The Night Breathes Us In

The Night Breathes Us In

Festival of the Dark, Reading, March 2017

The Bearers underneath the arches of Reading Station (photo:: Georgia Wingfield-Hayes)

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is travelled by dark feet and dark wings
— Wendell Berry

In March 2017, Dark Mountain presented The Night Breathes Us In as part of Outrider Anthems’ year-long Festival of the Dark in Reading. At the Spring Equinox, we created an event which aimed to connect the seasonal shift in the year with the deeper flow of time, both circular and linear. A participative journey of story, song and fire, it was a creative exploration of the play of light and dark as expressed in the stories and myths that enrich our lives.

In the afternoon, we held a programme of talks and workshops under the trees of the municipal gardens. Then, as the light faded, the Kairos Collective took participants by the hand and led everyone on a lantern-lit procession through the streets, along a way-marked route of shadowed installations and performance to a secret location. This turned out to be an island on the Thames, where stories, music, poetry and the warmth of a good fire were shared.

The daytime workshops included:

Time Walk – the story of the Earth in a thousand paces A journey through time, of nearly five billion years, led by artist and theatre maker, Annabelle Macfadyen.

Dark Mountain: Issue 10 (Uncivilised Poetics) An introduction to the latest Dark Mountain anthology with readings and music.

Crossing the Bridge – navigating ourselves in Deep Time A group exploration of the ancestral calendar of the growing and solar year. A mythic look at the challenges and opportunities represented by the eight stations or ‘doors’ of the year, focusing on the Spring Equinox.

Singing the Dark A celebration of the songs and sounds of the dark. Taking inspiration from the habits of animals at night, using body and voice to begin exploring how darkness opens an elevated level of perception and sensory awareness.

Stepping Out into the Dark A series of collaborative games to help us to reconnect with our bodies. Through conversation, movement, partner work and imagination, the session explored what it means to step boldly out into the darkness of the unknown.

Holding the Fire An exchange of stories about warmth and holding true to our inner fire, inspired by Sicily’s third-century activist, Lucia of Syracuse.

Procession and performance: The Night Breathes Us In

At dusk the lanterns were lit and our procession wove through and beneath the streets of Reading, crossing the weir bridge to an enchanted island in the Thames. A fire was lit and there the shared feast of stories, music, songs and poetry began, plus a delicious wild toast to the Spring!

Read more in A Part of its Breathing by Sarah Thomas.

Poster for Night Breathes Us In by Outrider Anthems

Deep time is not just in the rocks and soils. It’s built into our substance: bones, tissues and cells, and in the bacterial cohabitants inside us.
— Mark Goldthorpe, Climate Cultures

‘It was a lot of time to spend in the half-dark tent, but refreshing. And the ‘outside world’ was never absent.  Later, when I looked at the photos I’d taken inside the twilight, I saw how the exposure had kept the camera’s aperture open long enough to paint the black fabric walls almost transparent, the unseen sun revealing a shadowy world beyond the veil. Three simple ways that the ‘outside’ – human, more-than-human, solar – had pierced the surface for the xhaaydla xitiit ghidaay.’ 

Mark Goldthorpe reviews The Night Breathes Us In for Climate Futures

Lanterns pave the way before the procession to the island, Forbury Gardens, Reading ((photo: Georgia Winfield-Hayers)

The Bearers’ enigmatic character was developed over a weekend workshop. As Dougie Strang (creative director) writes: ‘We saw them as crepuscular beings, crossing the boundary between day and night, leading the participants from the bright bustle of the streets, to the dark of the island. Black suits and bowler hats to mirror and subvert the uniform of the city.’

We’ll celebrate the dark and the community of people that has gathered; we’ll let the night breathe us in.

Dark Mountain: Issue 25

Our Spring 2024 issue is an anthology of non-fiction, fiction, poetry, interviews and artwork inspired by the struggle for land rights, and by the living land itself.