Covid and festies: Boom in Portugal

Alan Dearling reports on developments, plans, hope and fears…

I’ve been extraordinarily privileged to be a performer and guest at the mighty Boom festival. It’s a very special place – being a permanent festival/arts site which is being developed on eco-green principles. It’s located in the heart of the Portuguese countryside, but performers and revellers from all over the world often travel via Spain, since it can be an easier coach journey from Madrid rather than Lisbon.

It is most definitely not your average festi! It’s primarily an EDM (Electronic Dance Music) celebration, but, spread across the huge Boom site there are many workshops and smaller stages for everything from holistic therapies and sweat lodge, talks, discussions and demonstrations, art installations, through to big-scale dance ceremonies and interactive performances. It’s a special place run by some amazing people – but – like every other massive or smaller arts and music event, it is currently in a state of suspended animation because of the Covid pandemic.

I thought that it would be interesting for more people to learn about the current Boom plans. As far as anyone can plan for anything at the moment! I’ve also included a few of my pics of the Boom festival to give a glimpse into a liminal world that offers a psychedelic portal to a completely off-world experience.

It ain’t for everyone. It’s hot, it’s loud. It’s about ecstatic dance… an almost mythical, mystical space… it’s huge and takes hours to traverse…and in its heart is the massive lake…but it is also a functioning and symbolic example of how festivals can support bio-diversity and sustainability. That includes permaculture gardens and some remarkable irrigation systems.

Composting toilets for a week for up to 100,000 staff, performers and punters. Plus, a massive programme of separated waste, recycling and massive composting. It works because the participants are all involved. And have opportunities to get involved, share ideas, mix, mingle, love and dance!

But, it is much more than just another dance-a-thon!


Here are the ‘current plans’ from Boom HQ. They raise some interesting, controversial and challenging issues around face coverings, vaccinations, sanitary bubbles and much more. Definitely food for thought. In the UK, many of my festival organiser friends, musicians and creators are also extremely concerned about the impact of Brexit. It appears that all sorts of paperwork, which may cost a lot of money and is extremely bureaucratic, seems likely to create significant additional barriers to international travel for performers (and support teams) to and from the UK (and their gear). Carnets and visas:  Apparently, every individual  performer/artist/photographer will need one of each for each border crossing, with attendant risks of having gear impounded. I have hit this major problem myself in the past – you just do not expect to need papers proving ownership of a musical instrument or a camera when you are entering or leaving each country for a gig or a festival. A double whammy in the face of the impact of Covid restrictions.




Note: The links in this communiqué work, but much of the content is in Portuguese! 

Dear Boomers,

Uncertainty has become ever-present. This pandemic is making us experience hope, despair and catharsis in a matter of seconds.

Portugal is going through the harshest peak of the pandemic so far. A recent newsletter from a Portuguese newspaper dating the 10 February 2021 was titled “A normal summer? Not in 2021…” The affirmation is self-explanatory. It follows a statement by vaccination plan coordinator Henrique Gouveia de Melo“Without herd immunity, our summer will not be normal. Perhaps we may be able to relax restrictions slightly, but precautions will remain in place”.


While navigating these uncertain waters, with an open mind and your unconditional support, we would like to openly communicate our thoughts and efforts.

Here are our updates regarding the production of Boom Festival, since our last newsletter:

  • We’re continuing our efforts to realise the 2021 edition;
  • We have joined several associations of cultural promoters to discuss the comeback of festivals with national decision-makers. The concept proposed to Portuguese political institutions is that of festivals as sanitary bubbles: masks and social distancing would not be requiredentry upon submitting evidence of a negative Covid-19 test or taking one at the gates would be required; vaccination wouldn’t be required; however, entry would be guaranteed with evidence of vaccination. This proposal, presented to the Ministry of Culture and the national healthcare authorities, DGS, aims to establish the necessary conditions to bring culture back. So far, there hasn’t been an official response as to whether this proposal can be accomplished;
  • We are facing the present situation with a realistic mindsetif we can’t make Boom Festival take place in 2021, we will organise other, smaller events at Boomland.

Boomers from 172 countries/territories were expected to attend the 2020/2021 edition. We’re well aware of the importance of planning this trip ahead of time – and thus it is our utmost priority to inform you if the festival will take place in 2021.

We must first and foremost guarantee your healthsanitary safety and freedom, in tandem with your access tickets and the safety of acquired services.

This is the basis upon which we’ve established the boundaries to make Boom happen in 2021 and without the following prerequisites, it will not be possible to construct adequate conditions to realise the festival this summer:

  • Physical distancing and masks mustn’t be necessary: can you imagine dancing at the Dance Temple, Alchemy Circle or at the Sacred Fire, amid a crowd of people using masks? Impossible;
  • It must be possible for the worldwide community to be present;
  • There must be clear protocols, issued by the Portuguese national health authorities, on how to deal with festivals: there are none to this date;
  • The vaccine must not be mandatory to enter the festival. We believe taking the vaccine is an individual choice. However, testing negative for Covid-19 or taking such a test on-site this year would guarantee entry;
  • It must be possible for us to start building new structures at Boomland from 1 April, alongside the international art & architecture team.

This is where we’re at. Until our next newsletter, make sure to tune in to the Liminal Podquests, the Boom Toolkit for Covid-19, Unite – Let the Music Unite Us, and to join the Boom Festival Bazaar community.

Let us remain positive and united. Soon we’ll be dancing together at Boomland!

Cultivate Freedom & Love,

Boom Team





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