Summery and recommendations for 2013:
PermaLot Centre of Natural Building in Czech Republic had the honor of hosting the biannual European Straw Bale Gathering from 23rd to 27th of August 2011. A pre-event bus tour to 3 Czech straw bale homes and one straw bale insulated restaurant was arranged during Tuesday the 23rd. About 70 people were gathered for the official opening circle at 18:00 Tuesday evening; more joined during the evening and following days.
Wednesday offered hands-on workshops about bale-wrap of existing wall (Kuba), Rammed Earth (Nils), Final Plastering of existing cottage (Isabelle), C.U.T technique on a public SB bus shelter (Varied instructors as Tom Rijven was hospitalized), SB building intro (Maren), Intro to Earth plastering (Rikki) and cob sculpturing (Fano). During the afternoon some impromptu slide-sharing of personal projects took place. During Tuesday evening about half of the participants took active part of a 'World Cafe' session debating 9 different topics which had been submitted by participants during the day; the other half enjoyed social time by the fire circle.
Thursday was the day for presentations and discussions arranged in accordance with 'Open Space' technology. It included 12 separate sessions, and during the afternoon some of the hands-on workshops were continued, including a popular Tadelakt workshop. The evening was unscheduled, and the tea-house+ bar was open.
The ESBG included a open-for-public conference, which occurred Friday in a medieval stable converted to conference hall in nearby Bouzov. The event was arranged in TED- talk format with 18 minutes to each participant, head phones and open floor. It included simultaneous translation to Czech along with full technical support and catered meals. About 30 additional Czechs and Slovaks joined this trade event. During a break the inventor of the 'Drag-on' spraying machine explained about his device. The event finished with a Q&A session and time to talk more privately with the presenters and other participants.
To respect the need for early departure time for some, we arranged for the traditional 'good-bye' party during Friday evening, and we rented the courtyard of the medieval castle Bouzov for a jiving Irish folk music concert with the award winning band “Poitin”. Plentiful of famous Czech pilsner was available, as were a lawn to chain dance on. The concert was also open for the local region, introducing them to the joy of straw bale builders.
Saturday was the day of the 'E-Cohabitat' fair, including about 20 stalls by producers of eco-buildings and related products, organic food, tours of 'the Natural House' and workshops. Poitin continued to deliver the ambiance, and we finally managed to get a hands-on demonstration ional hot air balloon event at the castle, which meant only limited (about 150) additional visitors joined the event. At 14:00 we officially closed the ESBG 2011 with a good-bye circle, where about 50 people were still present. The circle included a touching feed-back circle, after which we had a final team-building exercise with packing up our 80m2 large festival tent.
We mustn't omit the fact that the plentiful nutritious (predominantly) organic, local produced and all- vegetarian meals cooked up by an international cook team headed by Franta and , were enjoyed by all and praised by many!
...And though the ESBG 2011 was over on Saturday, there was more to enjoy! Sunday offered our national 'Open Door' event. It included 16 (out of 24) Czech residential straw bale homes, and we are aware that some of the ESBG participants joined the many Czechs visitors to see the variety of techniques which has been used and get a feel for how a final straw bale home is.
In addition to all of the above, PermaLot arranged for a 10 day (fully EU funded) workshop focused on 'Big Bale Building Basics'; The workshop had 14 participants and started the following Thursday. The workshop was very enjoyable and during the workshop a 4x4m sheep shed with a large straw covered roof for agriculture machinery was constructed.
Our Recommendation for future ESBG's:
The ESBG 'user-group' has become quite diverse, as increased commercialization has occurred within the profession. It seems as we're moving further from the inclusive and sharing approach which has characterized SB building. We experienced that some participants favors the involved and sharing/ supportive approach which is typical of a natural building colloquium, and an increasing amount of people seeks a more commercialized conference, trade fair like event, without previous involvement and need to share.
In order to satisfy both needs, we recommend that the ESBG divides into a ESBG (G for 'Gathering') and a ESBC (C for Conference).
The ESBG would continue the trait of what was experienced in '05, '07 and '11, where the ESBC would be more akin to the ESBG 2011 or that of the EcoBuild in London.
We believe this is the only way to ensure maximum satisfaction for all parties, as we experienced that despite our exhaustive measure to ensure pre-event participatory involvement and information, a number of participants still expected the rather 'tour-guided' approach of the ESBG 09, rather than a more flat structure involved participation. Arranging for two different events would also allow for a more inexpensive ESBG, as the costs of the conference day ran too high in our budget. -Not to mention that the conference day took a disproportional of the volunteer (and paid) work to prepare; we are extremely grateful for the many hours of free work invested by James Morrison in preparing all of the graphics for this event; posters and countless re-makes of the brochure, which were made in both English and Czech languages.
We wish to use this opportunity to especially thank some of the participants who stood out due to their positive energy and involvement; their ability to 'adopt' the event; As the central organizer I especially noticed; Erik(B), Nils (NL), Max (USA/PL), Kuba (CR), Rikki and Maren (ES), Mikk (EE) though another dozen lovely balers likely should be added to that list...
Our gratitude also goes to our sponsors; Claygar, Drag-On, Ekopanely, Ekoshop, Libor Pokorny, Castle Bouzov, Olomouc Kraj and Permalot.
But most of all gratitude goes to the volunteers constituting the ESBG team; majority of whom have little or no involvement in straw bale building, all of them privately working as independent entrepreneurs. Folks who simply felt a desire to support the ESBG at PermaLot, each bringing their varied strengths to the ESBG:
David (light, water and facilitation), Zorka (facilitation), Fano (initial international communication, infrastructure, management of teahouse and bar, Honza (toilets, delivery and infrastructure), Lea (registration, travel and tour logistics & communication, teahouse preparation and infrastructure). Blanka (accommodation, registration and infrastructure), Thomas (websites, conference IT and infrastructure), Jan (open door event, fire prevention, infrastructure), James (graphic work), Martina (fund-raising, local diplomacy, PR and infrastructure + bale transport!), Standa (conference AV and photo/video documentation) Radka (accounting, infrastructure and tying 100 loose ends), Edo, (construction of bus shelter frame), Veronika and Vlada (fundraising and local politics re. bus shelter),. ...which leaves me, Max (who obviously didn't have to do anything!)
-Please have a look at their websites and find out their specialities. Would be lovely if you'd be able to support them somehow; purchase their products or services.