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Goths on a Bus to Mera Luna

Goths on a Bus to Mera Luna

M’era Luna sprung from the ashes of Zillo festival in 2000 and has not really featured much on our British Alternative Festival calendars up until now with the majority of the crowd being pulled from Germany and neighbouring countries. But all that is about to change! Enter Ade Atkins, the driving force (excuse the pun!) behind the Goths on a Bus tour which facilitates the black mass migration from all corners of our sceptred isle to the deepest darkest Germanic lands of Hidelisheim and safely into the fields of M’era Luna (and back again – should you survive the drinking, dancing and merriment and actually want to leave, that is!).

Going to M’era Luna for the first time this year myself, I did lament that I had not really considered going before – I loved the vibe and feel of the event with a main focus on the music and enjoyment which included the culture and fashion as a wonderful flourish. For me it was a nice blend of the carefree outdoor festival, interweaved with a more relaxed pageantry, all mixed together and topped with wonderful comradery. However, this seems something Ade has known for some time – attending every year since 2004 – “the festival for me is not only friendly, but has a wide variety of great music spanning all genres of the Gothic/Folk/Metal/Electronic/industrial scene in Europe, showcasing some of the best talent that you will not see very often in the UK. The facilities are very good (proper showers, flushing toilets, a wide variety of food and drink, catering for most if not all tastes). I personally would not want to miss this festival, it’s a highlight on my calendar.” He goes on to note the festival’s true care and consideration for the patrons it serves (which sets it apart from many other European festivals of this scale), “the festival this year was bigger, better and very well organised, and has grown to the size and popularity that it has by listening to the festival visitors and making improvements year on year!”

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The trip to M’era Luna from the UK is not entirely straight forward, involving planes, trains and automobiles (although isn’t very dissimilar from the effort required to get into Leipzig for Wave Gotik Treffen) so initially Ade decided to drive a minibus there with a few friends in tow, however he found this “was exhausting, and left me not enjoying the festival as much”. Then in 2008 he came up with the brilliant idea of hiring a bus, complete with driver and herding 22 willing participants across the channel. Since then the scheme has gone from strength to strength and even though the logistical nightmare and coordination required to move that many Goths and Alternatives in sequence, he (with the assistance of Clare for some online support) operates it totally not for profit and his payment is his own enjoyment and the enjoyment of others.

There are various pickups throughout the UK and payment options to suit most needs with only a deposit required upfront and even the option to pay in monthly instalments of £20 to help spread the cost of your summer fun through the winter drudgery. The £240 earlybird price includes not only the coach return fare (where every person is guaranteed two seats to themselves for that extra bit of comfort) but also the ferry crossing, the festival ticket and camping ground fee for the whole three days – which is a bargain! If camping isn’t your thing, there’s also the option to say in a hotel in the centre of HiIdlesheim. This is at your own cost but you get a free ride to and from the festival (from outside the Novotel) which would otherwise see you walking over 40 minutes or getting a taxi (as there are no public transport options).

Even in the rare event something goes wrong – such as the breakdown of one of the buses on the return journey that unfortunately happened this year – Ade ensures people are returned home safely with no extra costs to themselves as any extra costs incurred were reimbursed. “Goths on a Bus is a people focused enterprise, and I personally make sure that everyone has a good experience. I have a huge amount of personal pride in the trip and what I have achieved in opening up the opportunity for UK folks to visit a great festival.” It’s wonderful to know that the true community spirit of our collaborative Alternative scene is still alive and well in some individuals despite the growing commercialisation.

The Goths on the Bus tour sounds like a lot of fun, squeezing every last drop of enjoyment out of your summer festival escape, from the moment you step aboard to the time you wave goodbye and then long after as the stories and photos are shared among those in the facebook group. Jack Howard has been a regular on the bus since 2011 and is the self-proclaimed “Goth Herder” for the Northerners (a task for only the most steady of people – those northern Alternatives are a force to be reckoned with!) as he concurs “Herding Goths is like trying to herd drunken black cats at midnight, but worth it!”. While the return trip may (or may not!) be a more sober affair with the war-weary partiers slightly easier to herd, it still adds to the whole experience with Violet Aldridge likening the returning crew to “resembling a hoard of black clad zombies.”

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Still not sure whether this festival experience is for you? I asked a few intrepid first timers who attended this year’s festival what they thought:

Sophie de Ronde: “The aspect I liked most about Goths on a Bus was the additional socialising, especially on the way home. Safe camping in a group of trustworthy goths was a bonus, and of course the Coffee Man – a bloke with a giant thermos attached to his back who comes round in the morning with sugary caffeinated goodness when you’re camping.”
Louise Street: “This was my very first European festival and I must say Goths on a Bus is very well organised. I found the festival itself excellent; very friendly, very clean, reasonably priced, fantastic stalls and fantastic company.”
Natalie Ultravixen: “This was my first time and was a great way to get to know people and a safe way of camping as well. In a lot ways, M’era Luna puts UK festivals to shame.”
Steve Diamond: “Having a group of like-minded fellow compatriots with you for the event does make it stand out above other German festivals I’ve done. The journey to and from the venue (from the UK) was excellent and really helps to extend the festivities.”
Andromada Mystic: “I loved it and am down to go again next year. The lovely people to travel with meant we started relaxing and having a festival atmosphere from the moment we got on the bus. I began the event knowing only a few people and ended it with shared memories with many friends. We all looked after each other in our own way… first timers and experienced, and I missed everyone the moment I woke up after the trip.”
Roxsanne Lesieur: “The experience was fantastic, meeting new people and making new friends and being able to do it safely and knowing you will be looked after is a big bonus. I will definitely be going again and definitely with Goths on a Bus – it’s the only way to do it!”

And the true die-hards clocking up multiple wristbands for their scrapbooks can’t help but agree. Violet particularly enjoys the fact that they make sure they secure a camping area big enough to accommodate them all with a communal tent for socialising, merry-making and beverage sharing at the heart of it, where “on the last night I stayed up till past 4am chatting to lovely friends. Which is the best thing about travelling in a big group, those late nights that turn into early mornings.” This collective erection of gaiety and glee is facilitated by Duke Shaggy Pyro who revelled in the presence of the sharable bounty of that social lubricant from the instant you stepped on the bus, fuelling the miles per hour and ensuring everyone arrived fully charged: “High spirits start the moment you are on board and that’s not just emotions. It does not take long before you are well on your way to getting merry as there are lots of drinks being shared around.” Jack Howard (with 2015 being his fifth trip) explains why he keeps going, “stand-out things that make it an awesome event year after year for me: The huge variety of music from Metal to Ethereal and everything in between, the clean, fresh-water-flush toilets on the main drag (you can do the entire event and never go near a portaloo), the huge choice of food from full carnivore to full vegan (and this particular carnivore will be going back to the Yellow Sunshine Vegan Burger stall next time – their soy-beef cheeseburgers were to die for!), and just the amazing atmosphere of the whole event.”

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I can’t imagine you’re not yet convinced an expedition to the continent for M’era Luna is must for next year even if you think the Goths on a Bus trip may be more fun than you can handle. But if not, I leave you with these last words from Ade “Not only is this festival very well organised, it has a great variety of music, lots of stalls, beer and food to encompass every taste. But most of all its friendly and welcoming which makes M’era Luna particularly special to me. In the 12 years I have been attending I have watched it grow into the great festival it has become and can’t wait to enjoy the next 12!”

To find out more about the Goths on a Bus tour and to book visit the facebook group www.facebook.com/gothsonabus or their website at gothsonabus.com. A third bus has been put on this year but places are currently limited. The next M’era Luna is on 13th and 14th August 2016 and you can find out more about it at www.meraluna.de/en

published in Devolution