Join our Campfire Beacons

'Beacons' seems to be universally loved as a suggested name (thanks Louise Scrivens!) and has been superbly conceptualised visually by our designer Ian Cuthbert.

The proposed Beacons idea comes out of discussions at Campfire Circle 003.UK. The idea is that they are voluntary teams promoting participation in the keys areas of Campfire and the decision making processes attached to each.

On our beta site, they would mostly be set up as private Projects, only visible to the respective team members. Teams could then progress plans and coordinate via their own Beacon Projects.

Initial suggestions for Beacons :


Ethos : Values, Ts and Cs, privacy, What do we stand for? 

Admin : Company admin, accounts, book keeping

Biz : Planning, company, finance, forecasting

Geeks : Website development , research, issues, software 

Design : Concepts, print, flyers, logos, icons, programmes

PR : Social media, event feeds, promotion and publicity

Nationbuilder : Our holding site, updates, editorial, mailing lists, mail blasts

Media : Archiving, film & audio recording, transcribing

Editors : Guild and Bugle editors, content, directives, policy

Mentoring : Tutorials, nurturing new members

Learning : Campfire courses and education

Experience : User experience, analysis. expectations, feedback

Events : Coordinating various events diary - Conversations and Circles

Kindling : Campfire youth gatherings and initiatives 


Campfire Convention Beacons:

Site : Management, contractors, health and safety, orders, decor

People : Tickets, guests, artist liaison, volunteers

Programme : Schedules, speakers, panels, music, art, visual

Catering : Food and drink

If you have a better name for any of the above - or would like to suggest an additional Beacon, or if you would like to sign up for a Beacon please write to:


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An unconventional convention



I’m glad I’m out of the festival business. Today’s Observer Music magazine reads like one big corporate advertorial.

The Guardian proudly supports 'Camp Bestival'
‘On Blackheath’ in partnership with John Lewis
‘Latitude’ - sponsored by Smirnoff, Tuborg and BBC Music
Barclaycard presents ‘British Summer Time’
Cuffe and Taylor present Simply Red at The Races

I am going back into events, but not festivals. Instead, the concept is community based and revolves around Conventions, Conversations and Circles.

This year we’re having a small gathering for 500 which will be exploring the concept. We are going back to The Black Mountains, where The Big Chill tenuously started its journey 21 years ago. The Big Chill was its best as a community before morphing into something that the original Big Chillers found barely recognisable. That community spirit will be at the heart of Campfire’s ethos, articulated via the social network which is about to open its doors.

Campfire Convention 001.UK aims to do something new and different. Festivals, in their traditional format have lost their edge and I get the sense that many people are looking for something more. Subsequent Campfire Convention events will have potential to evolve into a truly democratic gathering where we organise into Guilds and each Guild curates its own area.

The Conventions won't be conventional in many senses. We’re looking to do something that makes a difference. The accent is not so much on hedonism, more about connecting in a meaningful sense. Clearly, we are in an era when many people have recently re-engaged with politics and are concerned about a wide range of issues, not least dealing with inequality and how they can be actively involved in social change and democracy. We will be examining ways we can all play a part and help facilitate these changes by being part of a new community that aims to enrich its members. A study of campfire ‘firelight talk’ by Professor Polly Weissner from The University of Utah noted that the hunter gatherers, the Kalahari bushman engaged in very different daytime conversations to those after dark. By day, issues related more to practical issues - economics and social politics. Nighttime around the fire was a mellower experience about bonding, stories, entertaining and sharing emotions.

I’m not interested in huge events with big stages where one after another ‘headliner’ entertains the receptive masses and where the whole event is geared towards maximising bar profits. I’d like to explore a much more interactive environment more centred on connection and empathy - the sort of event where the members put as much in as they get out, either as entertainers, as workshop participants, as panelists in debates or as volunteers who play a vital part in making the event run smoothly. We will create our own stars, we wont need to book them via an agent.

As Weissner notes “it promotes social interaction, entertainment and art and plays a major role in the development and spread of human culture…Campfire nightlife may have helped develop the human mental ability to transmit cultural practices, understand others and extend co-operation for beyond the local community"

The Campfire Conversation has already being trialled in Manchester when we were invited up to talk there in November. It’s a movable feast and we’re planning more for early summer, in places such as Todmorden and the Isle of Wight. The Campfire Circle involves members coming up with ideas and making decisions on the future direction of the community. We’ve just staged our first one in Braunston last weekend and it was incredibly productive.

The Campfire itself is the great leveller.. a place to connect, to share ideas, to dream about what we want from the future and how we can shape it. Who knows where we can take this. I’m just getting the ball rolling. The community’s collective imagination will be the only limit.

Campfire reading :



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The Campfire is a Great Leveller

Our first Campfire Circle meeting brought us into the here and now



Before Saturday, Campfire Convention was still largely a concept.  The developers are still hard at work building the website which they have been doing since last summer and we’re shortly to open it up to the first testers. All has been moving along nicely on that front.

Saturday was a revelation to me because it brought together the first active members in one place to gather and talk, to discuss ideas, to hear me outline why I’d started this and to show them the site and how we could contribute together to maximise the potential of doing stuff together.

The concept of the Campfire Circle meeting is one of three types of Campfire event mooted so far. As a blueprint for a format that our spring AGM might follow, this was our chance to grapple with the serious business of what we want, how we set things up, how we structure it, how we engage collectively, what excites us and what future directions we can follow.

Having read through the questionnaire forms that our first Campfire flagbearers filled in, it’s all fascinating stuff.  “I’m in interested in gatherings, not the usual ‘festival’ set up but something with ideas and conversations with music, with the potential to make something happen” said Carol Alevroyianni and Ruth Whiteheart saw it as “a social network with depth.”

What excites people?  It’s different, it’s a new social paradigm, the chance to meet like-minded talented people, ideas sharing, the smaller scale of the events, the ethos, the broad reach of the concept across all aspects of life, its co-operative nature, the forming of a new community with all its potential to improve society, the forum for debate and discussion, the potential of Project engagement and building and sharing a portfolio of skills,  exciting collaborations,  being able to find ‘new stuff’, it could contribute to political change, a “new way that feels like an old and natural way” said Jaime and Sharon was excited to be “being productive and connecting without wading through pictures of kittens” and Liz predicted that “the community will evolve on a shared values basis” or as Caroline described it, “self growth within a conscious community”.

Tagging posts and being able to build resources was a feature of the site’s functionality that people valued greatly. Establishing early guidelines and protocols amongst the Founder Members was seen as being important so that  both existing and incoming members could easily find and add to reference material and comment on posts. Projects (subscription members) and the Library (centrally curated) will enable members to keep related content together, and the tagging system will make this workable throughout site providing that due care and attention is paid to it when members upload content.

It’s “nice to be in at the start” said Sally. There was a feeling that together we were doing something truly pioneering, yet we were all aware that in no ways should Campfire be seen as excusive and this figures on several people’s lists of potential concerns. Whilst it was generally felt that the idea of free social networking carried baggage that ultimately corrupted or diminished the experience, it’s nevertheless important that we offer a free version of the site and a chance for people who are unsure about contributing financially to the concept have a chance to sample the flavour and contribute to the community.

Alongside that model would be the favoured idea of a subscription which also paid back to the members via a marketplace, the Campfire Foundation and the share scheme designed to share profits to the most active members of the community.

Andy Willett wrote to me to follow up on how we might do this “We could come up with some sort system similar to the old co-op where as well a being a customer (subscriber) you had a stake in the success of the idea and therefore more motivated to spread the word and make it succeed . You could maybe combine the physical event with a type of AGM where reporting back to stakeholders was part of the event. Members could subscribe whilst gaining credits for number of months they had been a member or for other tasks which have a value (nectar points comes to mind now, was stamps in old co-op and in theory can be redeemed for things such as facilitating another persons membership.)

Andy’s ideas fit well with the ‘kudos’ model I outlined in a recent article, where members are recognised and rewarded for their community work, which might be length of membership, introducing others to the campfire, joining a Guild editorial team, posting their ‘genius’, writing articles that receive likes, comments and shares, getting involved in events etc. We are able to set the variables exactly as we want. As Firestarter I wouldn’t want to benefit from the Kudos scheme and I also stressed that this isn’t about competition, it’s about respect and recognition in the community.  And giving back. 


We are already creating our own stars. Ed Richardson received a spontaneous round of applause for his YouTube video mapping of the summer event site, Pete Blunt talked eloquently about his events experience and what he valued about Campfire, Josie Kemp devised some games that sorted us into groups to discuss the things that most motivated us about the Campfire concept, Sharon Prendergast and Cathryn Butler kept things running on so many levels during the day. Jaime Jackson had put together a campfire video loop, Lee talked about the ritual and symbolism around that great leveller, the campfire itself, which should always be at the centre of our thinking. And Caroline Kerr talked emotionally about her work with the refugees last thing at night around the kitchen table. Ideas collided and colluded. Everyone’s star shined brightly.

Most importantly, I think we all made some great new friends. 





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Exploring the potential of co-operative intelligence


I'm pleased to report that Brian Eno has accepted my invitation to appear at the first Campfire Convention event as keynote speaker this August. Having worked with Brian in the latter days of The Big Chill when he brought his '77 Million Paintings' project to Eastnor Castle, it feels timely to be renewing acquaintances now that we're both involved in social and political activism. In his letter to me, Brian remarked that he was especially happy to hear that I was turning my energies towards supporting Corbyn. He also said that he hoped to see lots of that kind of activity over the next few years and it is indeed proof that the propaganda machine isn't working. 

Whilst mindful that Corbyn has brought about some major changes and made things appear possible that a year ago were completely out of reach, I'm also getting on with initiatives preparing Campfire for imminent launch. I have been keeping Brian up to speed with my thinking in terms of the initial ideas I have for speaker and panel content at the event which seems to be evolving on an almost daily basis. I'm hopeful that we'll arrive at a unique blend of art and politics and to be getting the first event off the ground in the Black Mountains, so close to where The Big Chill made its inauspicious outdoor debut 21 years ago only adds to the excitement for me.

Having heard Brian speak in London in early February at the JC4PM rally, and listened to his John Peel lecture from late last year, it became clear that we share a lot of ideas on how we should be moving forward - harnessing a collective energy via community thinking and encouraging people to find ways of making a living from doing what they enjoy. Never before has the quest for finding ways of personal and collective expression through art been so important and to that end, we're both excited about the ideas around Universal Basic Income that have been very much on the agenda in recent months, and something along these lines could support a liberation of creativity and isn't as far-fetched as its critics like to think. Hopefully Campfire's online presence will offer an outlet and forum for those sparks of creativity and with some lateral thinking, I hope we can arrive at way of rewarding our own members too, as I outline here. I certainly had something along these lines in mind as a process when the idea first formed, though if we're to be truly democratic about this, I can't claim to have all the answers!

Eno also prompted us - when the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said that she thought that it was a good idea for students not to go into the arts and humanities because they didn’t offer such good job prospects as the STEM subjects, you somehow know that the time is right to not only restore a sense of balance, but to get active in terms of rethinking our relationship with culture and society. Interestingly we've both been quoting Thatcher's infamous one-liner "There's no such thing as society" recently.. that's a great motivator in itself for proving its value, in new ways and with added strength.

There's also a view gaining credence that we're already moving into a phase where capitalism isn't really working any longer as a model and we have to look to communications networks to lead the way, away from market forces as a primary motivator. Much of it is coming down to networks vs hierarchies in many ways, neoliberal economics colliding with network technology and many traditional, unquestioned ways of doing things are beginning to look outmoded. We need new structures for the means of production of intellectual 'goods' to move into the hands of the many.

I think many of us are also aware that we have to move fast, to make the most of the changes that are opening up everywhere. We need big visions, we need people able and willing to articulate their own utopian thinking for ways forward and who can relate them to the here and now. Making those bridges rational, grounded in economic thinking and graspable for most people is the key. Alongside that, we need new media to be organising, adding new perspective and getting the message out. Not just to middle England but globally and the internet is the way we can do that. 

I'm very much looking forward to welcoming Brian and all other guests to Campfire Convention 001.UK on August 13th.


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Why is Campfire different?



Ahead of our launch, we thought we'd share some of the visions we have for the new community....


Why is Campfire different?


1.  Shaped by you

Campfire is about:

A passion for living,

A desire to be part of a stimulating community, energised by ideas, initiatives and mutual support,

A thirst for information, knowledge, ideas and engaging with new people,

A quest for social change and new ways of doing things – whether in business, personal or community life.

Our aim is to shape an independent modern day co-operative with a remit as wide as the membership’s imagination. The community will decide on Campfire’s direction, priorities, policies and quality standards.

We know we want to do things differently, the community will work out the best ways.


2.  More than just a social network

As the lines between work and play become blurred, we’re having to constantly jump between multiple online tools, networks and resources.

Campfire aims to plug the gaps between the current social networks and offer a single point of access to your online work, play and social activities.

You will be able to share travel tips for a weekend in the Lakes, showcase latest ideas for a business, set up a community campaign or just chat with like-minded people about issues of the day.


Our tagging and sharing system enables easy discovery of people, campaigns and activities that you want to explore.

As the community grows, it will develop a wide range  resources shaped by a dynamic membership.


3. A business model with integrity that you can trust

Campfire will be funded by membership subscriptions, not external businesses and organisations. It will be financially self-supporting.

Within time, it will be up to the community members to determine the rules, regulations and priorities.

The constitution will be subject to review and input by the membership.

  • Your participation and interaction will not be determined by manipulative algorithms.
  • We will not track or sell your data beyond legal requirements.
  • Any major investment will be sought through crowdfunding as the preferred option.
  • Campfire will be an open and transparent organisation.


4. Campaigning

There is a sense that change is in the air. If we desire positive change, if we want to maximize the pleasure of being together as humans, if we want to be able to sidestep the chaos around us we simply have to build and shape our own world.  

Campfire will offer the tools to campaign for change at many levels. Change can take shape from the grassroots upwards rather than being subject to top-down dictats.

With resources at our fingertips, we are better positioned to reach consensus on issues and launch effective initiatives.

A new movement can rise up.


5. Encouraging collaboration

Campfire Projects enable members to showcase an idea, a work-in-progress concept, an event, a campaign, a current business project or an archive to an iconic historical experience.

Projects offer you an easy way to find potential collaborators, or display skills that may be useful to others. Such initiatives can also be discussed and developed in the Guilds’ forums.


6. A new editorial voice – yours

The media is becoming increasingly unreliable and unrepresentative; unbiased news is almost impossible to find, news priorities are largely determined by manipulative capitalist agendas.

Principles are changing fast in the modern world, with even the last upstanding bastion of left-wing media, The Guardian now in a corporate partnership with the global giant Unilever. The time is right for looking at new ways to find out what’s happening, share opinions and debate issues, without being bombarded by adverts, sponsored links or affiliate partnerships.

The Campfire news agenda will be set by members sharing and recommending articles and features from a diverse range of sources. Campfire magazines – a curated selection members’ news, links and articles - will offer Campfire’s unique take on the world around us and a strong independent editorial voice.


7. A place to learn

More than ever, there seems to be a real appetite for broadening hobbies, mastering new skills and simplifying our day-to-day existence.  

Learning resources will build on community knowledge and expertise to encompass everything from how to throw a pot to understanding Plato’s take on love or mastering the basics of a trade.

As university education becomes more about employment and less about education as well as being prohibitively expensive, we envisage a Campfire Academy offering high-calibre, Campfire-accredited online and offline learning opportunities relevant and highly beneficial to the community’s needs.


The Campfire Convention social network plans to go live at in late summer 2016. It has a launch party Campfire Convention 001.UK scheduled for the weekend of August 12-14 in Herefordshire. 

Read more on the social network features

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