How very uncivilised

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.

[Photo: Bridget McKenzie]

[Photo: Bridget McKenzie]

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).

Unciv - it's people, talking to each other. [Photo: Bridget McKenzie]

Uncivilisation – it’s about people, talking to each other. [Photo: Bridget McKenzie]

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.

I saw a 'stage' made from a parachute suspended in the trees. Just amazing.

And I saw a ‘stage’ made from a parachute suspended in the trees. Just amazing.

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’.

About Disobedient Child

Digger, through and through. Also tagged as artist, crafter, voluntary worker, procrastinator View all posts by Disobedient Child

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