All Blog posts by Jon Walsh


It’s not all about money! The future of exchange? Shambala becomes the first UK festival to accept Bitcoin

Shambala Festival continues to push boundaries and explore positive futures as it becomes the first UK festival to accept Bitcoin payments for tickets and other merchandise. Tickets and other products are now available via the website and online shop.

Why are we providing the option to buy in Bitcoin?

Shambala’s adventures in Utopia has been a continuous search for the fun, positive and purposeful and we have always explored better, alternative models of community and society.

Bitcoin is radically different from existing systems of exchange. It is the first digital peer-to-peer currency, decentralised and anonymous (to a point). Furthermore, emerging tech developments may offer an opportunity to explore new forms of exchange which do not rely upon traditional modes and measures of ‘value’ (e.g. gold standards and fiat economies, where there is inherent value and benefit in accumulation).

We are not suggesting that Bitcoin = Utopia. It’s not perfect by any means. We do feel, however, that digital currencies (and block-chains) are a game changer and it’s certainly a huge opportunity for discussion. It may also be a chance to reassess value, take back more personal control in exchange, increase privacy, reduce economic gatekeeping, help erode the huge inequalities in wealth that exist and start to level the financial playing field.

Why should we all consider entering an alternate (digital) economy?

We may just have a dream… but where does value come from? Fundamentally, it’s about demand (or need) to engage in any given system. It may seem poles apart to compare something we can easily see as having intrinsic value (i.e. gold) and an abstract non physical digital economy, but there is a network effect and a potential for a strengthening community base.

In the UK we currently have to exchange for most things with £GBP within the nation state boundary and via its systems and banks. If we want to buy from other parts of the world we have to exchange and use other currencies. If you think about it, it’s very cumbersome, always at a cost to the individual and profit of others.

There are of course many different push and pull factors for people to engage in an exchange system, but choice should exist. Digital economies are already providing a lot of choice. At the beginning of this year, over 700 digital crypto-currencies had already been developed following the first open source release of the Bitcoin protocol in 2009 by the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto.

New ideas include those with philanthropic drivers such as Carbon Coin, designed “to fund the planting of millions of trees worldwide to address the problem of soaring emissions”. Who knows? In the future, communities of the like-minded, or those who are simply regularly in contact through exchanges, may drive new models.

There have been many different systems of exchange and value over the millennia, first base for this debate has to be an acceptance that we do not have to be, and are very unlikely to be, stuck in our current systems forever. More direct barter economies have existed before, but just maybe, new digital currencies and block-chain could shake up personal economy and exchange, what the internet did for knowledge (and power).

If it was more direct, peer-to-peer and not based upon intermediarys of exchange that can be easily controlled, hoarded and profiteered,  it could be intrinsicly more free and fair. It requires a giant step in perception, but seeing digital exchange as a ‘memory’ rather than a value in terms of a promise to gold, or perceiving Bitcoin as a value in terms of the £GBP or $USD price, also opens an interesting and exciting debate.

These ideas can be seen as disruptive to financial stability and nation-states but the genie is, to a certain extent, already out of the bottle. The challenge is to engage in this debate, to look forward to change and to realise better, fairer ways of doing things in these hugely transformative times.

It’s not all about the money! Just maybe in the future you could exchange a favour within our global community for a plate of fine food at a festival near you!


Money Migration

Where’s all the money gone?

We regularly participate in conferences, workshops and lectures on all manner of topics outdoor events related. However, a recent invite to speak at an event organized by the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) was a little unusual and a first for me; “Festival Financials”

Ironic in many ways as financials” are the foundations of any successful event and business, but also understandable. It will always be a somewhat clandestine and secretive topic, rarely discussed. Indeed the world of festival financials can be such an isolated place that this event was immediately attractive, if only to share ideas and experiences with peers in the industry.

That said the seminar’s varied and interesting topics also highlighted the dramatic change and shift occurring in the sector. The festival industry is one of the last cash dominated industries.

Cash handling, event economies and cash-flow were just some of the topics. I’ll stick my neck on the block and suggest that pretty much all outdoor events will be cashless within 5 years – just one of the hot topics debated.

My contribution was to sit on one of the seminar panels on “Managing Cash-flow: Can you minimize transaction costs whilst getting access to cash prior to an event”, plus deliver a talk about Kambe’s history of growth, resource and financial management. This I did via a presentation of the crew management system we have developed and use for all our events.

Our crew system was in many ways born out of chaos, back in 2007. The first priority was the management of finances, payment scheduling, tracking and the facilitation of traceable and accurate onsite payments. There were off the shelf event management systems out there and available to us, but none of them linked data management to ticketing and entry. This was a no brainer for us, so with our ticketing agent we developed the first version 1.0.

From it’s humble beginnings developments have come a long way. A focus on resource efficiency for economic and environmental benefit has led to a plethora of individually available modules. The system can now handle;

  • Flexible e-ticketing, including “paid for” crew/guest tickets
  • Budgeting from event level to individuals and items
  • Expenditure management
  • Purchase ordering
  • Vehicle and routing passes
  • Meal allocations and their redemption
  • Applications for traders, staff, artists and projects
  • Carbon travel emission calculations
  • Event communication
  • Resource and stores management – consumable and loan items

The system is highly flexible and is designed to cater for the bespoke needs of any event. Administrative roles with definable permissions are a core element.