March 27th – The Festival of Dump-Dwelling

Sandwiched in between the districts of Hope’s End and Tallboys is the tiny district of The Tip. Only a few hundred metres across, this district that once held the municipal tip (now cleansed and converted into housing) was created in an unusual border dispute, still celebrated as part of the City’s civic history to this day.

Once upon a time, Buentoille’s districts had a great deal more autonomy that they do today. Under the rule of Rigus the Lackadaisical, they were given direct control over the taxes they raised from their populations, because of the trouble that Rigus was having hiring reliable tax collectors. A third of this income they had to pay to the king, but the local mayors were technically able to spend the remainder on whatever they wished. This created a huge problem with inequality between the districts, leaving rich districts with far more tax income to spend on their public infrastructure than their poor counterparts. Hope’s End and Tallboys district both began competing to have artists come to live in their district, as artists were taxed higher than any other group at the time, on account of the art they sold being classed as luxury goods.

Accordingly, neither district wanted to claim responsibility for the unsightly rubbish tip that straddled their borders, thinking that it would drive away the artists they hoped to ensnare. Both mayors bribed the Guild of Cartographers to redraw the boundaries in their favour, with the dump ending up within the other district’s land. The result was a small, ungoverned section of the City, full of Buentoille’s refuse.

It didn’t take long before people started taking advantage of the situation. Tax law was poorly thought through and implemented at the time, as where you paid your tax depended on where you lived on the day of the yearly census. The districts were required to tax their subjects at the same rates, but this did not apply to the newly ungoverned dump, where, technically, there was no tax whatsoever. On this day (the before the census) each year, thousands of people from all walks of life would descend on the dump to claim their residence there and avoid tax.

Homeless people of the time also paid the same tax, but directly to the crown, so there was no advantage to claiming that you had no residence, but this also meant that the folks who travelled to the rubbish tip today had to build themselves something that would legally constitute a dwelling. Rich and poor alike would spend the day constructing makeshift homes amongst the foul-smelling detritus, all in the hopes of saving some money. The tax regime at the time was surprisingly progressive, so richer folks could afford to spend a little more making a more comfortable dwelling, as the law stated that they must have slept there the night before the census-taker came around the following day. According to the archaic laws, dwellings could not be ‘maynle mayd of fabrick of anee sort,’ so tents were out, and small, cheap wooden structures were usually the chosen method, but as the years went by it became a place to display wealth as well as to save money, and many rich folks spent small fortunes on specially-made collapsible dwellings of enormous size that would be carted in by their servants.

After a few years most of the City had cottoned on, and finding a place to build your home became troublesome. Some folks started weeks ahead, finding an abandoned dwelling from the previous year that was to their liking (that hadn’t fallen to pieces, taken apart for firewood by locals, or been burned down by the heat from the decomposing mound beneath) and squatting in it until the census-taker came around. Fights over plots were commonplace, and death by fire was a constant fear. Come the 28th the place would be dead once more, except for children playing house in the alleged dwellings left behind, rubbish beginning to pile up against the walls of the makeshift dwellings.

The strange spectacle persisted for twelve years, before the new king, Cadleswitch the Enlightened, declared the area as an official district after being pressured by the other districts’ mayors, ending the tax loophole. Still, this is Buentoille and this day of construction had become something of a tradition. Despite the renovation of the area into housing, this tradition is still practised to this day: a few hundred Buentoillitants will travel to The Tip where they will construct a wooden house at the centre of the main square there. Students studying architecture, construction and civic planning are usually the main participants, and the event is advertised as a good opportunity for practise and study at the universities.

After the building is finished a large house party will be held there, and a few people will be nominated to stay in the building overnight. In the morning a ‘census taker’ will come and knock on the front door, awarding each a ‘tax rebate’ in the form of a cooked breakfast and a hot cup of coffee, welcome after their probably very uncomfortable night’s sleep. The building will then be either burned to the ground or smashed up by the crowd, depending on a vote. Pictures of each stage of the process have been taken each year since 1926, and can be viewed in the Museum of Traditional Antiquities, upon special request, along with earlier sporadic drawings and accounts.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Flautist Magazine’s Opening Party
  • The Festival of Prideful Mistakes