Europe’s 13th Nowhere Takes Big Steps Into the Future

Today I woke up covered with a thick layer of dust. More than just getting up from my bed, I looked like a mummy excavated by an archaeologist. As I type, I am hidden in one of the last cabins on site. There are heavy winds with dust storms behind the window and a team of the last Nobodies striking the event.

Another day, another glorious sun set over the Monegros desert (Photo by Haroon Chowdry)

This is the end of the 13th Nowhere, which was full of magic and big steps for this European Burn.

Nowhere takes place in the Monegros desert in Spain, approximately 300 km (186 mi) from Barcelona. Surrounded by mountains, the Burn’s sunrises and sunsets are magical, the closest hills are dotted by Nobodies, and you can hear not only laughter and chatter, but howling, singing and tunes of saxophone in the evenings.

This year we were splashed by storms and rain, and we saw magnificent lightning and thunderstorms (mostly) pass by. It was also unbelievably hot, and during the build and strike it was a little bit windy —  it’s currently some 60 km/h (37 mph).

Participants getting the swing of it (Photo by Haroon Chowdry)

We had tents breaking down or flying to the sky, and we also had several 7mm steel poles from the main shades not only bend in the wind, but break.

Nowhere is a lot of hard work in extreme conditions with a tough team and loving community coming from around the world.

If you want to experience the definition of “international”, look at Nowhere: more than 27 languages are spoken there and there is no one language in the majority. Its core team works across many borders, continents and seven time zones.

Big Step Number One

There was more art at Nowhere in 2016 (Photo by Haroon Chowdry)

After years of hard negotiations with local authorities, Nowhere got approval to increase its cap from 1,500 to 2,000 participants just a few months before its start. This made many people happy as the had event sold out immediately and demand was enormous.

From my own observation, it felt good even though Nowhere starts to be a size when you do not meet all the people anymore. However, it still keeps its sense of community.

Theme Camps were more active and nicely shared the space — more interaction, better structures, more “common” spaces, more lights and thoughtful programing, which gave them more opportunity to shine and have their night.

Along with performances, workshops, talks and parties, there were also new opportunities. For example, this was a “pilot” year for an interactive fun-learning program Nowhere Exploradores, where adults could come only if they were accompanied by kids.

Going Nowhere on the Manster Wheel (Photo by Haroon Chowdry)

Five children (speaking four different languages) went to explore how things work at Gate and Greeters and became honorary members of these teams.

They also learned how to operate fire poofers (because we need to get them young!), and they ran in the Manster Wheel. The goal of this program is to show that kids are not just an addition, but that Nowhere is their holiday too.

As you might have read in the past, many Nobodies are helping in the Jungle, the refugee camp in Calais, France, where there are over 7,000 people.

During the last year, there were several crews helping to build shelters, working in the kitchen, and working with kids and youth. Some actually stay there year round.

During this Nowhere, there was a collection, which resulted in a van filled to the top with tents, bedding, clothes and also 20 crates of food. All carefully sorted, cleaned and packed. Also several new volunteers showed their interest and will help in the Jungle over the next few months.

Big Step Number Two

First burn ever (Photo by Haroon Chowdry)

Nowhere is burning! After 13 years, the Spanish authorities finally let the event build an effigy that they could burn. It is hard to explain how HUGE this really was.

Imagine that Nowhere is in an area of desert with bushes. It is happening at the time of big heatwaves and fire-risk warnings: there is NO open fire, and even the small solid fuel camping stoves are not allowed. And, yet, we got permission to burn.

Many people had no idea this would be happening until the day of the burn. They thought it was just a rumour, and that signs along the gate road saying, “We are going to have a burn. No really. We are going to have a burn”, were just teasing.

It was an epic burn. People were overwhelmed by joy and emotions, and the firefighters (who had to be present) came afterwards with eyes wide open and grins on their faces —  this was great, can you guys make it bigger next year?!

Big Step Number Three

Art. More art, interactive art, great art. Let the pictures speak for themselves.

Previous Big Steps

It takes a team – and pirates – to build a Burn (Photo by Haroon Chowdry)

Last year Nowhere hired the first paid employee and undertook a major restructure, which empowered many people to do great things and definitely helped keep things moving and preparations smoother.

However, Nowhere represents 13 years of evolution.

Many people dedicated their lives and uncountable hours to this “week in the desert” and no matter how big the steps last year and at this this year’s Nowhere, Nowhere would not be where it is now without ALL THE WORK done before. As all Nobodies know: Teamwork is important. It really is.

Top photo by Fabio Affuso

About the author: Misa Rygrova

Misa Rygrova

Misa has been burning since 2010. She learned about Burning Man by accident on internet and is dust addict ever since she stepped on playa. She started to volunteer as Regional Contact for Czech Republic and Eastern Europe, is helping the Regional Network and in 2015 became the first Burning Man Project Fellow. She is based in Prague in Europe and makes sure Europe keeps Burning. Misa also loves to wear black and volunteer with Gate, Perimeter & Exodus. Her name should be written with diacritics, but it usually breaks computers...let's try it... Míša (pronounced as Misha or Meesha).

5 Comments on “Europe’s 13th Nowhere Takes Big Steps Into the Future

  • Hardcastle says:

    Yes! Nowhere! Burning stuff! All the fire!

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  • Gerflash says:

    Great going, Nobodies! Mighty oaks from little nuts grow! That’s how BMan got started, too!

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  • Alchemist says:

    The Burn was awesome! Very emotional!

    May I ask how much is the one employee of Nowhere paid? (per month?)
    And is this person working full-time for the festival, 35-40 hours per week, all year round? And if that is the case, what is the justification (the tasks) for a full-time all-year-round activity ?

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    • Plan B says:

      Hi Alchemists,
      I’m the person contracted as project manager for Nowhere. I work as a contractor, in months like August to January my workload is low, so I work between 10 and 15 days a month, then the load grows up to June/July where I work almost everyday. As such, I don’t have a fixed wage. Hope this answers your questions :-)

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