Welcome and introduction
Dark Mountain co-founder Paul Kingsnorth introduces the last annual Uncivilisation festival.
The Death of Nature Writing
With a renaissance of so-called nature writing happening on both sides of the Atlantic, why would one wish to declare it dead? Because the most interesting writing about nature and place inhabits the edges of genre, combining observation and reporting with emotion and the more literary forms. One might say the most interesting writing on nature transcends the limits of genre altogether. So why label it at all? Jennifer Sahn, editor of the US-based magazine Orion, will address the evolution of nature writing, and why the term itself may no longer be useful or necessary.
The Gathering Night
The Gathering Night by Margaret Elphinstone is a vivid imagining of how it might have been to live during the Mesolithic period. It’s a celebration of wildness and of animism, as well as a prescient account of the aftermath of an ecological catastrophe. Margaret will give a reading from the novel, as well as share in an open discussion of some of the many issues it raises.
Taking it Home
When the last of our annual festivals is over, what will we take home with us? Where and when will we see one another again? Dark Mountain co-founder Dougald Hine hosts an open discussion with Warren Draper, Rachel Horne and Abi Nielsen (from the South Yorkshire group responsible for organising The Telling) and Dougie Strang (organiser of Carrying the Fire). Between us, we hope to glimpse some possibilities for networks of cultural and social activity that might provide a new home for the elements of Uncivilisation that have mattered most to us.
New narratives for the mind
Mainstream mental health care today reflects the technological paradigm of wider society. Relationships and communities are ignored, ‘mental health problems’ are too often tackled with ineffective drugs, and more innovative ways of working with the mind are sidelined. Psychiatrist Navjyoat Kingsnorth, psychiatric nurse Ed Lord and Martin Kibblewhite, who has close family experience of the current system’s failings, explore what is wrong with our mental health paradigm and how it might be put right.
Arcadia: a flawed objective?
Climate change, peak oil and austerity in the West have all revived interest in ideas of food sovereignty, land rights, and ‘back to the land’ movements. With this can come an inevitable romanticism of rural life, often in the form of the mythical Arcadia: an idealised rural setting that has been mythologised over millennia.
But can Arcadia can ever be the bastion of peace and tranquillity that it is projected to be when it depends upon agriculture: arguably the foundation of all gigantist and destructive civilisations? In this open discussion, Marmaduke Dando places our traditional pastoral utopias under the magnifying glass in an attempt to find out whether simply getting ‘back to the land’ goes back far enough; and what the implications of these questions might be for all of us.
Very Uncivilised Stand-up
Comedian Viv Goodings voices descent amongst the dissidents and subjects Uncivilisation to the rigorous test of ridicule. Shamanic stand-up comedy, silly stories and interactive fooling. Possibly participatory, so make sure you stand at the back.
Doin’ Dirt time: An Emergence Collaborative Project
Based on a transcript of an interview by internationally renowned arts commentator Suzi Gablik in her book Conversations Before the End Of Time. In Doin’ Dirt Time Gablik speaks to Rachel Dutton and Rob Olds, two celebrated American artists who have made the decision to give away all their artworks and possessions. Following the interview they disappeared into the American wilderness, after an intensive study of tracking and survival skills. This powerful piece questions the role of the arts in society as the two protagonists explain their reasons for not only stepping out of the art world but also stepping out of society itself. Fern Smith and Philip Ralph will play Dutton and Olds, Sarah Woods the interviewer. The performance uses a fascinating technique pioneered by Alecky Blythe of Recorded Delivery Theatre, in which actors interpret verbatim recordings in real time. Followed by a discussion.
Remembering the land and the people
What are the untold forces that shape our lives? Who stands behind us, as we unearth the past in order to make sense of the present? This session looks at the way writers and artists tell stories about time and act as recorders for places and peoples, bringing forgotten history to our attention. Co-founder of Dark Mountain Paul Kingsnorth will read from and discuss his new novel, The Wake, a post-apocalyptic story set during and after the Norman invasion of England in 1066. Artist and co-producer of The Telling, Rachel Horne, will recount a more recent historical event. Born during the miners’ strike in 1984, her artwork and projects over the last 10 years have explored a broad range of social and political themes. She will be discussing the aftermath of the miners’ strike through words, poetry and songs, sharing ideas and actions on on how art, creativity and action can lead to social change.
In this session focusing on the human and non-human animal and the relationship between the two, Caspar Henderson will speak about and read from his recent publication, The Book of Barely Imagined Beings, while Joanna Coleman and Laura Coleman from the new Brighton-based environmental art space ONCA will offer Art in Other Skins, a taster workshop using wild art and the written word to imaginatively explore the more-than-human world.
Dark Mountain Writers
Dark Mountain grew out of a call for a different kind of writing, capable of looking the realities of an unravelling world in the face. Each July the project publishes an collection of new work that includes fiction, poetry, interviews, essays, visual art and photography. The fourth book, published this summer, contains a wider range of voices than anything we have published to date. In this session, Dark Mountain co-founder Dougald Hine introduces some of the writers involved in the new book, as they read from their work.
6.30 – 11pm
SATURDAY NIGHT MUSIC
Singer-songwriter Chris T-T (‘Genius, a modern-day Blake’ – The Sunday Times) curates and comperes an evening of extravagant, moving and very Uncivilised music.
Chris sang at the Dark Mountain launch, then at the first and third Uncivilisation festivals. He contributed a photo series to DM Two and the opening short story to DM Three. Since 1999, Chris has made nine albums of acerbic psych-folk and kitchen sink heartbreak indie rock. His latest, The Bear is out in October on Xtra Mile Recordings.
We open with some richly-textured songs of love gone wrong, environmental crisis and cloud formations from this beautiful Sussex five-piece, who mix Americana, folk and slowcore. Guitar, drums and double bass are joined by various combinations of fiddle, glockenspiel, mandolin, melodica, autoharp and bicycle pump.
Fresh back from Australia, a solo performance from the General Assembly singer and writer of complex, dramatic song (and prose under the nom-de-plume Huckleberry Mockingbird). Amanda Palmer loves Matt but don’t let that put you off, he’s got enigmatic charm, the best beard of the lineup and some glorious songs.
Thirty Pounds of Bone
‘Organic and immediate; music you can touch with your fingertips. It’s a multi-layered ragged edged delight’ – Irish Times
Itinerant folk singer Johny Lamb has lived on Shetland, in rural Ireland and in Brighton without ever knowing his postcode. He’s now in west Kernow, lecturing at Falmouth University on the sense of place in traditional music, teaching drunken sea shanties and heartbroken ballads. Johny was Ship’s Log onboard Lone Twin’s ambitious Boat Project, part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad and he survived being thrown overboard during a storm in the English Channel. His third album I Cannot Sing You Here But For Songs Of Where is gathering exceptional reviews.
The clearest folk-protest voice Britain has produced for a long while, as well as being a composer of stunning love songs, Leicester-based Grace Petrie is beloved of Billy Bragg, Robin Ince and Josie Long, all of whom have taken her on the road in the past two years. She’s at Uncivilisation direct (of course) from Glastonbury’s LeftField Stage. Grace is amazing.
Rise and Root
An open, heartfelt exchange hosted by members of Mearcstapa, with a few simple guidelines to encourage speaking and listening to each other fully, and putting judgements and entrenched positions to one side. Rise and Root is an opportunity for all those gathered at Uncivilisation to share the feelings, questions and impulses that have brought them here, and through the circle of different individual voices, to listen in to who ‘we’ might be becoming. It’s a chance to discover shared concerns, and to honour conflicts and disagreements, as a basis for making deeper connections and conversations throughout the festival.
Human wellbeing depends on tree health, and for this, trees depend on the integrity of their communities. Trees need each other partly because they are connected beneath the soil by fungus, which communicates and distributes resources according to need. This session explores the significance and forms of the rooty, rhizomatic kinds of fungus called Mychorrizae that help trees thrive. What can we learn from Mychorrizae when we design for healthier interdependence? Come and create the start of an installation of nodes and threads amongst trees while we share our thoughts about interconnectedness. Everyone is invited to add their own nodes and threads to enrich the installation throughout the festival. Facilitated by Bridget McKenzie, founder of Beuysterous, a campaign of creative actions for trees.
Time Culture is a project which explores the diverse timescapes we move within and asks questions about how we understand and relate to the world through time. The project is an ongoing exploration about the role of time in our lifeworlds and a place for collectively building the life-skills we need to lead flourishing lives in the networked society. Jeppe Graugaard and Morten Svenstrup will introduce their mutual inquiry into practices that can help us recognise and live better within the many dimensions of time?
Rites of Passage
For many, one of the highlights of last year’s Unciv was the ‘Real People’ workshop led by Tom Hirons. This year he’ll delve deeper into the nature and purpose of rites of passage. There’ll be some mind-food for your head to hold on to, but mostly practical skills for time spent alone in nature. Everyone is welcome, no matter your age, gender or experience. It’ll be at your level.
Tom has conducted wilderness rites of passage groups in Scotland, Wales and England – he is also an acupuncturist, a storyteller and a mask-maker.
Tree Story and Badger Dissonance
Ending Saturday’s daytime sessions with a jolt, we present a double bill of short, powerful performances:
Tree Story by Persephone Pearl of Feral Theatre: Witness a girl’s coming-of-age and transformation in this daring aerial account of the battle for the woods condemned to make way for a road. An inspiring story which juxtaposes the voice of human instinct with the disappearance of wild places.
Badger Dissonance is a companion piece to the installation ‘Charnel House for Roadkill’. Presented by Dougie Strang, it’s a dramatic and provocative account of what happens when you decide to stop and bury the dead.
THE REWILDING ACADEMY
De-domesticate mind, body and sole with these outdoor activities. Meet for each one by the main firepit, outside the marquee, unless otherwise noted.
Arise and awake with the gentle movements and smooth breathing of this ancient Chinese health practice, led by Tom Hirons.
Start the day with a session of relaxed and creative Yoga, led by Bryony Henderson. Bring a pad and pen if you fancy jotting down ideas that may spill out from the session. Suitable for all.
Learn simple techniques that will allow you to walk slowly with every part of the body engaged in fluid forward motion. In shared silence and travelling at this micro-pace, the walker has time to open up their perceptions and senses to the environment around them. Guided by artist Anne-Marie Culhane, this is not walking in slow motion – it is moving and being at a different pace! (Due to the slow and mindful nature of this session, younger children may find it does not suit their interests).
Games You Can’t Play Alone
Play helps us to rediscover the body just as collaboration helps us rediscover our relationship with each other. This workshop will explore these connections through games/exercises from Capoeira Angola and the ‘anarchist therapy’ Soma. Jorge Goia is a Brazilian living in London who teaches capoeira for children and facilitates Soma workshops for activists and artists. Join him for this session and rediscover the profundity of play.
For many years, Charles Davies tirelessly sought out the ancient wisdom of the East until finally, on a hilltop in a strange land, he was initiated into the incomparable secrets of Kung Fool! Channel your inner idiot and join Charlie for an exclusive seminar in the art of fighting by not-fighting by being very foolish indeed.
Our feet are cleverly designed to detect, absorb and redirect impact with the ground; but civilisation has convinced us to encase them in heavy, rigid shoes that ipair these functions and distort our posture. Luckily, Naeem Akram – a certified Vivo barefoot running coach of 7 years’ experience – is on hand to teach us the theory and practice of running with bare feet, or in ‘barefoot’ shoes. Athletic ability or experience not required!
Being Human: the song and dance of your life
Come and open your voice and move your body, with Eliza Kenyon of The Awakening Song. In a safe and encouraging space, Eliza will guide you in exploring what it is to be alive in sound and movement, to listen deeply for the wisdom of your own heart, body and mind, and to feel supported in taking the next step in your journey as a human being. Feel free to bring an intention or a question to work with. Space for 12.
Doomers, Dreamers and Deniers
As a start to the evenings entertainment, join us for a half hour of mayhem in a unique, Uncivilised variant of a popular game. Open to all ages. Meet by the main marquee and be assured: contemplating collapse has never been so much fun!
End the day with atmospheric, candle-lit Yoga, led by Bryony Henderson. Bring a pad and pen if you fancy jotting down ideas that may spill out from the session. Suitable for all. Will finish by midnight in time for the Uncivilisation Ritual.
Curated by Annie Davy of The Nature Effect, the Children’s Space offers a range of nature-themed activities throughout the day, stories in the early evening, and a ‘self-managing’ dressing-up and drawing area open all day.
Please note: the children’s space is not a crèche. Parents are responsible for their children at all times. Children under 8 must be accompanied by a parent or carer when visiting the children’s space or participating in activities.
Including making charcoal, pencils and bread, with Emma Hood, Stuart Turner, Phil Pritchard, and Sophia Latham.
Adults are invited to ask their questions of the young people at the festival. Co-ordinated by Alex Fradera and Julia Poelmann.
Making with Willow and Clay
Feature creatures, blobsters, dream catchers and wands, with Sophie Phipps, Helen Osborn, Susie Dadd, Johnnie Wild and Zoe Bicat.
Bedtime songs and story
For children under eight, with Jackie Singer.
Man Clan: Whittling & Wittering
Jack Richardson hosts a gathering of men and boys looking at the language we inherit, use, develop and pass on; and how that shapes our relationships with the world. To distract us from the rarity of a male-only group not at a sports match or in a pub, there’ll be willow weaving and wood whittling to work our hands, minds and mouths. Our works will then form part of Saturday night’s Fire Sculpture.
A Men’s Chorus
Sarah Jewell, singer, composer and musical director of Songlines, London’s most eclectic choir, will lead a vocal workshop for Uncivilised Men. As long as humans have been humans we have sung. Many believe that with its capacity to convey emotion and its rhythmic energy, singing precedes language. Even in today’s fragmented and repressed culture, we still mark the most significant rituals in life’s passage – birth, death, marriages, battles, feasts and all manner of ritual celebrations – with song. So why are so many men afraid of using their voices in this profoundly joyful and therapeutic way? Sarah has been leading men back to singing for the last twenty years, and her sessions have a liberating and profound creative influence on people’s lives. Join us to revel, and possibly rediscover the joy of communal music making. Two hours, with a fifteen minute break.
Four Shields in a Crazy Time
Using the methods of Council, wilderness rites of passage and pan-cultural models of the self, Tom Hirons helps men explore polarities such as Action/Inaction, Self/Community, Surrender/Defiance, Engagement/Withdrawal and Empowerment/Impotence, and perhaps find ways of reconciling our conflicts in ways that enable us to face gathering darknesses and new dawns alike with all our gifts intact.
A selection of activities under the sky and the leaves. Meet by the main firepit, outside the marquee, unless otherwise stated.
Fool if you think it’s Over
‘If it’s all gonna end, we might as well play but if there’s a chance of change then there’s everything to play for.’
Continuing the centuries-old traditions of the Fool, this workshop is not really a workshop – there is no work and nothing for sale. Instead, it’s an excuse to play. Meet some of your very own cast of supporting actors, learn to stay balanced in the heat of battle and how to use humour as a tool for change. Unpack yourselves and grow wings. The issues faced by humanity are just too enormous to be taken seriously.
Drawing on the teachings of Arnie Mindell, Franki Anderson, Theun Mares and many others, Viv Goodings, carpenter, comedian and director at Fly You Fools, leads a session which combines fooling, contact improvisation, modern shamanism, ecopsychology, quick wit, slapstick and general silliness. Everything optional.
Wild Paper Making
Learn how to make truly sustainable, quirky and fun papers from fungi, and how to prepare them for art work using 100% naturally sourced materials, as well as the best plants and fungi for dyes and pigments. With Fergus Drennan and James Wood.
The Life Cairn
What does it mean to be alive in the midst of the sixth mass extinction? In answer to this question, Andreas Kornevall founded the Life Cairn movement, initially by building a simple cairn of stones on the Sussex Downs as a memorial to lost species. Life Cairns have since begun appearing across the world. This afternoon, we will build one together here at the Sustainability Centre – a permanent memorial to lost creatures, which will remain when Uncivilisation is only a memory.
If you can, please bring a stone, and join us to remember what is being lost. We’ll make an offering, an attempt to create some form of beauty in the face of this environmental tragedy; bring your voice, a poem or a song.
Wild food and foraging walk
Learn how to identify, sustainably and sensitively harvest, prepare, cook and store wild plants in season, and for all seasons. With wild food forager extraordinaire Fergus Drennan.
There are strange old tales, they lie in bones, in the dark rocks and in the dampness of the breath of small lizards. These are the stories that have been all but forgotten, they are stories that we once all knew. Hilary Kneale and the Coat have walked the lands collecting the old stories, have been walking the land in snow and rain and wind and sun and in the light of the moon collecting ancient stories through its long, long tail. Tales of the elements, stories of animals and birds and plants and stories of the far, far stars. The old stories are filling the Coat.
Coat is part art installation, part story and part improvisation; the performer will move and change as the story unfolds. Come and hear the stories through the silence of the space between. Hilary will be moving through the festival, inhabiting the Coat, all weekend. Come and hear what she has found on her journeys.
A Dark Mountain ritual
To be unveiled on the night…..!