Confestis an alternative life-style festival emphasizing conservation and other facets of a life style encapsulated by that term. You could call it a Hippy festival, and that would be true to some extent, as would many other terms you could apply to it. One could refer to "ferals", "greenies", etc., and all such folk are there. But my impression is that the majority of people who go would be ordinary people such as city-dwellers who leave their shops, offices, places of study, simple suburban living and families who join in and share some chai tea, some drumming, and maybe take their clothes off and play in the mud.
These are ordinary folks who go along to let it all hang out, have a taste of other philosophies such as Pagans, Wicca, Hare Krishna, Ananda Marga, and alternative healing and therapy methods, and variations in sexuality, alternative energy methods, and so on. My experience was that there is no loud, amplified music , no use of alcohol or hard drugs, except for a subtle aroma of cannabis here and there. It seemed to be very safe for women, and acceptance of others who are different from themselves. I learned the joy of nudity, and the fun of different psychological and meditative workshops, all in the heat of an Aussie country camping ground sited on a body of water at the the turn of the year into January.
Wandering entertainers like this juggler are a Confest feature. Also popular are fire-eating, fire-juggling and musical busking.
This blackboard timetable of Sunday activities shows the range of typical workshops run by volunteers. On this day, I vaguely remember going to a discussion of polygamy and its problems, and also a very, very interesting workshop on Harmonic Singing, which I found amazing.
Saturday workshop chalkboard - this gives you the idea of the workshops and discussions being offered. I do remember going to a workshop on Linguistic Programming.
NB: This display was difficult to photograph, being in mottled shade, and considerable graphic adjustments have been made on my software, with only partial success.
Workshop marquee for one of the many workshops in the topics seen on the previous chalkboard. I attended this one on emotions. I had a bad experience in this tent - see next image.
Working in pairs, we were invited to share something negative about our partners. A young girl with whom I paired was encouraged to say things about me that spun me into depression, but it was really related to abuse by her father, and then she projected her feelings onto me as an innocent scapegoat. Amateur leadership by organizer!
"Sitting in a circle" game where we all try to sit on each-others' laps and stay stable. This is the starting stage.
Collapsing "Sitting circle", where the circle (actually a large spiral!) are in the point of collapse. You tend to wobble sideways because laps are inherently unstable! But who cares? It's fun!
Playing the mysterious game of "Dead Ant", at the climax of which you lie on your back with your legs stiffly in the air. Guaranteed to make you feel silly, but in good company!
Limbo dancing is an old favourite, but with my arthritic back my rather undistinguished "limbo dancing" activities are gone forever.
Fire dancers used long sticks to create giant figures that "danced" in the dim light of the fire-eating and fire-juggling.
More fire-dancing. The fire-juggler gets down and dirty - but that's what Confest is about - being a bit "primitive" for a change.
More fire-dancing and other entertainment at night.
Drumming circles lend a tribal flavour to the Confest scene. In my first one in 1990, the drums went 24 hours a day! At night, people dance around bonfires to the sound of drumming in which anyone can join.
Conga drums are the basis of drum groups, but many Confesters join in with anything they can get their hands on! Pots, pans, bottles, and tapping sticks are plentiful.
These women had a lot of fun at this belly-dancing class. I photographed it unobrusively from a distance, and endeavoured to ensure that no-one bare-breasted was identifiable. Besides, this shot a was taken at least 17 years ago.,
Confest swimming area viewed from across the billabong on the Murray River at the Confest site some km from Moama, in NSW near Echuca.
Confest swimming area viewed from the other side of the billabong on the Murray River at Moama.
Confest swimming area on a Murray River billabong. I have avoided showing nude bathers.
Wallowing naked in mud-pools is a popular feature of Confest, and these happy campers have taken enjoyed meeting each other in this unusual but quite delightful environment. In the distant past I personally remember covering myself with mud in a mud wallow with more than a dozen people.
Two friends of mine were happy to pose in a "water-tent" which was very handy to cool off in the 38 degree heat. The water-tent was made from hessian fabric, and equipped with a water pump piped to sprinklers above the roof. The cool water was dripping from the hessian roof and wetting down the whole space. The constant evaporation if the water in the open-weave hessian cloth created a cooling effect called the "Coolgardie Safe" effect which was used to cool perishable food in country houses in earlier days of settlement in Australia. I happened to spend my childhood in Kalgoorlie where my parents did in fact possess such a Coolgardie Safe named after a Goldfields town just west of Kalgoorlie.
My shameless self having emerged from a not very muddy pool, letting it all hang out not as an exhibitionist - I mean, look at the size of it!- but as part of my life back 19 years ago. I am fully aware that this image could get bandied around the internet, but somehow doubt it. It's not exactly going to go viral, as anyone familiar with the net will know. These days I just don't care.
Warning sign on lightly-shielded pit toilet says it all! Some 2m deep, they are an interesting experience at night, as one balances on the large wooden slab with a hole in it. At least it has a lid on it. The sign says:
Do you like eating shit? If not, then close the toilet lid.
Some Confesters prefer to drive to the nearest town and use the servicve station toilets!
Overnight storms knocked over the hessian around the long-drop toilet, so I thought I would do a droll pose. I suspect I just look like an idiot, but that has never stopped me before! The "throne" was a luxury for confest, which used to have just a slab on the ground over a deep hole.
Free massages were available in this tented area. Trained masseurs were available all day long, and it was very popular for training in that art.
Music is an important part of the Confest scene. When I first encountered it in the early 1990s, amplified electronic or rock or pop music was not allowed, but since then it has been introduced, but not at ear-blasting level, unlike some other alternative style doof-doof and trance-pop music festivals which are very popular now.
About 30 pictures of Confest campsites and street scenes that I collected from four different visits to Confest gatherings between 1990 and 1997.
Back to nature for these Confesters at Moama, Easter, 1991. I hope they don't mind sharing with snakes and spiders!
Ingeniously-made but primitive wooden dwelling for these Confesters. OK, I suppose, until it rains!
A dusty musical interlude by 1991 Easter Confesters at Moama. Makes a change from the shop and the office.
Beehive dwellings made of bark and wood (left) and standard tent (right).
Artistically designed dwelling contructed from tents and "found objects"! .
Car doubles as home and woodheap for these Confesters. The paintwork is obviously the least of their worries.
Stylish-looking teepees are usually seen at Confest.
Teepees are common at Confest. Not enough room for me, I'm afraid! It might be all right if they had folding poles.
The sign says it all!
Stylish "gypsy" caravan in the form of a converted furniture van, parked next to us at Moama, Easter 1991. Note the canoes on top.
My wife Glenyce and myself at our caravan at Moama Confest site, Easter, 1991. We had a good time until called home because my young son broke his ankle roller-skating! The police came out of town especially to find us.
Myself being "spiritual" at Easter Confest, 1991, Moama.
By spiritual is meant meditations, chanting, and various eastern-oriented and alternative religious ideas. It was a very interesting few years to spend in exploration, but ultimately, most of it is not for me. It's physically too hard for a man in his late 70s with chronic sciatica.
Myself (left) and old friend John B. (right) in our tent setup for Confest 1999. I first met John during a 7-year long period doing personal relationship courses through the Cairnmillar Institute, in which he was a group leader. In fact, John and his friends invited me to my first Confest experience at Walwa, on the Murray River, in 1990, where I had experiences which will be with me always.
Our tents at Confest, 1997. Mine is at left, and my friend has the awning. Dressing down like this is popular at Confest. My friend, whose identity I have obscured, was in the Wicca group I was then part of, and she wanted to see what Confest was like. My wife Glenyce was very understanding and long-suffering in permitting this to occur.
I reckon my friend here looks very pretty with the nice colour combination, and, of course, the tasteful body painting. All part of Confest fun. I've obscured her identity, even thought it was 19 years ago.
Confest guru Bill - we passed a body-painting site and I did these arcane signs on my belly. I find it liberating to step outside my normal humdrum, rationalist envelope and be different now and then! Someone asked me if I was a Buddhist monk!
Muddy scene at the Chai Tea Tent at the Moama confest site at Easter, 1991. Heavily-spiced Chai tea is a favourite, and I hadn't tasted it until Confest 1990. Of course, now it's in the supermarkets.
Cold weather cast a dampener on the mood of these Confesters at Easter, 1991. There is not a smile to be seen.
Overnight rain and a cool change induced a sombre mood into this Easter 1991 Confest campsite. In the boiling pot float whole unpeeled eggplants (!?) and other vegetables including a vaguely-familiar distinctively-leafed herb. It looks like a bloody weak soup to me.
Area sign giving information of various areas for Confesters with similar interests.
Market stall by "Cultural Diversity", a shop that in those days also sold clothing and other eastern goods in our own Melbourne suburb, Glen Waverley. The lady in red is my wife, Glenyce.
Market stalls setting up scattered along one of the "lanes" in Confest on the dried-mud river flats at Moama, Easter, 1991.
Kiosks erected by various ideologically-oriented or political groups tout their various views and systems of belief. The Ananda Marga vegetarian food is excellent.
General streetscape of market and food stalls at Moama, December, 1997. You can buy all sorts of foods except packaged fast foods, which are banned by Confest recycling requirements.
Socialization is common as people gather to purchase their food and drink at the Confest street stalls, shaded from the fierce sun.
Musical accompaniment helps while away the time for these clothing stall holders at Confest, Moama, Easter, 1991.
Wicca circle set up in the foreground in this campsite scene. Recognisable only by someone who has done it or read about it. The previous night I from a distance had observed a naked young woman carry out her own ritual here of the four points, to the tune of her own singing. It was very sweet.
A tender moment, as a couple in the shadows share a Confest intimacy in this general streetscape.
Cars and tents both used for sleeping in this Confest general street scene.
Ad hoc street stall selling fruit in this streetscape that almost evokes images of the days of the historical pioneers.