As you may or may not know (possibly not, given how lax I’ve been at blogging lately), since, ooh, sometime last year, I’ve been involved in the most awesome, inspiring, wonderful and fun project, called the Telling. Or possibly, For The Telling. Whatever. Whenever people have asked me “So, what’s The Telling then?” I’ve been completely at a loss to explain. I’d say, Well, it’s a kind of post-apocalyptic storytelling event, and we’ve got some music too, and some other stuff. What do you mean? Well, er, some people wanted to get involved, so we’ve got some poetry, some other stuff – it’ll be in the old arts college! What, inside? Well, no, in the courtyard actually. It’s derelict, so we painted it, or rather, Phlegm did, that’s not his real name, and we’re having dancing foxes and making it all firelit. So who’s funding this? Um, no-one, we’re doing it for free. It’s kind of linked to the Dark Mountain project. What’s Dark Mountain? Um… And so on.
I’ve explained The Telling to people as an event, as a mini-festival, as a way of sharing stories (that one really confused people), as a way of getting together and working out how we will survive The Apocalypse (TM). That Apocalypse explanation really didn’t help – it further muddied the already murky waters and made us seem like a bunch of nihilistic nutters. Which we’re really not. Well, we’re not nihilists anyway.
It was when I was speaking to a friend about how we weren’t pursuing funding bids that it really hit home how much I’d fluffed up. She said “well you need *some* funding, you can’t keep relying on freebies (artists performing for free) forever”. Relying on freebies, on favours? A bunch of hippies too disorganised to engage with bourgeois ideas like paying people for their time, grasshoppering away on the backs of other people’s hard work? Damn, that is *so* not what we’re doing. It really made me back up and look hard at how to describe The Telling to people.
I came to three conclusions (decisiveness has never been my forte. At least I don’t think it has. Maybe it was once…):
My answer #1> I can’t describe it. It’s about resilience, transition, stories, and the Dark Mountain ideals. Please go and work it out for yourself, I had to. Because then you will have learned, and explored, and you’ll have a much better understanding than if I’d spoon-fed you an explanation.
My answer #2> It’s a day of workshops to equip you to make a better world. Breadmaking, peace-making, sewing and crafting, singing, smelting, and whatever you’d like to learn really, just ask. Then we’ll have a big outdoor party in the evening and listen to stories and songs and burn stuff.
My answer #3> It is a space to engage with how we deal with this changing world. It’s about resilience in transition, and working together to share and discuss and play, and realise that the future is up to us, not the powers-that-be. It’s about how we live – here, now – and how we help each other forward. So at The Telling we will meet and share stories, and music, and food, and skills. Please bring some to share! And we won’t use electricity, and we won’t use plastic cups, and we’ll all muck in together to clear a space, to serve the food, to entertain, and to listen. The artists performing are not doing it “as a favour”, they’re doing it because they want to be a part of it too, and they are sharing their talents as much as the people who made the bread, and the mulled wine, and the banners. Because we don’t believe that the only way to hear stories is on the telly, the only way to hear music is paying to sit at a concert, and we’re not going to just sit and gripe about how the politicians and the corporations and just the mindset we’re stuck in have an iron grip over how we learn, how we consume, how we interact, how we travel, even how we light our venues We’re not going to scrabble for the diminishing arts grants, and jump through their hoops; we’re not going to chew our nails wondering how we can book a venue, soundcheck musicians, hire a caterer – all those things you ‘have to do’ when ‘running an event’. We are people, and we are going to do this our way. A better way.
And then it got to the end of the evening and one of the performers, Sharron Kraus, came up to me and said “Thank you for letting me join in” – which was when I realised maybe people did ‘get it’ after all
Post script: If you like to see what actually went off, hop on over to For The Telling, I’m sure there’ll be lots of photos and stuff up there right soon. Personally, the experience of standing next to a roaring firepit listening to (and joining in with) Jon Boden singing “I wanna dance with somebody” is one that will stay with me for a long time