A Guide for Local Contacts

Find The Others

A Guide for Becoming a Local Contact

So you’ve been reading Dark Mountain for a while and you’re keen to meet other readers near you? That’s excellent. We’ve been heartened by the response since we launched our Find The Others project in April 2019 – and we’ve created this page to help you get your bearings.

Read on to learn about how to start a local group and to figure out whether this is what you’re looking for. This is still very much an experiment, so please bear with us – we’ll update this guide as we learn more.

The Journey

The way we see it, there are three milestones along the way to getting a local readers group off the ground.

1. Becoming a local contact

So you’ve read Dougald’s post introducing this experiment – and you’re reading this guide, which should give you a clearer idea of whether what you’re imagining would fit within the frame of Find The Others.

If you haven’t done so already, then you fill out the online form. This is where you introduce yourself to us and say a bit about what you have in mind.

We may ask you to tell us a bit more at this point, and in some cases we may feel that what you’re looking to do isn’t really a fit for the frame of this experiment. But assuming it is, then we’ll set you up with a listing as a local contact on the main Find The Others page, including a link to your email address or another way that people can get in touch with you.

2. Finding a few others

To get a local group going, you’ll need to find a couple of other Dark Mountain readers (or potential readers) who you’d enjoy getting together with.

Maybe you can already think of some people who might be into this – if so, great! But if you don’t know anyone within a hundred miles who seems likely to get Dark Mountain, then hopefully your listing will lead to someone getting in touch before too long. We’ll do what we can to help spread the word and connect readers to each other.

When someone does get in touch with you, we suggest having a conversation over email or phone, and then if it seems promising, arrange to meet up.

Our experience of meeting Dark Mountain readers is that you are a fascinating, generous and diverse crowd – but obviously, please use the same kind of common sense that would apply in any situation where you are arranging to meet up with a stranger off the internet.

3. Starting a group

Once there’s two or three of you who like the idea of getting together regularly, then congratulations – you’ve started a local group! Even if no one else shows up, you’ll enjoy your meetings. (And if you find you don’t, hey, there’s no need to keep going.)

But you’ll probably be glad if new people show up now and then. So let us know that you’ve got a group going and we can update your listing with details of how to find you.

You can choose to be really visible – having a blog or a Meetup.com page or a Facebook group, making fliers for your meetings – or you can keep a lower profile, have meetings ‘by invitation’, with just a means of contact on the site for new people who are interested in coming. That’s your call.

All we’d ask is that you keep to the spirit of this guide – and that if you find your group evolving into something different, then you find a name that suits what it has become (rather than calling it a Dark Mountain readers group), and let us know about the direction you’ve taken, so we can figure out whether it still makes sense to have you listed on the site.

Guidelines & Suggestions

Did we mention that this is an experiment? So we are going to be learning with you about what works and what’s worth bearing in mind. But here are our current thoughts. Please have a read of these and use them to help figure out whether you’re thinking along the same lines as us.

What do you do when you find each other?

We don’t have a template for what form a local gathering takes, but we do have a sense of what fits within the frame of Find The Others.

  • An informal meet-up in a café, a bar or a public space where you just get together to talk over a coffee or a beer. We suggest you bring a copy of a recent book to make it easy for newcomers to find you – and that you read aloud a poem or a couple of pages from a longer piece as a starting point for a conversation.
  • An outdoor meet-up – meet somewhere where you can go for a walk together, or get dirt under your finger nails in a garden, an allotment or a smallholding.
  • A local Dark Mountain writers’ group – you’re welcome to organise a meet-up with a creative focus, aimed at people who are interested in submitting work for our books. We’d ask that you keep it informal and welcoming to others who are interested in Dark Mountain – and again, we suggest you start by reading something short from one of our recent books.
  • A reading group – along the lines of a book group, where you take a book or an essay each month, read it between meetings and then come together to discuss it.

We also have a few thoughts about things that are great in themselves, but don’t really belong within the frame of this experiment. Here are the examples we’ve come up with:

  • A gathering that’s focused on making plans or taking action. From our experience of organising Dark Mountain events, we’ve learned that the space this project is good at bringing about is one of reflection, rather than planning or action. It’s not that we’re against taking action. Rather, it’s that all of us need spaces where we can step back from the frontline or the everyday – maybe because the kinds of action you’ve taken previously have stopped making sense, or maybe just to regather and be together at a different tempo. If you’re bringing people together locally around Dark Mountain, it might well be that the group overlaps with those who come together under other contexts for more directed, active forms of doing – but we’d ask you to hold this space as something slightly different from those contexts.
  • An event with an audience. If you want to organise something that’s more than just an informal meet-up, then that’s great – but we’d encourage you to find your own name and frame for it, rather than presenting it as a local Dark Mountain gathering.
  • An event where people give presentations to the group. Again, a totally worthwhile thing to organise, but not something we can just say ‘Go ahead and do it in the name of Dark Mountain’.
  • A workshop or curated experience. This is more than just people coming together around a shared interest in Dark Mountain and the work that we publish, it’s an expression of your own ideas and practice, so we’d encourage you to develop it on your own terms, rather than as a local Dark Mountain gathering.

This list isn’t exhaustive, so if you have an idea that seems different from all the possibilities we’ve mentioned, feel free to run them past us. But hopefully these examples give you a feel for what this is and what it isn’t.

The manifesto and beyond…

Ten years on from when Paul and Dougald wrote the Dark Mountain manifesto, it’s amazing to see how many people are still discovering that text and getting inspired by it. We’re proud of that first attempt to frame what grew into this project – and we’re proud of the way the project has branched and rooted itself in the years since. So by all means use the manifesto as a reference point for bringing people together, but we’d also ask you to get your hands on one or two of our recent books, as a way to orient yourselves to the variety of voices and possibilities that have crossed paths within this territory.

What’s in a name?

If you’re organising something that fits with the spirit of this guide, then we’re happy for you to use Dark Mountain in the name of your group or gathering. We’d also love it if you come up with a name that is particular to the landscape, language and spirit of the place in which you find yourselves.

All we’d ask is that you use a phrase along the lines of ‘a local gathering organised by readers and friends of Dark Mountain’ in any online presence or publicity material that you create. That way, it’s clear that it’s you doing the organising, rather than us.

And if you reach a point where your group is growing into something more ambitious – organising events, rather than just informal meet-ups – or that its focus is shifting, then we’d ask you to find a new name for it that reflects what it has become.

Anything else?

There will no doubt be more to add to this guide as we go along. Meanwhile, you can get in touch with us at [email protected] if you have questions – or go ahead and fill out the online form.

Finally, we’re supporting this as an experiment because it feels like there’s life in it. We’re a small non-profit organisation and our only ongoing funding comes through the sale of books and subscriptions, so the amount of hands-on support we’ll be able to offer is limited. But the more people who hear about Dark Mountain, the more copies of our books end up in people’s hands, and the more we’re able to support the community of people to whom those books matter. So thank you for your help in introducing people to our work.

Dark Mountain: Issue 15

The Spring 2019 issue is a collection of non-fiction, fiction, poetry and artwork that responds to the ‘age of fire’.