To attend the annual Rainbow SuperSpirit camp is to be part of a unique social and spiritual experience set in a beautiful rural environment that lasts for eleven days at the end of August culminating in the bank holiday weekend. The Rainbow camps were one of the first camps in this country and have been copied by many groups since with many different aims. The people who started the Rainbow camps wanted to encourage and celebrate a particular vision of communal living that grew out of the visions and dreams of the alternative lifestyle movements of the sixties and seventies and which still has great relevance for our present times.
Before getting into the philosophical side of Rainbow it might be an idea to give you an idea of what you might see if you came to camp for the first time. Deep in the Gloucestershire countryside you would see a few ribbons tied to a hedge at a farm gate as your sign that you have arrived. After driving across a field you come to a Welcome tent where you register and are warmly greeted and beside which is a car park to keep cars out of the living area. You are invited to take your car onto the site for long enough to unload your stuff and set up. The field is marked off in areas and you camp as part of a circle so you soon realise that the apparent hotchpotch of tents, teepees, yurts, caravans and motorhomes are in rough circles which are known sometimes as villages. Once you have found a spot that suits you you soon get talking to the people in your village who will help you set up if you so wish. During your stay you will get to know people in your village as you go to and fro to the main marquees or sit by your tent or the central fire of your village. As you look around you will see that in one area there are a collection of much larger marquees, yurts and teepees. They are arranged around a large central space and big communal fire. This is where the workshops and meetings go on. To one side is the healing area and also just outside the main arena are the craft area, the children's play marquee and area and the teens' marquee and area. A little exploration will let you find the toilets, of which there are several and the showers and sauna which are cunningly built into horse boxes. You might have come for the whole camp or just for a few days and you might have paid the full price or you might have defrayed some of the expense by taking up a working ticket which could be for a range of things from working in the cafe to cleaning the loos. Or maybe you have qualifications or experience in an activity that you can offer in the Craft Area or the Healing area that you can offer in return for a cut price ticket.
So far so good, but what can you expect to be happening at SuperSpirit? The events grow out of and take their character from the ethos and it will probably be a good idea to introduce that now. I think I can do this by quoting some of the lines from one of our Rainbow chants. 'We are circling, circling together. This is family. This is unity. This is celebration. This is sacred.' So Rainbow aims to encourage a sense of community, it is family friendly but welcomes people of many backgrounds and orientations. It is inclusive and tries to embody a sustainable ecological approach. There is a strong spiritual component to the Rainbow mix but it is not linked to any particular religion or faith. Practitioners of all faiths are welcome as long as they can be respectful of others beliefs. I would say that it is a sense of wonder and awe, a deep feeling of the sacred preciousness of life that is our common meeting ground.
Practically this is expressed in the activities that go on. Each day is prefaced by a morning meeting in which the activities of the day are introduced to give all attendees a good idea of what they might like to join in with. There are a range of art and craft activities suitable for beginners or those with a little more experience in some area. There is a healing area that offers different alternative therapies, massages and energy healing sessions. For the more physically inclined there are yoga sessions, different sorts of dance activities and even some martial arts training. For those with a voice there are a variety of different singing groups. It is worth mentioning at this point that there is no charge for any of the activities that go on at camp except a nominal charge for materials where appropriate and a small charge for a one to one session in the Healing Area which is to contribute towards improving the facilities on offer in that area. People with particular interests give talks during the week on many different things from living off-grid, through low voltage lighting to experiences of living with shaman in the Amazonian Jungle. One never knows quite what somebody is going to bring to the mix! The spiritual side of the Rainbow experience is met in many different ways. Every evening before sunset there is an evening celebration led by one of the spiritual groups. This takes many forms but is always light, joyful and outdoors if possible. There are sessions when people lead different forms of meditations and guided journeying. There are workshops on diverse aspects of modern spirituality and things such as chakra development, crystal pendulum dowsing, sacred dance, shamanic work, bhajans, and holy communion led by a Church of England vicar. The inner life and sensitivity is also catered for by different sorts of inner development and sensitivity groups. Bridging the sacred and profane worlds of camp there are also a men's group and a women's group for those who want to explore their gender identity in some way.
Most evenings there is home made entertainment of some sort in the cafe, often a scratch band, usually of surprising ability and danceability but music is often happening in the cafe during the day. One of the evening highlights is the cabaret evening and Friday afternoon features the now famous Tea Dance which is actually just an excuse for people to dress up in the most ridiculous clothes and have a good time.
It would be impossible in the space available to tell you about all the wonderful things that go on during the eleven days of SuperSpirit. You need to come and experience it for yourself. Many people find it a life changing experience, not in the sense of having discovered a new faith, but rather in having discovered potentials in themselves that they never dreamed existed and in discovering a new way of relating to others which is loving, supportive and life enhancing.
- Tony Faulkner