Open Your Mind This Weekend at Europe’s Largest Psychedelic Conference

by Rosalind Stone


Besides the academic programme, that which I’m looking forward to most about BC17 is the part which we, as organisers, can take no credit for: the spirit of the place, the hive mind, the collective energy of a thousand turned-on, tuned-in psychedelic advocates from almost 50 countries. I love the feeling of being part of that. It takes my breath away every time. David King, Breaking Convention co-founder

Breaking Convention: The 4th International Conference on Psychedelic Consciousness is taking place between June 28 and July 2, 2017, at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich in London. This groundbreaking biennial event, with over 150 speakers and 1000 delegates, is the largest of its kind in Europe. It’s thanks to events like this that society is finally coming round to the idea that psychedelic substances have a multitude of positive benefits. I spoke with the organisers about how it has grown since the first event in 2011, and what to expect from this year’s upcoming psychedelic extravaganza.

Breaking Convention

According to David Luke, Senior Lecturer of Psychology at Greenwich University and BC co-founder:

“the first [convention] had an intense intellectually trailblazing feel to it, because the research had been stifled for so many decades and this was the first such major event. Since then it has grown, as has the energy of the events, but it feels less subversive now and more accepted and acceptable once we realised that the taboo against psychedelic research has all but faded away. The spirit now is less of one of possibility and more of one of actuality.”

With the wilderness years before the Psychedelic Renaissance in mind, this BC’s scientific speakers list is, literally, a dream come true. Tracks range from ‘Plant Medicine,’ chaired by Danny Nemu to James Rucker’s ‘Ibogaine.’ It’s fair to say the conference’s former ‘spirit of possibility’ that David Luke describes has been given the freedom to hop over into the ever-diversifying body of research itself.

According to psychiatrist and MDMA researcher Dr Ben Sessa, the top three scientific ‘must-see’s’ are: Neuroscientist Dr Robin Carhart-Harris of Imperial College’s Psychedelic Research Programme,  Rick Doblin of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies’ (MAPS) whose Phase 3 trials of MDMA as a treatment for PTSD are set to start in the USA later this year, and Heffter Research Institute founder Dave Nichols, who will be joining David Luke and David King for a session on ‘DMT in the Human.’

“It’s been a big year for many of the scientists speaking at BC,” Ben enthuses:

“Michael Bogenshutz’s pilot study exploring psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for treating alcoholism was very exciting. Indeed, it has been an important part of me developing my own addictions study; exploring the role for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in treating alcoholism. Similarly, the field of addictions continues to rise as an important recipient of psychedelic research – which is a welcome return to the pre-ban 1950s, which is where LSD started its clinical life.”

For anyone who needs a hand navigating BC’s cosmos of clinical studies, Ben’s ‘Psychedelicus Historicus’ symposia features a vibrant celebration of psychedelic psychiatry past and present, with a broad spectrum of 10 different speakers, covering the very oldest and the very newest representation of psychedelic research projects.

Rick Doblin of MAPS. (Photo: Neurosoup]

Venturing out from inside the fMRI scanner and sneaking a peek at the rest of the line-up, BC looks set to be equally invigorating and illuminating on the drug policy front, with Aimee Tollan chairing sessions on ‘Diversity in Psychedelia’ and Sunday’s ‘Drug Policy Discussion,” featuring Chasing the Scream author Johann Hari, Steve Rolles of the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)’s Suzanne Sharkey and Volteface’s Head of Policy Henry Fisher.

Flying the flag for psychedelic culture, a cornucopia of psychedelic curiosities will be on show in a popup from the The Psychedelic Museum, curated by Andy Roberts, Nikki Wyrd, Julian Vayne and Robert Dickins. Robert’s chairing the ‘Bridging Worlds: Psychoactives in History’ track with talks from High Society author Mike Jay, Wendy Kline, Patrick Everitt and more.

Segueing from the past to the infinitesimally possible, ‘Philosophy and Mysticism’ track chaired by Noumenautics author Peter Sjöstedt-H promises exhilarating doses of mind-expansion, with speakers including Tim Hardwick, who also has a poem out in The Tripping Spriggan, the poetry anthology written especially to commemorate BC 2017.

All this psychedemia will take place in a cocoon of complementary creative enterprises, from interactive art installations to Cyberdelic Workshops to a stash of pioneering documentaries about psychedelic cultures around the world, many of them debuting in 2017.

Volteface’s own Head of Policy Dr Henry Fisher will be speaking at the 4th biennial Breaking Convention conference this weekend in London.

If this all sounds suspiciously fun for a conference, that’s because a sparkly guy-rope or two are intrinsic to BC’s organisational frame:“I’ve had some experience in organising festivals as well as academic conferences,” says David Luke. “We all loved to go to festivals and experience creative expression at its freest. The psychedelic community is both expansive and inclusive –  it couldn’t be anything else.” You can take psychedelics out of the countercultural revolution but you can’t take the revolutionary ingenuity out of psychedelic exploration, or the people who do it.

Bridging the gap beautifully between the science of psychedelics and the people who take them is Paul Austin, founder of the pioneering microdosing initiative, The Third Wave. He’ll be letting us in on the secrets to sub-perceptual cognitive enhancement alongside fresh perspectives from David Luke and Ben Sessa in a session on the ‘New Paradigms’ emerging as greater numbers of our society get ‘turned on’ to psychedelics.

“This conference is exactly like the psychedelic experience itself,” says shaman and Getting Higher author Julian Vayne. “It’s a confluence of so many different ideas and energies, all brought together to create a truly unique event that’s different every time.” It’s safe to say that whatever your mind-expanding predilections, you’ll find them at Breaking Convention. Ahoy!

You can get tickets for Breaking Convention via their official website.

Rosalind Stone is Director of Development for Drugs and Me, Publicist for Psychedelic Press and is a regular contributor to Volteface. She has also written for Psymposia, Talking Drugs, The Stylist and The Londonist. Tweets @RosalindSt0ne

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