feminism

Interview With Olivia Beardsmore, Creatrix of Burning Woman Festival.

{Photo credit: Olivia Beardsmore}

 

Olivia is a British-born internationally qualified Experiential Empowerment and Firewalk Instructor, founder of Bushcraft & Survival Skills Magazine and The Bushcraft Show, and creatrix of Burning Woman Festival (UK). She has bundles of knowledge on bushcraft skills, empowerment, the power of fire, and intuition, among other talents.

We discussed with Olivia, who is a multifaceted and charismatic soul, about her passion for empowering women, her current projects, and how her journey to become the founder of Burning Woman was born.

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KN: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

OB: I am a sassy, kickass work in progress. I have an unbridled, single-minded enthusiasm for work, for fun… for life! Beneath my positive demeanor lies a burning fire of passion to do everything within my power to unleash the power of others. I am an internationally qualified, empowerment and firewalking instructor. I am the founder of Burning Woman, and my passion is to bring women together to share and support each other throughout life’s journey, and in doing so, make the world a more magical place.

I live on a 60 ft narrowboat with my children. We renovated it whilst we live aboard, surrounded by wildlife. I love to paint on found feathers in my spare time.

KN: Tell us the story of Burning Woman Festival, how and why was this project born?

OB: I felt to buy the domain name Burning Woman, so I did, and at the time I wasn’t sure why. It wasn’t until I was completely broken and had lost everything in my life, except my children, that the promotion came that now was the time to birth Burning Woman. I know I would have never created it if events had not played out to place me in this position, where I needed new strength, a new way of working, and nothing to lose in giving it all I had.

I had lived my life largely in my masculine energy. I worked all my children’s life, mainly in the publishing and events industry about bushcraft and survival skills, which was a male-dominated industry. I was raised by my dad in my formative years, and I was detached from my mum at this time in my life. I had always avoided coffee mornings and parent toddler groups, and the idea of spending my time with a group of women did not appeal for me. I would prefer to work, and in my mind be productive. I was being guided to create a gathering for women to connect. Every day I asked, please tell me what to create and I will create it. My only guidance was take a step forward every day and reach out and connect to women. Every day, I felt, who am I to create this? There are loads of amazing women who could create this. What if I fail, what if I get it wrong? One day, I spoke to a lady who asked me if I had heard of Cali White, who was sharing the same message that was coming up for me. She offered to connect us but I couldn’t wait. I really wanted to hear Cali’s journey and message. I found a video on YouTube where she was being interviewed, which I watched and cried all the way through, as she was articulating everything I was feeling but didn’t understand where it was coming from until then.

I began step-by-step to create the festival, and as I reached out to women and heard their stories, more women just flooded into my life. It was, and is, such an amazing experience. It was healing, moving and joyous. The women expressed such love and support for the festival that it grew rapidly. The timetable, volunteers and the majority of tickets had already sold within four months of the website going live. It was an incredible experience, and then COVID-19 hit, creating a new learning opportunity. This time has been a beautiful gift to connect with women from all over the world in weekly online circle gatherings and two online festivals. Burning Woman Festival has evolved for this year, and will be even more empowering and connected after the year of disconnection.

KN: Besides being the creatrix of Burning Woman festival, you are also facilitating other projects as well. Can you tell us about those?

OB: I love to deliver experiential empowerment workshops that break through barriers which hold us back from living our wild authentic selves. I teach firewalking, glass-walking, arrow-breaking with the soft part of your throat, board-breaking and steel-bar-bending, etc. Witnessing the breakthroughs and shifts that occur in people’s lives as they perform these exercises has been powerful. Later this year, I am qualifying as a master firewalking instructor, so I will be able to teach these powerful techniques to others to teach, in addition to new skills and techniques I have learnt along the way.

KN: Can you recommend any books that made you feel empowered and inspired?

OB: I have read many books that have influenced my life. I love Brené Brown’s work, and I am currently reading Braving the Wilderness. I loved her TED Talk on vulnerability. I also love The Warrior Goddess Way by HeatherAsh Amara. Both these women have had a journey, and share their experiences with power and vulnerability along with the powerful lessons they learnt from them.

KN: What would you say are the qualities of an empowered Burning Woman?

OB: A Burning Woman has a fire burning within.

A Burning Woman is ready to let her flames burn higher and shine brighter. Burning Women together are stronger, brighter and incredibly wild! Creativity and courage fires us and inspires us. We carry a torch for ourselves and for every woman — the torch of purpose, passion and power.

KN: How can circle gatherings and women’s festivals support women’s empowerment?

OB: This is a festival run by women for women… and here’s why…

The Burning Woman festival is a beautiful heart-space for women to relax, rejuvenate, celebrate, connect, flourish, transform and take time for themselves. Throughout history, women have shared common experiences of cultural conditioning. These experiences have impacted harshly on our confidence and identity.

The power of the Burning Woman experience is a power that ignites souls, radiates warmth, and shares light. Renewed and regenerated, your empowerment will spread to others.

Touch the power and you will be inspired. Touch others and you, in turn, will inspire them.

Like many flames dancing in the fire, women can come together to raise each other up and kindle feelings of togetherness and to remember our divine spark.

KN: Within the theme of empowering women in all your projects, you are also completely inclusive. You support the involvement of the masculine, though others may disagree with you. Please discuss the importance of involving men as a supporting role.

OB: Burning Woman is a festival for all women aged 12 and beyond.

Our vision is for a weekend of sisterhood! We welcome mothers, grandmothers, daughters, friends, sisters, and aunties to come join us as we gather to embrace and ignite the power of Woman. Together we will co-create a weekend of adventure, the arts, wild spirit, nature, fun and love as we deepen our connections to the Earth and each other. We will leave feeling valued, nourished, empowered and inspired!

Burning Woman does not discriminate against race, religion, sexual orientation, age or creed. Burning Woman Festival is about healing our connection to the Divine Feminine whilst respecting and honoring the Sacred Masculine.

If you identify as a woman and wish to share and contribute to this festival, then you are welcome.

The festival is a safe space for all attending, and we will not tolerate any form of hateful speech or behavior.

Please note, this event is limited to Women participants and attendees. However, at varying times, there may be male contractors and facilitators onsite supporting the festival.

At this present time, men are supporting the event and holding space for us to gather. There are men supporting their partners who have physical difficulties or mental health struggles, men doing security, and men performing during our evening entertainment (supporting their women on stage as backing musicians, for example).

Right now, I feel it’s very important to give good men opportunities to pioneer conscious masculinity which helps invoke positive change.

In time, Burning Woman may become an event for all to gather, but for now it’s important for women to have our space to connect.

KN: Are there specific exercises or practices you can offer to help women become more empowered? What life lessons have you learned that you can pass on to others?

OB: The experiential empowerment work that I do at my firewalk events is literally life-changing. My greatest life lesson is to listen and trust your intuition and then act on this. It is the acting on our intuition which is important, and can also be the hardest part. The experiential exercises I do at my events build physical, practical and positive experiences to draw upon when we know it’s the right time to act on our intuition.

KN: Most of your projects are about women’s empowerment through sisterhood of women supporting women. Describe what sisterhood means to you and why cultivating this is important.

OB: Historically, women lived closer together geographically and would work together and support one another. As we have moved further apart, we have also disconnected. Women need feminine connection. We have been wounded around sisterhood in modern times, but some of this wounding comes from the Burning Times, where women were forced to betray each other. Women felt it wasn’t safe to be a woman as the threat came from their community. We as women have learnt to be self-reliant and not ask for help, and in order to change this and do things differently, we need to connect (and not just online).

Burning Woman Festival was created for this purpose. My vision for Burning Woman Festival is women linking arm in arm, supporting each other with love and without judgment of where they are on their journey, sharing their gifts and talents to inspire and gift each other to achieve their highest potential.

KN: In your words, define sisterhood as a Burning Woman.

OB: From experience I have had and seen, women friends look at me and others from a place of ego, jealousy, competition and judgment, rather than compassion, diplomacy, patience, understanding and full mind-body-soul listening and connection. Yet these traits are our origins, women used to gather together with authentic kindness, heart-listening and sharing.

So, a Burning Woman lives by her heart. She shares the warmth of her fire with those around her, seeking to illuminate their life and provide warmth. She does not judge her sister, she only supports, ensuring she has enough fuel to to supply her own resources first. She respects and values Mother Earth, and indulges in the beauty Nature provides. She is a fierce protector of her sisters. She lives her wild, authentic self, and she loves others unconditionally.

KN: What is your involvement with TreeSisters?

OB: It was really important to me that Burning Woman Festival not only supported women but Mother Earth too. Donating to TreeSisters was the perfect opportunity to combine feminine power with their established reforestation projects that are ethical and community-led. We have already donated over 1000 trees, and hope to double this by the festival in July!

TreeSisters encourage nature-based feminine leadership to be proactive in looking after and sustaining tropical forests in places like Kenya, India, Nepal, Brazil, and more. Any funds Burning Woman raises with every ticket purchase goes into planting baby trees and supporting the local women in that country who seed and care for these trees!

KN: What kind of workshops can we expect to enjoy at Burning Woman Festival?

OB: We have a variety of offerings at Burning Woman, and we hope it continues to expand!

We have sound baths, pussy-power and yoni-healing workshops, cacao ceremonies, dreamcatcher-making, healing circles, a firewalk, aromatherapy massage, goddess temples, drumming circles, yoga and belly dance classes. Throughout the whole weekend, there will also be nature-based art installations and mandala-making, paint fights to tap into your inner child, and the first evening opens up the festival with incredible performers which include singing, poetry, belly dance and more!

KN: How do you see Burning Woman Festival expanding in the future and how has COVID-19 changed things a little? Please give us a glimpse into other future projects.

OB: COVID-19 caused us to postpone the festival in 2020 to 2021. This was a very difficult decision, however I have learnt over the years to surrender that all is as it should be, and I know that Burning Woman Festival this year is bringing such amazing and empowering content to hundreds of women attending the festival. It is needed now more than ever after such a period of disconnection from human connection. We have had two online global Burning Woman Festivals during the last year, and so at the next festival, all workshops are interactive to fill your heart and soul with a weekend of enlightened workshops and classes.

We have received a lot of interest to take this festival to the USA, and so that is something we are considering for 2022 or 2023, depending on the ease of travel moving forward.

We have another online event in the fall of 2021 for our global sisters who cannot make it to the physical festival this July 23rd-25th. And our blog is now open for submissions as well so that together we can co-create a strong sisterhood both at the main festival and as a collective, globally. We encourage women to share their poetry, art, music, short stories, dance videos, personal memoirs, and more on the blog!

Many would say that the most challenging and stressful aspect of the pandemic has been the physical disconnect. Even as the lockdown has eased, social distancing measures have meant that we can’t enjoy the close physical bond that is clearly so vital for our emotional well-being. Our bodies and our souls crave connection — connection to our sisters. We have a biological need to talk, to share, to learn, to grow, and mutually enrich our souls.

The Burning Woman Festival will be providing an astonishing array of workshops and activities. Through our participation and pleasure, we’ll not only re-ignite our fire, we’ll add that all-important fuel. Through our flame of joy, enlightenment and discovery, we’ll radiate to the world our warmth, light and inspiration at a time when it needs it more than ever.

{Photo credit: Olivia Beardsmore}

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At a glance, Katie Ness is a mermaid. In our world, she is a writer, artist, belly dancer, Ayurvedic yoga teacher, women’s circle facilitator, and ectopic pregnancy survivor. Dancing makes her bloom. She thrives along quirky edges, roving with the rippling rhythms of shadows and light that we call life. You could contact Katie via Instagram.

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