The European Ecovillage Gathering 2023: activating hope, honouring grief and going forth with joy

It took almost four years: from the first preparations in 2019, to nervously waiting for news of lockdowns in 2020 and again in 2021, it at times felt like the moment would never arrive. But as the sun set over the green hills and forests surrounding Nature Community and we looked out at the hundreds of individuals from across the world settling down in front of the main stage for the opening ceremony – we knew it would be worth the wait.

Gathered around the main stage. Photo: Luk Jonckheere

From 12-17 July we were finally able to celebrate the 2023 European Ecovillage Gathering in Nature Community, Bavaria. The sun (mostly) shone down on a sold-out event with record turnout: we welcomed over 800 participants from 41 countries, including over 100 children, which through the magic of co-creation transformed into a beautiful temporary community over the course of four days.

Reconnecting with old friends. Photo: Ana Correia

This year’s Gathering was woven around the spiral of Joanna Macy’s Work that Reconnects: a methodology “designed to foster the desire and ability to take part in the healing of our world”. This framework enabled us to address the complexity of our feelings towards our changing world, with each day’s opening based around a step in the spiral: coming from gratitude, honouring our pain for the world, seeing with new eyes, and going forth renewed.

Graphic recording by Fanny Didou once again helped us navigate our morning sessions. Photo: Ana Correia

A diverse programme

We were especially pleased to welcome as guest presenters Vivian Dittmar and Christian Felber, who offered bridges and insights from aligned movements. Vivian’s talk on true prosperity offered a framework and language for all of us who have long felt disconnected from mainstream concepts of prosperity: through her words, we envisioned a world abundant in time, rich relationships, boundless creativity, and harmonious ecology. Her warning that moving to an ecovillage without working on yourself first sparked knowing laughter from long-time ecovillagers! Christian Felber’s engaging intervention on the economy for the common good sparked curiosity and dialogue on democracy, wealth and practical policies for real economic alternatives. Both presentations pointed to ecovillages as hotspots for growth, innovation and experimentation: whether in the social skills needed to create true prosperity, or as spaces to develop economies that honour life, nature, and the common good.

Besides our speakers, participants could choose from over 50 workshops bringing together the best of wisdome and culture from across the ecovillage and allied movements: would it be meditation, ecstatic dance, tools for civil disobedience, embodied climate dialogue, eco-building, community financing models, or storytelling around the fire? The afternoons were dedicated to collective sessions that brought the whole Gathering community together, including the Meet the Ecovillages market and a community resourcing circle that connected new communities with the gifts, generosity and talents of our network.

Decisions, decisions… Photo: Ana Correia

Children were warmly welcomed at the Gathering and had their own programme with games, creative activities and outdoor adventures, all culminating in a delightful performance of their own creation at the closing ceremony. We were truly delighted to receive so many youngsters and are especially grateful to the volunteers who supported each other to ensure the whole family could enjoy the event.

As ever, music, dance and song were an integral part of our gathering: from spontaneous jam sessions to singing circles, DJ sets and live ecstatic dance. Connecting to our strong wish to welcome in local culture, a barnstorming Bavarian dance session surprised and delighted the crowds on our first evening, while classic GEN singalongs and live concerts enlivened the programme from morning until night.

No Gathering is complete without a GEN singalong! Photo: Ana Correia

As every year, the Gathering was made possible in no small part by the dozens of volunteers who gifted us their time and energy: to cook, clean, prepare the spaces and signage, and so much more. We are hugely grateful to Nature Community members and volunteers and our Dream Team of European Solidarity Corps who did so much to bring the event to life.

We are proud of the community we co-create at this event each year, and the wider network that sustains it. Reflecting on our biggest ever Gathering, many long-time participants and organisers agreed that this year’s event felt like a true step up in opening up world of ecovillages to newcomers: we were delighted to welcome many first-timers, who commented on the warmth and community spirit created throughout the event and the quality and diversity of workshops.

We go forth strengthened by this moment of reconnection and hope this unforgettable celebration of ecovillage culture will be the first step for many on their ecovillage journey: we welcome each and every one to explore our network further, discover our trainings and resources, volunteer in ecovillages, or become a member.

Stay tuned for more photos and videos from this extraordinary event – and we hope you’ll join us next year in Angsbacka, Sweden!

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