What is the Dark Mountain Project?
The Dark Mountain Project is a network of writers, artists and thinkers who have stopped believing the stories our civilisation tells itself. We see that the world is entering an age of ecological collapse, material contraction and social and political unravelling, and we want our cultural responses to reflect this reality rather than denying it.
The Project grew out of a feeling that contemporary art and literature were failing to respond honestly or adequately to the scale of our entwined ecological, economic and social crises. We believe that writing and art have a crucial role to play in coming to terms with this reality, and in questioning its foundations.
We launched the Project in 2009 with this manifesto.
The Earth is currently undergoing what has been called, accurately, an ecocide. Industrial humanity is in the process of destroying much of life on Earth in order to feed its ever-advancing appetites. As it does so, it also destroys itself. We don’t believe that responses to this global reality can be confined, as they currently are, to the political, scientific or technological: they need to be cultural too. This is not a luxury, but a necessity.
The stories which any culture tells itself about its origins and values determine its direction and destination. The dominant stories of our culture tell us that humanity is separate from all other life and destined to control it; that the ecological and economic crises we face are mere technical glitches; that anything which cannot be measured cannot matter. But these stories are losing their power. We see them falling apart before our eyes.
New stories are needed for dark times. Older ones need to be rediscovered. The Dark Mountain Project was created to help this happen. We promote and curate writing, storytelling, art and music rooted in place, time and nature. We stand against the comforting narratives of our age. We aim to shake up our cultural establishment, and provide a home for writers and artists who are looking with honest eyes at the real state of the world.
It might also be useful to explain what Dark Mountain is not. It is not a campaign. It is not an activist project. It does not seek to use writing or art to ‘save the planet’ or stop climate change. Rather, it is a creative space in which people can come to terms with the unravelling of much of the world we have all taken for granted, and engage in a conversation about what the future is likely to hold, without any need for pretence or denial.
What do you do?
Our main work is the publication of our regular anthologies of Uncivilised writing. These are carefully-crafted 300-page hardback books which show case radical essays, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, art and various uncategorisable things. Anyone can contribute to the books: we put out regular calls for contributions via this website.
Between 2010 and 2013 we published an annual anthology. From 2014 we are publishing two books a year. Find out more about our books here. Find out here how to subscribe to them and help support our work.
In addition to publishing, we run occasional events. Between 2010 and 2013, we ran an annual festival called Uncivilisation. The Uncivilisation festivals were a showcase for Dark Mountain-inspired talks, music, theatre, performance and practical crafts. The last of these festivals took place in August 2013, but future gatherings are planned in other forms.
We also hold smaller events, such as writing and story workshops, book launches and music evenings, and the growing global network of Dark Mountain supporters often create and incubate events of their own. DM events have taken place in Sweden, Ireland, Australia and across Britain. Find out more about Dark Mountain events here.
What's the story so far?
The Project was founded in 2009 by Paul Kingsnorth and Dougald Hine. Both writers and activists, they found that they both shared a sense that there was a widening gap between the reality of the world today and the official narrative of that reality.
The Project was launched in the summer of 2009 with the publication of Uncivilisation: the Dark Mountain Manifesto. This self-published pamphlet – the production costs of which were crowd-funded on the web – quickly sold out of its first print run of 500. It has since been reprinted three times, and has been read by thousands of people on this website. The manifesto was reviewed by John Gray in the New Statesman, and made the pages of newspapers in the UK, Ireland, Canada and the USA.
Most of this took us by surprise: the manifesto had a real, visceral impact on many people around the world. It seemed we were putting into words thoughts that others had been arriving at from different directions. And, while our focus in the manifesto had been on writing, we found that many non-writers – artists, scientists, musicians, farmers – were attracted to the Project too.
After the launch of the manifesto, we began work on Dark Mountain: Issue 1, our first anthology of Uncivilised writing and art. There was an enthusiastic response to our call for submissions, and the book was published in summer 2010. The list of over 40 contributors included John Michael Greer, Alastair McIntosh, Mario Petrucci, Jay Griffiths, Glyn Hughes, Louis Jenkins and Melanie Challenger.
2010 also saw the first Uncivilisation festival, held in Llangollen, Wales. Over 300 people came together for a weekend of talks, debates, theatre, cinema, music and discussion. Contributors included George Monbiot, Jay Griffiths, Alastair McIntosh, Chris Wood, Jon Boden, Mark Boyle, Will Hodgkinson and Circulus. Meanwhile, that year also saw a number of smaller Dark Mountain events and collaborations, organised by people inspired by the Project, including art exhibitions and local gatherings.
2011 saw the publication of Dark Mountain: Issue 2, whose 40 contributors included Naomi Klein, David Abram, Jay Griffiths, Luanne Armstrong, Susan Richardson and John Rember. In the summer of 2011, the second Uncivilisation festival was held at the Sustainability Centre in Hampshire. Around 300 people attended the event, which featured panel discussions on collapsonomics, wild poetry walks, late night theatre in the woods and a wide menu of talks, readings and performances.
2012 saw a third book and festival, and also saw the Project collaborating with other institutions, including the Bristol Festival of Ideas and the EcoPsychology Network.
There are now 18 local Dark Mountain groups in 8 different countries, many of whom communicate through the online Dark Mountain network – an open forum for those interested in the Project to come together. The network currently has over 1700 members, and our mailing list is over 2000-strong.
In 2013, we took the decision to bring the festival to an end and focus the activities of our core team on editing and publishing the Dark Mountain books, the task that we had committed ourselves to in the manifesto. This was a hard decision – we might not have set out to create a festival, but the project would have been vastly different without the experience of Uncivilisation. At the same time, the increasingly international reach of the project had led us to question the wisdom of focusing so much of our energy on a centrally-organised event in one corner of England.
From 2014, we are now publishing two issues of Dark Mountain a year. Meanwhile, other manifestations of the project continue to flourish – including local events in various parts of the world.
What is 'Uncivilisation'?
As well as being the name of our manifesto and the festivals we organised between 2010-13, Uncivilisation – a word we think we coined – is a concept indelibly associated with Dark Mountain, and it has been interpreted in different ways. Some people, for example, have interpreted it as a political term – a call to destroy civilisation. This is not quite what we had in mind when we began to use the word, though we can see why it might sound that way.
For us, Uncivilisation is a process: the stripping away of forms of thinking and ways of seeing which might be termed ‘civilised’ – those associated, for example, with the illusion of control, the restriction of reality to that which can be measured and managed, disconnection from nature, the enthronement of a particular kind of rationality over other ways of knowing and feeling, and the like. The art, writing and culture we see around us is, we believe, over-civilised. As an alternative, we propose a form of cultural engagement which is rooted in place and time, takes an ecocentric view of the world and is not taken in by ephemeral promises of growth, progress and human glory.
How do you operate, and who funds you?
Paul is the Project’s Editorial Director, overseeing the publication of our books and the content of this website. Dougald is our Managing Editor, working on strategy, communications and the sustainability of the project.
Sophie McKeand is our admin manager and editorial assistant, Nick Hunt is our blog editor, and Charlotte Du Cann is our art editor and distribution manager. All of them are supported by the Dark Mountain steering group, an informal network of people who have been involved in the Project for some time, and who help decide its direction. They meet at least once a year. You can find out more about the Dark Mountain team here.
For the first three years of operation, our funding came mainly from the sales of our books and our manifesto. A smaller amount came from surpluses left over from running events. Selling our publications and subscriptions is still the main way that we fund ourselves, but in 2012 we also received some core funding from outside for the first time. The Foundation for Deep Ecology made us an annual, three-year core funding grant of £10,000, and a further £6,500 was given by a long-term supporter who wishes to remain anonymous.
This has enabled us to pay our editorial director and editorial assistant a part-time wage, but it remains the case that most of the work going into Dark Mountain is unpaid. We are looking to generate a more stable income for the future – one of the simplest and most direct ways that you can support this project is to become a subscriber. We are also looking for individuals and organisations aligned with our values and interested in offering other forms of support. If that sounds like you, please get in touch.
Dark Mountain does not have any links with or allegiances to political parties, religious organisations, social movements, business interests or the like. We are entirely independent and will remain so. What you see here is what you get.
The Dark Mountain Project Ltd is a ‘company limited by guarantee’ in the UK. (This is the most basic form of non-profit company within the UK system.) Our company number is 07123515 and our registered office is: Flat 34, New House, 67-68 Hatton Garden, London EC1N 8JY, United Kingdom.
Where did the Project's name come from?
The name comes from the last line of a poem by the American poet Robinson Jeffers. The poem, ‘Rearmament‘, was written during the run-up to World War Two. Jeffers saw the coming war as inevitable, tragic and world-changing. He believed it would be a disaster, but he also knew he could do nothing to stop it. His reflections on that world-changing time elided with our reflections on ours. You can read the poem in full here.
Who can get involved and how?
Dark Mountain began as an attempt to build a movement of writers and artists, and this is still at the core of what we do. We are always keen to meet new people and to see writing and other work by anyone who feels inspired by or in sympathy with our manifesto and our work.
We don’t care if you have or haven’t been published before, or what your name is: we are interested in hearing from anyone who would like to get involved and thinks they have something to offer. You can read more here about how to get involved.