Thursday, 16 April 2009

Announcing 'The Dark Mountain Project'

Today is an exciting day. After a year or so of meetings in pubs and emails backwards and forwards, it is time to announce the Dark Mountain Project - a literary and artistic movement for a time of massive global change.

The project grew out of a conversation with Paul Kingsnorth, started by a blog post in which he proposed:

a new publication: not a magazine, exactly, not quite a journal either, but something between the two and somewhere else as well. A publication which will match the beauty of its writing with the beauty of its design. A publication whose mission will be to reclaim beauty and truth in writing, but without sounding too pompous about it. A publication which will reject both celebrity culture and consumer society with equal vehemence. A publication which will celebrate our true place in nature in prose, poetry and art; which will hunt down ancient truths for modern consumption.

Gradually, that idea has taken a fuller form, and between us we have written a pamphlet which is intended as a first step towards that magazine. Over the next three weeks, we aim to raise £1000 in donations towards the costs of publishing that pamphlet as the Dark Mountain Manifesto and building a website to support the movement.

Why are we doing this? Because of the times in which we find ourselves. Because a collapsing economy and a collapsing environment are turning all our assumptions on their heads. Because nothing that we currently take for granted seems likely to come through the 21st century unscathed. Because civilisation as we have known it is coming apart at the seams.

We don't believe that anyone - not politicians, not environmentalists, not writers - is really facing up to the magnitude of this. We are all still wedded to the idea that the future will be an upgraded version of the present. It is in our cultural DNA. Perhaps this is why, as the warning signs flash out ever more urgently, we still go shopping, or plan for more economic growth, or campaign for new energy technologies, or write novels about the country house or the inner city.

A civilisation is built not on oil, steel or bullets, but on stories; on the myths that shore it up and the tales it tells itself about its origins and destiny. We believe that we have herded ourselves to the edge of a precipice with the stories we have told ourselves about who we are: the story of 'progress', of the conquest of 'nature', of the centrality and supremacy of the human species.

We believe it is time for new stories. The Dark Mountain project aims to foster a new movement of writers, artists and creative thinkers, a new school of writing and art for an age of massive global disruption. We are calling it Uncivilisation.

Very soon, we will be launching the Dark Mountain Manifesto, as a hand-crafted pamphlet and online. At the same time, we will launch our website. If enough people seem interested, we then plan to begin publishing a journal of Uncivilised art and writing. And if that takes off, there is much more that this nascent movement can be doing to help create the stories that will define these new times.

For the moment, though, we are looking for help. The Dark Mountain Project is not a prescriptive attempt to tell people how to write or think, but the raising of a flag around which we hope like-minded people will gather. So we are looking for people who might want to be involved: writers, artists, illustrators, designers, thinkers - anyone with whom this strikes a chord.

The other kind of help we need is money. Zac Goldsmith has already generously donated £1000 towards the cost of publishing the manifesto and launching the full Dark Mountain website. We are looking to raise the same amount again in donations over the next three weeks. If you can afford to contribute towards getting this project off the ground, please visit our fundraising page on (Everyone who donates $20 or more will receive a copy of the manifesto and an invitation to our launch event.)

The challenges of the 21st century are too often framed only as technical problems requiring solutions. I believe that this is a form of denial. What we face is a challenge to the imagination - the challenge of imagining a liveable future in a changed world. I hope that the Dark Mountain Project can help place the imagination at the heart of our response.


happyseaurchin said...

nice idea
if not a little vague with remit
if you are looking for mountain-sized ideas
i'm up for it!

Dougald Hine said...

@happyseaurchin - Glad you like the idea! The manifesto will make the contours of our argument clearer, but the aim is to hold open a space, rather than to issue a list of proposals or demands. Look forward to your ideas!

Anonymous said...

The Dark Mountain Project sounds brilliant. Are you just looking for professional writers/artists to contribute to this?

Ann L. said...

Sounds like just what's needed. That and some appropriate technology. Definitely time to get myself to some meetings... any scheduled?

Dougald Hine said...

@Lou - Thanks for your enthusiasm! Our aim is to publish the best writing out there, regardless of who the writer is or whether they have been published before. We're looking forward to discovering new talent as well as involving people whose name you'd recognise. We're also keen that this is larger than the magazine itself, so that everyone who's interested in the project has ways of getting involved. Watch this space!

Dougald Hine said...

@Ann - thanks! And yes to appropriate technology, obviously. (The next GlueSniffers meetup is pencilled in for 11th May - venue tbc - hope you can make it!)

Anonymous said...

sounds promising. how might interested writers get involved (apart from commenting here)?

Dougald Hine said...

@Daniel - good point! At the moment, the best way to get involved is to sign up at our pre-launch website:

We'll let you know as soon as we start looking for contributions for the first issue.

United Diversity said...

Where does the name Dark Mountain come from and what is its significance?

Also, assume you've seen this: ?



United Diversity said...

Ah, assume the name come from:

"I would burn my right hand in a slow fire

To change the future ... I should do foolishly. The beauty of modern

Man is not in the persons but in the

Disastrous rhythm, the heavy and mobile masses, the dance of the

Dream-led masses down the dark mountain.

- Robinson Jeffers"

As per

Dougald Hine said...

@josef - yep, that's right - the title is from Jeffers. An extraordinary poet. Paul wrote a piece about him for the Independent last year:

Thanks for the David Korten link. I hadn't come across him, but I must check out his stuff.

Kevin said...

I'll keep paying attention until I understand

Dan Aktivix said...

Hey up lad

Here's one direction the academy is going in - hearteningly multidisciplinary in scope:

"Living With Environmental Change (LWEC) represents an unprecedented partnership spanning research councils, government and business. The programme connects world-leading natural, engineering, economic, social, medical, cultural, arts, and humanities researchers with policy makers, business, the public, and other key stakeholders."

There's a billion pounds in this. I tell you this a) coz it's interesting to see what the academy's doing and b) in this and other funding streams, working with people outside the academy is strongly encouraged - maybe there'll be some money in there for this project if you can tangle your tendrils with it.

Geoff said...

The story has already been written. It's called "Island", and it was written by Aldous Huxley.

If somebody can write the same story, without the external context of oil and the final page of the novel, they will have achieved something that neither Huxley not the combined writers of the Bible managed to achieve.

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