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history & VISION


A Short History of the Camps Movement and OakDragon's place in it by Palden Jenkins, our founder. I didn't really think it up. It came to me by a zigzag route. One day in 1983 a friend asked me to help him organise a Samhain gathering in the Assembly Rooms in Glastonbury for earth mysteries buffs. We brainstormed it and came up with the idea of sitting in a circle, not rows, to turn a conference into a real conferring - in 1983, this was new stuff. The gathering was a dynamite success. My Gemini friend suddenly left me with it, and I searched my soul and then decided to carry on - it landed up as a bigger decision than I had originally thought! After two further gatherings in spring 1984 - a Beltane and an astrology gathering - it became clear that we needed to be together for a week, not just a weekend - but how could we that without its costing too much for many of our participants? I was a former scout. I was fed up with the crowds, chaos, noise and facelessness of festivals.There was a need to bring people closer together, to create a more genuinely magical space than festivals allowed. Something was knocking on the top of my head. I realised, "Ah, a camp". Then I thought, "Oh, no! Too much!". But by summer solstice 1984 I knew I just had to do it, and this year, not next. Suddenly, people were turning up at our house, willing to do something, and I pulled together a team, magic happened and, whoosh, by late August 1984 came the first camp ever, the Glastonbury Living Astrology Camp, down below the north-east end of Glastonbury Tor. It was an amazing success. Then in 1985 we did a remarkable Beltane camp (see below for a video of it), and then in summer a Music & Dance and an Astrology camp, end on end at the same site, in view of Glastonbury Tor. These camps proved to be a sheer upwelling of creativity and a deep, amazing experience for all who came. Next year we did the same three camps plus a Ceremony camp. But by 1986 it was all getting too much for organisers and crews - we had all fallen into this spontaneously, it had been innovation all the way, and we had lives to live. Though wonderful, it couldn't carry on like this. The core principles I established (and at first had to fight for) were these: + camps of 100-350 with an organised site design and timetable, + no amplified entertainment, + a community, group-process and soul-educational focus, + everyone attending on a clear deal, + stay on site for the whole camp, + no dogs, There were various other innovations that were new for that time, opposed by some people as a restraint to their freedom but, within a few seasons, they understood why, when they saw the results. It was all about group cohesion, raising the energy higher, community-building, an atmosphere of care and mutual support, and creating spiritual-magical experiences. This new formula really helped people flower and take big steps forward. Something else was happening too. This was a seeding. People who came to the Glastonbury Camps saw it and got the idea. In 1987-89, a number of different spin-off camps started up (Dance Camps, Unicorn Camps, Rainbow Circle and several more), out of which was born a second generation of other, bigger events based on similar principles (such as Buddhafields and Tribe of Doris), or which took other unique routes forward (such as the Spirit Horse Camps). It got so busy that Chrissie Ferngrove and others published a whole directory of camps events each year in the 1990s, the Campscene Directory. The idea behind the camps was to go beyond entertainment, trading and milling around, instead setting an enzymatic group process alight which led to marked inner growth, learning and community bonding. Well, what next, after the amazing Glastonbury Camps? I felt unfinished. In 1986 I went on a vision quest in Snowdonia, offering myself up and asking what I should do. I got it - a new vision. The name came first - OakDragon. Then came the design and the framework: make it more viable, more kitted out and organised, take the camps out of Glastonbury and pitch them a little more toward adventurous mainstream people - not only alternative types. Provide a clearly transformative uplift service and soul-education, and create a more consistent thread of camps over time. We had our first year in 1987. A new team and crew were born mostly out of people who had been to the Glastonbury Camps. We did a programme of seven camps: Beltane in Cornwall, Astrology and Earth Mysteries (Dartmoor), Music and Dance at the Harmonic Convergence and Healing (at Nanteos Mansion, mid-Wales), and a Prehistory camp and a Clan Gathering in Preseli, SW Wales. Things got very complicated that year. For the punters, the camps were very successful - recently I've met people who came, as adults or, then, children, who experienced these camps as a marker-point in their lives. But there were internal rumblings and elbowings going on too. There was a kind of a coup in the OakDragon, and over the next two years I found myself on my way out. There was also a painful rift in the crew: a caucus of people sought at first to take over the OakDragon but, when that didn't work, they peeled away to form the Rainbow Circle, starting their own camps in 1988. This was a setback, but we carried on. This was the peak of the Thatcher period in Britain. While there was a strong sense of growth and adventure at the camps, in the world around us the nation was in a strident state and getting more materialistic, blindfolding itself to the true direction of history that now in the 2020s is more obvious - the magical-mystical side of which we were working on, in our way. By the late 1980s, all sorts of people were now involved in OakDragon, and collective experience and expertise had grown, and I, rather burned out by now, slowly withdrew. I spent the next few years doing other things, particularly in book publishing, and compiling the book 'The Only Planet of Choice', a mighty assemblage of channelled material from some very advanced non-earthly beings called the Council of Nine. I learned a lot from them, as have many thousands of people. One thing the Nine taught concerned the power of focused group meditation in a world-healing context. They also said that not enough people were doing this - they had a staff shortage. That troubled me. I knew I had the means to do it. I also felt I hadn't demonstrated the 'camps model' clearly enough, and that there was further to go with it - putting it to work to do something more direct, more activist, about changing the world and turning it into what the Nine called a 'light-space vehicle' of a planet. In 1995-97 I drew together another group of people to start the Hundredth Monkey Camps. M100 was Version Three: putting people to work to do consciousness work together, focused on working with current world events and issues such as the Bosnia war, nuclear testing, forest fires and oligarchies. It worked amazingly. However, after three years, it became clear we were getting into deep water. There were funding problems and there was a risk of such problems as hostile press exposure or opposition from the authorities or the public, and we weren't ready to handle that. There was another thing too: we were moving a long way very fast and going out of our depth. We found that, spiritually, working with world events stimulated much more growth than personal growthwork does. It brought so much growth to participants that they didn't need more! Thbat meant we couldn't easily build up a core of experienced and well-tried people. Participants were also getting quite big readjustment problems when they went home. But in 1998, at the very end of a camp in which we had worked on opening up the world's power structures, Princess Diana died. Wow. The nation went into an altered state. Guess what, the Monkeys had no adjustment problems when they went home that year! So M100 was closed down, with regret, but wisely. Out of it came a smaller group of dedicated people. The Flying Squad carried on this world-healing work for twenty further years before it disbanded, by 2018 down to three members. During those years we did remote weekly meditations every single week, and we had three weekend get-togethers and an annual small camp (a couple of them at Brook End in Compton Dundon, in the little side-field). We took the idea of focused, consistent, deep energy-work and circle-working to a new level, and it remains a blueprint for the future. The details are on the Flying Squad website (see below). I mention all this about the 1990s because these different stages in the evolution of the camps form a continuity, a stream of consciousness that transcends individual members, and it has its own life. We haven't pushed this as far as it can go, though partially this awaits wider society moving forward too - otherwise there's a risk that camps move too far from the mainstream and lose their socially-transformative relevance. OakDragon is a part of that evolution, and it has outlasted some of the other camps that emerged in the late 1980s. The great thing about camps is that they get us out of our normal, boxed reality, they have a basic format and aim that makes a lot of people deeply happy, helping them get back on track in their lives, and they're definitely soul-educational. It's possible to raise the voltage by containing the energy-field of the group and community and pumping it up with a good progression of events, processes and experiences through the week of a camp. We know this, and we know how to do it. I loved the awakenings, the family healings, the relationships formed, the babies born, the ventures started, the interesting workshops, the magic moments of circle-working and the cogitative evenings round the fire, the agitations and the breakthroughs, the sing-songs - even the way the weather or the behaviour of birds overhead somehow reflected what was happening at the camp. In the intial years, as founder and energy-holder, I made sure I was the last off site at the end, to make sure that, apart from worn patches of grass, there was no trace of the camp except for a magic vibe and a lingering feeling that we had perhaps given the local fairies something fascinating to watch! That's where things now stand. We aren't finished yet. I and my generation are on our way out now, so it's your turn. Good luck. With love, Palden Jenkins

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