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Human // Nature // Stories > 29.02.2020
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It is becoming increasingly apparent (or rather, obvious once more) that stories are of profound importance in terms of meaning-making and understanding the context, purpose, and relevance of where we find ourselves in the world, both individually and collectively. And it’s not only culture, where stories reign at the fore of collective understanding, but it’s also the stories we tell about ourselves, to ourselves and to others, that determine our sense of being in the world. Stories of inner & outer being are starting to intersect as we move forward into a new paradigm, one that is uncertain, and yet fiercely heart-led.

We see the world as it is now, as we’ve made it and told it, and as it’s becoming, and we ask ourselves why we face so many complex and overwhelming crises? What got us in to this mess? What stories have led us astray, and how might we bring into being those that re-inspire, re-generate, and re-connect?


This next instalment of Experimental Thought Co’s Human // Nature series seeks to ask the questions that need to be asked. Inquiring further into the nature of the human condition and exploring, in detail, the theme of Stories, we hope to co-create a renewed vision of our world and sense of being within it, along with the help of our community. We are looking forward to welcoming you into our sanctuary within the city.

When we lose our myths we lose our place in the universe

MADELEINE L’ENGLE

Humans have woven stories since the dawn of time. Speckled across the pages of our existence is the ink of myth, fable, & folklore, and the echoes of adventurous anecdotes and worldly tales linger from centuries ago…

Using a variety of tools, such as language, art, movement, & sound, humans have crafted narratives about what it means to be alive in the world for millennia. Whilst our cultures may have changed, the essence of human nature remains intact, buried deep within the scriptures of the soul. 

Fictive or not, we have used stories to make sense of things throughout our evolution, both individually and collectively.

In an undefinable world filled with undefinable phenomena, such as consciousness and love, we are compelled by our very nature to understand all that we experience, and in our attempts we inadvertently bring forth beauty through poetry, music, revolutionary conversation and so on. We also unwittingly bring forth delusion. 

Some argue that the human desire to forge meaning through such methods misses the point, others argue that meaningless meaning-making is the point. 

Today, the way we see ourselves in the world is a dark tale, one in which a separation from nature, spirit, and wisdom has caused a rift in inter-human and human-Earth relations.

Daytime, Evening, & Combined tickets are available here.


Storytelling & Performance

Andreas Kornevall >>> Entering the Age of Restoration

In this presentation we will explore the mythical underpinnings of our current world predicament – what do the old stories and myths have to say about mass extinction and climate change? Soul activism will be also be explored in facing man-made sixth mass extinction.

Andreas Kornevall is a writer, storyteller and an ecological soul-activist. He grew up in Chile, Sweden and Switzerland, and now directs the Earth Restoration Service charity – which focuses on planting new woodlands and wildflower meadows across the UK and beyond. In response to the sixth mass extinction, Andreas was the catalyst behind the Life Cairn movement: memorials for species rendered extinct at human hands. The Life Cairn is the world’s first memorial for extinct species. Life Cairns have been built around the world in crisis areas such as the Galapagos Islands and Mauritius. There is one in central Stockholm that was recently sanctioned and protected by the King of Sweden.

As a storyteller, he works with old myths and fairytales which shine a light on life’s journey; his stories tend to gravitate around the Norse material which have led him to lecture in activism and myth universities and other educational centres. Andreas is also a prize-winning author, whose work has been published in magazines such as Resurgence, The Ecologist, Permaculture magazine and in the Dark Mountain series.

Rachel Rose Reid

Rachel tells stories through performance and community event creations. She was raised on a stew pot of immigrant folk traditions and London-influences. As a spoken word artist and storyteller, Rachel has worked with has written and performed for Billy Bragg, BBC Radio 3, and the London City Sinfonia, and as part of performance collective Three Acres and a Cow: A History of Land Rights and Protest in Folk Song and Story. Rachel is an ordained Kohenet [Hebrew Priestess], renewing and reviving knowledge and practice of embodied, earth-centred Jewish women’s practices from antiquity to the present day, through retreats, study sessions, and life cycle rituals.

Together with Sufi musician Fahad Khalid she runs Sufi Shekhina Circle, using meditative Jewish and Islamic practices to bring together people from all faiths and none. With Mexican artist Pablo Villierezz she created Cena de los Muertos, a ritual meal for remembering the dead, whilst deepening understanding of Mexican Day of the Dead practices. She is the founder of the Willesden Green Wassail, and urban-reworking of an ancient English custom, named by the Lonely Planet blog as one of the UK’s most inspirational Winter events.

Tom Morley

“What are the stories that we tell ourselves about being artistic, or musical? “I’m tone deaf, I don’t have a rhythmic bone in my body”. And where do these stories come from? Childhood. Our school teachers wanted to win prizes so they only championed the chosen few. I was NOT one of the chosen few.

However, I told myself a different story when I grew up. For thousands of years art and music and dance supported rituals. Those rituals were all about connection. All you had to do was commit, you weren’t judged by the rest of the tribe, you were welcomed in so your skills and your confidence grew.

That’s the story I suggest we all tell ourselves.”

Tom Morley was the original drummer and a founder member of Scritti Politti, the 80s band who were pioneers of DIY music before appearing successfully on the dance scene. He’s also recorded with David Bowie and Madness. Unlike other bands Scritti Politti used to make half their songs up on stage so from an early age Tom got used to taking risks in public. What it takes to hold your nerve when you have no idea of what’s coming next is second nature to him.

Lucy Neal

(with Charlotte Du Cann)

Lucy Neal is a writer and theatremaker and was co-founder director of the influential London International Festival of Theatre (1981-2005). Active in the grassroots Transition movement since 2008, she is interested in how celebratory events act as a catalyst for change. Her recent book Playing for Time – Making Art As If the World Mattered, published in 2015 by Oberon Books, is co-written with over 60 artists and activists and has been described as ‘a hand book for life’, ‘extraordinary and timely’, ‘a manifesto; a work of art’ and ‘a beautiful and invaluable book’. Joining the dots between the ‘macro’ stories of energy, food, finance and climate change it explores creativity’s role in reimagining new ways of being human on Earth.

The Embers Collective

The Embers Collective is a London based storytelling and live music group. Formed by three friends; a writer, an actor and a musician in 2016. Driven by a passion for the art of sharing stories we wanted to put on events with a focus on community and connection.They adapt world mythology, weaving stories and songs into a live, evolving musical landscape. We put on regular events in venues, festivals, forests and fields all over the UK and beyond.

Boe Huntress

Boe Huntress is Artist in Residence at Union Chapel where she creates audio-visual immersive events of political resistance, using storytelling, music and myth. Her first album, Kiss the Witch is an acoustic exploration of the wild woman archetype, followed up by A Female Power, an experimental electronic retelling of four ancient myths.

Mobius Loop

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Mobius Loop is a self-managed, independent Philosophical folk band nurtured by singer-songwriter soulmates Alexander & Katie Orion. They create gloriously eccentric philosophical folk stories, fusing world music & conscious rap with eruptions of free-form dance charged with an intimately powerful & intense energetic live performance.

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Talks

Andrew Simms

>>> We Are More Than This – the Death of an Economic Myth

There’s a niche question in research that explores the question: does studying economics make you a bad person? Evidence suggests it might, but whether or not it does, mainstream economics makes some pretty rude assumptions about us all being selfish, competitive, individualistic and only made happy by consuming more. But is a different story emerging, Andrew Simms of the New Weather Institute and Rapid Transition Alliance, explores whether a tale of our better selves might be emerging just in time to tackle the climate emergency.

Andrew Simms is an author, political economist and campaigner. He is co-director of the NewWeather Institute, coordinator of the Rapid Transition Alliance, assistant director of Scientists for Global Responsibility , a research associate at the University of Sussex, and a fellow of the New Economics Foundation. His books include Cancel the Apocalypse, Ecological Debt, and Economics: A Crash Course. He tweets from @andrewsimms_uk

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There’s a niche question in research that explores the question: does studying economics make you a bad person? Evidence suggests it might, but whether or not it does, mainstream economics makes some pretty rude assumptions about us all being selfish, competitive, individualistic and only made happy by consuming more. But is a different story emerging, Andrew Simms of the New Weather Institute and Rapid Transition Alliance, explores whether a tale of our better selves might be emerging just in time to tackle the climate emergency.

Andrew Simms is an author, political economist and campaigner. He is co-director of the NewWeather Institute, coordinator of the Rapid Transition Alliance, assistant director of Scientists for Global Responsibility , a research associate at the University of Sussex, and a fellow of the New Economics Foundation. His books include Cancel the Apocalypse, Ecological Debt, and Economics: A Crash Course. He tweets from @andrewsimms_uk

Mac Macartney

>>> The Invisible Path

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The Invisible Path was given to Mac Macartney in a dream ceremony. It has guided him ever since. In this talk Mac shares his insights into The Invisible Path and offers it as a living symbol upon which we can all walk, seek purpose, find meaning, and navigate our journey of becoming.

The Invisible Path is a trail strewn with questions, challenges, and choices. It can assist in meeting life with rather more fortitude and open-heartedness than might otherwise be available. The Invisible Path reaches out ahead, beckoning, inviting. It offers no ready-made practices, ancient scripts, creeds or beliefs, but it does hold the keys to empowerment. It guides us towards self-responsibility, self-leadership, self-awareness, and deep loving connectedness with life. It is by nature elusive, mysterious, glimpsed, ephemeral and unproven.

The Invisible Path also applies to the journey upon which our species embarked many thousands of years ago. It guides us towards wholeness but it does not instruct. The choice is always with us. It is a warrior’s way, a peacemaker’s way, a joyful, sorrowful, and profoundly regenerative way.

Mac Macartney is an author, an activist, and an international speaker. He is the founder of Embercombe in Devon, a centre which seeks to explore and promote the profound regeneration of land, society, and people

Over a period of twenty years Mac was mentored by a group of indigenous elders. During this training and ever since, he has attempted to bring two worlds together – an ancient world-view that emphasises relationship, interdependence, and reverence for life with the significant challenges and opportunities of the twenty-first century. Mac’s work takes him into many diverse sectors of society including corporations, grassroots activist movements, schools and universities, spiritual and religious institutions, and others less easily defined.


Vinay Gupta

>>> Across the Abyss: From Myth to Reality

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In this talk, we will examine how ideas cross from the real to the unreal – how we go from a concept like “maybe the atom can be split?” to nuclear reactors (and bombs!). We’ll discuss the role of science fiction in setting the ambitions of future engineers, and of literature in creating future political aspirations.

But most of all, we’ll examine how we know what we know: how does experience confirm or contradict ideas from religious myths, and how to fringe phenomena like UFOs or the Loch Ness Monster inform how we relate to other classes of impossible-to-verify but culturally powerful ideas. How does the scientific method differ from other ways of achieving truth, and how do we map out the horizon of things which may be true, but are true in ways which science cannot yet instrument or measure – for example, the quality of artistic inspiration is a driving fact of life for many people, but there is no scale or metric for it.

Finally, the overwhelming question of the day: how to make global warming real enough to do something about?


Charlotte Du Cann

>>> The Kist

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A pile of seeds, a tuft of wool, a vessel of water, a closed box.

‘What happens when the heroes disappear, when the battle for the city is over, when you return to the island and find a box in your hands? There was an instruction once that told us why that box should never be opened’.

‘The Kist’ is a short talk based on the first task of Psyche, an underworld tale that points to the recovery of a relationship with wild nature, with being human, using the power of our native imaginations.

As the story of our civilisation falls apart, the myth can be a tool for finding our lost voices, our knowledge of collaboration and time, and provide a medicine that shows us how to put a crooked thing straight and start again.

So long as we undertake the task . . .

Charlotte Du Cann is a writer, editor and co-director the Dark Mountain Project. In 1991 she left her life as a London journalist with a one way ticket to Mexico. Returning a decade later, she published 52 FLowers That Shook My World – A Radical Return to Earth and co-founded several collaborative writing projects to foster radical cultural change. She was the editor for Playing for Time – Making Art as if the World Mattered (with author Lucy Neal), a handbook about community arts practice. She currently creates performances, teaching and written work that explore myth as a tool for navigating times of collapse.’The Kist’ is taken from her book about the female underworld, based on the four tasks of Psyche.She lives on the salty edge of East Anglia.


Panel Conversations

Media & Storytelling

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Matthew Green: Journalism is a force for good when it’s used to expose what’s going wrong in the world and show ways to put things right. After 14 years working as a correspondent for Reuters and the Financial Times, Matthew returned to London in 2013 to write his new book – Aftershock: the untold story of surviving peace.

Alexander Beiner: Alexander is a writer, facilitator and cultural commentator. He’s the co-founder of Rebel Wisdom, a media platform and retreats organisation, and of Open Meditation, a non-religious meditation school based in London. He’s also the author of a novel on shamanism, and a member of the Breaking Convention committee.

Indra Adnan: Indra is Co-Initiator of The Alternative UK – part of a global network of political platforms originating with Alternativet in Denmark. Her commitment is to globally networked grassroots politics that release the power of people and communities to sustain the planet. She is concurrently a journalist (The Guardian, Huffington Post), a psychotherapist (Human Givens Institute), founder of the Soft Power Network (consulting to Finnish, Brazilian, Danish and British governments), Buddhist, Futurist, School Governor and Mother.

Katherine T Lewis: Interdisciplinary and Creative Scientist. The pluralism of her perspectives and breadth of knowledge allows insight into human behaviour that is unique and inspiring. Katherine has appeared as an tech and culture expert across a range of broadcast media including BBC Radio 4, 5Live and Sky News.


Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times

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Mac Macartney: See talks.

Amisha Ghadiali: Amisha is Founder & Podcast Host @ The Future is Beautiful, and a writer and facilitator. She is also a yoga and meditation teacher, and creates changemaking work in the cultural activism sphere.

Liam Kavanagh: Liam is Director of research at Art Earth Tech, an organisation for people seeking a wiser world. AET’s research draws from the developing science of the mind, as well as ancient philosophies and contemplative traditions, and applies these perspectives to social, cultural, and technological questions. Some themes of research are identifying barriers to collective wisdom especially as regards environmental issues, realism about the ability of technology to solve social problems, and shifting societal focus to radical well-being. He also organizes meditation retreats for scientists and educators and dialogues between Buddhist monks and scientists on the subject of suffering.

Maria Papaspyrou: Maria Papaspyrou is an integrative psychotherapist and systemic family constellations facilitator in private practice in Brighton, UK. She has given talks and published articles on the sacramental and healing properties of entheogens, supporting their re-introduction in psychotherapy. She is co-editor of the book “Psychedelic Mysteries of the Feminine”, and founder of TRIPP Network, a U.K. based psychedelic psychotherapy integration database.

HUMAN // NATURE is part of the Experimental Thought Co. in-house programme of events. The aim of this series is to explore the human/nature connection, and what it means to be human in our current crisis relationship with nature. Our intention is to re-evaluate what human nature is through a variety of lenses and ultimately reconnect human & nature by restoring the role of humanity in planetary ecology. The goal is to highlight how the two are not mutually exclusive: it is human nature to be part of nature

Separation from the natural world, spiritual heritage & community wisdom has led to a breakdown in what it means to be human and our understanding of what nature actually is beyond the greenery. We will explore what human nature (spirit/essence) is collectively across a variety of contexts that attempt to do justice to the broad and largely undefinable phenomenon that is human nature, as well as inquire into the ecological implications of these themes and the implications for consciousness, in its various forms, as a whole. 

Through community gatherings, ETC hopes to restore and honour the human relationship with nature, recognising that humans are nature itself. Urbanites and beyond are craving a new paradigm in which ecological values populate culture and reconnect us with our natural state of being. ETC & its collaborators hope to serve this consciousness revolution.

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10 / 02 / 2020 // Written by Hannah Close
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