Rathskellar Cultivates a Culture of Participation

Rathskellar wants you to get out of their camp.

Get out of their camp and do something, that is. The organizers of Rathskellar, a new theme camp “risen from the ashes of Spike’s Vampire Bar“, are asking all of their members to volunteer with at least one other group at Burning Man.

As Rathskellar co-founder Chris “BoyChaos” Bishop says, “Many of us already choose to work with other groups for the growth and benefit of our city. Making this a requirement to join our camp was a good way to encourage more people to do the same, and to show them the value of such participation.”

Diter building a table at Black Rock Station

Their experiment is already bearing great results. At two recent DPW volunteer work weekends, the Rathskellar crew showed up in force, contributing their sweat, blood and beers to the many tasks needed to prepare Black Rock Station – Burning Man’s Nevada work ranch and permanent staging area – for this year’s event. The Black Rock Desert also benefitted from their efforts, with Rathskellar volunteers helping to clean the playa of nails and other MOOP (Matter-Out-Of-Place) which is sometimes brought to the surface by heavy Winter rains.

“These work weekends play a vital role in delivering on Burning Man’s promise to Leave No Trace,” says Chris, noting that “They’re a lot of work, but they’re also a whole lot of fun.”

Rathskellerites after a long, satisfying day at Black Rock Station

Doug Worley, Rathskellar’s Minister of Combustible Arts, added “Our members got a chance to meet and work alongside some of the people who make Black Rock City a reality year after year. For us, Burning Man is about connection and contribution, and what better way to demonstrate that than by helping out?” In addition to volunteering with the DPW, Rathskellar members have lent their efforts to the DMV, Center Camp Cafe, the Basura Sagrada temple, the Black Rock Rangers, Camp Arctica, BRCPO and the Man KCrew. Off-playa, they’re heavily involved in NIMBY, a “DIY Industrial Art Space” in West Oakland, California that has been the birthplace of many well-known playa artworks. “We consider it very important for everybody to get out of camp at least once per day to enjoy the event and contribute something to the playa,” says Doug.

Of course, on top of all this, the Rathskellar folks still have a theme camp to build. They’re starting nearly from scratch too, having ceremonially burnt the Spike’s bar last year. “As well-loved as Spike’s Vampire Bar had become over the past five years,” offers Rathskellar’s resident linguist, Zak Scott, “it was time for a change. We wanted to go deeper – we wanted to go underground.”

In German-speaking countries, the word “rathskellar” refers to an alehouse in a room set below street level. For its organizers, the term means underground, or as their website says:

…and here, underground means everything from the seedy, Jungian shared underbelly of Black Rock City to the stays-in-Vegas cabaret glam that unfolds on playa. This a den of inventors and innovators, drinkers and dancers, builders and breakers, barkeeps and bar rats, merrymakers and motorcycling miscreants and all that lies in between. Rathskellar is where we Mad Scientists make our monsters, create our machines, ply you with libations, and see where your inspiration leads you. Dark and industrial, sexy and corseted; Rathskellar is a little bit of spooky to balance out the endless techno. This is where the wild things continue to roam. Come, brave souls, and roam with us!

Or as Zak puts it, “Think of Rathskellar as Goth/Industrial… Revolution.”

To help raise funds for this worthy endeavor, the Rathskellerites are throwing FOUNDRY, a fundraising event at San Francisco’s DNA Lounge this Saturday, the 20th of June. Featuring musical performances by Unwoman and Rhubarb Whiskey, and burlesque by Ariyana La Fey, Sparkly Devil, L’il Miss Never and Miss Kittie, FOUNDRY promises to be a singularly memorable night of “Mad Scientist Cabaret and Industrial Burlesque”. If you’d like to help Rathskellar become a reality, please consider attending.

FOUNDRY - A Mad Scientist Cabaret benefitting Rathskellar

“We’re also always looking for more like-minded folks to join our camp. If you want a Burning Man experience you’ll never forget, check out our website and then drop us a line,” says Chris. “We’re not Vampires anymore. We don’t bite… much.”

About the author: Aaron Muszalski

Collaborative culture expert, currently reinventing social productivity for the crowd. Formerly: Wikipedia Storyteller, Laughing Squid, Industrial Light & Magic.

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