Festival in the Workplace

Anne Stadler

Sept. 16, 2008

Roosevelt Findlayson, MDR@coralwave.com is the inspiration for this piece. He and his partner Michael Diggis founded Festival in the Workplace in order to share the values and experience of Junkanoo with the world. Please contact him for more information. You can order the book “I Come to Get Me!” from Doongalik Studios, PO box N-1207, Nassau, Bahamas

In the Bahamas, Junkanoo is THE signature expression of the essence of community. On Boxing Day and New Years Eve, from midnight to dawn, “I come to get Me!” is the mantra of festival goers parading down Bay Street!

“Every Year thousands of Bahamians spend countless hours preparing for Junkanoo parades…these unsung heroes work behind the scenes and make innumerable sacrifices to present an annual spectacle to our nation that is unequaled in splendor.” Those are the words of Arlene Nash Ferguson whose book “I Come to Get Me” is the definitive work on the exuberance of Junkanoo.

Junkanoo is heritage. Arlene Nash Ferguson: ”I come to get me!”…With these words the door to our heritage had slowly opened again, and our forefathers were reaching out across the centuries, bequeathing a proud and indomitable heritage through the power of Junkanoo.”

Junkanoo is a nation-building model of excellence. In the book’s foreword, Jackson L. Burnside points out that “Junkanoo bridges the gap between artistic expression and everyday experiences and underscores the emergence of this multifaceted institution as a model of excellence for the building of our nation in the twenty-first century.”

Junkanoo is a model of distributed leadership. It is organized in “Shacks”, involving thousands of volunteers. Each “Shack” is the heart and soul of volunteer activity that begins as early as eight months out.

One of the Shack leaders explains how participation in the Shack works:

“At the end of this journey, I’m going to release this giant in me! Junkanoo is how you bring that spirit into life.”

“Festival is deep within us. It’s a spirit. It’s a direct link to our lineage. It’s bringing the spirit to life!

“It is an opportunity to change, to encourage a positive life style. You are belonging to a real community. People participate all year long. They know each other. People make connections with their own spirit and the spirit of other people.

“We add young talent every year.

“There’s a basic organizing system in place, as our shack expands we add resource committees. There are extended avenues of leadership: finance, design, construction, getting raw materials, PR.

“People come in, catch the spirit, and perform like professionals.

“Once that drum beat starts, it gets into you, and sets you free”.

My reflections: Junkanoo and self-organizing:

In Junkanoo, everyone knows they are “called” by spirit to show up and offer what they love for the community. AND they are recycling boxes, paper, and other materials over and over again, making new beauty each time! So there is a sustainable resource stream they are tapping. It is community based (either neighborhoods, or communities of friends) in relationships of creativity and work that is love made visible.

The key take-away for me is that festivals happen in every culture, every town, village, etc. The organizing system for volunteer-led festivals is an open-space-community system, powered by spirit, by people doing what they love, with distributed leadership, and appropriate form. It is love made visible. So it is entirely possible by connecting with local festival leaders to address a question that I feel is of key importance in the work of the Festival in the Workplace Institute:

Question: How do we take the social entrepreneurial nature and values of festival, into ecopreneurship? Creating communities and businesses that are green, sustainable, joyful, engaging the creative juices of everyone.