Freedom in every form of expression, of movement, of dance, of fashion, of any norms
imposed by society, of drugs, of sex, of spirit, of love. High in the Bulgarian Rhodope
mountains, for eight years, the music festival “Meadows in the Mountains” has been taking
place, each year getting bigger, more international and bling-blingy.
The festival which is highly intensified with electronic music, yoga, workshops, quite decent
food (some of it organic), and a lot of ecstasy, ketamine, you name it, has been a little
miracle for the economy of the depopulated village.
We arrive at midnight in the highs of the forest where a friend, working as an “eco warrior”
takes us to the camp and then around the festival, the scales of which were difficult to
perceive at the time. Endless alleys of lights music bars and art installations grace the
mountain scenery and come across as if Alice slipped out of her pages and took her
universe alongside, and any moment now someone would give you the "eat me drink me"
option. And they do. But first, you have to buy or bring your own metal mug to use for drinks
for the whole period of the festival as no plastic is allowed at Meadows.
Wandering through the stages, sights and everything overwhelming – from the disco balls
between the trees’ branches to the all pinkish sequinned feathered clothing (if ther’s any at
all) we come upon our first drag party for the night. Drag queens and performers mix up with
the euphoric audience in something of a celebration of life, liberty, sex, and decadence in the
middle of nowhere, Bulgarian mountains, that is. If only anyone could imagine that such
peaceful place as the forest hosts such vices, liberation and happiness.
As the electronic music continues its hypnotic time lapse (the festival relies on a diversified
palette of world-class DJs, artists, and performers) we gather to see the sunrise peeking
through the heights of the mountains, in аn unearthly mixture of fog, forest and anticipation.
In an almost cathartic moment we now are all together and nothing else is important.
Something “Meadows” gives is this strong sense of community based on the desire to be
free – jobs, names, origins are insignificant.
It’s daytime now and night survivors are chilling their way out in the warm weather outside.
Daylight helps you see how much thought and effort is actually put in the design of the space
as art platforms, installations, tree houses, terraces, wooden fire-breathing dragons, and so
one are inhabited by the hungover “Meadowers”. A lot of them are connected by the idea of
sustainability and protecting the nature. In fact, a key part of the festival revolves around
Nature and how-to-deal-with-ecology. Recycling is a must, reusing is a fact and strong
regulations apply. Gathering rainwater, then heating it with compost energy is an actual thing
and all of the incomes of the festival’s merch is used for the reforestation of the region. The
Smolyan municipality is also active and cooperative.
Floating around the mountain paths, partially half naked girls in flamboyant costumes,
shameless about body image issues or imperfections, with magnificent jewellery and tons of
sequins, add to the festive and unapologetic vibe. In their extravagance, though everyone
looks exactly the same as it always goes with the movements that deny social norms but
ironically become standards themselves though on a smaller scale. Always, the risks of
commercialising every aspect of life are inevitable. As the festival gets bigger, will Meadows
in the Mountains still feel as authentic as it was eight years ago when there were only a few visitors were embarking on the same hedonistic adventure?
The scale has changed but the infinite desire to celebrate life is there to stay. The choices of
manifesting it though like fashion, sexuality, religion or not, physical activity, music, food
choices, love choices, are such because of an opportunity that has been given. And that’s
that. And it’s everything.
Text – Boyana Djikova