The Kingdom of Pipecland was a children’s kingdom that existed between 1938 and 1978. Founded by a young Montessori teacher, within an annual summer camp in rural Hungary, Pipecland was a fictional world within our world. Throughout its 40-year lifespan, Pipecland grew into a society of its own, with its own customs, a way of speaking, rituals, symbols, songs, style of art and so on. This happened because in Pipecland because the children’s imagination could come true through an act of role-playing, where nothing was scripted, new identities could be embodied and the lines between fictional and real blurred and overlapped.
To say that Pipecland was a Utopia is on one hand not true, on the other hand, a major understatement. It is not true because it was real. It really happened. And it is a Utopia because it was an attempt to create an ideal Society through the darkest days of Fascism and Communism. Needless to say, the Kingdom and the children’s camp that gave a home to it were completely illegal, surviving in a political grey-zone. News of it could only spread through word of mouth, and the camp itself never grew out of its initial size – about 30 to 40 kids annually, most of them returning from year after year.
After Pipecland’s disbandment in 1978, the former citizens went on to find their own summer camps, and consequentially their own Kingdoms. Today there are about 20 Kingdoms in Hungary with varying recognition of one another. They differ in their culture, but all point back to Pipecland as their ancestral origin. I was fortunate enough to spend my childhood summers in one of these kingdoms, and currently, I co-run Caer Cadarn, an annual 3-week children’s summer camp and Kingdom at a rural farm in North-East Hungary.
There is never only one story to tell. To this day Pipecland, its legacy and its lineage remain a complete Apocrypha, both locally and internationally. This is a vestige of its secretive nature, which kept the camps alive under decades of dictatorship. As a consequence, no literature has been published tackling the Pipecland lineage from an artistic or political perspective (two books and an exhibition commemorated the founder Eszter Leveleki’s pedagogical visions, though only in Hungarian).