The Telling

The Telling

Doncaster 2012-13

Mural by Phlegm at Church View, Doncaster

The Telling was a post-apocalyptic, powerdown event created by a local network in South Yorkshire, many of whom had been involved with Dark Mountain. It took place on a dark, dry and cold November evening in 2012 in the enclosed court of the old Church View art college in Doncaster. Beneath the newly-adorned walls of the disused building, amid flame, smoke and sound, a host of performers and storytellers brought the evening to life.

The Telling was dreamed into being by Warren Draper. Part One was stitched together by Warren Draper, Rachel Horne, Phlegm, Abi Nielsen, Tim Ralphs, Iona Hine, Ian Walker, Joie Rachel Caruthers, Tim Lee, Mr Fox, The New Fringe, Doncaster Central DevelopmentTrust, Say Yes To Arts, PermaFuture, PixieWorks and The Dark Mountain Project.

A second Telling took place in February 2013, followed by The Gifting, a DIY celebration of the gift economy in November of that year.

Read more on The Telling website – and in Warren Draper’s post for Dark Mountain, ‘To Tell of the Telling’.

We have become so used to being constantly bombarded by noise, light and cleverness - in a 'shock and awe' attack on the senses - that the treat of firelight, acoustic music, and an unaided human voice has become truly magical.
— Warren Draper

‘Phlegm is one of the UK’s foremost muralists. As street art becomes ever more mainstream, Phlegm stands head and shoulders above the rest – not just for his technical ability, but for his depth of vision. His painting create a world which is all his own. The characters and creatures that inhabit this world evolve over time and continuously explore new themes. When I first saw the post-apocalyptic courtyard of Church View, I knew we had found a stage for Phlegm’s backdrop. We would light his work with fire-pits – ably controlled by  Mr Fox – and there would be music and dancing and drinking and feasting and conversations and poems and storytelling.’

— Warren Draper

Dancing of the Foxes, The Telling 1, Doncaster 2011 (photo: Martin Pick)

Review of The Telling (Part Two)

On a cold February night I am standing in a courtyard in Doncaster, warming my hands on a cup of tea, stepping from side to side trying to get some warmth into my feet. The murmur of the crowd falls silent as a drum beat bursts out in the far end of the courtyard. A band of foxes emerge out of the dark, scrutinising the silent crowd.

They seem to be on guard as if they are keepers of some secret knowledge or wisdom. Then an accordion joins in with the drums, a red flare lights up the surrounding space and the foxes break out into dancing. Captivated by the mystery before me I forget about my cold feet and my tea for a while.

This is The Telling: a new kind of grassroots, power-down, artistic event which draws on various forms of storytelling, performance, music and craft to explore what living through a time of transition means. Born in the imagination of Warren Draper, The Telling is inspired by The Dark Mountain Project and created on a DIY ethos as a reaction against the debilitating effect of the entertainment industry on folk culture.

Warren explains, “We have become so used to being constantly bombarded by noise, light and cleverness – in a ‘shock and awe’ attack on the senses – that the treat of firelight, acoustic music, and an unaided human voice has become truly magical… something which I was desperate to share with as many people as possible.”

The enchanting performances of Mr. Fox is just one of many that evening set in the post-apocalyptic Church View courtyard, which is adorned by a large mural by street artist Phlegm depicting and archer sitting in a giant horn shooting down human bones tied to floating balloons.

And the evening programme is just the culmination of a series of events and workshops that ran throughout the day: a pop-up cinema, the Sheffield City Giants (15 feet large puppets), bread-making, make-do-and-mend, a singing workshop, a talk on peace, and my absolute favourite: making iron in a clay foundry.

This diverse mix of activities and performances makes The Telling a place to be inspired and to learn practical skills at the same time. As Warren says, “I would say it is simply a space where we can converse honestly – in a diversity of mediums and disciplines – about the realities of collapse and transition; where we can develop the skills and stories which may yet help us to face those realities; and where we can sing, dance, feast, frolic and burn stuff!”

And the hope is that these kinds of spaces will grow beyond Church View: “Whatever The Telling is it has taken on a life of its own. Preparations are already afoot for the first Sheffield The Telling and there are whispers of other Telling events further afield”. Having drawn a crowd on a freezing February night, I am sure this is not the last incarnation of The Telling.

— Jeppe Graugaard for Transition Free Press Spring 2013

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.