Breaking Convention 2015: complementary hemp shoulder bags

It was all so eerily familiar; the complementary hemp shoulder bags, each containing identical collections of complementary promotional material provided by the sponsors whose names and tastefully respectable logos surrounded the reception area like a chorus of guardian angels gazing down on the chosen with the celestial glow of infinite love and compassion. The chosen formed a dignified line of patience and good humour preparing for what they were about to receive with the good grace and humility that such a privilege should naturally instil. It didn’t matter who you were or how many PhDs you had under your black belt in science and academia or whether your presentation was destined to become one of the most talked about or the most quietly and understatedly brilliant or whether indeed you were merely there to listen and learn, one thing was for sure, you would, at the beginning of it all, undoubtedly receive nothing more and nothing less than a complementary hemp shoulder bag with an official program, a collection of leaflets, a complementary writing pad and a complementary pen.

The same had happened a year earlier at the World Ayahuasca Conference in Ibiza, although in slightly less imperial grandeur as the University of Greenwich, overlooked by the Royal Observatory as it faithfully maintained terrestrial time nanosecond by nanosecond while most of the people queuing up for their bags would probably dispute whether such a notion as time even existed at all.

Lesly should have been there at 8, we got there at 9.10, hopefully the illusory nature of time could be used in our favour. No one seemed to mind and she obediently assumed her duties handing out bags and ticking off names on lists. Later we’d discover that she’d been timetabled in for an entirely different task but, as always in these situations, chaos reigns supreme and order inevitably always prevails.

Flicking through the program was like receiving blurred premonitions of various simultaneous potential realities each orchestrated by a black and white mug shot with a heavenly smile and impressive past. Whichever reality was to condense into actual visceral experience was ultimately down to us and us alone. But which one? Which one?!IMG_5609IMG_5557 (2)

Breaking Convention 2015 Pt 2

imagesIt was the pre-conference preparation session and as Lesly, Esteban and I had all registered as volunteers we set off across London in Esteban’s massive people carrier in the direction of the Greenwich Meridian. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and we spent most of the drive listening to Esteban indulging in his favourite pastime which was basically bitching about his arch enemy. It was a great way to pass the time, listening to a fascinating story told with such passion and comic ingenuity.

Step inside...
Step inside…

On our arrival at Greenwich University we found our way into the inner-sanctum of what was to be the room dedicated to more practical workshops during Breaking Convention. We were greeting warmly by people like Julian Vayne, Nikki Wyrd, David Luke and Ben Sessa and directed towards a group of fellow volunteers who seemed to have instinctively organised themselves into the hyper efficiency of the industrial assembly line, repetitively and robotically attaching “Lanyards” to plastic wallets containing name tags in the form of LSD blotter paper.

IMG_5021It’s strange how sometimes neither the eagerness to be actively involved in a process nor even the obligation, be it self-imposed or otherwise, are enough to warrant one’s smooth assimilation therein. Having said that, we eventually found our niche and after a brief period of silence got chatting to a few people we’d never met before who were there for similar reasons to us. It seemed like all we really wanted to do was hug each other and say things like “Aren’t drugs amazing!” but according to the collective unspoken rules of social interaction we managed to keep ourselves under control. The guy next to me and Lesly was from Finland and was there as part of a trip round Europe, he’d just been to Portugal and seemed to be a bit low on funds. He was staying at a hostel nearby but would really have preferred to stay at someone’s house for free, he said he had DMT which he could offer in return. We felt a bit awkward about not being able to offer him anything which he may have gathered through our total lack of response to the proposal so instead he recommended us a really nice Ethiopian food stall on Greenwich Market which we went to every lunchtime for the next three days.

IMG_5011Once we’d got through the nametags we organised ourselves in readiness for a short talking session about a few practical matters such as making sure people were who they said they were (i.e. by checking their nametags) and other things which I personally promptly forgot. A grey-haired gentleman who looked like he was probably quite posh opened the door next to where I was sitting and kept it ajar with an empty chair, we exchanged serious nods which at the time I found quite amusing. Lesly would later intimate that he was rude and unfriendly which at the time I just took as a clash between her latinness and his englishness however after further dealings with him I kind of started to understand what she meant! Sometimes psychedelic people really aren’t the happy-clappy types you might imagine them to be.IMG_5025