AFTERBURN REPORT 2007
Without a doubt, the Regional Network is here to stay, as more and more people are finding ways to participate in and stay connected to their local burner communities throughout the year.
If you aren’t already plugged into YOUR local burner community and want to find out how to stay connected year-round, take a look at the nifty Regional Map that shows which regions have contacts and tells you how to get connected.
2007 proved to be a monumental year of growth for the Regional Network. With the creation of the Regional Network Administrator position at BMHQ to provide dedicated full-time, year-round support, the Regional Network swelled to 133 Regional Contacts in 93 locations around the world. Every week we hear from people in new areas wishing to volunteer to become Regional Contacts. There is so much interest that even with the addition of the Regional Network Administrator, it's a scramble to keep up with all the excitement and energy brewing all around the world.
Increasingly, participants in other countries write to get their regions on the map and start building their communities and strengthening year-round ties among local burners. There are burners all over Europe, Latin America, and Asia hoping to step up to this leadership role locally. If there were ever a question about how far-flung and widely known Burning Man has become, take a look at the Regional Map. We really are everywhere.
2007 also brought the creation of the Regionals Blog to document and share some of the amazing things happening in the Regional Network through pictures and stories.
While much of what happens in the Regional Network is just that -- regional, local activity -- 2007 also gave the RCs two opportunities to come face-to-face with one another - one at Burning Man Headquarters in San Francisco, and one in Black Rock City. In February, Burning Man held the first-ever Regional Network Summit, inviting all the Regionals to convene for a weekend of workshops, classes, and presentations, with plenty of regional-to-regional networking and a little bit of celebration, too. Aside from the Regionals Party held at First Camp each year, never before had so many Regionals been in one place together, and this historical event marked a huge leap forward in Burning Man's connection to these volunteers and a strengthening of their ties to one another
It was also our most successful year of Regional representation on the playa as we once again created the Regional Info Center at the Burning Man event. The new location of the RIC (6:00 and Esplanade near Center Camp) provided a wonderful opportunity to interact with participants, teach them how to get involved in their community, and to share their stories of what is happening the other 51 weeks of the year. The Regional Contacts themselves helped to create this space, and were often found lounging in its shade sharing stories, engaging with curious participants, and signing them up for their local announce lists or making arrangements to connect off-playa.
Not only are Regional Contacts working throughout the year to create multi-day camping events they call “regional burns” (e.g.: Scorched Nuts in Ohio, Toast! in Arizona, or Afrika Burns in South Africa), they host a myriad of ‘meet-n-greets’, art shows, film screenings, and other smaller gatherings. In Toronto, for example, the Regionals host a monthly Town Hall meeting to share ideas and plan for community events; in London there is Burning Pub once a month; in NYC a weekly Happy Hour convenes the existing community and welcomes newcomers who are curious about Burning Man.
Regional groups are also embracing the concept and ideas of Burners without Borders and working to bring the Burning Man ethos into the rest of the world through civic projects and community improvement activities. In Los Angeles, as wildfires burned throughout Southern California, meetings were convened by concerned burners to help communities impacted by the fires. On May 5, 2007, in a now-annual effort that has come to be known as Cinco de Playa, dozens of regional BWB groups came together and cleaned up local beaches on the same day all around the world.
There is so much happening in the Regional Network, and the legions of people who call themselves ‘Burners’ are growing steadily and quickly. It seems one no longer must necessarily make the journey to the Black Rock Desert to be considered a ‘true Burner’. There are more and more ‘Burners’ every year who have not made it to Black Rock City but feel just as much a part of the Burning Man community as those who have attended the desert event. Who says you need to make the long trek when you can find something just as wonderful, on a smaller scale and with local flavor in your backyard?
Any way you look at it. The Regional Network is growing up, with new and exciting ways to get involved and keep the fires burning the other 51 weeks of the year.