Theme Camp and Village Planning

Organization

Organizing a village is much like organizing a theme camp, with an added layer of organization. While individual camps are made up their own groups and identities, a village forms a larger unified identity across all camps within the village. The village starts in the minds of those involved, grows in the group effort of making it happen, lives in the glorious unpredictable chaos of life on the playa, and ends with the aftermath of cleaning up and packing away everything you have brought with you. But bringing together all of the personalities, ideas and needs of a village is no easy task.

What will it take to make it happen?

Here are some suggestions:

These suggestions are helpful in organizing theme camps, but are especially important in planning villages to ensure a unified identity.

  1. What do you want to do?
    First of all, you will need a clear idea and identity, which can come in the form of a mission statement.  is crucially important for villages to have a distinct plan of what you intend to do together and why you are united. A mission statement can help with defining the identity of the village so that residents can understand where they fit in. Building a village differs from building a theme camp because you will have to build and run the village infrastructure as well as build and run your own camp. Village residents must be willing to not only create their own dream but contribute to the village community as well.
  2. Get in touch with the Burning Man Project and stay in touch!
    It’s important to inform the Placement Team in the beginning stages of your village planning, especially if you plan to request more than 200’x200′ of space. There is limited space for villages in Black Rock City, so informing them early of your plans will aid in placement decisions. After initial contact, alert Placement only about important changes in dimension, structural, or critical needs arise. If you need support in organizing your village, especially in its beginning stages, you’re welcome to contact the Camp Support Team before contacting Placement.
  3. Identify your core members.
    A village is collection of camps so each camp should have a solid organization and leadership structure. Additionally, because you may have several hundred people as part of your village, a core group of village organizers you can depend upon is also critical for success. These are the people who will be responsible 24 hours a day to deal with problems as they happen. These organizers should know each other well and should know how to work together. A general rule of thumb is: 1 organizer for every 20 people who are part of your group. If you have 100 people, then you should have at least 5 people who are alert and ready to deal with the inevitable challenges that occur. Likewise, if you have 300, you should have 15.
  4. Appoint a person to be your contact with the Burning Man Project.
    Your contact person should be the person who completes the questionnaire. Many villages designate these persons with the title “Mayor”. The Mayor should be vested with the authority to represent your group to the Burning Man organization both pre-playa and on the playa. This person should be available for conversations about placement of your camp as soon as your Placement Questionnaire is submitted.
  5. Plan your space to embrace the Burning Man Community at-large.
    Here are some suggestions that have proven successful for villages in the past:

    • Plan to have entrance portals to your community. People will need to know that they are leaving “there” and entering your “here.”
    • You will need a public gathering area: a civic center where the village community meets and interacts with the outer community. Create a central artistic structure that will encourage people to gravitate to that communal ground. Civic structures in the form of public art and stages are a natural outgrowth of people gathering together and are a true necessity to social cohesion and communal identity. They are something that will be shared with everyone. Every community needs a voice.
    • It is your responsibility to schedule and your responsibility to facilitate the creativity of your village. Some questions to keep in mind are,”When are things going to happen? How long and how loud?” Planning events ahead of time will promote a high level of visibility to non-residents.
    • Every village must have a location for people to have their private campsites. Take into account how many people you may have in your villages and be aware of their size requirements. It is wise to give yourself a degree of separation between civic, communal and private space.
    • Villages benefit greatly by having a bulletin board. They are helpful for information dissemination within your community and the community at-large. We encourage out-reach efforts aimed at directly communicating with the districts that border your village. The written and spoken word at Burning Man is our friend.
    • Villages are not required to have resident rangers, but since villages are bigger, they are more likely to attract people in need of assistance. Therefore, villages are encouraged to have resident rangers. Please contact our Placement team (placement@burningman.com) for more information on that topic.
  6. Visualize everything that can possibly go wrong and plan for it.
    Everyone has been up for 48 hours with no food and your supply truck is stuck in the mud 50 miles west of camp. You have a show planned for your main stage, which hasn’t been built yet since your main carpenter has disappeared onto the playa. The sound man had an allergic reaction to buffet food from Reno and his girlfriend is driving him back to Fresno. What are you going to do? Again, anticipate worst case scenarios. Remind yourself that it is Burning Man and things never happen the way you expect anyway. Villages must be flexible enough to allow for these changes.
  7. Understand that the Mayor of a village is responsible for making sure your denizens understand and follow our guidelines for placed camps. Use the resource guide and make sure that everyone in your village refers to this information as a guideline for life in a village on playa.
  8. As the mayor, you will be requesting the early arrival bar codes for your village. If the theme camps within your village wish to be listed on our website, they may complete a placement questionnaire for that purpose only. We do not need to see any individual camp plan or clean up plan. Once again that information comes to the placement team through the Village placement questionnaire.

More help:

  • Plan your village early and register. The earlier we receive your Placement Questionnaire the better. This is how we know that you are prepared. Information presented early may secure a better spot for your needs.
  • Develop a clear plan to make your village accessible to the larger community. A village is like a district in a city. It has a flavor and provides resources that are particular in nature. People will be attracted to it’s niche. It will be sought out and you should be planning to provide for your audience’s needs.
  • Think about sharing transportation costs by renting a truck or leasing a cargo container to be delivered and picked up. This simple but excellent idea can save a lot of headaches by freeing up space in other vehicles and would allow much more capacity for bringing your artistic vision to fruition. A truck would also allow for the easy hauling of waste on your return from the desert to one vehicle if you so choose. If there may be a delivery of a container let the placement team know in your Placement Questionnaire and read the guidelines for deliveries:
  • Plan for a communal shade structure. Temperatures in the desert can get up to 110 degrees and the sun, wind, and rain can be merciless. A shade structure will provide a respite from extreme weather and can also be made into a very nice chill space.
  • Think about having a light or beacon active all night to guide your villagers and their friends back to camp. You might be surprised to know how easy it is to lose your bearings during the day. At night, difficulty increases tenfold. A light or beacon reduces the possibility of wandering for hours searching for your village and familiar surroundings.
  • Develop a policy on the presence of the media. The Project works hard to see that the media is brought into the fold in a mutually enriching way. Many participants only see the cameras and booms moving around the event, but are not aware that many crews have completely embraced and contributed to Burning Man, and thus become a part of a community. They are looking for a human story and will be attracted to Villages. By opening your village to the media you are giving them a chance to show the world what you have created. They can also be a great resource for volunteer efforts and a lot of fun to have involved. However, many Burning man participants would rather stay clear. Discuss it and let The Project know how you feel when your village is contacted.