“We grew out of a tiny little idea to go camping with strangers, and since have made a difference to thousands of lives around the world. Yestival is a celebration of this idea that we can all have a positive impact”
As with everything in the early stages of the YesTribe, Yestival wasn’t so much an accident as a passing thought which stuck, then became reality, and ultimately turned into a ritual.
At the end of this week the fourth Yestival will open its gates, and if you’re one of those beautiful souls wandering up the wooded track towards our Field of Dreams in West Sussex, please know that you being there really means the world to us.
We’re not a professional festival-creating company, we don’t do this for profit or pay. Instead, the very reason that a handful of new friends created the first Yestival in October 2015 is exactly the same one that drives this weekend’s gathering. We find ourselves as part of a community of people who don’t let inexperience or doubt get in the way of doing something that matters.
“Shall we run a festival?”
It was that simple. Well, until the planning started!
But club together the varied experiences of strangers-now-friends and sure enough, less than two months later the first humans were taking a walk towards our newly built field of tents. A big SAYYESMORE sign overlooked the grounds, warm messages greeted all-comers and I remember running up and down the track just hugging people and saying thank you. “From the bottom of MY heart, thank you.”
When a choice is made by someone else to support something you conjured up from nothing, well, validation should never be underrated.
From festivals to nights of adventure, hundreds of campouts and overseas trips and coffee mornings and giving a double decker bus a brand new life in the countryside, these creations are the result of us leaping onto the inklings of interest from anyone who once came camping and then uttered the immortal (and sometimes regrettable) words, “is there anything I can do to help?”
Of course, the answer was always a resounding “yes!”
It’s not easy running an accidental non profit. I set out to get more folks outside and to turn my social media ‘friends’ into real humans. I didn’t envisage leading a team or dealing with the endless turnover of volunteers or end of year tax returns or especially the occasional trolling that comes with having an online presence.
I’d just imagined the benefits of bringing people together in the great outdoors and even the concept of a bus in the countryside, but what lies behind these efforts was a footnote. And I’m quite shortsighted so footnotes have never attracted my attention. Yes people decide where to go and that decision includes the leaping (or slow, painful crawling over) of all obstacles en route.
Yestival is a celebration of another year passed, of hundreds of adventures and projects and good things done. Of the power of community and the results of an organisation that relies on non-transactional kindness.
And more importantly, Yestival is the way SayYesMore survives. It costs a ridiculous amount of money to put tents up in a field, order in caterers and benches and firewood and stages and lights and sound equipment and gear for the crew. Drinks and insurance forms and permissions and fire extinguishers and toilets! Don’t forget the toilets...
We made a loss for the first two years and now we’re still just inching over the finish line. But we always hoped that the months it takes to make Yestival happen would ultimately mean we could cover our costs for the year and that hope rests entirely on two things happening:
The scrimping and saving on materials coupled with the generosity of our speakers and staff.
And the fact that people decide to come.
And that is pretty special. That people decide to come to Yestival makes all of this worthwhile. We can create the most incredible setting, but if nobody is there it’s worthless. That final outcome is totally out of our hands. It’s up to you.
And here’s why I want to let you know that you matter.
You walking down that track is worth moderating tens of thousands of social media posts a year. Those smiles at the entrance gate and the selfies by the big sign, it’s worth the sleepless nights and the stress and the worry of committing to a big, expensive event. The cheers and laughter and applause in the main tent on Friday night is worth death by spreadsheets (oh my, the spreadsheets!). The thank you hugs all weekend: worth it. The social media posts afterwards: worth it. The “I’ll never forget this weekend” whispered in the ear before you walk back down the track, into the world you came from: worth it. When you spend an extra £10 to buy a Kindness of Stranger ticket for someone who you may not meet - you make OUR day.
So when you’re on the approach to Yestival, clear your head and take a moment. You’re not just someone who purchased a ticket to any old event. You’re not just a number to us, you’re a name and a soul. Hugging numbers is no fun at all.
You coming to Yestival makes our thousands of donated hours worthwhile.
The murmur of anticipation before each talk, it’s glorious.
Those little messages we find written on the SayYesMore sign as we limb-wearingly store everything away before the sun drops on the Sunday after it all happened; bloody hell they’re special.
The sound of your wellied footsteps walking down that track makes my heart pound with gratitude. Because of you, all the effort that the SayYesMore team put in is worthwhile.
And if there’s anything any of us should require from our time, our efforts, our hopes and our decisions: it is for these things to be worthwhile.
And my promise to you, seeing as you’re making the effort to come along, is that we have done everything we can to make your Yestival journey worthwhile. We can’t wait to see what you do next.