Burning Man European Leadership Summit 2016 Takes Barcelona, Spain

Burning Man’s Third Annual European Leadership Summit was hosted during the weekend of February 4-7 in Barcelona and brought together 135 Regional Contacts, Community Leaders, event organizers and Burning Man staff from 21 countries. Through workshops, large group presentations, and a variety of social engagements, participants came together to share their experiences and lessons learned from working to facilitate creative culture and build community in the spirit of Burning Man across the world. Likewise, we had an opportunity to showcase exciting initiatives in vibrant Barcelona.

Why Barcelona?

Each year, our Regionals Team chooses a new city for the Summit because it offers participants the opportunity to explore new environments and gives the host community a chance to show off its local initiatives, performers, venues, and unique flavors. Barcelona’s Regional Contact, Diana Zanelli, had expressed interest in hosting the conference since we began planning the first European Leadership Summit in Berlin in 2014, and we were waiting for the right moment to bring the conference to Spain. This year, the stage was beautifully set.

Barcelona’s community has grown significantly over the past few years, and ties between local Burners have strengthened through working together and building camps, art projects and organizing logistics for Nowhere — a longstanding Regional Event based in Zaragoza, Spain — and for Barcelona Burning Bash (BBB), an annual event typically hosted just outside of Barcelona. Additionally, the community comes together for an event called Burning Barna, a town hall designed to give locals an opportunity to share their projects and to get others excited to be involved. Through these happenings, a solid base of colorful, vibrant, and talented volunteers has built up, and the Barcelona team rose to the occasion for the Summit, with over 30 volunteers offering up support with hospitality, communications, event production, registration-wrangling, documentation and audio/visual support. Thank you, Barcelona Burners!

Photo by Cyntia G Laycy
Photo by Cyntia G Laycy

Hosting the Summit this year in Barcelona also offered us the opportunity to collaborate with like-minded organizations including [freespace] and Mini Maker Faire Barcelona to showcase their efforts and encourage dialogue among Summit participants and representatives from these organizations about future projects. Similar to Black Rock City, the [freespace] movement is an experiment in what is possible when a community shares the gift of physical space. Fittingly, [freespace] gifted us their emerging Barcelona hub at Atenau de Raval for our Thursday evening Surrealist-themed opening event. On Sunday of the conference, Burners Without Borders awarded Barcelona [freespace] a Civic Ignition Grant to help them realize their vision of creating an open space in Barcelona’s Raval neighborhood.

The Third Annual Mini Maker Faire Barcelona was hosted on Sunday during our conference weekend and the Maker Faire team welcomed Burning Man into its program. The confluence of our two “Third Annual” gatherings was particularly fitting for the start of 2016 as this year’s Burning Man theme, “da Vinci’s Workshop,” prompts the makers, tinkerers, inventors, and builders in our midst to take center stage at the Man Base. On Sunday morning of the Summit, we presented the “da Vinci’s Workshop” call to action for the Guilds and invited Summit participants to explore the demos and workshops on offer at the Mini Maker Faire in hopes of tickling their imaginations.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen Burner communities in places like Milwaukee, New York, and France working with Maker Faires and maker spaces. We’re excited to see these synergies unfolding across the world between organizations and initiatives, and were glad to have a chance to work with [freespace] and Mini Maker Faire during the Summit. After all, we’re all working toward providing platforms for creativity, invention, and a free exchange of ideas to take place.

Photo by Cyntia G Laycy
Photo by Cyntia G Laycy

Program Highlights

Behind the scenes, many stimulating conversations took place among Summit participants. Friday’s opening remarks and Q&A with Burning Man co-founder and CEO Marian Goodell sparked deep conversation about the meaning of “leadership” in international Burning Man culture. Additionally, throughout the course of the weekend, participants offered workshops on a range of topics from Ultra-Local Sustainability to Decentralized Decision-making. Next year, we’ll need a bigger venue as there were more workshops proposed than we had space to host. We consider this a good problem.

The Summit also provides a stage for Community Leaders to share best practices and lessons learned from their work in the world and to launch new initiatives. A group of organizers from Midburn, an annual Regional Event in Israel, talked about what they did to rise to the challenges presented last year when their permit was in jeopardy and how their community worked together to build the event in record time after many build days were lost. These setbacks only served to fuel their passion. In March, the Midburn team will host an ambitious fundraiser at a circus school to support their year-round work in Israel.

Finland’s Andrew Clutterbuck and Anssi Laurila showcased their 2015 initiative to partner with Helsinki-based Aalto University to bring “The Pike” art installation and traditional kantele harp to Black Rock City. They also discussed support they received from the U.S. Embassy to Finland and how art can provide a bridge to other cultures and make a lasting impact. In May, they will host a concert and celebration in the embassy in Helsinki, and their experience last year has given them big ideas for the future.

Photo by Cyntia G Laycy
Photo by Cyntia G Laycy

London-based Burner and long-time Media Mecca ringleader Yomi Ayeni launched his “We are From Dust” initiative, which will bring Burning Man art to the 2017 Venice Biennale. “We are from Dust” was well received, and Summit participants gathered after the presentation to strategize about how to make it happen.

In preparation for the Fallas festival coming up in March in Valencia, Spain, we invited two historians from Las Fallas to give Summit participants an overview of the festival and its cultural significance and affinity with Burning Man. This year, in the spirit of exchange, two Burning Man community artists will have residency with Falleros, and many Burners will participate in the festivities in Valencia. This is also an exciting new initiative and one that’s sure to be showcased in future posts.

On Friday evening, we hosted an informal short-film festival that spotlighted the work of several talented filmmakers in our midst. Jan Beddegenoodts from Belgium traveled around Europe organizing Burning parades in 2015 and created a gorgeous film about his experiences. A trailer can be found on his project website. Raphaël Pincas from France offered up this photo montage set to music from Midburn and Burning Man:

You can see more about his beautiful project here. This chill end to a big day of conversation was just perfect.

All Work and No Play?

No way. What’s a Burning Man event without a little celebration? On Saturday evening, we worked with the Barcelona Burners to host a masquerade party at a local art gallery. Let’s just say that based on the masses of colorfully clad Spaniards that showed up for our celebration, Burning Man is here to stay.

We’re already starting to plan the 2017 Summit, and we’ve our sights set on Scandinavia! Stay tuned for more on that front!

Top photo by Sascha Baridhara

About the author: Megs Rutigliano

Megs Rutigliano

Meghan "Megs" Rutigliano is Burning Man's Associate Director of the Regional Network. She oversees Burning Man's annual Global Leadership Conference and European Leadership Summit. Meghan explores the art, events and culture of various regional Burning Man communities in her blog posts.

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