By Izzy (France Regional Contact)
[This post was written with contributions from Marc and Philouz, our French « forefathers » to whom we are grateful for starting the French Burner community.]
“Paris Burning Night” is now 10 years old, and we’re celebrating this birthday on Dec. 17 with another mad and wild Paris Decompression. We are proud to say that this is probably one of the oldest annual Decompression events in Europe.
For the past five years, around 1,200 crazy Burners, live bands, DJs, fire artists, performers, organizers and volunteers meet at the foothill of Montmartre in Paris at La Machine du Moulin Rouge. This popular venue was the machinery of the Moulin Rouge (yes, the real one), turned into a nightclub a long time ago. Decoration and art installations make the space look like a Burner museum. Little rooms, tea ceremony, aerial silk ribbons, burlesque shows, cabaret, belly dancers and sometimes a real Brazilian batucada entertain our participants all night.
The French Burners network is thriving and renewing itself. It is now led by its second generation of leaders. The first seeds were planted when Marc came back from his third Burn in Black Rock City in 2006. “I wanted to do something as mad and as colorful as what I saw in the desert and share it in Paris,” Marc says. So he spent two months transforming his own apartment into a futuristic playa-style Theme Camp. Even the tiny toilets were pimped, storing a massive plant, speakers playing animal sounds and wood parrots looking at you. Jungle potties were a hoot.
Gaze upon these glorious costumes of 10 years ago. For Marc and Phil, it felt like there was no limit to their scene’s imagination.
On this first French Burning Night in October 2006, around 50 people showed up. Woooah. Big time. Some remote Burners heard of it and came from Austria and Croatia.
Marc never took down those original decorations, so his little Parisian apartment was a permanent Burner reserve.
Encouraged by the success, Marc, who had met other Burners in Paris (Polo, Eddy and Philouz), suggested a second Burning Night six months later with more elaborate activities and a theme, “The Awakening of Senses.” Then Philouz organized the third one in June 2007 at his place. He had no budget for decor, but he had a great idea: the room would be dark, and participants were invited to wear lights.
In one year, they had already organized three parties. Surfing on this good energy, in September 2007 this bunch of friends created the “French Burners” informal group, which few years later became a registered nonprofit. 2011 Burning Night was the first one at La Machine du Moulin Rouge, a popular venue with an underground feeling.
Even though it’s the 10th anniversary, we are up to the 15th Burning Night in 2016! We only made it an official Decompression in 2013, but the Burning Night has followed the 10 Principles since the beginning. It is always organized by an all-volunteer staff. No one is paid to perform. We actually don’t call it a party but a social gathering of the community based around Burning Man’s principles.
Like in the first years, the costumes are always sparkly, funny, and “enlightened,” whether bought or handmade. The performances include live music, belly dancing, fire juggling, batucadas and more, as you can see in this video from the 2015 Decompression.
The French nonprofit now has around 500 paying members, but the community is much larger, and our active Facebook page has 11,000 fans.
Paris Decompression has become a 24-hour event. As a gift to all our aweso-magical volunteers, we launched the “Burn Your Sunday” event, free of charge for all volunteers with a chill-out space to rest before dancing again, free drinks, food, and DJs all day. Burning Man culture stands out during Decompression night, but it sparkles on “Burn your Sunday”. The afterparty is thriving with conversations about where and when we’ll all meet for another Burner event in Europe or around the world.
Without the group energy and funding raised by Burning Night, the French Burners nonprofit wouldn’t have been able to launch its first proper Regional Event, a four-day outdoor event held for the first time in 2014. For its second edition in 2016, we found it a “sweet” name and now call it Crème Brûlée — as everybody knows, this French delicacy is better when it’s well burnt! The last one took place in an old farm estate in Normandy.
While the Paris Decompression allow us to show a glimpse of Burning spirit to newcomers, friends of friends and virgins-to-be, the Crème Brûlée event allows them to get more involved, to participate for longer, to camp and Burn together and to live a real Burning Man experience through volunteerism, self-expression, acceptance and gifting — and the one event couldn’t exist without the other. So Joyeux anniversaire à la Burning Night, seed of the French community!