Some personal observations, Craig Newcombe 10/14/2010.
Confest, over some 35 years of its existence, has of course had its up and downs - from running fairly smoothly to paralysing feuds that threatened to split the organisation. There have been rumours of misappropriation, mal-organization, dis-organization, no organisation and lack of plain accountability. But Confest continues! Its ups and downs simply depending on who is involved. The miracle is it works at all, given no one gets paid and all work is utterly voluntary. At the moment it's pretty good. I like it. Well I'm more than that; I'm kinda proud of it! Each Confest has a difference vibe that is created simply by those who come. I think, it is new people with fresh visions that add the real Confest magic.
I count no more than 15 people who attend the 30 or so yearly organisational meetings in Melbourne. These are usually the same people who build and maintain the infrastructure (roads, paths, loos, water, workshop and cooking circles, safety, etc, build things, plus clean-up). That is all there are, and the average age is in the late 60's. That is a big big load on some weary shoulders, guys.
No one I know feels very rich in wisdom, mostly stressed, overworked but doing something they really believe in, although don't always enjoy. They do what works, usually improvising in a demanding, hot, isolated environment. Hard work and determination are admired. Infighting and criticism happens, but usually taken as it is meant - after a while. One hand usually does know what the other is doing, or much care. But there is a sense of comradeship, although no one thinks there is a core group. Rather, isolated, beleaguered and unappreciated. Voluntary organizations are strange places.
Who does what, is simply done by who turns up. Nothing more. Most things are done ad hoc and either work or not. Some things are almost done by tradition, even if they are not very good ones. Most things seem to be learned over and over again. But, then people can just decide to do things - and that is part of what makes Confest magic.
But we get there. Confest happens and Confestors tolerate what doesn't happen. Or, at least, they haven't gone on strike yet. There is no hierarchy, only a sense of people doing things for others. It's one of the things I love about Confest - contributing to a whole that Confestors make into Confest! My Confest story is of a lovely friend from Eastern Europe who came for the first time three years ago. Knowing her, I just thought it would be a disaster and didn't really want her to come. But at her first Confest, on her first day, she ran around and around crying "I'm home, I'm home!" And she truly was. Confest can be magical and always surprising.