A local business venture is pitching in to reduce the number of tents that end up in landfill after festivals and events around Aotearoa and, just as it has its beginnings here in Gisborne, it will be launched at Waiohika Estate for Rhythm & Vines 2020-21.
Meet Lisa Taylor, otherwise known as Camp Mother to thousands of kids who have passed through the gates of RnV over the past 15 years. Lisa first stepped into her role as Camp Mother in 2007, when she was employed to manage one of the BW Campgrounds. In that first year her team were responsible for 1500 campers, a number which swelled over the years, culminating in the 4000 punters that camped at Te Kuri A Tuatai Marae under Lisa and her crew’s care.
Lisa attributes the success of the campgrounds she’s managed over the years, “we’ve only ever had to cut one wristband” she says, to the spirit of manaakitanga, a way of receiving their visitors which comes naturally to her and her crew of camp managers and staff, which has remained fairly consistent over the years.
Lisa’s role has now extended to HOD Festival Camp Manager, managing all of the eight campsites and staff, which this year includes seven Camp Managers. All of the Camp Managers except one are women, Māori, and “bloody amazing” Lisa says. “They’ve got that natural manaaki, which they bring from the marae. As soon as the kids arrive we’re looking after them. By the time they leave, they’re calling us ‘Aunty’, ‘Whaia’ or ‘Bro’”.
The Camp Managers see their main jobs as keeping their campers safe, “We look at it like, that could have been my daughter or my son – we know we’d be grateful that there was someone looking after them”. By the end of each festival, life stories have been shared, and many a new Facebook friendship has been formed between staff and campers.
Lisa strongly believes that camping is one of the success stories for R&V. She notices more and more kids coming back year after year and she says that often tickets are selling before the lineup has even been announced, “What it’s done is it’s flipped the whole experience of R&V on its head I suppose. Kids are now coming for the experience rather than just the lineup”.
Lisa reckons they were quite strategic about how they went about managing the camps, especially those early days, “knowing our communities more than anyone, we were able to mitigate any mischief making. We had some hearty locals stay at our campsite to uphold a kind of family atmosphere that encouraged good behaviour”.
In collaboration with one of R&V and BW’s founders, Andrew Witters, Lisa has now applied that same underpinning of kaupapa Māori, namely the principal of kaitiakitanga, to approach the problem of so-called single use tents at events such as R&V; that solution is called ‘Bookatent.’
As Andrew Witters puts it “there’s no hiding behind the fact that until now, two days after R&V there has always been this sea of rubbish, namely tents” and while enterprising locals had done their best to turn the situation into an opportunity by passing the tents onto charities to sell as fundraising, Andrew says that in reality “the issue had overwhelmed a lot of the charity groups – it became their problem”.
Bookatent has been created by Lisa and Andrew to provide sustainable tent solutions for events in New Zealand, which will be providing pre-pitched camping options at various festivals around the country this coming season, starting here with Rhythm & Vines.
Their Bookatent website provides an easy-to-use booking system for tent and ticket packages at the different events, offering punters a quality festival experience that starts with a purchase and ends with the good vibe of reducing their environmental impact at their favourite events. Bookatent has also joined the Sustainable Business Network Product Stewardship scheme with the catch cry ‘If you can’t “Love Your Tent”, love one of ours and we will use it again, and again, and again.’
Some of Lisa’s 200 camping staff start as early as August and last week began the mammoth task of pitching perfectly formed lines of tents ready for occupation come December 27. There are ranges of both nylon and canvas tents, catering to 2 – 4 people and with optional extras such as stretchers, which tackle the problem of airbeds – one of the worst offenders when it comes to landfill-fillers.
Rhythm & Vines is the first festival in Australasia to do anything of this scale, and the Bookatent team had one of the tent manufacturers there onsite for set up, for problem-solving and to help shape their future plans, in which they hope will include more and more event campsites filled with booked tents as opposed to cheap tents only fit for a single outing.
“We’re all learning” both Lisa and Andrew agree, but in bringing together their experiences from the past into play they hope that this new venture of theirs will not only make a big difference at Rhythm & Vines but will help change that particular aspect of festival culture across the country. They hope that Bookatent will provide a sustainable and affordable option for local groups, schools and events too – a local business which provides a local solution to a global problem.
Story & photographs by Sarah Cleave.