Amelia’s Magazine | Uncivilisation 2011, The Dark Mountain Festival: Preview interview with Dougald Hine

Dark Mountain issue 2 cover by Rima Staines
Dark Mountain issue 2 cover by Rima Staines.

What have you been doing since the last Uncivilisation Festival? It’s been over a year and I presume you’ve been suitably busy…

Yes, viagra last year’s Uncivilisation does feel like a long time ago. I think it’s safe to say that neither Paul Kingsnorth nor I had ever imagined we’d find ourselves running a festival. It happened by accident. We were writers, we’d written a manifesto with the idea of starting a journal of stories and ideas — and then we got invited to use this venue in Llangollen for a weekend to bring together all these people for whom the manifesto meant something. It was an intense experience. (Read our post 2010 festival interview with Dougald Hine.)

Afterwards, we took some time out to reflect and decide what we wanted to do next. We started to hear from people who were running their own Dark Mountain events, which was very cool, and from bands who were releasing records inspired by the project. It’s a humbling experience, seeing other people respond to something you’ve written and take it to completely unexpected places, and do something beautiful with it.

cernunnos dougie strang
Cernunnos – from Dougie Strang’s Liminal.

We knew we were going to do another book. We had writers getting in touch who we’d really admired, people like David Abram and Naomi Klein, and new writers sending us amazing work that spoke from the middle of the chaos we’re living through, or from the wild places at the edges. And as Issue Two came together, we realised we had to do another festival. There’s only so far you can go in print, or online. Beyond a certain point, you need to create spaces for people to come together face to face, to have conversations, to laugh and cry and hold onto each other. So yes, Uncivilisation is back, another gathering of stories and ideas, performances and encounters.

mark-boyle at last year's Dark Mountain
Mark Boyle at last year’s Dark Mountain Festival.

What are your feelings about climate change thinking and activism at the moment in the UK and worldwide? And in terms of the other associated problems we face? A lot has changed since May 2010…

It feels like there’s a new conversation opening up, with a rawness and an honesty to it. I’m thinking of the piece Shaun Chamberlin wrote after Just Do It the film came out, and also of an article of George Monbiot‘s from a couple of months ago. You compare that to the debates we had with George in the first year or so of Dark Mountain, which feel pretty sterile to me in retrospect, and there’s a sense that even as the situation becomes more desperate, in many ways, people are reaching deeper into themselves.

ben law sustainability centre
The roundwood timber frame classroom at the Sustainability Centre built by Ben Law. Photo courtesy of Permaculture.

And meanwhile, I think it’s dawning on many more people just what a multi-layered mess we’re in. The entanglement between the ecological crisis and the social and economic unravelling of the world we grew up in. I’m struck by how fast history seems to be moving these days, how quickly the ground of “normality” is shifting. Even in mainstream politics, the fabric is wearing thin, the gap between the official version of reality and people’s lived experience becomes more obvious.

Dark Mountain huckleberry mockingbird
Huckleberry Mockingbird.

What will be different about this year’s festival?

It feels like we’re consciously approaching it as a journey that people go through. You arrive and you’ve left behind your everyday life, and you need permission to enter into this other kind of space, where it’s safe to feel things and have conversations you might not do with your colleagues or your friends back home. So the first night is full of magical performances, feral choirs and storytellers and lyrical boat-dwellers and music by lamplight.

Marmaduke-Dark Mountain
Marmaduke Dando.

Then the Saturday daytime is where we can have big conversations about the past and the future, going into the ways people have made life work and made life meaningful in difficult times. By the Saturday night, you need to let your hair down, so we’ve got some real party music with bands like Merry Hell. Then on Sunday, as you’re turning for home, there’s more space for sessions about practical projects building parallel infrastructure and ways of getting involved in things back in the day-to-day world that have an edge of deep resilience, that allow you to take back some of the meaning and perspective that Dark Mountain is hopefully making room for.

Sustainability Centre meadow

What special new speakers and activities are you particularly excited about and why?

Personally, I’m looking forward to Tom Hironsstorytelling on the Friday night, and the Collapsonomics panel on the Saturday morning. That’s going to be a group of speakers who have personal experience of living through economic and social crisis — in the USSR, in Ireland and Iceland. They’re also all people who have an inside understanding of how the systems we depend on work, financial systems, tech systems. I’m expecting to learn a lot from that conversation.

Life expectancy and financial equality
Graph to show life expectancy and financial equality, from Vinay Gupta’s website.

And there are a couple of people who really stood out last year, who I’m really delighted are coming back. Vinay Gupta, who I’ll be interviewing on the Saturday afternoon, who’s this extraordinary hybrid between a Scots engineer and an Indian mystic, talking about these deeply practical projects he develops for working in the aftermath of disasters, but also the roots of his ability to think clearly about this stuff in the tradition of the ‘kapilika’, ‘the bearers of the skull bowl’, constantly facing your own mortality. And Jay Griffiths, who was one of the most moving speakers last year, she’ll be back to talk about the songlines and dream-shrines of West Papua.

Sustainability centre

Why did you choose to host this year’s Uncivilisation Festival at the Sustainability Centre? How many people do you hope will attend?

One thing we learned from last year is that the festival is as much about the people you meet as the speakers or the bands you see. So we wanted a venue with lots of space for conversations, walks in the woods, gatherings around campfires. We’re expecting about three hundred people, this time. It’s important to us that it’s a human-scale event, that there’s chance for us to meet people and hang out with them.

Camping

The philosophy of Dark Mountain has been described as moody, poetic and a bit devoid of hope. How do you respond when people say this to you?

To be honest, I know this is an impression people sometimes have at second- or third-hand, but it’s not something I get asked much by people who’ve actually had any contact with us. If you check out the video of people at last year’s festival, ‘hope’ is actually one of the words that comes up when people try to describe what they’ve experienced.

Now, that might seem strange, given that the starting point for Dark Mountain is admitting how deep a mess we’re in — letting go of the fantasy that we can take control of this reeling world, which, for all the wonders of science, we only partly understand. But hope is a strange thing — it’s not the same as optimism, or having a plan. It’s an attitude, a way of being in the world, treating each other well and finding meaning, even in the dark times. Go back to the Greek myths, and the last thing out of Pandora’s Box, after all the evils of the world, is hope.

dark mountain get cape wear cape fly
Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly.

What’s next for the Dark Mountain Project?

We’re going to take some time out this autumn, before we come back and start working on the next book and the other plans we’ve been brewing. For me, it will be a time to weave some of the threads from Dark Mountain into the other things I’m working on — The University Project, where we’re creating new pockets and pathways for the cultivation of knowledge, and Space Makers, and the patchwork of other people and projects I’ve been stumbling across which share this search for what works and what makes life meaningful, when the future hasn’t turned out the way the grown-ups said it would.

See my full listing for Uncivilisation here. Anyone who is interested in positive ways that we can tackle multiple crises together should put the dates in the diary right now: 19th-21st August, and book those tickets now.

Categories ,Cernunnos, ,Collapsonomics, ,Dark Mountain, ,David Abram, ,Dougald Hine, ,Dougie Strang, ,ecology, ,Financial Crisis, ,George Monbiot, ,Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly., ,Huckleberry Mockingbird, ,Indian, ,Jay Griffiths, ,Just Do It, ,Liminal, ,Llangollen, ,Mark Boyle, ,Marmaduke, ,Marmaduke Dando, ,Merry Hell, ,Naomi Klein, ,Pandora’s Box, ,Paul Kingsnorth, ,Rima Staines, ,Scottish, ,Songlines, ,Space Makers, ,storytelling, ,sustainability, ,The University Project, ,Uncivilisation Festival, ,Vinay Gupta, ,West Papua

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Amelia’s Magazine | Uncivilisation 2011, The Dark Mountain Festival: Saturday Review

telling stories to the trees - rima staines
Telling Stories to the Trees by Rima Staines.

Last weekend I went to Hampshire for my first experience of Uncivilisation, approved the Dark Mountain gathering of like minded folks interested in discussing our future.

Uncivilisation Dark Mountain 2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
Uncivilisation Dark Mountain 2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
Uncivilisation Dark Mountain 2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

Dark Mountain is a manifesto put together by Dougald Hine and Paul Kingsnorth, pharmacy 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.

Abi Daker Dark Mountain Graph
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
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.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

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.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

Recovering bankerArthur 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
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.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

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.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

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
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.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory. Sharon Blackie

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.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

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 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?

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

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.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

Why not read my Sunday review too?

Categories ,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

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Amelia’s Magazine | Uncivilisation 2011, The Dark Mountain Festival: Saturday Review

telling stories to the trees - rima staines
Telling Stories to the Trees by Rima Staines.

Last weekend I went to Hampshire for my first experience of Uncivilisation, approved the Dark Mountain gathering of like minded folks interested in discussing our future.

Uncivilisation Dark Mountain 2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
Uncivilisation Dark Mountain 2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
Uncivilisation Dark Mountain 2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

Dark Mountain is a manifesto put together by Dougald Hine and Paul Kingsnorth, pharmacy 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.

Abi Daker Dark Mountain Graph
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
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.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

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.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

Recovering bankerArthur 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
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.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

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.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

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
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.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory. Sharon Blackie

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.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

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 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?

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

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.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

Why not read my Sunday review too?

Categories ,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

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Amelia’s Magazine | Uncivilisation 2011, The Dark Mountain Festival: Sunday Review

Sacred by Elizabeth Hudson
Sacred by Elizabeth Hudson.

On Sunday at Uncivilisation the main marquee was packed out for a discussion around where next for Dark Mountain, cheap both the festival and the movement. Dark Mountain was started by two writers as a literary endeavour and as it attracts many interested newcomers from different fields it is inevitably straining at the seams. Thus it was good that this conversation was held in the round, buy allowing many voices to be heard equally, contributing constructive and helpful suggestions.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

uncivilisation-jim-design
Uncivilisation by James Clarkson of Jim Design.

Founders Dougald Hine and Paul Kingsnorth are happy to admit that they are two very fraught men, trying incredibly hard to maintain their core philosophies whilst struggling with the infrastructure and admin of Dark Mountain. ‘Basically we are two guys going broke and mad… with a few volunteers.’ Now they need to decide just how much they are willing to let go in order to allow Dark Mountain the space it needs to grow.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Sam Duckworth of Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. who played on Friday evening.

Between festival goers there is conflict between how that should happen: it was clear that many would like to see more of a concrete movement for change, whilst others relish the looseness of a gathering that allows for new conversations and stories that may not find space elsewhere. For my part I think that any future Uncivilisation should allow for the exploration of emotional and physical ideas that may be nebulous to the intellect: giving a space for new ways of thinking to flourish.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
the visitors - rima staines
The Visitors by Rima Staines.

At this year’s event my friend Zoe Young held a sacred space in her Bright Valleys workshop. Those I met who attended this were very thankful, and I highly recommend that you read Zoe’s thoughts on the Dark Mountain experience in her excellent blog.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory. zoe young
Zoe Young with Chanterelles.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
I decided to instead attend an unscheduled talk from Simon Fairlie – author of Meat: A Benign Extravagance – on how veganism and the industrial livestock farming system are converging. He envisages a future where to be a vegan is to live as unsustainably and technologically removed from the land as those who eat mass factory farmed food products. I can easily believe it.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

I’ve heard Simon speak several times and his writings are always incredibly interesting: George Monbiot and many others listen to him because not only does he exercise his intellect but he also walks the walk: farming the land at Monkton Wyld Court to demonstrate his theories.

Dark mountains by Thomas Bird
Dark Mountains by Thomas Bird.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

I rounded up my time at Uncivilisation with a talk by John Mitchinson, a writer for QI and founder of Unbound, which is a new way to crowd fund books without going through the usual rigmarole of publishing. It was fascinating to hear from someone who used to work in mainstream publishing and intimately knows the problems facing the industry. Of course it was especially interesting to myself, as someone who has self-published and knows just how bloody hard it is to stay afloat.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Benny Wenda by Caroline Pratt
Benny Wenda by Caroline Pratt.

This unfortunately meant that I missed a talk from Benny Wenda and author Jay Griffiths, who spoke about the struggles of local peoples against corporations in West Papua. It was by all accounts incredibly moving.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

We finished Uncivilisation with a farewell folk song before everyone dispersed into the afternoon sunshine. The festival provided a great focal meeting point for like minded people; enabling me to reconnect with old friends and make new acquaintances. It also reminded me that there are many people, all over the world, who are tackling different but related ideas around life beyond collapse. And that we must continue reaching out to include more people from all parts of society in the discussions that we are having.

Uncivilisation Dark Mountain 2011 - Dougald Hine
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation Dark Mountain 2011  Paul Kingsnorth
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

As Alabaster Crippens says in his blog: ‘Nobody has many answers about what to do next apart from look after yourself, pay attention, listen to stories, tell your stories, and learn how to live with less.’ There is so much more to do but creating understandable narratives is undoubtedly at the heart of what the Dark Mountain movement can contribute. Although I say it with some trepidation I look forward to what the future brings.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
The Hexayurt, a cheaply built shelter for use in disaster zones.

Don’t forget to check in with Saturday’s review of Uncivilisation too! Musician Marmaduke Dando has also written an interesting blog.

Categories ,2011, ,Alabaster Crippens, ,Benny Wenda, ,Bright Valleys, ,Caroline Pratt, ,Crowd Funding, ,Dark Mountain, ,Dougald Hine, ,Elizabeth Hudson, ,George Monbiot, ,Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly., ,Hexayurt, ,James Clarkson, ,Jay Griffiths, ,Jim Design, ,John Mitchinson, ,Marmaduke Dando, ,Meat: A Benign Extravagance, ,Monkton Wyld Court, ,Paul Kingsnorth, ,publishing, ,QI, ,review, ,Rima Staines, ,Sam Duckworth, ,Simon Fairlie, ,stories, ,Thomas Bird, ,Unbound, ,Uncivilisation Festival, ,Veganism, ,West Papua, ,Zoe Young

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Amelia’s Magazine | Uncivilisation 2011, The Dark Mountain Festival: Sunday Review

Sacred by Elizabeth Hudson
Sacred by Elizabeth Hudson.

On Sunday at Uncivilisation the main marquee was packed out for a discussion around where next for Dark Mountain, cheap both the festival and the movement. Dark Mountain was started by two writers as a literary endeavour and as it attracts many interested newcomers from different fields it is inevitably straining at the seams. Thus it was good that this conversation was held in the round, buy allowing many voices to be heard equally, contributing constructive and helpful suggestions.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

uncivilisation-jim-design
Uncivilisation by James Clarkson of Jim Design.

Founders Dougald Hine and Paul Kingsnorth are happy to admit that they are two very fraught men, trying incredibly hard to maintain their core philosophies whilst struggling with the infrastructure and admin of Dark Mountain. ‘Basically we are two guys going broke and mad… with a few volunteers.’ Now they need to decide just how much they are willing to let go in order to allow Dark Mountain the space it needs to grow.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Sam Duckworth of Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. who played on Friday evening.

Between festival goers there is conflict between how that should happen: it was clear that many would like to see more of a concrete movement for change, whilst others relish the looseness of a gathering that allows for new conversations and stories that may not find space elsewhere. For my part I think that any future Uncivilisation should allow for the exploration of emotional and physical ideas that may be nebulous to the intellect: giving a space for new ways of thinking to flourish.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
the visitors - rima staines
The Visitors by Rima Staines.

At this year’s event my friend Zoe Young held a sacred space in her Bright Valleys workshop. Those I met who attended this were very thankful, and I highly recommend that you read Zoe’s thoughts on the Dark Mountain experience in her excellent blog.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory. zoe young
Zoe Young with Chanterelles.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
I decided to instead attend an unscheduled talk from Simon Fairlie – author of Meat: A Benign Extravagance – on how veganism and the industrial livestock farming system are converging. He envisages a future where to be a vegan is to live as unsustainably and technologically removed from the land as those who eat mass factory farmed food products. I can easily believe it.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

I’ve heard Simon speak several times and his writings are always incredibly interesting: George Monbiot and many others listen to him because not only does he exercise his intellect but he also walks the walk: farming the land at Monkton Wyld Court to demonstrate his theories.

Dark mountains by Thomas Bird
Dark Mountains by Thomas Bird.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

I rounded up my time at Uncivilisation with a talk by John Mitchinson, a writer for QI and founder of Unbound, which is a new way to crowd fund books without going through the usual rigmarole of publishing. It was fascinating to hear from someone who used to work in mainstream publishing and intimately knows the problems facing the industry. Of course it was especially interesting to myself, as someone who has self-published and knows just how bloody hard it is to stay afloat.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Benny Wenda by Caroline Pratt
Benny Wenda by Caroline Pratt.

This unfortunately meant that I missed a talk from Benny Wenda and author Jay Griffiths, who spoke about the struggles of local peoples against corporations in West Papua. It was by all accounts incredibly moving.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

We finished Uncivilisation with a farewell folk song before everyone dispersed into the afternoon sunshine. The festival provided a great focal meeting point for like minded people; enabling me to reconnect with old friends and make new acquaintances. It also reminded me that there are many people, all over the world, who are tackling different but related ideas around life beyond collapse. And that we must continue reaching out to include more people from all parts of society in the discussions that we are having.

Uncivilisation Dark Mountain 2011 - Dougald Hine
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Uncivilisation Dark Mountain 2011  Paul Kingsnorth
Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

As Alabaster Crippens says in his blog: ‘Nobody has many answers about what to do next apart from look after yourself, pay attention, listen to stories, tell your stories, and learn how to live with less.’ There is so much more to do but creating understandable narratives is undoubtedly at the heart of what the Dark Mountain movement can contribute. Although I say it with some trepidation I look forward to what the future brings.

Uncivilisation 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
The Hexayurt, a cheaply built shelter for use in disaster zones.

Don’t forget to check in with Saturday’s review of Uncivilisation too! Musician Marmaduke Dando has also written an interesting blog.

Categories ,2011, ,Alabaster Crippens, ,Benny Wenda, ,Bright Valleys, ,Caroline Pratt, ,Crowd Funding, ,Dark Mountain, ,Dougald Hine, ,Elizabeth Hudson, ,George Monbiot, ,Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly., ,Hexayurt, ,James Clarkson, ,Jay Griffiths, ,Jim Design, ,John Mitchinson, ,Marmaduke Dando, ,Meat: A Benign Extravagance, ,Monkton Wyld Court, ,Paul Kingsnorth, ,publishing, ,QI, ,review, ,Rima Staines, ,Sam Duckworth, ,Simon Fairlie, ,stories, ,Thomas Bird, ,Unbound, ,Uncivilisation Festival, ,Veganism, ,West Papua, ,Zoe Young

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Amelia’s Magazine | An Interview with Dougald Hine of Uncivilisation: The Dark Mountain Festival


A couple of weeks ago, medications I was sifting through work emails and idly wondering how my forthcoming weekend was going to shape up; it seemed to be taking on the familiar pleasures of the default setting – drinks, pilule lazing around Shoreditch Park, case catching a gig or two, having a coffee at Columbia Road flower market; the same old same old essentially, and then an email dropped into my inbox that quickly made me revise my plans. It was from Ben, an old friend of Amelia’s Magazine from French-Music Org, and Liz from Brittany Tourism who were both involved in the French music festival des Vieilles Charrues in Brittany, and wanted to know if Amelia’s Magazine was interested in coming along to check it out. Being a champion of all kinds of festivals, both in England and abroad, but at the same time staying true to the ethics of not flying wherever possible, I was pleased to see that the festival encourages all non-flight forms of travel, and had a good deal with Brittany Ferries worked into one of the ticket packages that also includes transfers to and from the festival. I had a quick look at the line-up, which included performances from Phoenix, Midlake, The Raveonettes, Fanfarlo, Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip and Julian Casablancas. Then I checked my ipod and saw that apart from a little Francoise Hardy and Charlotte Gainsbourg, it was woefully lacking in French music and decided that this Gallic version of Glastonbury could be my guide to France’s vibrant music scene, especially seeing that Chapelier Fou, Revolver, Indochine, Fefe and the brilliantly named Sexy Sushi were all headlining. So that was that. All I needed to do was grab my trusty pillow and I was off to France! A few hours later, after a bumpy ferry ride that unfortunately took place on the windiest day of the year, I found myself in the picturesque town of Carhaix, home of the festival, and about 45 minutes inland from the coast.


Sune and Sharin of The Raveonettes give us a shock and awe performance.


Watching The Raveonettes with my friends – wet and bedraggled but happy.

It was straight to the festival and to the front of the crowd to watch The Raveonettes do a typically kinetic set of howling, fuzzy guitar riffs, liberally sprinkled with lots and lots of noise. Just how the audience like it. The Danish duo, made up of Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo are a dark force to reckon with and played an incredibly tight set, featuring songs from their fourth album, In And Out Of Control. I hadn’t see them play before and I came away thinking that the bands waiting in the wings such as Pains of Being Pure At Heart, Crystal Castles and Vivienne Girls still have a long way to go before they steal the crowns off of these two. Later I managed to get in some talk time with Sune who refused the offer of dinner with his bandmates in favour of shooting the breeze over mugs of vodka cranberries for a whole hour. (Interview to come in the next few weeks)

The next day, when I was a little less exhausted from twelve straight hours of travelling, and no sleep, I was able to properly explore the festival and see it through renewed eyes. Truth be told, it was refreshing to find myself at an overseas festival. The crowd were relaxed, extremely friendly (stand next to any random group of strangers and within a few minutes you will be conversing away happily in a garbled mix of Franglais) and the FOOD (and drink)! It doesn’t matter how many boutique festivals are springing up over England, festival des Vieilles Charrues trumps us with champagne bars all over the site (to be sipped insouciantly while you watch French rock gods Indochine) and food tents which can provide you cheese plates and fruits de la mer to go with your choice of wine. It being slightly earlier in the day, I was trying out the regional cider which was so tasty it practically made me weep, and made my way over to watch the Fanfarlo set. Unexpectedly, this was probably my favourite performance of the festival. Having toured constantly for the past year (watch the mini documentary on their website which painfully documents their incessant and exhaustion-inducing schedule), the performances of the songs from their 2009 release Reservoir have taken on a whole new level. Each band member seamlessly flitted between a myriad of different musical instruments; no-one ever held onto a guitar, trumpet, violin, mandolin or musical saw for more than a few minutes before doing some musical-chairs. I’m not sure how well France was aware of Fanfarlo, but the full audience loved every song they played, and noisily demanded an encore – which unfortunately they didn’t get, but then, the band do only have about twelve songs in their back catalogue.


Fanfarlo talk about life on the road and divulge the little known fact of lead singer Simon’s childhood love of ham radios.


Traditional Breton music. Everyone knew the dance moves but me.

Night time gave me a chance to flit between the bands playing. I watched Midlake, the indie Texans who are fast gaining popularity over on this side of the pond, serenade the audience as the sun set, their hazy Americana sound drifting over the breeze and through the fields. Then it was a hop, skip and a jump to watch Sexy Sushi, the raw Parisian rap of Fefe and – I didn’t see this coming – some traditional Breton music involving some old men, a couple of accordions and a lively crowd who were all versed in the dance moves that accompany the traditional folk style. Then the midnight hour was upon us and the audience was heading in droves to watch Phoenix, who are clearly the prodigal sons of France. I’ve heard before that some of the French don’t appreciate the fact that Phoenix record all of their tracks in English, as opposed to their mother tongue, but there was no such bad feeling in the crowd that stood around me that night, sending waves of love and adulation towards the stage which prompted lead singer Thomas Mars to briefly lie on the stage in slightly dazed wonder at this epic night.

It was frustrating to have to leave on Sunday, as I missed performances by Pony Pony Run Run, Julian Casablancas and Etienne De Crecy, but work commitments dictated an early departure. Nonetheless, I had such a great time that I am already planning next years Festival des Vieilles Charrues (which will be the 20th anniversary of the festival). Brittany was the perfect setting for such a chilled festival, and a welcome addition to the festival calendar.

Way back in 2007, click Amelia’s Magazine was one of the first to recognise the raw talent of a young Johnny Flynn, for sale who won us over with the delicately nuanced themes in his poetic and lyrical songwriting. (The fact that he could wield a Gibson guitar like nobodies business also helped make him alright in our books). Fast forward to today and it’s safe to say that the kid done good. Supporting Mumford & Sons in their upcoming October tour, performing at summer festivals all over the country (including this weekends Cambridge Folk Festival) and collaborating with Laura Marling and Anna Calvi, Johnny has more than established himself in the British folk canon. But Johnny is no one trick pony; his new album Been Listening shows a strong appreciation of musical diversity, and gives respectful nods to early 20th Century blues, African music, and even takes inspiration from Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha. His creative streak runs deep, and the animated video for his new single, Barnacled Warship (released August 16th) is a dark dystopia directed by Christian DeVita, lead storyboard artist on Wes Anderson’s ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ as well as Tim Burton’s forthcoming ‘Frankenweenie’.

So, as you can imagine, we felt that a catch-up with Johnny was long overdue, and so when we were approached by his team to do a video interview, it was only a matter of fighting over which contributor was the biggest fan (the honour went to the lovely Chloe) and then we were ready to go!

Watch the feature for Barnacled Warship here:
YouTube Preview Image

Go to Johnny’s MySpace and website for lots more, including his newly released tour dates.

dougald_hine_by-asli-ozpehlivan
Dougald Hine by Asli Ozpehlivan.

In May, search Dougald Hine, visit this co-founder of new literary movement The Dark Mountain Project organised Uncivilisation in Llangollen, Denbighshire. The three day festival of music, writing, thinking and doing was an astounding success, challenging the preconceived notions that our current way of living can be made ‘sustainable’. I caught up with him for a post-festival chat…

How are you feeling now the festival is over?
I’m exhausted and still piecing together what exactly happened, but it feels like it was something big and worthwhile.

Were you pleased with the turnout?
We had 400 people over the weekend, which was as many as the site could handle – and a real mixture of those who already felt deeply connected to Dark Mountain, those who were sceptical but wanting to engage, and those who were just curious to find out more.
 
Dark Mountain by Emma Raby
Dark Mountain by Emma Raby.

What were you wanting the audience to gain from the experience?
We wanted people to come away with a sense of the conversations going on around Dark Mountain and the spirit of the project.
 
Explain the dark mountain project in layman’s terms:
Dark Mountain invites people to think about what we do, if it turns out that our way of living can’t be made “sustainable”. It’s also about questioning the stories we tell ourselves about our place in the world, about progress and our ability to control nature. What if the mess that we’re in – ecologically, economically, socially – is rooted in those stories?

How easy was it to handle being a speaker and the organiser?
It wasn’t easy – I was living on four hours sleep a night, at the limit physically and emotionally, after the most intense few months of my life. Looking back, we really needed a larger team around the festival, but that’s hard when you’re doing something for the first time. We’ve had a lot of people getting in touch since who want to help organise future events.
 
time-to-look-down (dark-mountain)-by-Mags-James
Time to Look Down by Mags James.

How did you get the guest speakers involved?
For me, a great event should be a mixture of people you’ve wanted to see speak or perform for years and people you’ve never heard of, but who turn out to be amazing. It’s hard to choose highlights, but Jay Griffiths and Alastair McIntosh were particularly important voices for me – as were Vinay Gupta and Luke Concannon. There were things which, in hindsight, we might have done better. The main stage was too male-dominated – and we needed more convivial spaces for conversation and participation. But I was pleased with the contrasts between the speakers and the interweaving of ideas and performance. I just wish we could have spread it out over three weeks, rather than having to cram it all into three days.

Were you aiming for a specific ‘sound’ for the festival?
One of the surprises after the manifesto came out was how strong a response we got from musicians and songwriters. Chris T-T and Marmaduke Dando both have songs inspired by Dark Mountain on their new albums, while Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. has been involved from very early on. So the festival sound was shaped by the places where the project has struck a chord. There’s a lot of common ground with some of the powerful folk stuff going on with people like Jon Boden and Chris Wood, who was our ideal choice to close the whole weekend. But there was a real diversity of other sounds, whether it was delicate jazz ballads from Billy Bottle or hilarious death blues from Bleak.

Dark-Ruins-by-Lisa-Stannard
Dark Ruins by Lisa Stannard.

There seemed to be a lot of misunderstanding in the media about the purpose of the festival. Why do you think it was so hard for some people to understand?
Well, firstly, because Dark Mountain is work in progress – it’s a conversation, an exploration, not a single line of argument or a political platform. Most campaigns and movements deliberately try to distill what they’re doing to simple soundbites. That’s not a priority for us, because we’re trying to hold open a space for difficult conversations, for figuring things out together, rather than claiming to have a set of answers. Secondly, the stuff we’re talking about freaks people out. If you try to talk about the possibility that we might not go on getting richer, living longer, having hot and cold running electricity 24-hours-a-day, people think you’re predicting – or even hoping for – some kind of Mad Max scenario.
 
Are there plans for another festival?
Paul and I are still recovering! But we’ve already been contacted by someone who’s planning a four-day Dark Mountain gathering in Scotland this autumn, which is great.

There-is-no-PLan-B-by-Lisa-Stannard
There is no Plan B by Lisa Stannard.

You can read our original listing for the Dark Mountain Festival here.

Categories ,Alastair McIntosh, ,Asli Ozpehlivan, ,Billy Bottle, ,Bleak, ,Chris T-T, ,Chris Wood, ,Dark Mountain Project, ,Dougald Hine, ,Emma Raby, ,festival, ,Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly., ,Jay Griffiths, ,Jon Boden, ,Lisa Stannard, ,Luke Concannon, ,Mad Max, ,Mags James, ,Marmaduke Dando, ,Uncivilisation, ,Vinay Gupta

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