Burning Man and Turnkey Culture

After the 2014 Burning Man event, turnkey (a.k.a. “plug and play”, a.k.a. concierge) camping in Black Rock City rightfully became a hot-button issue in our community. We share the concerns that turnkey camping, left unchecked, could undermine Burning Man’s principles, and we’ve taken measures to ensure that doesn’t happen.

In her keynote address at the 2015 Burning Man Global Leadership Conference, Burning Man CEO Marian Goodell put it plainly: “We are absolutely committed to ceasing the plug and play culture.”

We are doing this in three ways:

  1. All theme camps must go through the same process and meet the same standard (including being interactive, open to all citizens of Black Rock City, successfully Leaving No Trace, etc.) to be considered for placement.
  2. Our updated Outside Services (OSS) contracts make it extraordinarily difficult for concierge service operators and potential organizers of turnkey camps to order necessary equipment to successfully build a turnkey camp without showing up on our radar.
  3. A new ‘Statement of Values’ on gifting has been developed to guide our actions and relationships with individuals and groups that provide financial and other forms of support to the nonprofit Burning Man Project.


Playa Conditions

It’s definitely that time of year, when a boy’s thoughts turn to dust and fire and questions begin forming in his mind. I don’t mean the obvious ones, which have obvious answers, such as: “Will it be hot?” Yes. “Will it be dusty?” Yes. “Will there be fire?” Yes. “Will there be old naked dudes hugging you?” Yes.
No I mean the important question. You know the one I mean. Don’t be shy. You can do it….”What will the playa surface be like this year?”

That’s the one! And the news is good so far. Pictures and reports coming out of Juplaya show and tell of a fairly hard surface with very few crumbly bits. Here are some beautiful pictures from Jessica Stanell, taken over the weekend of the 4th of July, that illustrate it well. It’s looking like it’s going to be a great year for biking, at least as far as the surface goes!Update: Some new pictures from Jovankat casts serious doubt on my theory. Album of very soft-looking playa during Juplaya here.





Beautiful pics…can’t wait!

Do you know who took these photos? I’d love to use them but won’t before I have permission!

Yep, it’s in the post. Jessica Stanell. I don’t know her, but saw them and contacted her on Facebook to ask permission, since they were posted in a private group.

More Butts, Fewer Seats! (x-post)

traffic jam

Back when Black Rock City’s population would barely overwhelm an In ‘n’ Out drive-thru, let alone the two-lane highways leading to the Black Rock Desert, the Burning Man Rideshare board was just a handy way for people to catch a ride to the playa.

But with our burgeoning population — and hopes of burgeoning it yet more — ridesharing has become a necessity to ensure the long-term survival of the Burning Man event in Black Rock City (we say “in Black Rock City” because there are 60+ Burning Man events around the world … but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here). The environmental impact aside, the reality is our favorite two-laners to nowhere just can’t take the traffic. So the Rideshare board? Very important.

The board was getting seriously long in the tooth and creaky at the knees, so we sent in our crack tech team to beef, clean, and pretty it up, and then add flight sharing into the Black Rock City Airport (or any other airport for that matter … but there we go getting ahead of ourselves again) and other cool features to help you find the ideal seat for your butt.


OK so here’s the really cool part: we’re making our Rideshare board available to any Burning Man Regional event to manage their own carpooling efforts. That’s right, we’re taking our sustainability efforts global. Any of the 60+ Burning Man Regional events around the world will be able to facilitate carpooling and flight-sharing using this system (whether they do or not is up to them).

Wait, flight-sharing what? Yes, that’s right. If you’ve got an extra seat to share on your plane, we got that covered too — whichever airport you’re using.

Cool huh? OK so say it with us: More Butts, Fewer Seats!

Now … get in there, and find your ride.


In Conclusion

There is a said about the 2015 Spring Retreat and the general consensus is that it was a success. It was a success for the right reasons. It was a success because every single soul that went help make it what it was. This was a true community effort. We will wait and see what next year brings because people asked for it again. Groundswell was an excellent host and the perfect space for us.

Financially we did not bring in as much as we hoped, but it was not about making money. The funds from the event will go back to you: the community anyway. No one was expected to make money though we ended up paying some people for their volunteer work.

  • $8345.00 Revenue from Ticket Sales
  • $7211.00 Expenses*
  • $1133.00 For Queer Burner PR / Projects / Community Efforts*
    (*final numbers as of 6/3/2015 – updated)

Will be meeting with Kyle on 6/4 from Groundswell to talk a little about the past and future. Updates to come.


Spring Retreat Trip Report

On May 22nd through May 25th, Memorial Day Weekend, a group of leaders who are part of the Quire / QBLN got together and created what could be our first major event called Spring Retreat: A Queer Burner Camp out. It was held at the Groundswell Institute in Mendocino county 3 hours drive north of San Francisco.

Production Team:
– Toaster from QB & Sun Guardians
– Shane Alan from Glamcocks
– Foxy from Camp Beaverton
– Indigo from AstroPups
– DJ Justime (Music Dir. from Comfort & Joy
Talent & Volunteers:
– DJ’s: M*J*R, Gehno Avianche Sanchez and Collin Bass
– Supreme Volunteers: Spencer, Shaul and more!
– Our amazing Queer Rangers
…and who helped make it real
– Glamcocks for their amazing community effort
– Glamcocks for buying out the bar on Saturday
– BAAAHS & Steve for lighting and energy
– Groundswell for providing the best space possible!!!!

Attendance and Pass Sales

Passes went on sale March15th with a strong showing in the beginning but they slowed down until the end when there was a sudden up-turn. The land could safely hold 120 people but we capped at 90 people which turned out to be a very good number for our first year out. See the rest of the post here… link

Spring Break: Announce 2 : 1 Week Out

If you are new to GroundSwell then there are a lot of things you should absolutely know before you go out there. Since this is a 10 Principles based event, there is no difference between what will happen at this event than any of the others of its kind. Radical Self Reliance means self preservation.

GroundSwellHere is a quick re-cap

  • 18+ Event (MUST carry ID)
  • No Pets and No Minors…
  • Bring Mosquito Spray
  • Bring Sun Block
  • Be careful with Ticks
  • Bring bathing supplies
  • ….including a towel

If you have not completed the survey for special needs or reserved your place for a “pay at the gate” pass please use the survey form. LINK

Transportation to the Event

One of the biggest topics of the week! Many of the respondents who answered the survey are saying they need rides out to GroundSwell. But a lot said they have space to share in their cars. It’s at 18500 Highway 128, Yorkville, CA 95454 .. it is a 3 hour drive from the city on a normal day. Google Maps Link

Driving up on your own?

BE SAFE. The road is multi lane highway the first 2/3 of the day but the last 1/3rd is two lanes and runs through the hills. There are deer on the road.. better yet there are wineries along the way too. But the land opens to us on Friday May 22nd at Noon and Dinner will be served at 7!!!

  • Parking: there are designated areas to park unless you are car-camping. There will be people to help direct you on your arrival

When you arrive:

Look for a sign that says GroundSwell on the west side of the road and pull into that driveway. Look for a sign that will merge you down that says “CAMP” and you will come to a 8.5′ wide bridge crossing the creek that will take you deeper into the property.

  • drive down into the camp to a clearing where check in will be set up next to the dining hall and the safety building: you will check in there.
  • At check in you will present you valid ID, sign the safety waiver, choose your cabin or camping spot, and hopefully get all that done while it is still daylight.

Getting there late? Park in a safe place, NOT BLOCKING ANY LANES OR FIRE LANES, and finish your check-in in the morning. BE SAFE and have fun.

Spring Break: 2 weeks out announce

The event is the first of it’s kind that is a 10 Principle based event and it is being promoted to LGBTQ++ participants and our allies. The beauty of Groundswell is unparalleled.

kmarling_022215-5353-1024x643We are just a couple weeks out from the Memorial Day Weekend when Spring Break takes flight (May 22nd to the 25th). Your weekend will be amazing and to make it as comfortable as possible there are some things we need from you and you need to know!!!

We have a survey asking about your needs! Take the Survey: LINK
The land is in the California wild: there are things below to know: READ ON

– Hey! You could die out there!!!!!!! So…
What to bring with you for GroundSwell on Memorial Day Weekend
Bring Mosquito Spray / Repellent!
It’s tick season!!! Be prepared!!!!
Staying in a cabin? Bring bedding / sleeping bags, pillows.
Staying in your own tent? Bring what you need… it’s camping.
The cabins have about 8 beds each, bunk beds with a single mattress in each one.

– Food Scenario
If you buy a weekend pass all your meals are included
If you have special food needs you should have completed the survey already
(Link to survey: LINK)
If you buy a day pass, it includes 1 meal.

– Is it BYOB or can I buy booze there?
We recommend you BYOB if you can.
We will have a cache of whiskey and vodka you can get with a donation.
There is a market we recommend on Booneville which is 5 miles away.

– Volunteering
This is a 10 Principles event. Everyone is expected to help in some way
Volunteer opportunities will be listed at the gate; you can request in advance too
We need cooks, dishwashers, moop patrol, bartenders and decorators
… security and more…

– Hours of Operation
Events opens Friday, May 22 @ noon
All attendees will have to sign a waiver at check in
Please choose at least one way to volunteer on the shift board
Sign up for workshops at check in or not… make the weekend yours
the event closes Monday, May 25th @ noon

– Entertainment
There is a lot organized for the weekend: parties and workshops
The land has a lot to offer like swimming, hiking, sun tanning, exploration and creativity

Last minute tips and what to know…
– This is a 10 Principle based event – all 10
– This is not a plug and play weekend… we all do to make it what we want

ON-LINE TICKET SALES will end on May 22nd, but participants are encouraged to buy early. Cabins are first come / first serve and they are going fast… seeya in the woods!!!!

Wait? Then what? Can we buy tickets at the gate?
– Yes you can: your purchase at presale will help us out a lot with budget and planning. We really want to know who and how many are coming. You can reserve your place with a promise to pay using the registration form.
– Please bring exact change for the gate – yes, cash or money order please.

2015 Burning Man: Global Leadership Conference

The Burning Man Global Leadership Conference happened again this year and Toaster went representing QueerBurners.Com. There were a lot of other LGBTQ++ burners there working the event as well as participating.

Toaster, Jim Taflinger the Georgia Regional, and Bobby (aka Poohbear) from the New York Community
Toaster, Jim Taflinger the Georgia Regional, and Bobby (aka Poohbear) from the New York Community

The 9th Annual Global Leadership Conference runs Thursday, April 9th through Sunday, April 12th, 2015. Each day will be action-packed with incredible workshops, presentations, and fun gatherings. The 2015 Burning Man Global Leadership Conference will take place in the San Francisco Bay Area. The conference theme is “The Next Creative Renaissance: Buildin’ it up, Bustin’ it Out, and Bringin’ it Home” aimed at inspiring civic engagement through art and community. We want participants to return home full of ideas about how to make a meaningful impact in their hometowns, cities, and regions. Featured speakers and programming will address and explore activating and nurturing Burning Man culture and communities across the world.

– taken from the conference web site page

There were queer burner leaders in attendance, but only one wore the badge that said “QueerBurners.Com” LGBT Burners; that was your very own Toaster.


This was a weekend full of amazing dialog and communication building for the “Carnival of Mirrors” event, but the scope of the Leadership Conference is developing community and the Burning Man ideology (brand, projects and identity protection). One thing is definitely sure, what Burning Man IS has changed. The up and coming leaders (in the community, not necessarily employees) have changed.

Burning Man is a business and the many limbs of Burning Man are wrapping around themselves building a stronger core by collapsing those ancillary entities into the whole. In recent months: the Black Rock Arts Foundation and Burners Without Borders are now internal elements of the Burning Man Project instead of satellites. Those employees are now Burning Man employees and they now have the resources that Burning Man has developed as well as the influence.

Politics and Wrangling Not Your Thing?

This ‘thing’ has grown and is still growing. Burning Man is not just Burning Man (in the desert) anymore. It is a corporation that works hard to maintain it’s identity. It seems to work hard from being too mega and from being marginalized.

  1. It fights to maintain representation of the 10 Principles and the gray area surrounding them while increasing its ability to give the people who are a part of the culture a chance to really have a piece through community effort.
  2. It also fights to be seen as something more than a rave-like festival in the deep Nevada desert filled with cracked out naked hippies.

Burning Man is in that wide field in-between all that. While this is all an opinion being shared here as a participant, it became clear to me that some of the ugly parts of Burning Man are being matured away from by a generation that does not accept the snark, sexually aggressive, community destructive ideas. But at the same time while the community as a whole is growing into new shoes the struggle to really maintain the 10 Principles every day has also been a struggle.

10 Principles

See the 10 Principles here… CLICK. One of the questions that came up was: What is Radical Inclusion … Really? Here are two scenarios:

  • Creepy individual in camp stalking or pushing themselves on other members of the camp; does this person have the right to be a part of the camp under the Radical Inclusion umbrella or not? Most say no, but those that do not have to deal with the consequences say maybe or yes.
  • A camp of people with a certain “body type” or an “aesthetic” with an age limit or gender requirement is approached by someone that does not meet that standard; do they have the right to say no? Many would say no, but we have the right to choose who we camp with. The value of that individual is not known until we get to know that person.

Both these were discussed at the summit and in one case a unsolicited comment was made by one of the Gayborhood camps in a session of leaders. Most had never heard of the camp before, but as a member of the community behind this camp I was stunned and reeled.

the 11th Principle

There was a lot of talk about an eleventh principle. Seems like communities all over have developed something with the word “radical” put in front of it and found meaning with it. Among them, for a long while anyway, was the word Gratitude.

  • Radical Vulnerability: among leaders needing permission to look for a support team/system when working/building/launching events.

(See our post on this that started this conversation at the GLC: CLICK)


BMGLS2015 attendeesAll those leaders who went to this event (400 of them) should be bringing these tools back to their communities. It should be a trickle down idea and it will hopefully see some people be inspired and step up to help make leadership better. To all Queer Burners… I give this site to you. I present this whole project to you. Only you can take the baton and raise the bar for the future and yourselves and your communities.

Radical Vulnerability

This post was take from a discussion string on the Burning Man Global Leadership Summit with the written permission of the poster Gustav Josefsson and one of the respondents Jered Floyd. This was an important post of people in leadership roles:

Last year at the GLC I was at the Saturday night dinner, when me and the guy next to me from Oregon coined the term: “radical vulnerability”.

I’ve thought about this concept a lot, context of community leadership, and I would like to find a way to address this at the GLC. I think that vulnerability is a core ability in being able to lead a participatory community such as ours. More than that, I think it is going to be essential in the emergent network based leadership of the 21st century.

1423704446I’m not interested in just talking about this conceptually, but rather to get the opportunity to share the things that I am personally battling with other community leaders and hear and discuss their personal issues as leaders.

For you to understand more what I’m looking for, I’d like to share with you a list of issues that I’m personally battling with. These are just my list, and I’m sure that others will have different ones. In my mind, a session should be a facilitated session of sharing, with little set content. I’m just listing these now to give an idea of what kind of issues I’m trying to get at.

In my role as a community leader, I feel uncomfortable when:
* Everyone knows my name and I feel bad for not knowing theirs.
* People I don’t know come up to me to give me (what I feel is) undeserved credit, projecting the work of others on me.
* I hear of people in the community talking shit about me around my back.
* I have problem feeling connected during the event, because I’m worrying about the well-being of others.
* Some participants have a hard time approaching me, because they think i have better things to do than talk to hem.
* Sometimes I’m tired or lazy and I feel like I don’t contribute, so I try to hide it by pretending to be busy.
* I love being in the center of attention, but at the same time afraid of using my position as a leader to satisfy my ego.
* Someone puts me on a pedestal, making it hard for me to connect with them. When this illusion of a perfect me breaks, I’m met with disappointment.
* When I am stressed out and would need someone to calm me down, I tend to scare people off by seeming “busy”.
* Issues in my personal relationships affect my performance as a leader, and vice versa.

How does these things resonate with you? Would anyone else like to be a part of sharing thoughts and feelings on this? – Gustov

In my capacity with Queer Burners over the years I have tried to provide this service to my community with any fanfare. While I hope to do it and inspire others to help out, I found that I related a lot to the words he wrote and wanted to to share it with Queer Burners.

Boston Area Regional Contact and Queer Burner Jered Floyd [Facebook] posted his reply and I thought it was a really concise and thoughtful response:

The fact that you have these worries shows that, as a leader, your heart is in the right place! These are concerns common to leadership roles, and amplified in ones that are volunteer-oriented.

These feelings are normal and widespread across volunteer leadership, and dealing with them falls squarely in the category of reducing stress and preventing burnout. One key is identifying and following positive coping strategies for volunteerism-related stress, and avoiding negative ones.

1151004_10151507192887315_1201687110_nIt’d be great to have a “community leader support group” session, especially if we can find a facilitator who is trained in positive coping strategies – any volunteers? :-)

As a start, I’d say that you have excellent self-awareness. For each of your items, look if there’s a way to address it in a positive light. For example:
– People I don’t know come up to me to give me (what I feel is) undeserved credit, projecting the work of others on me.
+ I appreciate being recognized for helping catalyze our community, and have the opportunity to direct attention and appreciation to other makers and doers.

  • Some participants have a hard time approaching me, because they think i have better things to do than talk to them.
  • I work to be approachable and friendly, and talk to new people when I can.
  • Sometimes I’m tired or lazy and I feel like I don’t contribute, so I try to hide it by pretending to be busy.
  • I can’t do everything, and I should keep time for myself for things I want to do, or even nothing at all.

This isn’t about just feel-good affirmations, but rather recognizing your worries as valid, identifying the good things that you do that show why they aren’t serious, and choosing specific steps to take if you want to improve further.

Your list absolutely resonates with me; I’m happy to discuss this further, or at the GLC. – Jered

I have not met a single leader in this community that puts this kind of effort into various projects in order to receive personal recognition. The work I do is sincerely to make events, productions, spaces and more better for all participants. My sense is that it is much the same for all of you.

There was a lot more to the discussion than what was posted above including my own responses. Mostly personal accounts from other Regional Contacts best left there. But at a recent leadership gathering in San Francisco the subject came up in the conversation and there was interest so I thought I would share it here.