I am up at 4am listening to Crowded House on RAGE (one of those all night MTV type shows), can’t sleep! It is one of the first wintry weekends Melbourne has had all year and definitely my first taste of cold since moving into the new beach house. The air is chilly and brisk and so I am sitting here buried in paisley patterned blankets dreaming about being back at Confest.
Confest is a hippie festival that takes place in the NSW bush every Easter. I hadn’t been back in 3 or so years and boy did I need to return back “home”.
I first heard of this mystical, magical place of freedom, love and expression almost 20 years ago… a hippie paradise straight from the 60’s that I had always dreamed and yearned for.
After many years of trying to keep my head above water in a soulless world that places too much emphasis on money and the status quo, I knew there had to be more.
I loved flea markets and boho looks, bare feet and freedom, but I wanted to find a place where this was an actual real and existing culture, not just an ‘ideal’ I had painted in my head. My heart ached, longing to discover my tribe. For me it was like finding Nirvana. And by some great sort of magic, I discovered Confest. I ran away from my mainstream life, gave up every creature comfort and security, and with a shining cohort – (a blonde curly-haired lad from England) – we mutually decided to become nonconformists, completely immersing ourselves into the hippie culture which is still a huge part of who I am today.
The road to Confest is beautiful. You drive and drive past desolate, lonely, funny-named towns, where nothing but a tumbleweed could have rolled by for hours. The endless Australian landscape stretches far and wide, at times you may not face a curve in the road for what feels like hours, and so you just watch the pavement shimmer yellow in the dusty, barren heat.
The sun burnt orange fields keep rolling past, dotted with all sorts of road kill and carcasses. It reminds me to put my foot down to arrive at Confest before it gets dark, as dusk attracts hundreds of kangaroos who seem to spring towards your car from all angles. Even driving at 120 in my van feels slow, I always know when I am getting close as my heart twinges with excitement, I almost forget to breathe. But with huge blue open skies, fairy floss clouds and eagles soaring above, what else to do but wind down the window and sing at the top of your lungs.
When you pull into Confest, you are quick to realise that this isn’t some lavish, big-budgeted festival. First of all there’s barely a sign, if you blink you could miss the entrance. For a festival that attracts more than 6000 people, from the road all you can see is a dusty road and some scraggly faraway tress, a rusty gate with an old broken walkie talkie attached and a bedraggled flag..... and then eventually after you drive deeper into the festival, you arrive at the welcome tent.
This has lots of smiling colourful folk, volunteers and Confest Stalwarts who run to welcome you, pull you out of your van and give you the biggest hug. Your weary legs almost buckle as someone whispers in your ear… “Welcome Home”.
You could be scared off at this point as Confest is a clothing optional affair....not a full blown nudie land… but a hippie nature free and fun type nakedness...it's natural there and beautiful and boy was it a huge learning curve for me. It was the place that allowed me to accept my body as it is and grow to love my body and feel free from within. It also forces you to question all the things you’ve previously been taught about nudity. The natural human body on its own is not harmful nor is it sexual, yet from such a young age we are taught to cover up, our parents might have even covered our eyes if there was ever a naked person. We live in a world where if people see a photo of a woman’s nipple, and organ used to feed a baby, they immediately report it and feel so offended. Yet, videos containing violence which show people injured and bleeding and in pain are often freely shared on the internet, sometimes without a single person batting an eyelid.
As John Lennon once said, " We live in a world where we have to hide away to make love, while violence is practiced in broad daylight ". We seem to have place such a stigma and shame around nudity, it doesn't really make much sense. At Confest, there is nothing more heart-warming and beautiful than witnessing so many people of all ages and sizes feeling so confident and wandering freely and happily around in their organic form. Absolutely rocking their Birthday suits! It is fully empowering, strengthening, liberating and reminds us we are human. If we feel confronted when we see a naked body, yet not at all confronted if we witness a brawl or people hurting one another then perhaps it's time to have a good hard look at ourselves. The human body is beautiful and nothing to be ashamed about.
Confest hosts the most head spinning array of wonderful, weird and definitely wild Workshops. More workshops than you can possibly imagine. Yoga, meditation, chanting, dancing, tantra, sensual massage, laughing classes, cuddle workshops, kissing workshops, how to overcome trauma, how to move past fear and believe in yourself, compassionate communication, curly hair workshops, you name it, they’ll have it.
It’s no surprise that everyone wanders around barefoot, arms open with a huge smile on their face. The workshops send you into an upwards spiral of self-love and total heart-expansion. Including love tunnels which guide you through a wall of people who kiss you on the cheek and tell you everything they love about you. People walk out of the love tunnel with tears streaming down their face, conceding that they’ve never been told they are beautiful or felt that sense of unconditional love before.
Rainbow children with matted hair run around collecting sticks and leaving tiny Easter eggs at the foot of your tent to wake up to. The Arts Village attracts hundreds of people baring their bits to mother nature. Dancing around the bonfire naked, melting into the mud bath, splashing about in the river, doing massage trains in the spa or singing in the sauna… everywhere you look there are people embracing one another, embodying their inner child, laughing uncontrollably and waking up to their inner power. It is a beautiful thing to both witness and be a part of.
Having my Sea Gypsy Stall there was a great cosy pastel base and meant that so many friends and fellow market gypsies I hadn’t seen in a while could visit me. A lot of them still remember me as Heidi from the days that I used to host the Naked Bike Ride. We drank wine, laughed until it hurt, sang songs and mostly, simply remembered how much LOVE there is in the world.