This Thursday, some of the most celebrated visionary thinkers on the planet come together for Uplift festival, a four-day event celebration of peace, love and transformation.
Co-producer Chris Dekker has been engaged in the organisation of this unique event, which is sure to become an international and national phenomenon.
‘We already have 150 per cent more ticket sales than this time last year. And 90 per cent of those are from outside the shire. We have people flying from America, Germany and Japan.’
The international appeal of the festival is clearly rooted in the program, which boasts evolutionary leaders, scientists, visionary activists, indigenous elders, musicians and the like with international bestselling author Anita Moorjani, neurosurgeon Dr Eben Alexander, environmental activist Vandana Shiva, Dr Patch Adams, peace activist Satish Kumar and musician Xavier Rudd.
Dekker, who has been in events productions for 30 years touring the world as a musician with Medicine Drum and founder of Earthdance (the global dance link-up which is now in its 17th year), is passionate about the festival and what it means to be an event producer.
‘Uplift is another octave of where my work has been,’ he says. ‘I have always seen event culture as another vehicle to present transformational change to people. But it is a labour of love and you have to love the job, you have to love people coming together.’
The event is now in its sophomore year and kicked off last year quite by accident when Bharat Mitra and Bhavani Lev contracted Dekker to organise Bharat’s birthday party on 12/12/12.
‘He knew Bruce Lipton and a few others so I said why don’t we do something public as well – so I rang some of my contacts and Uplift was born. This year we are refining it.
‘Last year was an amazing year for us. The festival was a great success energetically. But what was probably key to the great experience was the profound connection between the visionaries who came together before the event in residence for 10 days. They gave their best presentations because they were super charged.
‘In this, our second year in, we are feeling a lot more ease with the event; the public know about it; it’s smooth; the presenters are in session and that is going really well. The vision this year is to ground Uplift as an annual event. We have expanded the village outside – we have a big tent on the field as the second breakout tent. We have the Gyuto monks coming, and a gompa tent for them while they create a sand mandala, a big 26-foot tipi as the elders’ lodge, the grandmother council, and we have a lot more indigenous elders coming this year.’
Other highlights according to Dekker will be the youth initiative Earth Guardians.
‘The Australian chapter of the Earth Guardians kicked off last year when local youth were inspired by EG founder Xiuhtezcatl Martinez. Xiuhtezcatl returns this year with youth leaders from different countries – India, Africa – and he’s brought a few kids from the US as well. There will be a lot of empowered youth at Uplift this year; we have created a dedicated youth tent where they are in residence and there’s lots of programming for the tweens into the twenties.’
Dekker believes that Uplift is very much a ‘Byron’ event, although there has been some talk about moving to somewhere like Sydney.
‘People say why don’t you take it to Sydney? You would triple the sales, but I think Byron is a good place as an international home, not just an Australian home. The shire resonates with what we are presenting – Byron holds the energy.’
This year also sees organisers grow Uplift in the same model as TED talks.
‘This year we partnered with a company in the states: Fora TV – they are the world leaders of conference online streaming; they provide all the software and streaming and we are doing a live DVD stream and charging a really small fee. People can come onboard and watch it and it’s archived, so we can create this online community. That’s been a great new environment; it’s not just about bums on seats, you can be anywhere in the world, the power of the internet and everyone can connect – it’s our vision to make it like a visionary TED celebratory conference.’
Woodcarver and colleague Tonu Shane has been preparing a totem pole, carved especially for the event.
‘This pole magically appeared from Mt Jerusalem – a 150-year-old Tallowood tree that fell in a storm – but the way the guy described it was amazing: a little cyclonic whirlwind dropped it in the valley! We went up there in old growth and found this amazing tree, and we got it down to where Tonu is carving it.
‘I met with the Arakwal mob here and said we’d like to honour some of the Indigenous totems. There is kabul (carpet snake) – it is the most significant totem for the Arakwal and it means the community coming together – imagine this 16-metre pole wrapping around it!
‘At Uplift everyone has the opportunity to put their hand on it and it should represent the diversity of our shire. It has the goanna, the sea eagle, all carved in – it will be lying on the ground. One of the key features is a time capsule: prayers, messages from the Arakwal, message from Byron Shire, the 13-grandmother bundle, poems from children… Tonu reckons in 150 years it will come out, and it should represent our vision for a positive future.’
For Tonu, carving a pole is about being responsive to the spirit.
‘It’s definitely something that evolves; every tree is different and I believe there are living spirits in the trees.
When they come down you can free them up, you have to feel them – there is a lot of magic in it; it all depends on how you look at it – most people will see differently.’
On its completion Uplift plan on donating the pole to Byron Council so it can be erected in a significant community position.
‘Totem poles represent acupuncture needles – once they go up they are very sacred. Drawing the energy from the Earth, the totem represents the human pole and it’s a conduit to the spiritual realm – coming from the Earth.’
For tickets and program information go to www.upliftfestival.com.