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Our History

Shambhala, 2010
Fort is founded
A box of cucumbers, a watermelon, and a twin air mattress for three

Qaid first camped at Shambhala with his friends Christina and Shawn. They bought tickets last minute, and had a single tent in sunshine lot with practically no food, a six pack of coolers, a box of cucumbers, and a watermelon. 

Back then, there was no phone service, so they left messages on the cucumbers for each other at camp or on this janky message board Shambhala had (above). Tina and Qaid found and traded a laser pointer for "vitamins". Neighbours took pity on them and fed them hot dogs. 

Qaid has not missed a Shambhala since.

Shambhala, 2011
Foundations being developed
Party supplies, rides, and camp-wide heatstroke

Qaid and Tina organized the second camp at Shambhala, which had approximately 25 members. They organized rides and party supplies as a group, but had no plans for communal shade. The days felt like years as the 25 campmates huddled for shade underneath the single 10x10 gazebo and grew delirious with heatstroke. It was a 35 minute walk to stages.

Shambhala, 2012
"Fort Saint McMurphy"
How "Fort Saint McMurphy" got its name

The year of the first "Try Stuff Thursday", and the first year of Fort in Meta (no-car camping). 

Mescaline Murphy, a Unicorn Head on a Stick, was named for obvious reasons. 

Murphy was deemed to be 1) Stern but Fair 2) From the mythical land of Manitoba, where he sold his body to escape (Manitoba was not real, it was made up by Ontario to make us think they're further away than they actually are). The name "Fort Saint McMurphy" was coined during all this nonsense and stuck. 

Murphy was later sacrificed on an alter in the Labyrinth (now the Grove) on the final day of Shambhala 2012.

Shambhala 2013-2014
The K Cup and a cool tent
Camp fees and camp culture

The core group of Fort combined with another crew (largely from Kitsilano), and for the first time contributed cash together to purchase a gazebo from Costco, flooring, and blow-up couches - now small camp staples across the festival world. At that time, though, these were luxuries.

This was also the year of the first Annual K Cup, a boat race which continues to this day. This athletic competition is considered Fort's very own F1, complete with a multi-tiered trophy with past winners inscribed. It was also the first year of Fort camping on Muscle Beach. 

Today, dozens of competitors race the Salmo each year, and is the largest camp-run event by number of attendees.

2014 to 2018
Steady organic growth
Growing and managing absurdity

At this stage, Fort was no longer a festival camp - it was a year-round affair. A formal management structure (made up of "Ministers" who reported to a "Commander", who was held in check by a "Senate" made up of older members/large donors) was formed, and a Facebook group kept people informed about weekly events, pre-drinks, and events like Fortmas, the annual Christmas party. 

Fort attended more festivals (Bass Coast, Lightning in a Bottle, and several others) and began growing their network across North America, largely thanks to Holy Ship (now Friendship). As membership began to grow, the difficult but necessary decision to formalize a strict, country-club-inspired membership process was implemented. Most of the leadership team cite this decision as the core reason why Fort continued to grow with stability where so many camps experience collapse. We also got some really amazing applications (videos, mixes, artwork) which helped us get to know our members in the process.

They also began scaling their camp operations. The annual K Cup grew, their camp grew in terms of size and complexity, and was often cited as "camp inspo" online. 

Simultaneously, membership grew in their careers (we now boast several senior members at well-known companies, successful entrepreneurs and artists) and gave back to the camp with their skills and resources. Many artistic members launched their design and DJing careers using Fort as their blank canvas and network. Our financials were made publicly available so everyone could see what money came in, and what money went out.

By the end of this time, Fort's presence at Shambhala was between 60-80 members per year, and global membership was in the hundreds.

2019 - Shambhala camp goal achieved
Victory on the beaches of Muscle
Muscle Beach for the people

From 2014 to today, Fort's team is heavily integrated into Shambhala, finding ways to bring the fun, safety, and security that Fort delivers for its members into the broader community. From 2018 onwards, Qaid and other Shambhala volunteers ensured that the dangerous embankment was kept safe (just above Muscle Beach). Fort's long-standing connection to Muscle Beach - helping those suffering from heatstroke, cleaning up garbage left behind by other campers, and ensuring people were safe - resulted in a close relationship with the Green River Collective, who are responsible for keeping the Salmo River safe and clean.

When the embankment south of Muscle Beach collapsed, Fort was invited down to Muscle Beach, where they remain to this day. The entire camp sees itself as stewards of the beach, and responsible for ensuring people are enjoying the beach safe-ishly, while also having more fun than they know what to do with. It's a gentle balance, but Fort does it well.

Our goal was always to keep leveling up our camp and community so that we could be the best camp at Shambhala. Highly subjective, but hey, after our setup and crew in 2019, we're claiming it. We had a open mic night with PK sound on the Weds, held a massive K Cup, had a stellar setup, and most importantly, a stellar lineup of homies.

The community comes together
Fundraising and supporting the community

Going into Shambhala 2019, Fort's tent - the Cirque-du-so-K - was on its last legs. Wind and rain had taken its toll on the old structure over the years, and discussions about a new structure were underway. After Mudbhala and the torrential downpour, it was final: Fort needed a new home.

After assessing various options (led by an Architect for Aritzia), a stretch tent was decided upon as it offered the easiest transport, teardown, and weatherproofing. A custom print and rebrand was designed by a former Saje designer and boutique agency head. In early 2020, the fundraising effort began.

Shortly after, COVID hit. Despite this, major donors and lenders came out in droves. More than $20,000 was raised from around the world which covered all. A custom print stretch tent was created in Australia, hand-woven, and sent to the team in the middle of COVID, where it would remain in the bag until 2021.

During the challenging times of COVID, the community continued to come together. We raised $5000 for BLM communities through a livestream, had a 24/7 zoom call room that was open for members who were feeling bored or lonely, bi-weekly game / community volunteer nights, and posted about exciting livestreams weekly. For Fortmas, we drove secret Santa gifts around in the back of a van, while one of our DJs played for hours of dropoffs - all of which was livestreamed.

Fortstival, 2021
The "First Party Back"
Fortstival, hilariously dumb name, great festival

The "First Party Back" was planned in 2021 - festivals still weren't happening in BC, and the people needed a boogie. Similar to the decision-criteria for Fortmas, the site had to be unique, and not used by other crews or festivals. 

A new management team for Fort came out of this project which exists to this day. That team found an incredible site - a 100+ year old fishing resort in Clearwater, BC, that was thrilled to host us. 

The boutique, friends & members-only festival was an immediate hit. Despite the plan to only host the event once, it was clear that it would become an annual event. Because of its size, we do our best to offer the highest level of comfort: showers, plentiful clean toilets, free food and midnight soup, games, taxi service from camp to the main site (literally a 10 min walk but ok), and straight up fishing if you want. 

As usual, the goal for Fortstival is not growth; it's to provide a great experience. Subsequent Fortstivals continued to maintain a small-ish number (~100 people) and good times. 

2022 to present
Back in action, more professional than ever
Party pros

With the 2022 festival season well into swing, the new org structure, new goods, and new systems was put into action and worked like a charm. Shambhala and Fortstival went off without a hitch, and frequent West Van mansion parties were enjoyed by all.

In 2023, a new website with membership functionality, and automated membership dues was developed to help streamline operations for the hundreds of members we have in Vancouver, Perth, Melbourne, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Colorado, New York, Toronto, Mexico City, Ottawa, Montreal, and New Zealand.

The core tenants of Fort remains. We continue to be non-profit - all our money goes back to the Fort. We continue to create drama-free spaces: if you bring some, you get evicted. We continue to accept everyone. Most of all, we continue to strive to design environments where people can be the best version of themselves.