Citizens of Black Rock City – everyone is talking about Turnkey camps and the Placement team wants you to know: we hear you! You’re speaking up on social media, talking at parties, doing deep dives at regional events. We’ve received more than 400 post-event emails and hundreds of comments through the Feedback form.
This is a good thing. Speaking your mind and sharing your opinions is the most important thing you can do right now.
The Placement Team placed over 1,300 camps in 2014. Theme Camps, camps for volunteers coming in early to work, camps for artists, Black Rock City, LLC department camps, camps within the BRC storage container program, and Mutant vehicle camps
We also placed about 25 Turnkey camps. We define Turnkey camps as those that offer a public space and interactivity in addition to private spaces for larger groups and are typically built by a producer, rather than a traditional camp lead.
Turnkey (or Plug N Play as we used to call them) first caught my attention in 2011. I recall placing a group who needed help finding the right place for their trucks and equipment. At the end of 2011, it seemed important to set some guidelines for how Turnkey camps could create places that were mindful of the Ten Principles.
Placing more than a thousand camps in BRC is a bit like putting together a jigsaw puzzle without knowing what the final picture looks like. When a Theme Camp applies for placement, we review their intended interactivity, their history with us, their MOOP score from the previous year, community feedback and the uniqueness of their offering.
Placed Theme Camps must offer daily interactivity within their camps that entices people to come in off the streets and interact with fellow Burners. Talking to each other is the secret sauce of Burning Man. Camps that don’t get placement usually aren’t offering a kind of interactivity that requires early entry (to set up) or their performance from previous years left something to be desired.
Once the camps have been selected, we consider the layout of each city block, the makeup of neighborhoods and the daytime and nighttime traffic flow. At the same time, we’re talking with Camp organizers to address individual and group needs.
We ask all placed camps to provide a layout plan in advance of the event and we host a Theme Camp Forum each spring to discuss living situations, camp plans and best practices. We also hosted a separate Turnkey Roundtable earlier this year where Camp producers were invited to share their experiences, if they’d made camps before and to learn about our expectations for engaging with BRC and how they could support each other.
At the roundtable, we told Turnkey camp producers we hoped they would invest the time and energy to become Theme Camps – offering enticing and unique interactivity and promoting participation. We also explained Turnkey camps wouldn’t be placed in neighborhoods reserved for Theme Camps, but we would place them where they would get foot traffic and have the opportunity to draw people in. Most importantly we started a relationship. We started talking. They told us their plans, we told them our expectations and then everyone went about planning and getting ready.
We’re often asked why we even placed Turnkey camps if they didn’t meet our standard for public interactivity. It’s an excellent question.
We found it is the best interest of the broader BRC community if we do place them. The placement process starts the relationship, sets expectations about MOOP and accountability and helps us with density issues. Placement knows how large a footprint a camp needs and we can help with the guesswork of how big. The placement process also intends to inspire our Turnkey camp friends to become more like our beloved Theme Camps who have experience balancing public space with private living, and with using interactions to inspire participation.
It can be a challenge to get people to understand the importance and value of participation. It does matter if you are just standing around, watching. It matters to the people who are living out loud, people who are building and working and getting dirty and tired and pushing themselves in every direction, mentally, physically, emotionally, and as a community. It’s hard work to live in close proximity to people for a week or more. It takes words and commitment and time to stay friends with people after you’ve made art and burned things and lost sleep and blown your mind.
Community evolves out of relationships and relationships are built out of communication, conflict resolution, disagreements and coming together. Talking with each other keeps us engaged and keeps us participating. The contention I hear is genuinely based on our collective caring about the community we build together. Making room for this conversation ensures the integrity of the Placement process and the integrity of the event. Placement volunteers hold our integrity above all as we enact the Ten Principles in our decisions and actions.
Of course there is more to our plans than just talking. We’re looking at tangible ways to help everyone do better. Ticketing, Early Arrival passes, our outside services program, DMV operations and of course camp placement are all being reviewed as we think about where to push and where to pull.
The Placement team dedicates thousands of volunteer hours to piecing together Black Rock City and we care intimately about how we all fit together and embody the Ten Principles.
I look forward to shedding more light on what the Placement team does and why in future posts. Until then, keep talking – we are listening.
Kristen Berg (aka Answergirl) uses her PhD in Social Work and mechanical pencil in equal measure when building Black Rock City and thinking about the inner workings of our temporary civic community. Answergirl arrived on the playa in 2000 and was inspired by the effort and engagement of everyone she met. Her participation began by giving “ an answer for everything” on a playa radio station and quickly expanded to wearing khaki and walking the dust with the Black Rock Rangers for more than ten years. A charming encounter with a Placer in 2008 lead her to join the Placement Team and in 2013 became the Team Manager.