After a few challenging years, 2010 was relatively easy. From initial planning through the end of the event, everything was really smooth. The few changes we made from past years included dismantling our council, and instead including all the managers in the decision-making process. This seemed to work very well, as it got rid of any possibility of having anyone in a placeholder position and brought all stakeholders in on the planning. We also added a three-person Placement Team, who helped our villagers find where they should set up their camp and help them acclimate. This also worked very well.
Lamplighters consists of a Project Manager, a Set-Up Manager, four Workspace Managers, a Volunteer Coordinator, a Village Manager, a Kitchen Manager, a Lounge/Bar Manager and two Relief Managers. There are some changes we feel need to be made for next year and we have been examining how other Burning Man department villages are run.
Setup and Teardown
Our Setup Manager and crew this year were amazing. We had a new Setup Manager and a few new people on the crew, and everyone worked well together and worked hard, with great camaraderie. The assembly of our workspace structure was trying. The wood was giving out and breaking while trying to tension the rigging, causing us to have to scrap some of the infrastructure for next year and rebuild it and maybe even redesign. Tear-down didn't go so smoothly. The manager was ill and had to leave the playa, but another veteran crew member stepped up and ran tear-down and did an amazing job. Our Setup Manager also renamed the crew SOAK (Symphony of Ass Kicking).
The extra work we did at the 4th of July work weekend at Burning Man's Ranch facility really paid off on-playa. The lamps were organized, in good working order, and, except for the Monday rainstorm, we had an easy time each evening getting prep done and lighting the lamps in a timely manner.
Speaking of the rainstorm – the worst of the Monday rain hit just as we were getting ready to head out. Luci, the Lamplighter work truck, was even affected by a "no drive" order, and we had to delay heading out for almost an hour. This resulted in a lot of cold, wet Lamplighter volunteers. For the first time in recent memory, we had to seriously consider NOT lighting the city. But then, clear skies broke, the double rainbow appeared (leading to cries of "What does it MEAN?" from everyone in camp) and we got clearance to head out with Luci. It turned into a wonderful night to light lamps.
Most nights we had more than enough volunteers, including Burn Night, which
was great to see. We did put notices at Playa Info and did some public service announcements on BMIR, which surely helped. We also had a new position in the Chapel this year – a Volunteer Liaison, which worked well getting the volunteers going with the assembly lines.
The Lamplighters Kitchen continued the tradition of serving hot meals to villagers of every food need imaginable this year. With a larger new-to-Lamplighters kitchen structure, the dinner crew was able to spread out and get work done without tripping over each other. The larger structure allowed for more seating within the kitchen and served as another comfortable well-lit place for villagers to relax when meals weren't being prepared.
Burning Man's Extranet (online information-sharing system), as in the past, proved vital in the planning of the meals and organization of the teams to cook them. One of our villagers stepped up and created an automated system that allowed us to email a reminder to each person with their donations and work shifts. This system was a great replacement to doing it by hand as it had been done in the past.
While the setup of the kitchen hit some speed bumps, the crew was able to prevail over problems that arose and were able to serve the first meal of the week without difficulty. We did suffer from a small minority of villagers not fulfilling their commitment to work in the kitchen, but other eager-to-help villagers volunteered and worked to make sure that every meal was completed and served. Judging from villager feedback, meals during and after the event were well-received and the crews did an excellent job in making that happen.
With a goal of serving food safely to our village, the Lamplighters Kitchen Safety Manual was sent out pre-event to all of the people who signed up to work a shift as well as being posted in the kitchen. While the manual proved largely effective, a number of villagers who volunteered to work could have benefited from more communication of the goals of the kitchen. Clear communication of our goals to all of the crew will be a high priority in 2011.
Recruitment Parties & The Lamplighter Lounge
Villagers served drinks and food at our annual Sangria Soiree and the Bloody Mary Brunch recruitment parties, while sharing Lamplighter stories and traditions as well as information about how to become a Lamplighter by participating in the nightly processions. These events bring in huge numbers of potential volunteers from Black Rock City. There is some concern that we need to draw clearer boundaries between work and play. The Lamplighter Lounge and Bar was shut down during lighting hours, no exceptions.
Lamplighters have enjoyed another year of success, without the stresses of previous years. What makes each year special are the bonds formed with each other, bonds that go beyond just friendship. Being a Lamplighter means more than lighting Black Rock City without fail every night. Lamplighters are a family.