Uncivilisation. A weekend of exploring “cultural engagement which is rooted in place, time and nature”. A weekend of people, music, story, song, fire and playfulness. A weekend where I learned so damn much about the world around me, and about myself. And apart from the bit about “I can’t use Google-maps on my phone to navigate my way out of a paper bag” (sorry Jon – it was an adventure!), I liked what I learned!
I was there primarily to share my experiences of The Telling, and encourage others to make a new home for Uncivilisation in the places and communities where they are. And also to build a tree for a midnight Dark Mountain ritual – where a woven willow tree, decorated with dreams and thoughts from whoever wanted to contribute, would be ceremonially burned, to symbolise, I dunno… something. Something unsettling (would you set fire to a tree?), to shake people from their comfort, and release the wild, and the dreams.In honesty though, I can’t really tell you much about what Uncivilisation 2013 was like, because I missed most of it, but I can tell you that “missing most of it” didn’t really matter. It wasn’t your usual “come and be entertained” festival, it was much more of a “join in, discuss, get your hands dirty” festival, and I absolutely loved it. Granted, I spent much of it fevery and shivering in my sleeping bag, or feeling too tired and fragile to get myself to much of the scheduled ‘stuff’, or not talking at a talk (yeah, that was a hoot – turns out my voice is too quiet to be heard by more than about five people at once. Luckily I had a co-conspirator (and brother) on hand to step in and say everything I’d meant to say, only better, and better projected), BUT, I still had an amazing and inspiring time. I learned about medicinal herbs (thanks Mark Watson), and how the fungus Mychorrizae works with trees, and how this can be used as a beautiful metaphor for understanding interdependence and the integrity of communities (thank you Beuysterous). I sat round a campfire picking sadly at a delicious breakfast, and discussed eco-architecture, Google infrastructure, land sovereignty, and radical life extension, with Marmaduke Dando, Matt Wicking, Lawrence somebody, a couple of names I can’t remember, and a guy whose actual job title is “Anarchist”. Brilliant. I was able to feed this discussion with ideas I’d discussed even earlier that morning (when breakfast still seemed like a horrible and terrifying idea) with Hannah, Mark, Rebecca, Evan, and a couple of other unremembered names, about the myth of the rural idyll, health provision and transport infrastructure in Uganda, industrialisation vs. artisan crafts in modern Portugal, and embroidery. A complete stranger gave me a slice of watermelon, another offered me an open invitation to stay in her house in Norway. I met a lady probably not much younger than my mother who couldn’t find the yoga workshop, so decided to have a go on some sprung stilts instead. I got up in the middle of the night and saw the milky way stretched across a sky full of stars (I live in a city, we get just enough stars that you don’t lose count), I walked barefoot through the woods in complete darkness until the full moon rose above the mist, I discovered I really really don’t like wasabi. I met old friends, I made new ones.
And you know what, Warren Draper, when you said you wanted The Telling to be like a little piece of Uncivilisation? I get it now. And I think I’m ready to make darned sure everybody else does too 🙂
Two other views of Uncivilisation 2013, well worth a read: A review of the festival in The Journal of Wild Culture and a wider, more thoughtful look at perceptions of Dark Mountain, on the blog ‘These precious and beautiful things’.