Following on from the morning debrief we began a discussion on the fairness and accessibility of CloudCatcher WitchCamp. I was particularly interested to have this discussion. A few things come up every year about Camp payments and pricing, and I wanted to take an opportunity to check in with community to see if we offer the best we can and are accessible to as many as possible.
In general and after lengthy discussion all those present felt that our current pricing and payment system were, overall, pretty fair and balanced. It was noted that the website and registration process currently don’t make it clear who can apply for scholarship and concession prices, which has left some people not applying because they felt they did not fit an assumed criteria. There was also feedback that cancellation or on-selling of tickets for those who register but cannot come might need to clearer. For 2015 these have been noted and will hopefully be made more obvious to those registering.
To summarise our pricing system this year, we had 3 payment levels. Full ‘early-early’ payments made by November were the cheapest at $530, early payments made before our January cutoff were $590, and the most expensive being a full payment finalised just before Camp at $650. We also offered concession prices in each payment period at $460, $500 and $540 for students and low-income earners. Young people 23 and under have a flat rate of $460. We also offered several scholarships of $250 and $300, given to those who applied, with a focus on first-time Campers and those who had not received a scholarship in the last year. That is four days and nights of Camp with all meals, accommodation and pathwork. We do pay our three full teachers $500 when finances allow, and pay for full teacher flights and domestic travel. Just for comparison, I have seen similar-style retreats running over only 2 nights for $750-$1200 (that I hear are also very worthwhile). There are also 10-day intensive Vipassana retreats that are purely a voluntary donation.
We discussed several variations and options for Camp payments and how we might best serve the community in offering places at Camp, and I will break these options up with some of the pros/cons and comments made during the discussion.
Full Scholarship: This is the entirety of the Camp price paid for. It’s an idea I’ve always kind of liked. Pros: it offers a space to Camp for someone with no disposable income, it’s about as accessible as it gets. Cons: It was felt that there should actually be some exchange, some commitment made by the potential Camper so that they both value and fully participate in their Camp experience, and are less likely to blow off Camp at the last minute leaving us short on numbers.
Work for Scholarship/Concession: Some Camps have specific roles, like an Altar Priestess, and in exchange for holding the role receive a scholarship. Pros: It can attract diverse scholarship applicants, and it can help ensure roles and tasks are fulfilled. Cons: It can potentially isolate the role, leading to less community involvement and more feeling of ‘having’ to do it rather than ‘desiring’ to do it.
Overall, while we found the idea interesting and a good method of providing reciprocity, we decided that most Camp roles we want to develop as shared, creative, engaging community roles that shift and blossom over the years, rather than creating an expectation that certain tasks should carry certain financial benefits.
Cut-off Dates: One idea posted that we could alter the payment system slightly – rather than a full payment being made by a cutoff date, we could allow Campers to pay half the early price before the date, with the remainder before Camp. Pros: Allows more people on limited incomes an opportunity to guarantee their place and price, rather than chasing an increasing price up to the Camp. Could provide more signups early on giving security to organisers and possibly more signups overall. Cons: Possibly more work chasing final payments before Camp. Could result in slightly lower income if more people shift to early bird prices.
No decision was made on this, and the organisers are still discussing it as an option.
Other aspects of fairness were discussed, particularly gender fairness. The Camp has always had many more women than men, and Reclaiming has a very feminist tone, which occasionally has made some men attending feel slightly alienated. There was also some feedback that possibly the masculine aspects of our myths may not be explored to the same depth or extent as the feminine. The organisers have taken this on board and will look at ways to make our Camp more inclusive for men and male-identified people.
It was also noted that we have a consistent and strong push towards community engagement and development, particularly as Reclaiming is still a relative fledgling in the area, but that we could also allow space for those who don’t necessarily want to contribute to the community but just want to pay their fee and take what is on offer at Camp itself as a spiritual intensive; looking at ways for providing both community development and an intensive retreat experience for those who desire it.
Disabled access has and possibly will continue to be an issue given the location and terrain. Wheelchair access in the bathroom was improved this year, but those wheelchair bound still often require assistance up and down the hill from the dining to the ritual hall. I don’t believe this has been a huge issue, but remains a point to consider.
The last issue was food, and remains a growing challenge, with the number of intolerances and restrictive diets seeming to increase. We have tried every year to cater to the varying and often very particular dietary needs of our Campers. This has been a trial for our incredibly gracious and dedicated caterers who have modified the menu each year and provided many individualised meals. The feedback this year was that the food offering was quite poor. We might need to create our own specialised menu, rather than providing the caterer a list of exclusions and assuming they can adapt suitably.
That covers this section. If you have any queries or comments please feel free to leave them below. Next Blog: CloudCatcher Dreaming into the Future