What Will the New Story Festival Be Like?

People ask us, "What will the New Story Festival be like?" The most honest answer to that is: We don't know -- it hasn't happened yet! But on the basis of previous experiences with festivals, community, and the magic of a new story, one of our friends tells us this:

"The folks behind the New Story Festival show us what the renaissance of this new century holds in store. From their previous events, experiencing story after story revealing a fierce and tender love for humankind, I found myself filled with more hope about the age we live in than I've felt in a long time. A new kind of story is possible, one that leaves the myth of redemptive violence at the door, and one that gives voice to the transcendent power of love. This kind of story is new; an evolutionary leap. If we are ready to take it together, everything changes. A new consciousness beckons as dramatic as the leap from fish to the first flopping creature to walk on earth." -Pana Columbus, Asheville, NC

We think Pana is both very kind, and onto something :)

Register now for the New Story Festival -- three days next March, of spirituality, imagination, and the common good -- or sample what we're offering at the one day New Story Experience this November.

We can't promise exactly what will happen, but we can pretty much guarantee some good surprises!

The New Story Experience Schedule

At the New Story Experience in November 2018, across seven program areas in one day, we'll embody the new story: of connection instead of separation, of commitment to the common good instead of narrow ambition, of participation with imagination at the foundation.

We’ll play, think, contemplate, act, create, connect, and listen in community and alone, in quiet and noise, with distinguished teachers and leaders in the new story.

Featuring Brian McLaren (author and pioneer of the new story), Mona Haydar (musician and activist for the common good), Micky ScottBey Jones (nonviolence practitioner and justice doula), and Gareth Higgins (Irish writer and story organizer), along with a community of artists, inventors, activists, tricksters, and dreamers. Experience from the U.S., Middle East, Northern Ireland, South Africa, and elsewhere will animate our conversations about how to learn and share a better story to help make a better world. We’ll make a space for courage and practical tools, laughter and focused action, meaning and compassion, soothing the soul and generating energy for the task of life.

There are only 190 tickets available for this one-day event, there’s a sliding scale for registration in order to make it widely accessible, and we’d be honored if you’d join us. Register here

And for further details on the day itself, read on:

New Story Experience - Saturday, November 3

10am: Opening Session: What is the New Story? with Brian McLaren

11.15am: Breakout sessions (Choose one in the morning and one in the afternoon - each will be repeated in the afternoon):

  • Play - At the New Story Festival, you can expect this: we'll try to take life seriously; but expect this too: we'll try not to take ourselves too seriously. You're invited to join us in both.
  • Deepen - Sometimes called contemplation, the DEEPEN program invites us into practices that slow down our breathing, sharpen our thinking, and help us find resilience amidst the challenges of life and the world. Ancient wisdom experienced in a new context, for young and old, of all experiences.
  • Act - Margaret Mead said that we should never doubt that a small committed group of people can change the world, for indeed it is the only thing that ever has. Our festival will host leaders and dreamers for the common good, courageous light-weavers who show that each generation has the chance to discern what needs to change, and then make the change real.
  • Think - Before something can come into being, it has to be imagined. We're hosting conversations and talks from people committed to learning and sharing a better story - activists, poets, wanderers, leaders and questioners. Watch this space.
  • Connect - A festival isn't only a performance, but a communal experience of meeting, listening, and enjoying each other. At the New Story Festival, we'll be providing space for the building of a new community - and we welcome introverts and extroverts, and everyone in between!
  • Perform - From music to theatre, spoken word to dramatic monologues, and surprises too, come taste and see - or hear - artists sharing the new story in song, drama, poetry, and who knows what else?
  • Create - Art isn't just for people who believe they are artists, but the capacity to participate in and enjoy creativity belongs to everyone. Join us for experiential, entertaining, educative and amusing opportunities to make something new.

12.30pm: Lunch - lots of options for great Austin food within a few minutes of campus.

2pm: Afternoon Session with Gareth Higgins & Micky ScottBey Jones: the new story and you - inside and out. Two guides experienced in conflict and creativity will share how we can live better through better stories.

3.30pm: Breakouts (repeated from the morning - see descriptions above) - Play/Deepen/Act/Think/Connect/Perform/Create

5pm: Dinner. Have dinner on your own or with friends, or join us for an optional People’s Supper  - a movement to repair the breach in our interpersonal relationships across political, ideological and identity differences, leading to cooperation for the common good - in the most nourishing way we know - over supper!

7pm: Evening session: Mona Haydar in conversation on transformative spirituality, activism for the common good, and living a more humane, welcoming, courageous life.

Plus: Music performance to be announced later

10pm: Late night surprises! (For anyone still awake :-))

We Need a Deeper Shelter

We have often heard that people need four things to survive: food, water, air, and shelter. We rarely define shelter beyond four walls and a roof, but we know that we need a deeper shelter than that. I think there are at least three other elements to shelter, and I want to invite you to step into it.


There’s the shelter of friendship - a community that knows us, supports us, calls us out when we’re wandering from the path, laughs and cries with us, and generates an energy that is more than the sum of its parts.

There’s the shelter of having a sense of purpose that goes beyond self-centered ambition, and seeks to serve the common good. What is your gift? What is your need? How will you bring them both together to contribute to the most good for everyone?

And there’s the shelter of being connected to someone a few steps further ahead - mentors, wisdom figures, elders who have held steady through the storms of life and can show us how to do the same.

These three elements of shelter form part of a story of what it means to be alive. It’s a story in which power and fairness and wellbeing and hope and healthy lament and action for the common good come together with celebration and community, and an invitation to move forward no matter what’s happening in the world around us.

We’re building a festival around this story, and you’re invited.

In November 2018, we’ll host a one-day New Story Experience, offering a taste of the wisdom, inspiration, fun, sights and sounds of the New Story Festival, planned for March 2019. We’re announcing the schedule for the one-day November experience today. Get the schedule and register now


We're delighted to announce partnership with Whole Life Learning Center, a school for holistic and alternative education in south Austin, to lead the children's program at the festival this coming November. 

The mission and methods of Whole Life Learning Center resonate deeply with the New Story Festival. From their website:

"At Whole Life Learning Center, Mentors support the Whole child, and are committed to all facets of growth and development: intellectual, physical, emotional, and spiritual. We understand that all learning happens in relationship: relationship with the world, with each other, and with ourselves. From a place of deep inspiration, we help young people cultivate these relationships - this is Whole Life Learning."

Whole Life Learning Center has seven aims for its students: self-awareness, self-confidence, academic excellence & a love of learning, wonder & joy, creativity, emotional intelligence, community connection & global citizenship.

More than just a school, Whole Life Learning Center is also known for its summer camps, especially Camp Indigo, offered in collaboration with the Amala Foundation. Entering its 18th year, this heartfelt summer camp offers exciting and creative opportunities for children ages 4-12 to express themselves, explore their world, and celebrate the magic of childhood. Camp Indigo helps children build social-emotional skills through focusing on compassion and respect. The activities are designed to increase confidence, teach communication skills, and promote respect for self and others.

Kids' programming at the New Story Festival will showcase many of these same activities and emphases, allowing interested families a taste of what Whole Life Learning Center has to offer.


What is the New Story?

We are born into stories - they shape our hopes and fears, what we believe to be possible, the kind of lives we end up leading.

There are stories about power - about nations, communities, and belonging.

There are stories about who is weak, and who is strong, and about what to do to make the world better.

There are stories about exclusion and inclusion - about who is “worthy”, and who should be avoided, about who is brave, and who is to blame.

There are stories about how to be happy - about getting and keeping things (and perhaps sharing a little with someone else).

And there are stories about what to do with our own pain - how to slay dragons and win prizes, how to get ahead, stay on top, to protect ourselves from the world.

We may be unconscious of these stories, much of the time.

Many of these stories aren’t true, and aren’t helpful.

When our stories based on the idea that we can avoid suffering, that we should hold ourselves at arms’ length from each other, from the earth, perhaps even from love itself, they don’t work.

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But there is a new story, or at least a better way of telling an old one - a story based on coming together, not pushing apart; a story in which we accept that some suffering is inevitable in every life, but that none of us has to carry our burdens without support; a story in which we are privileged to partner with each other, with the world around us, and with love itself. Most importantly, it’s a story in which human beings are not the protagonists. Instead, we are each taking our place in something like a play with a huge cast: think of it as the largest Broadway show ever produced, and it’s called the story of the evolution of love. You have your part, I have mine, and we all need each other to make it work. The New Story Festival is a space in which we can experiment with living out the story together. With music and ideas, silence and contemplation, action for the common good, laughter and tears - a place where we can take life seriously without taking ourselves too seriously. We invite you to join us.