What should the role of fluffers be (and perhaps not be) during build and strike?
This thread is carried over from a Facebook discussion, and I’ve tried my best to capture the main points (but I'm only human).
There is a second thread about feeding build, strike and fluffing crew - please make your comments on the relevant thread (I had high hopes of putting together the second thread this evening but this took me ages so will come back to it tomorrow/friday if someone else doesn't)
(taken from facebook thread - feel free to add your hopes)
- That fluffers/fnuggers efforts are recognised as equal to other build and strike crew members.
- That fluffers/fnuggers support strike team to achieve the goal of packing up site within the timeframe set by the site owner.
- All crew members' wellbeing is considered and people aren't left totally burnt out at the end of build and/or strike.
Roles of fluffers
1. Offering supportive conversations / interactions
Alison commented on the wellbeing of the build and strike teams:
“Unfortunately strike is probably the most stressful part of the burn”
Claire has shared that her role in fluffing / fnugging has been:
"cheering you on, hugging you and listening to your stress." Jamie affirmed that she has found Claire's conversations "therapeutic af"
Anna De Buiscuit shared that she has participated in strike by:
“spen[ding] the day counselling numerous members who were struggling emotionally and psychologically with various issues they were struggling with.” And that she feels this is an “invisible service”.
She also share that she “spent the night before strike looking after a Burner who was so drunk he was not safe to be left alone.”
Alison and Claire agree that offering supportive interactions can lead to better decision making and is supportive to the wellbeing of build and strike crew.
Alison also shared that “while a gulp of water, a snack and a 5minute shoulder rub are much appreciated by the strike team at appropriate moments, this is different from taking hours off to have deep and meaningful conversations. Strike leaders aren't despots, and you'll find they are great at making sure their crew is looked after, but there is a job to be done. Fluffing is there to help make it happen. It's a matter of judgement and two-way communication (as much the responsibility of fluffing lead as strike lead!)”
Alison suggests that “sit-down heart to heart conversations should be done outside working time where reasonably possible.”
I think most people are sensible enough to realise that when people are halfway up a tree it's not productive to entice them down with Apple pie and the promise of a free hour of counselling.
“Sometimes the best thing a fluffer can do is to remove themselves and as much MOOP as possible, and transfer themselves back to London to help with getting things into storage. There's always time to provide the shoulder to cry on when the job is done."
Claire asked / commented:
“Who is having all these hour long conversations? 😂 Honestly, I'm just wondering?
I walked around for hours both days bringing food and hugs and listening to what was needed so I could ask other people and make sure it happened. But that took five or ten minutes at the most other wise I would have been knackered and never gotten around.
Claire explained that longer conversations happened more in the evenings:
In the evening around the fire there were longer conversations sure, people talking about things that hadn't arrived, things that had arrived but weren't working.
2. Rehydrating and feeding people who are building and striking [note this is separate to conversation around feeding fluffing team which is in a separate thread]
Gulps of water and a snack (Alison)
3. Aligning with strike team aims
“we only have access to the glade for a very short period of time, we have very high standards when it comes to Leave No Trace, and we need to make sure the owner is happy. The logistics challenge of getting everything off site back to storage in proper order is huge. The strikers who organise all this do an amazing job of dealing with the stress after building for weeks and burning their hearts out, but strike is a matter of getting the job done in the immediacy.”
Alison also said:
“Fluffing must be incorporated into the same goals as strike - ie to get everything done ASAP. And if someone is about to pack up the kitchen, of course they get a meal. It's always good for fluffers to check in with strike lead as to what they think the fluffing requirements will be for the day. “
4. Generally offering a helping hand when needed
Holding a flashlight, helping to put up tents, helping Desanka to prep food / wash up, organise food donations, moop sweeping, helping to get other people on site to help with build/strike tasks.
How the role is perceived compared to other build/strike team members
Claire explained that not everyone can do the lifting and carrying etc. - "The amount of effort put in is not just determined by how much you give, but by how much of what you had available in the first place was given."
"Absolutely not everyone is starting from the same baseline of personal reserves - or has the same length of tether."
Hilda said: "At Nowhere, fluffers are an integral part of the build team, and therefore part of build and fed. I'm guessing this was the intention at Nest too, but got lost in translation perhaps." [note build/strike food related comments in another thread]
Alison shared her reflections:
"As a former fluffing lead (and still a regular fluffer) I'm with you on the importance of fluffing and the vital part they play during build and strike.
“ As for cantina food and 'workers' at Nowhere it ultimately doesn't matter what work you're doing, as long as you are doing something for the event (Fried and want to be alone? Here do inventory checks. Don't know anybody? Go fluff, you'll meet EVERYONE and they'll be glad to see you. Have a hankering to get hot and dirty? Here's a rebar pounder, fix the fence.)”
Other reflections on what has happened in the past:
Alison shared –
“I know that, in the past, there was a communication breakdown where some of the Strike team decided to relax at the beach when the short-handed crew were frantically taking everything down - including the beach-goers tents - to meet the owner's deadline, and that really wasn't fair.”
"the point is, does the fluffing that's being provided effectively contribute to the quick completion of strike? If someone is giving food and moral support to someone else, is it happening while chilling for hours or are people talking while also eg packing up the kitchen or doing an inventory? Or after people have stopped for the night?
But if the strike lead feels the fluffing is preventing them from doing their job effectively, then they are perfectly entitled to let fluffers know how much on-site support they can expect. Including meals, and, let's face it, Exeter services are only 20 minutes drive away.
Yes, it's important to manage stress, and fluffers are brilliant for this.
[Other reflections shared regarding feeding fluffing crew will be in separate thread to keep discussions focused]
Suggestions for ways forward:
Claire and Anna suggest having badges or something similar to identify fluffers.
Will Rogers shared: Nowhere is/was making an attempt to re name 'build' to 'setup' because there was a misconception that only people physically building are participating in setting up of the event, which is 100% not true. (suggestion agreed with by Amanda, Lauren, Nathan and Lexy). Although Lachlan shared that he feels the issue is also much more complicated than this suggestion alone.
Awareness for the need for emotional wellbeing support during strike (raised by Anna, Clare, Bess) - but maybe this should be disentangled from efficiency maximising fluffing and taken on by those who are called to do so in communication with other relevant orgs (strike co-ordination, welfare, fluffing)