoy it!"
A Barrio is a group of people who camp together, have a common infrastructure (kitchen, shade structure etc.) and typically provide a certain service or attraction for the other participants. Barrios have to register with the event and get a placement regarding their size and sound zone preferences.
Barrios are a vital part of Nowhere and in 2018 the event hosted about 50 Barrios ranging from large sound camps to meditation camps. There are special Barrios like Werkhaus, which houses core event volunteers. They range widely in size from less than ten to over one hundred members. Due to the international nature of the event, Barrios can take on a national character, with a majority of members from a certain country. Other Barrios are very international in their demography. Some Barrios have a history of 10 or more years of contributing to the event.
Each year, Norg—Nowhere board of organizers—awards the Prize of "Best Barrio of the Playa", based on various criteria as general look, respect of the principles, animations, communication with the other Barrios and installations provided. In 2017 and 2018, Ran'Dome, a Belgian-French camp with food, drinks and loud sound as main themes (as well as a certain fetishism around randomness and dices), received the prize.
Aside from the Barrios there are many zones for independent campers that are not affiliated with a Barrio, called free camps. Most participants stay there. They are often called Freecampers. Some Freecampers build their own shade structures and artworks in these zones. Others organize public spaces within the free camping areas. One of the most famous is Middle of Frickin Freecamp (MOFF). MOFF offers the possibility to hold gatherings and workshops and has become a staple at Nowhere.
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