In the last two years unprecedented wildfires – like the conflagration currently engulfing Australia – have brought home the reality of climate breakdown for many people. The scale of loss and the rapidity of change is hard to comprehend. We devoted our Spring 2019 issue to stories from the ‘Age of Fire’; our next book, to be published in Spring 2020, is themed around restoration and repair. But how can these two realities – destruction and renewal, endings and beginnings, death and rebirth – be reconciled? This weekend is, partly, an approach towards that question.
Many of our previous festivals and gatherings have taken place outside the city; if not exactly in wilderness, then in the semi-natural woods or moorlands of the English or Scottish countryside. For this event, we are excited to root ourselves in an urban context, exploring the relationship between the city and the land that sustains it in times of collapse. ‘Uncivilising the City’ is a panel discussion featuring writers and practitioners whose work bridges the wild and the urban (Joanna Pocock, author of Surrender; Nina Lyons, author of Uprooted; Manu Maunganidze (Nature Youth Connection & Education) and Andres Roberts (Way of Nature UK). Andres, a celebrated guide to nature connection, will also be leading a wilderness vigil in the wilds of inner-city Bristol, and forager and fermenter Mark Watson will be taking participants on a ‘Spring Tonic Weed Walk’ to discover the wild medicine plants growing from the cracks in the concrete.
‘The Regenerative Kitchen’ will bring together Simon Bramwell (co-founder of Extinction Rebellion), Nick Saltmarsh (co-founder of Hodmedods) and Bristol’s 91 Ways for an open discussion on our relationship with food in the 21st century. Professional rewilder of captive humans Steve Wheeler will be de-domesticating people and exploring the wilderness within, while artist and maker Caroline Ross will be leading a workshop in making ink and paint foraged from the streets around the venue.
We couldn’t turn down the opportunity to take over a cinema, so filmmaker Jonny Randall will host a Saturday matinee showcase of provocative and uncivilised short films, followed by a Q&A. Later on the same stage, concert pianist and piano-builder Sarah Nicolls will be playing music about the climate crisis; contemporary storyteller Jo Blake will be telling the Welsh tale of Blodeuwedd, about a woman made out of flowers turned into an owl as punishment for adultery; and acclaimed folk music duo Jimmy Aldridge and Sid Goldsmith will be rounding off the day’s programme and leading The Cube into a sociable and convivial Saturday night.
Dark Mountain is, at its core, a literary movement, having published numerous books over the past decade. Friday night will feature the launch of Dark Mountain: Issue 17, our Spring 2020 anthology of uncivilised writing and artwork, featuring readings of non-fiction, fiction and poetry, plus a picture show from our Cube exhibition ‘Holding the Storyline’, which highlights work by performance artists published in recent issues. On Sunday’s ‘Finding the Words When the Story is Over’ writing workshop, Dark Mountain editors Charlotte Du Cann and Nick Hunt will explore how to forge a writing practice, bear witness, and speak on behalf of the non-human world.
The weekend will begin and end with fire: using part ritual, part performance, Dougie Strang and Darla Eno will invite us to explore what – in our lives, in our communities and in our cultures – we might want to carry through the fire, and what we might be glad to relinquish.
More than anything, perhaps, ‘How We Walk Through the Fire’ is an opportunity to meet people involved in the Dark Mountain Project, to raise a few glasses together (The Cube’s well-stocked bar is one of the cheapest in Bristol!) and to allow for the convivial, face-to-face conversations that we miss in a project run so much online. There will be plenty of time and space given to simply talking. Whether you are a seasoned Dark Mountaineer or someone new to the project, we welcome you warmly to The Cube in 2020.
Tickets are limited to 80 and cost £55 (£45 unwaged). For more information on buying tickets, see here. For full programme and people taking part, see here. For general enquiries, contact Dougie Strang on [email protected]