When I say FESTIVAL, I mean that its 2:30 am and you are lying outside in your sleeping bag among friends who have not showered in 3 days, in a forest of tents that spans as far as you can see and you are still listening to the rock music that is coming from 3 stages and is mixing together in your ears as if a DJ was mixing it for you. There is the smell of smoke from the campfires that are smoldering and your brain is fried from sampling all the art and the teaching and the food and the friendships and you wonder why you don't do this EVERY year as a spiritual rhythm and yearly pilgrimage.
Out of the festivals I know pretty well, and forgetting about the COMMERCIAL MONEY-DRIVEN festivals that do not get a mention in this post, here are my personal Top 10 Festivals that i wish i could pitch my tent at this summer.
1. Freakstock - Germany : August 4-7. A fantastic festival for 7000 people organized and well run by the Jesus Freaks. I was there last in 2002 and hope to be there for this one to help lead a roundtable among some of the emerging church leaders from various countries.
2. Greenbelt Festival UK - Aug 26-29 This is the big one for UK - the annual gathering point for emerging church and alt. worship and whatever they call it here. I should be there but am not sure what i am doing there yet. Last year we had Epicentre: Roundtable for the Global Emerging Church which sounds more impressive than it actually was, but we did have emerging church leaders from 15 countries so that wasn't bad. This year we are NOT doing it again, but are working towards something similar at Freakstock in Germany. However, much to do at Greenbelt. More than you can experience.
3. Slot - Poland - July 20-24
This festival is becoming a cult classic among emerging church festivals. It happens in a monastery and about 2500 young people turn up. Go for the ambience.
4. TOMFest - USA - Aug 4-7
Classic festival that Mikee has been running since early 90's. Big on The Other Music (hard-core) and lots of fun.
5. Cornerstone Festival - USA - June 30 - July 3
Very emerging church friendly. When we were there in 1999, the DJ's who were all camping out with us set up their own underground parties, but there is space now in the program. Goths have their own program and the Underground Railroad has their roundtable there each year.
6. Black Stump Festival - Australia - Sep 30 - Oct 3
5000 people. 20th years of doing this. Probably a long drive but worth it.
7. FreakFest - Czech Republic June 24-27
This will be their very first festival so we are all excited and hoping for a good birth. These young people are jumping out in punkish faith in Jesus. If you come, check out my good friend Sasa teaching "Hard Words – what’s with the bible?" and a Polish/Dutch rock band called Fruhstuk
9. Creation Festival UK - Aug 5-7
Skaters and Surfers like it there. FREE festival. Yes . . FREE
10. Encontro-Tribal Generation - Brazil - May 26-28
OK . . I am breaking my rules and maybe you cannot camp out here in your tent (i dont know). But its Rio. Rio De Janeiro. Its hundreds and hundreds of emerging church people from all over Latin America. Its organized by my good friend Olgavaro Bastos Jnr. And its on this weekend. That should be reason enough to buy a ticket and go to Rio, whether your baby smiles at your or not!
I regretfully cannot be there this year (again). Olgavaro - invite me again next year and lets see what happens!
Last year i only gave you the European festivals. This year I will be fair to the other continents. Kiwis will point out that the January Parachute Festival has come and gone already, and at 30,000 people, is a happening thang. And the Americans will mention PurpleDoor, and the Chileans will say Cristock in Santiago, and to be honest . . I know some of these people and get invitations to speak at many of these festivals . . . but I haven't been there and don't know if you can pitch a tent there and have the experience that i initially described.