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.


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 | Larmer Tree Festival 2011 Review, Friday: Bellowhead, Russell Kane, Yoga, Bane

Russell Kane by Finn O’Brien.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review tom leadbetter
We woke up early on Friday at Larmer Tree Festival, order baked out of our tent by the brilliant sunshine… and turned up to witness the very end of the traditional morning yoga session on the main lawn… hundreds of people sat on mats in front of the Garden Stage in what has apparently become a Larmer Tree ritual. That was swiftly followed by Tai Chi… see if you can spot Tom Leadbetter. I’m gutted I didn’t get to sample these classes, viagra but rain was to blight Larmer for the rest of the weekend.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review Polly and the Billets Doux, <a target=hospital ” title=”Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review Polly and the Billets Doux,” width=”480″ height=”480″ class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-45956″ />Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review Polly and the Billets Doux,
Polly and the Billets Doux by Claire Kearns
Polly and the Billets Doux by Claire Kearns.

First act of the day for me was Polly and the Billets Doux, first encountered at Wood Festival a few months back.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 reviewLarmer Tree Festival 2011 review
Their laid back bluesy folk was the perfect accompaniment to a lazy morning with the Guardian (rather amusingly the locally run general store had heaps and heaps of the Grauniad and, for variety’s sake, about three copies each of every other paper…they know their market alright).

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 reviewLarmer Tree Festival 2011 review colour garden
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review colour garden
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review colour garden
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review colour garden
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review crochet
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review crochet
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review dish
During our daily walk through the woods we discovered more interesting stuff… natural dye techniques from foraged plants with Francesca Owen, a bell tent devoted to knitting and crochet, a lovely little cake parlour called Dish.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review HEALING
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review HEALING
Of course I looked longingly inside all the healing tents…mmmm….massage. Didn’t have one though.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review cutashineLarmer Tree Festival 2011 review cutashine
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review cutashine
Cut A Shine Barndance by Hollie McManus
Cut A Shine Barndance by Hollie McManus.

Then we popped over to see my old band Cutashine teach barndancing in the Big Top.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review the spreeLarmer Tree Festival 2011 review the spree
Outside I was intrigued by indie anthems from Devon based The Spree. Searching for them online proved a major problem though!

YouTube Preview Image
Turns out Spree is a popular band name… when I did finally locate them I rather handily found this video of them playing the ARC, which I missed

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review arts tentLarmer Tree Festival 2011 review arts tentLarmer Tree Festival 2011 review arts tentLarmer Tree Festival 2011 review arts tent
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review arts tent
A quick scout around the arts tent revealed a wealth of grassroots creativity.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review circus
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review circus
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review circusLarmer Tree Festival 2011 review circus
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review circus
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review circus
The fine weather continued as children learnt circus skills alongside parents. But we had another destination: Bane, in the Daytime Club Larmer.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review Bane Joe BoneLarmer Tree Festival 2011 review Bane Joe Bone
Performed as a one man show by Joe Bone (with a little atmospheric help from guitarist Ben Roe) this was an outstanding blend of fill noir, graphic novel, mime and comedy, as narrated by fictional hit man Bruce Bane. An absolute must see if you get the chance.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review The Joker & The Thief,
Back on the stage we listened to The Joker & The Thief, with some excellent sax driven blues tunes… but why the American accent? You’re from London! Someone has been listening to just a bit too much Kings of Leon

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review -Goodnight Lenin
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review -Goodnight Lenin
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review -Goodnight Lenin
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review -Goodnight Lenin
Goodnight Lenin by Sumi Senthi
Goodnight Lenin by Sumi Senthi.

Then to visit our friends Goodnight Lenin, with whom I’ve been conversing since I first heard them at Wood. They were as charming as ever ‘We never used to be a cabaret act but we’re branching out…‘ They gave away a signed Bookcrossing book… by Jeffrey Archer, and totally wowed the relatively laid back daytime audience: I had to part the crowds when I went to say hi to them in the Songlines signing tent afterwards.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review Mama Rosin
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review Mama Rosin
Mama Rosin must be one of those rare French speaking bands to appeal to Brit audiences. The Larmer Tree crowd thoroughly enjoyed the folky accordion driven tunes of this three piece.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review -Kidnap Alice
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review -Kidnap Alice
We missed My First Tooth for tea (there was a generally very high standard of food on offer at Larmer Tree) but I could hear some beautiful boisterous sounds wafting out of the ARC. Then it was time to see friends in Kidnap Alice, fronted by (unsurprisingly) a girl called Alice – whom I have known for sometime, but had absolutely no idea could sing so amazingly fiercely well. Also in the band are banjo player Joe Buirski, double bassist Felix and other assorted old time musicians who make up the current version of Cutashine. My friend Dan (also known as Danimal for reasons best not mentioned here) was present on accordion – which he seems to have taught himself in the blink of an eye. Well well impressed… particularly by their own Appalachian inspired foot stomping anthems. ‘How come no one’s dancing… are you dead?‘ importuned their dungaree clad mandolinist. I can see his point. Definitely worth checking out live.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review Bellowhead
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review Bellowhead
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review Bellowhead
Bellowhead by Amy Rogers
Bellowhead by Amy Rogers.

Friday’s big band was Bellowhead… fronted by Jon Boden, with whom I used to attend folk singing Glee camps (well before the term Glee became fashionable) It’s funny because back then he was a right stickler for sticking to prescribed folk techniques, but Bellowhead takes trad folk and blows it right out of the water with a high octane jump up and dance hoedown of a show. I think that for many festival goers this was an absolute highlight of Larmer Tree this year – it was certainly one of mine. Bellowhead have gone out on a limb with something completely unique and different and it works amazingly well. I suppose I should have known where Jon would eventually go when he turned up on camp one year and played a superb fiddle version of Hit Me Baby (One More Time) by Britney Spears.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review Kidnap Alice
Kidnap Alice by Claire Kearns
Kidnap Alice by Claire Kearns.

There’s a certain beauty in the way that both Bellowhead and Kidnap Alice have grown in part out of a love of fireside singing on FSC camps – Joe and Dan of Kidnap Alice have taken traditional American tunes of the type we sing and turned them into something totally new, whilst Jon Boden has played around with traditional British songs for Bellowhead. And at Larmer Tree they were programmed up against each other…

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review -Ozomatli
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review -Ozomatli
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review -Ozomatli
Ozomatli were something of a let down straight after Bellowhead, but then I’m not the biggest world music fan.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review -James Acaster
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review -Tom Wrigglesworth
Comedy was compered by a double hatted James AcasterTom Wrigglesworth was on first and I’m ashamed to say I can’t remember much of it… probably because I was sat squished into a small blob on the floor with no view of the stage: the tent was absolutely rammed.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review -Russell Kane
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review -Russell Kane
Luckily I found a boyfriend’s lap in time for Russell Kane, who was my unreserved comedy highlight of the festival. He leapt on stage with a brand new look clearly prompted by a break up that formed the backbone of much of his material… a spinning whirlwind of peroxide blonde quiff and tight jeans. There were many ‘postmodern’ digressions into some hilarious anecdotal stories about the middle class Jemimas whom he had overheard at the festival and I’ve honestly not laughed so much in ages. His hyper energetic set was totally up my street, probably in part because it reminded me of my own manic presenting style (ask anyone who’s seen me talk or call a ceilidh) but also because I could relate so closely to his material… I’ve had my heart totally and utterly broken, and I recognise so many of his traits in other men who would never so honestly admit to their feelings. Want. To see. Again.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review
Overheard the next day: a group of posh Devonshire teenagers (pretending they knew how to hold a fag) discussing what Russell Kane meant by the word ‘totes’ peppered liberally through his set – they were convinced he meant Tilly or Antonia. ‘Definitely, yar.’ Hilar.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review poetry Polly Malone
Polly Malone performing in Lyrical Lostwood.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review tunnel vision
Before bed we took a last minute walk through a ghostly installation in the woods… bubbles of light floating past us as we negotiated the laurel tunnel to the sounds of Brian Eno. Tunnel Vision was put together by Ulf Mark Pedersen.

Categories ,Amy Rogers, ,Appalachian, ,ARC, ,Bane, ,Bellowhead, ,Ben Roe, ,Big Top, ,Bookcrossing, ,brian eno, ,Camps, ,Claire Kearns, ,Cutashine, ,Daytime Club Larmer, ,Dish, ,Finn O’Brien, ,folk, ,Francesca Owen, ,FSC, ,Garden Stage, ,Glee, ,Goodnight Lenin, ,Guardian, ,Healing, ,Hit Me Baby (One More Time), ,Hollie McManus, ,James Acaster, ,Jeffrey Archer, ,Joe Bone, ,Joe Buirski, ,Jon Boden, ,Kidnap Alice, ,Kings of Leon, ,Lyrical Lostwood, ,Mama Rosin, ,My First Tooth, ,Ozomatli, ,poetry, ,Polly Malone, ,Russell Kane, ,Songlines, ,Sumi Senthi, ,Tai Chi, ,The Joker & The Thief, ,The Spree, ,Tom Leadbetter, ,Tom Wrigglesworth, ,Tunnel Vision, ,woodland, ,World Music, ,Yoga

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