I was fortunate to be able to attend Wild Goose in Hot Springs, North Carolina last weekend. It was my first time to the Goose though I’ve been wanting to join the party for years. These are my reflections and visions based on that experience incoherently corralled for your consideration.
- They started off in the right direction when they determined to call it a “festival”. There are enough “conferences” and “symposiums” out there. We need spaces where the arts are celebrated and we get out of our analytical/critical mode a bit into a more creative mode.
- The Carnival de Resistance is a pure work of glorious righteous chaos. Talk about getting into a creative mode! This group added so much zest to the festival. Just. Yes.
- Speaking of the Carnival – every stage at Wild Goose should use bike power next year. Invite audience members to take turns providing the power.
- The organizers were shooting for over 50% persons of color on stage this year and succeeded. Excellent presenters/artists/speakers they were too. William Barber II and Jin Kim were the highlights of the entire festival to me.
- People often point out that Church Marketing Sucks, but Wild Goose had great design and production values. It does make me wonder how much it costs to look so good and whether it is worth it.
- Here’s where I turn a little critical – the site in Hot Springs is beautiful, but super expensive and inconvenient to get to. The cost of travel and the fact that your ticket doesn’t include food or lodging makes Wild Goose pretty expensive to attend. I think the Goose has a potential problem on its hands trying to build a justice oriented community which is exclusive due to location and cost. Then you learn that most of the presenters received no pay and even had to buy a ticket, and the festival organizers make regular pleas for donations and I start to wonder where the money is going and what that says about their priorities.
- For example: Jars of Clay? What is the reasoning behind contracting “big name” bands? Is it really a draw? Most people I spoke to were there for the community and conversation and not for any one particular name (McLaren, Schaeffer, Wallis etc…). Did having Jars of Clay headline sell enough tickets to make it worth it? I’m not privy to the finances of the festival or anything so I am just voicing the observations of a first time Goose attendee – but if it was me I would be looking to make the festival as inexpensive and inclusive as possible and also to highlight new or unknown talents.
- I think Wild Goose should employ more open-space and more participatory elements. There should be an open-mic stage constantly running. There was a collaborative mural near the carnival at one point and there could be a lot more of that. There could be a lot more workshops and less “talks”. Learn how to do liturgical dance. Learn new worship music. Learn to do liturgical arts. Live more into the community-building movement-building aspect and less into the “talking-head” aspect.
- There are a lot of authors at Wild Goose there to promote their books (I was one of them). What about having a stage right beside the book tent and having authors just come and sign up to get 30mins to self-promote. I understand they had a lot of applications for people to speak this year and they could have made more time for those if they’d shifted some of the self-promotion stuff to its own space.
- The food vendors at Wild Goose were good. There were some delicious options and the Lions Club booth was even reasonably priced. Oh and the Desanka cafe was warm and welcoming and wonderful.
- Barber suggested in his sermon that we should do Wild Goose in the “ghetto”. He made the point that if we gathered for a week in a poor neighborhood we might be able to stop the violence for a few days in addition to bringing economic activity to a place that needs it and drawing attention where it belongs. There was a lot of clapping, but is anyone going to take him seriously? Or are we going to continue taking our money to a resort community as far from poverty as possible?
As I’ve processed the experience I had at Wild Goose what has emerged is that I love what I saw and I want the Wild Goose to be truer to its own ethos. I want a Wilder Goose. One which is more inclusive, more participatory, more community-oriented, more just. And when I say “more just” I don’t mean more rhetoric about justice, but a festival which concretely embodies its theological commitments by reducing waste and consumption, by directing the economic benefits of the festival to those who really need it, and by ensuring that the poor and marginalized are made a part of the community not just the object of our discourse.