"The Kind of Hope Worth Having": An evening with Dougald Hine (The Dark Mountain Project) & Billie Bottle—Friday 13th April, 7-9pm, Cambridge Unitarian Church

An evening with Dougald Hine (The Dark Mountain Project) & Billie Bottle

 'Together, we will find the hope beyond hope, the paths that lead to the unknown world ahead of us.'

So runs the final line of the Dark Mountain manifesto, written by Dougald Hine and Paul Kingsnorth in the autumn of 2008. Almost a decade later, what does hope look like – when the Arctic sea ice is melting and the libraries are closing down, with Trump in the White House and the UK stumbling towards the exit doors of the EU?

Join Dark Mountain co-founder Dougald Hine and his longest-standing artistic collaborator, the singer and multi-instrumentalist Billie Bottle, on a journey to the far side of despair. This will be an evening of words and music, an investigation of the deep cultural roots of today's ecological, political and social crises.

'I want to talk about what happens when we stop assuming that despair is a thing to be avoided at all costs,' writes Dougald. 'But also when we stop assuming that it is an end in itself.'

Running behind the everyday rhythms of our societies, there is an undertow of fear and loss – and the tools for making sense of the world that we've inherited from recent generations don't equip us to handle this.

So while the toxic consequences of unexamined grief spill out into the political landscape, we have experts arguing that this is all a terrible misunderstanding. They can prove to you with graphs that everything is getting better and optimism is the only rational position. Then there are others who will say, yes, something has gone terribly wrong, and what we need is to recover the faith in the future embodied in Kennedy's moon speech or the cybernetic socialism of Stafford Beer.

I don't think those calls to optimism are going to cut it. Too much gets swept out of sight, left unnamed, in order to make those arguments. So I want to start instead by talking about grief and loss and longing – not because this is all there is to say, but because unless we can start from here, what we have to say will not sound real.

There is hope to be found in this direction, but it is a humbler thing than optimism. It makes few promises, and it does not lean as heavily on the future as the architects of the modern world felt able to do. But it can help us get oriented and ground our actions in the present.

Dougald is best known for his work as co-founder of Dark Mountain ('changing the environmental debate in Britain and the rest of Europe', The New York Times), while his essays about how we find our bearings in a time of political disorientation have reached a wide audience online in the wake of events such as the 2015 UK general election and the victory of Donald Trump. He spent two years as leader of artistic development at Riksteatern, Sweden's national theatre, and in 2017 he co-wrote a play for the Royal Dramatic Theatre, Stockholm which started from the question: 'What's it like when the Anthropocene is your day-job?' In-depth interviews with climate researchers led to a picture of how the capacity for 'knowledge production' reaches its limit when that knowledge can no longer be treated as facts to be held at arm's length, becoming instead an experience which leaves you changed.

Dougald and Billie have been collaborating since they were teenagers playing in folk clubs and busking on street corners around the northeast of England. Today, Billie's albums and live shows are praised by the likes of Robert Wyatt ('Brilliant!') and Roger Trenwith ('In terms of heart, it was the biggest thing I've had the privilege to witness in many a moon'). In recent years, the two of them have begun collaborating again – most recently on The Other Place, a 'vox-popera' based on a journey across England in the final week of the 2015 general election campaign.

This event will also be a celebration of SANCTUM, the twelfth issue of Dark Mountain, and copies of the book will be on sale on the night.