Telling Stories to the Trees by Rima Staines.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Dark Mountain is a manifesto put together by Dougald Hine and Paul Kingsnorth, who met in that grand new fashioned way – through reading, admiring and commenting on each other’s blogs. This means that the process of getting to know each other has happened alongside the production of two Dark Mountain anthologies and two festivals – all of which has been hard work, both financially and emotionally.
Dark Mountain by Abi Daker.
I am interested in the space that Dark Mountain occupies because I have been involved in direct action for change through both Climate Camp and Transition Towns. Climate Camp stops the source of problems whilst creating an alternate vision of a sustainable future. Transition Towns tackles sustainability with local community action. In both there are attempts to talk about the crisis we face and the emotions that this elicits, but Dark Mountain is more explicitly about facing some kind of imminent collapse, facing up to and talking through it on an intellectual level. The Dark Mountain Project is also rooted in Deep Ecology, a recognition that humanity is just one part of the wildness that makes up planet Earth. It touches on the kind of emotional work that Joanna Macy teaches: the Work that Reconnects which gives a voice to our deepest fears.
Baba Yaga by Rima Staines.
So it was no surprise to find many familiar faces at the Sustainability Centre when I arrived late on Friday night, though the deep Hampshire darkness prevented me from doing much seeing and socialising. Instead I instinctively felt my way towards the fireside to join Tom Hirons‘ wonderful Baba Yaga storytelling session. It was so lovely to find a group of adults enthralled by stories, and a salient reminder that we need to have our imagination stimulated every bit as much as children do.
On Saturday morning Uncivilisation officially opened with an introduction from co-founders Dougald Hine and Paul Kingsnorth. Paul, ever the more downbeat of the two, presented lost property of an iphone and a penknife. ‘One will be useful after the apocalypse.‘ We then went straight into the major panel discussion: Collapsonomics. This was due to be presented by Paul Mason, but he had to bow out, currently busy covering the actual collapse that we are experiencing right now.
‘Recovering banker‘ Arthur Doohan echoed Nicole Foss of The Automatic Earth, who spoke at the Transition Towns conference last year. She spoke about how we are currently forestalling the collapse – which will make the eventual complete financial collapse even worse when it does arrive. He predicted it to be 9mths away which almost exactly chimes in with Nicole’s prediction of 2 years in June 2010. This is not the first time that we have headed towards collapse – it happened in the last century and it will happen again but unfortunately humans have short memories and each time we must relearn how to react. Arthur reminded us that proper banking should be the servant of the people, and somehow we have allowed this concept to be reversed. By propping up the banks we have poisoned sovereign cash, which, coupled with ongoing denial about our situation, puts us in a precarious state of affairs. We have to learn that ‘banking without bankruptcy is the same as Catholicism without Hell.’
Collapse by Aliyahgator.
Smari McCarthy spoke about his attempts to deal with the Icelandic collapse. In Iceland if something is considered too fancy or luxurious it is common parlance to say ‘Oh, that’s so 2007.’ He noted how in the early stages of failure the state will offload services to the public, who concurrently have been so stripped of any power that they are unable to manage the infrastructure. Chillingly he predicts that whilst basic services are dropped the state will retain a monopoly on strategies of force. He finished with the chilling words, ‘You’re next.’ We are like Roadrunner, feet spinning wildly in the air before we plunge to the ground.
Eleanor Saitta is a specialist in how complex systems work and fail. She explained the need to fight the current structures that have been built in the name of stability, and of ways to manage the wild swings between despair and hope. Anton Shelupanov is a penal reformer from Russia who is now based in Tottenham and he told us that when the tools of civilisation are no longer fit for purpose then there is a tendency to go into overdrive – as seen in the state reaction to the riots with hyper incarceration. He did a chilling demonstration with bodies (including mine) of how tightly packed prisoners became in the Russian prisons after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This mania happens in all sorts of primary systems when there is a collapse.
It was most intriguing to hear ways in which collapse has affected various countries and systems but the conversation stopped short just as things were about to get interesting. It was a shame that more of the weekend could not have been devoted to this specific subject, for the collapse that may have seemed far away when the programme for Uncivilisation was put together suddenly seems very much in the present, and having heard about the effects of collapsing systems I would have liked more discussion on how we manage a collapse, from all kinds of different aspects.
Crofting by Christina Demetriou.
Over in the beautiful Woodland space it was time to go back to the wild with crofter Sharon Blackie, who spoke eloquently of her new life in the outer Hebrides. Yearning to be in closer contact with nature she left a corporate life to learn how to farm and weave and spin; she believes that stepping out of the system can help to bring it down because if enough people chose a different way of life then the current system will crumble at the edges.
By witnessing, really being, in a different way of life, in a place of wildness, Sharon hopes to show a more authentic way of living. The post talk discussion was particularly interesting, as many city dwellers addressed the importance of a connection with nature in urban spaces. Sharon Blackie also publishes books that inspire change via Two Ravens Press.
The 200th anniversary of the Luddites is gaining ground everywhere. At Uncivilisation a panel discussion retrod territory that I heard covered by Theo Simon at Wilderness Festival. It was yet another reminder to consider how the structures and technologies we build to better our lives may not, in fact, be good for us.
The Sacred by Elizabeth Hudson.
The discussion ‘We can no longer afford to ignore the sacred‘ was opened with a very moving introduction by Dougald’s own mother but from then onwards it was unfortunately convoluted and confusing, offering little in the way of concrete opinions or ideas, the format wrong for the subject matter. But it did cause me to ponder on the idea that Western religions do not accord as much power and importance to the act of birth (ie sex) as they do to death. Vinay Gupta questioned why the most creative act of life is hidden and the most destructive one is revered?
Once the sun had set it was time once more to evoke the spaces beyond the intellect. I particularly enjoyed heartfelt acoustic folk music from A.P. Clarke. Liminal by Dougie Strang was staged in the woods with naked creatures, eerily glowing artwork and plenty of trance like chanting. The interactive performance was a highlight for many, confirming the need for physical release after the heady discussions of daytime.
Why not read my Sunday review too?
A.P.Clarke, Abigail Daker, Aliyah Owen, Aliyahgator, Anton Shelupanov, art, Arthur Doohan, Automatic Earth, Baba Yaga, Banker, Christina Demetriou, Climate Camp, Collapse, Collapsonomics, crofting, Dark Mountain, Dougald Hine, Dougie Strang, Eleanor Saitta, Elizabeth Hudson, Hampshire, Hebrides, iceland, Joanna Macy, Liminal, Luddites, Nicole Foss, Paul Kingsnorth, Paul Mason, performance, Rima Staines, Riots, Roadrunner, Russia!, Sharon Blackie, sheep, Smari McCarthy, storytelling, Sustainability Centre, Theo Simon, Tom Hirons, Tottenham, transition towns, Two Ravens Press, Uncivilisation Festival, Vinay Gupta, Work that Reconnects
- Uncivilisation 2011, The Dark Mountain Festival: Sunday Review
- Uncivilisation 2011, The Dark Mountain Festival: Preview interview with Dougald Hine
- An Interview with Dougald Hine of Uncivilisation: The Dark Mountain Festival
- An interview with artist Katherine Tulloh
- Brixton makes transition