My Pick of the Festival

is the co-founder of the Dark Mountain Project, of which he was director from 2009-2017, He is the author of nine books - three novels, two poetry collections and four works of non-fiction - all of which, it turns out, tell the same story: how we walked away from the wild world, and how we might get home again, if we can. He runs the Wyrd School which teaches wild writing and art and lives in the west of Ireland.
This morning, I  received the proofs of the programme for our very last Uncivilisation festival, which takes place in less than ten days’ time. I’m really pleased with it: you can view the programme online here. If you’re thinking about coming, but have yet to book your tickets, you can still do so over on the Festival website.

I don’t have many regrets about the festivals we’ve run for the past four years. I don’t even have any regrets about the fact that this will be the last one, though the final farewell will be a bittersweet moment. I’m excited enough about the plans we have for the future of Dark Mountain to know that as one stage ends, another begins. More on that later in the year.

Still, there is one regret I have, and it is that I never got to attend any of our festivals as a punter. Most of the time I’m so busy running around helping to make them happen, that I miss most of the events that I and others have spent the last twelve months putting together.

I’d like to think things will be different this year, but they probably won’t. So, just in case I miss them (which I probably will) and just because I’m the curator and so I can, here is my personal pick of the festival: a few highlights that I’m going to try my best to see.

In Gowan Ring
I had never heard of the deliciously-named B’ee and his band until a friend put us in contact earlier this year. B’ee and his troupe are coming over from Belgium to play us a set of ‘symbolist folk music’ on the Friday night. I’m not quite sure what to expect, and I’m the one that booked him.

New Narratives for the Mind
OK, so my wife is one of the speakers, but that’s not the reason I think this is an important session. This is an exploration of the failures of the mainstream ‘mental health’ paradigm, in which social problems are often medicalised and treated with ineffective or dangerous pharmaceuticals. In this session, a psychiatrist, a mental health nurse and the father of a long-term service-user discuss the failures of the existing system and some of the possible alternatives.

Uncivilised Stand-Up
We’ve been talking about finding ourselves a stand-up comedian for years, and finally we’ve found one who seems to fit. On the Saturday night, Viv Goodings will be voicing dissent and descent, and subjecting both civilisation and uncivilisation to the rigorous test of ridicule. I’ll be standing at the back in case he picks on me.

Charnel House & Badger Dissonance
No-one who has attended any of our previous festivals will have missed Dougie Strang’s contributions – from the powerful Saturday night ritual that was the highlight of our second year to his work with the mysterious Mearcstapa last time around. This time he’s unveiling his new interactive installation ‘Charnel House for Roadkill’ (see the roe deer above for a teaser) and his companion piece ‘Badger Dissonance.’ I’m hoping to be disturbed.

Kids’ Council
Alex Fradera and Julia Poelmann return this year with the event that puts children in charge of the destinies of adults. Those of us who have children might feel that this is the case already, but my daughter loved this last year, and it brought up some thought-provoking propositions.

The Illich Conspiracy
The philosopher Ivan Illich has been one of the guiding lights for Dark Mountain since its inception, and this session sees DM co-founder Dougald Hine tracing the development of Illich’s thinking and discussing why he still matters. I’ve not read enough Illich, so with any luck this will inspire me to remedy this.

There’s more, of course – the session on barefoot running, for starters, which I really want to attend for the sake of my ageing fell runner’s knees. But maybe I’m being too ambitious already. If any of this tickles your fancy too, you can see the full programme here; and you can grab yourself a ticket before they go.

Maybe I’ll see you there?


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