Monthly Archives: October 2016

Towards Shamanarchism

Houdinis of Bewilderland Part 9


Apache, by Steve Hambidge

Artistic survival in such austere times depends largely upon creative collaboration. The competitiveness of the failed Capitalist model must be replaced with co-operation. We can create the scene we want to be part of, rather than wait for the blessing from above, from approval by the cultural gatekeepers. We can pool resources, skills, good will, contacts, time and energy. Not only can such approaches make it happen now, rather than at some vague point in the future when funding miraculously appears, it is generates a cross-fertilisation of ideas, an acceleration of artistic practice, a willingness to take risks. With no funding hurdles and hoops to jump through, criteria to meet, restrictions in place, or tedious monitoring and evaluation to do, art can be wilder, more experimental, freer. Rather than an art skewed by funding priorities and topical themes (ie whatever the anniversary is that the arts funding insists we focus on, such as the First World War) art can follow its own muse. It no longer has to play safe. A self-governing model of artistic endeavour which serves the community I suggest could be called Shamanarchism (a term I came up with in 1999). To be walkers between the worlds of the self and society, between tradition and innovation, between the secular and the sacred, technology and nature, wilderness and civilisation, men and women, east and west, between cultures and paradigms, negotiating the complexity of modern life, dancing on the tight-rope between extremes, and helping them to see the other side. To be shamanarchists we must be wounded artists, we must be broken and vulnerable, visionary and practical, daring diggers, and hands-on dreamers, and we must be willing to be incomplete.

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Start: Welcome to the Smeuse-House

Copyright © Kevan Manwaring 2016

This article was commissioned by Doggerland. An alternative version is available in print form in their latest issue, along with other thought-provoking contributions.  Check it out. Available from:

Keep in touch with Doggerland – an inspiring initiative by & for radical artists and writers.



Awen Publications:

Bath Area Network for Artists:

Beltane Fire Society:

Burning Man Festival:

Cartwheels Collective:

Dark Mountain Project:

Dead Good Guides:

Earth Pathways:

Ecolibrium Now:

Friends of the Dymock Poets:

Gift Economy:

Interalia Centre; Frome:

International Times:

Spaniel in the Works:

SVA, Stroud:

The William Blake Society:



Welfare State:


A Garden of Stones


Prospect Cottage, Derek Jarman’s garden, Dungeness

If you have nothing then start with that. The best outsider artists do just that, working with whatever scrap materials are at hand. There are countless back garden Gaudi’s, pains-takingly raising their own Sagrada Familias; and numerous unsung Andy Goldsworthy’s, attempting their own landscape art (as on the Isles of Scilly, where the stone labyrinths known as ‘Troy Towns’ have spread across the archipelago after the first was apparently fashioned by pebbles by a bored light-house keeper). There is something about beaches that is conducive to art – perhaps not surprising when one considers the numinosity of liminal places. We have been drawn to make art and icons and leave offerings at such thresholds for millennia – as acts of propitiation against forces beyond our control (death, illness, war). Prompted by a diagnosis that he was HIV-positive, visionary film director Derek Jarman (1942-1994) moved to Prospect Cottage, a small shack near the Dungeness Power Station, in the late 80s. There he continued his film-making, celebrating his new location in a feature-length film, The Garden (1990), writing, and art, creating a sculptural garden on the shingle with small circles of flints, painting poetry onto the black timber (John Donne’s ‘The Sun Rising’), and basically transforming a wasteland. Of his beloved garden, Jarman said: ‘Paradise haunts gardens, and some gardens are paradises. Mine is one of them. Others are like bad children, spoilt by their parents, over-watered and covered with noxious chemicals.’[i] In the shadow of a nuclear power station and his own terminal condition, Jarman’s garden was, and still remains, a poignant and brave act of creativity.

[i] [accessed 15.02.2016]

Previous: Finding TAZmania

Next: Towards Shamanarchism

Copyright © Kevan Manwaring 2016

This article was commissioned by Doggerland. An alternative version is available in print form in their latest issue, along with other thought-provoking contributions.  Check it out. Available from:

Keep in touch with Doggerland – an inspiring initiative by & for radical artists and writers.


Finding TAZmania

Houdinis of Bewilderland by Kevan Manwaring Part 7


 Hakim Bey’s well-known theory of ‘pirate utopias’ (temporary autonomous zones, or TAZ for short) suggests that creative energies coalesce in unexpected ways, then disperse, re-emerging somewhere else. In his essay[i] he deliberately resists a definition, but offers the following evocation of its anarchic spirit of uprising:

 The TAZ is an encampment of guerilla ontologists: strike and run away. Keep moving the entire tribe, even if it’s only data in the Web. The TAZ must be capable of defense; but both the “strike” and the “defense” should, if possible, evade the violence of the State, which is no longer a meaningful violence. The strike is made at structures of control, essentially at ideas; the defense is “invisibility,” a martial art, and “invulnerability”–an “occult” art within the martial arts. The “nomadic war machine” conquers without being noticed and moves on before the map can be adjusted. As to the future–Only the autonomous can plan autonomy, organize for it, create it. It’s a bootstrap operation. The first step is somewhat akin to satori–the realization that the TAZ begins with a simple act of realization.[ii]

This was seen in the Rave Culture of the late 80s and early 90s, but had been around since at least the 60s. The Stonehenge Free Festival flourished in this way throughout the 70s, until being irrevocably crushed at the infamous Battle of the Beanfields in 1985. In Nevada, the TAZ spirit flourishes every year with the Burning Man Festival[iii], a Mad Max style art ‘happening’ held in the Nevada desert. No money is allowed and those attending must bring all their own supplies, including water. No trace of the festival must remain afterwards. It inspires participants to create incredible steampunk machines and costumes, art installations and ‘happenings’. Burning Man began on Saturday, 22nd June, 1986, when Larry Harvey and his friend Jerry James, spontaneously build an 8 feet tall human effigy from lumber, setting fire to it on Baker Beach, San Francisco. A crowd came to watch as the figure ignited, doused in gasoline. Songs were sung and a woman spontaneously held the figures hand. This grew into the Burning Man Festival. Its co-founder, Larry Harvey, offered in 2004 10 principles as ‘guidelines’ for the then newly-formed regional network. As the website emphasizes: ‘They were crafted not as a dictate of how people should be and act, but as a reflection of the community’s ethos and culture as it had organically developed since the event’s inception.’ The Ten Principles, worth citing for their applicability to almost any artistically collective endeavour are as follows: Radical Inclusion; Gifting; Decommodification; Radical Self-reliance; Radical Self-expression; Communal Effort; Civic Responsibility; Leaving No Trace; Participation; Immediacy. All these are worth looking at in full.

The spirit of the Burning Man Festivals manifests around the world in almost any large-scale creative collaboration. It can be seen in the Beltane Fire Society[iv] of Edinburgh, a community arts performance charity, which gather every year to celebrate the ‘Celtic’ Fire Festivals of Beltane and Samhuinn with wild pagan processions to Calton Hill and events around the city. It happens whenever an artistic collective colonizes an abandoned building or site, create art, then disperse. A recent example of this was in Damien Hirst’s ‘Dismal-Land[v]’, which took over a run-down area of Weston Super Mare to create a satire of Disneyland-type ‘packaged’ culture, the commodified ‘kitsch-scape’ of theme-parks. After Dismal-Land closed, the site was deconstructed and materials were taken to Calais to build 12 dwellings, a community area, and a children’s play area, a humanitarian effort they branded with typical wit, ‘Dismal Aid’.

Perhaps one of the most sobering ‘TAZ’s’ of recent years is the ongoing refugee encampment known as ‘the Jungle’, found outside the port of Calais, in France. Here, in the grimmest conditions, the priorities are inevitably lower down on the needs hierarchy, but nevertheless education and artistic activity does occur. In early February 2016, Shakespeare’s Globe brought their touring production of ‘Hamlet’ to the Jungle,[vi] performing it to a crowd of 300 in bitter cold. The performance was not a scheduled one in their Globe to Globe tour which started in 2014 with the intent of performing Shakespeare in every country in the world. Dominic Dromgoole, the artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe, said:

“It is a great privilege to play for displaced people in Calais. As a theatre company the only gesture we can offer is this: a show that we hope speaks to the human spirit at its greatest and its darkest moments.”

The play was performed in in a space provided by Good Chance Theatre, set up by Joe Robertson and Joe Murphy to offer some artistic respite from the grim realities of the camp. Afterwards, the temporary space was dismantled and used to make shelters.

TAZmania will continue wherever groups of friends, kindred spirits, visionaries and creative souls gather and conjure something out of nothing, paint, sculpt, sing, write and dance art onto the canvas of reality, and leave nothing but good memories behind.

[i] T. A. Z. The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism, By Hakim Bey [accessed 15.02.2016]

[ii] [accessed 15.02.16]

[iii] [accessed 15.02.16]

The Ten Principles: 1. Radical Inclusion Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community. 2. Gifting Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value. 3. Decommodification In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience. 4. Radical Self-reliance Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources. 5. Radical Self-expression Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual. No one other than the individual or a collaborating group can determine its content. It is offered as a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient. 6. Communal Effort Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction. 7. Civic Responsibility We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws. 8. Leaving No Trace Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them. 9. Participation Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart. 10. Immediacy Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.  [accessed 15.02.16]

[iv] Beltane Fire Society: [accessed 16.02.16]

[v] [accessed 15.02.2016]

[vi] [15.02.2016]

Next: A Garden of Stones

Previous: Magic Hat

Copyright © Kevan Manwaring 2016

This article was commissioned by Doggerland. An alternative version is available in print form in their latest issue, along with other thought-provoking contributions.  Check it out. Available from:

Keep in touch with Doggerland – an inspiring initiative by & for radical artists and writers.

Magic Hat

Houdinis of Bewilderland by Kevan Manwaring Part 6


With the advent of crowdsourcing sites like Kickstarter, Crowdfunder  and Patreon many projects are getting off the ground which otherwise would languish in funding limbo. Paul Kingsnorth’s experimental novel, The Wake (2013), is a fine example of this. A tale of rebellion and radicalisation written in what Kingsnorth described as a ‘shadow tongue’, his hybrid of Old English, dialect and imagination, the unconventional novel challenges the reader. It was published to critical acclaim (long-listed for the Booker Prize and the winner of several others awards) via Unbound, which asks readers to pledge towards the publication of their preferred projects. This is actually a good old-fashioned approach – the subscription method – via which publishers used to assess the economic viability of a project. Here, the internet has helped publishing by enabling it easier for artists to reach potential ‘subscribers’, and to market and sell their work. Kingsnorth’s novel was helped by his Dark Mountain Project[i] – he already had a ‘fan-base’ as it were. Yet it is possible to achieve success in this approach through drawing internally upon an existing community as is the case with the team behind the much-loved Earth Pathways Diary, produced collectively every year from contributions sent voluntarily by artists and writers. They devised their own method of crowd-funding, which they called Moonshares:

In 2007 when the founder members met to gather and cement their ideas for a new UK Diary, we had a clear vision but little money between us to fund this project. We wanted it to be a celebration of the work of UK artists and writers who shared our deep love for this Land and the wish for a sustainable future for all. It was to be more than just a diary, more a networking resource, which would inspire people who actively create positive change in their lives for the benefit of this good Earth. While we had friends who as artists and writers would be happy to contribute work for the first edition, we needed a way to gather the funds necessary to print the diary. This was in truth a considerable sum and so the idea formed of creating “Moon Shares” as originally we were to be a Moon Diary. The Moon Shares were to be a generous loan which we planned to pay back as soon as we could support our own printing cost. A call went out and over the years, the loans from 58 wonderful souls and donations from friends and contributors, allowed us to print the first five diaries.

The time finally arrived when we had funds to cover our printing costs for the diary and enough to repay all Moon Shares. It was a long and eventful journey and we still frequently give thanks to all who have travelled with us. The continued sales of diaries to our wonderful community means that not only could we repay our Moon Shares but we can also put our profits towards Seed Funding small projects designed to support the Earth.[ii]

So, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Poverty consciousness can hamstring the imagination. Think what resources and skills you actually have at your disposal – collectively – to achieve your goals.

And if all else fails, you can always pass around the hat.

Rather than fret over ticket sales, put on an event for free if it means people turn up. If you need to cover some costs, then invite people to make a suggested donation. Don’t feel embarrassed. Mention it but let folk have the choice. It’s a risky gambit, but many productions are working this way in our cash-strapped age – the Edinburgh Fringe is full of these ‘free’ shows where you pay what you think it was worth. It incentivizes  the performer/s and makes the audience critically evaluate it. But instead of stars, coins (though a good review or word-of-mouth recommendation is often worth more). It’s reciprocation – but if that feels too much of a closed loop, then if you receive the gift of someone’s creativity freely ‘pay it forward’, by offering something freely yourself next time*. Keep the awen flowing.

[i] Dark Mountain Project: [accessed 16.02.16]

[ii] [accessed 8.02.2016]

*as Lewis Hyde advocates in the inspiring book, The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, Vintage, 1983

Next: Finding TAZmania

Previous: Scratch Culture

This article was commissioned by Doggerland. An alternative version is available in print form in their latest issue, along with other thought-provoking contributions.  Check it out. Available from:

Keep in touch with Doggerland – an inspiring initiative by & for radical artists and writers.

Scratch Culture

Houdinis of Bewilderland by Kevan Manwaring part 5


Countless initiatives are taking place below the funding radar. One approach that John Bassett (whose work includes ‘Nothing Changes’, an update of Robert Tressell’s 1914 classic working class novel, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist) took was to host ‘scratch theatre’ nights, where a couple of unproduced scrips are read out by professional actors. This provided an essential platform for new playwrights to see their work performed and the audience’s response, who paid what they thought the evening was ‘worth’. This scratch-culture can be liberating – rather than waiting for the magic wand of funding, launch a project drawing upon pooled resources and an audience’s good-will, who often respond to work that is experimental if they feel included in the process. They get the twin benefits of feeling ‘avant garde’ and a patron of the arts.


Recently a new theatre collective was born in Stroud (1st February, 2016), the Gloucester Theatre Workers Collective. Their top 5 goals are to:

1. To promote theatre (in all its forms) created in Gloucestershire throughout the county and beyond. 2. To encourage theatre “workers” of all ages and abilities. 3. To find, equip and run new venues across the county to enable longer runs of shows. 4. To help promote new writing by writers of all ages. 5. To share skills through interdisciplinary workshops


Rather than adopting an elitist approach to the arts, GTWC, wishes to be as inclusive as possible, all too aware of the resistance to the arts created by hard times – when everyone is watching their budget, such ‘luxuries’ are the first to go, but without art, life is merely survival:


  1. To ensure we create and promote theatre for EVERYONE at affordable prices for all whilst not undervaluing our work.


Welfare State International[i] and other theatre collectives have adopted similar ‘community-arts’ approaches over the years. WSI, although now dormant, offered an exemplary role model for this approach:

Founded in 1968 by John Fox and Sue Gill, Roger Coleman and others, Welfare State International was a loose association of freelance artists bought together by shared values and philosophy.

WSI first became well known for large-scale outdoor spectacular events. When the company began, taking art out of theatres and galleries into the street was considered revolutionary. The company’s name was originally ‘The Welfare State’ offering art for all on the same basis as education and health.

Under the Welfare State umbrella, a remarkable group of engineers, musicians, sculptors, performers, poets and pyrotechnicians invented and developed site-specific theatre in landscape, lantern processions, spectacular fireshows, community carnivals and participatory festivals. These creations were by turns beautiful, abrasive, didactic, provocative, disturbing, wondrous and even gently therapeutic.

Some big events such as “The Raising of the Titanic” (London International Festival of Theatre 1983), ‘False Creek’ in Expo ’86, Vancouver, and the biggest lantern festival in Europe (Glasgow City of Culture 1990) have become touchstones balancing the aesthetic with the social.

Welfare State International also exported artists, ideas, prototypes and artworks nationally and internationally.

‘Engineers of the Imagination’, the WSI Handbook, spread ideas and techniques worldwide and is still essential reading for artists working in the community. Many artists and companies in Britain and abroad have been influenced by Welfare State’s vision and practice.[ii]

Such large-scale efforts might seem intimidating to those starting out or isolated from other practitioners, but collectives can begin in the home. Essentially the partner-team, Shane Wolfland and Matthew Hammond, Exeter-based Cartwheels Collective offer a range of artistic activity: creative writing workshops, spoken word performances, publications, open mic nights, story theatre, stand up philosophy, and a radio show. They used their monthly spoken-written bulletin to offer free content to creative peers, plugging themselves into the network which they wished to be part of. When initial funding petered out, they appealed via the bulletin for sponsors, which has resulted in gratefully-received windfalls.

[i] [accessed 16.02.16]

[ii] [accessed 16.02.16]

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Next: Magic Hat


This article was commissioned by Doggerland. An alternative version is available in print form in their latest issue, along with other thought-provoking contributions.  Check it out. Available from:

Keep in touch with Doggerland – an inspiring initiative by & for radical artists and writers.


Houdinis of Bewilderland, Part 4



Writing a manifesto can be a galvanising act. The manifesto itself can be a work of art (e.g. the dazzling typographical bombshells of the Dada-ists and the Futurists). Even if such bold visioning and sometimes bombastic declarations are destined to crash and burn, Icarus-like, they can be in themselves creative acts of defiance against the apathy, entropy or nihilism of modern life – an affirmation of art’s relevance and vitality. Whenever a group of kindred spirits get together and articulate their core values in a cri-de-coeur, whether it is an artists’ statement for an exhibition, acts of guerrilla art (the topless protests of Femen[i] or the Russian feminist punk band, Pussy Riot[ii]) or a printed gauntlet thrown down in defiance of the world, a manifesto is born. Sometimes it can be a solitary creative act that somehow epitomizes a whole movement (as Allen Ginsberg’s Howl; Bob Dylan’s ‘Times They Are a-Changing’; Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’; or David Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust’). An inspiring approach to the current ecological crisis[iii] is this creative response from small press, Awen Publications, originally devised by storytelling group, Fire Springs[iv] (of which I am a member). An Ecobardic Manifesto: a vision for the arts in a time of environmental crisis (Awen, 2008):

We believe it’s time for the arts to respond whole-heartedly to the ecological challenges facing our planet. In place of the commodification of alienation, we need to celebrate connection; in place of intensifying polarisation between entrenched dogmatisms, we need to foster respect for otherness and diversity; in place of self-interested denial, we need to get people engaged with ecological reality.
How can creative artists do this? As a start, we propose, through the application of five ‘ecobardic’ principles:
(1) connecting with one’s own roots in time and place while celebrating the diversity of other cultures and traditions;
(2) daring to discern and critique in order to provide cultural leadership;
(3) respecting and dynamically engaging with one’s audience as a creative partner;
(4) cultivating the appreciation of beauty through well-wrought craft;
(5) re-enchanting nature and existence as filled with significance.

This Ecobardic Manifesto is, firstly, a mission statement for ourselves as a group of performing artists and writers, and for our publisher. But it’s much more than that. It aims to draw attention to groundbreaking ‘ecobardic’ work that many other artists have already done. And, by making our artistic intention conscious and public, we hope to provoke and inspire yet others. From little acorns, mighty oaks may grow.[v]

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[i] [accessed 16.02.16]

[ii] [16.02.16]

[iii] [16.02.16]

[iv] Fire Springs [16.02.16]

[v] From [accessed 4.02.16]

This article was commissioned by Doggerland. An alternative version is available in print form in their latest issue, along with other thought-provoking contributions.  Check it out. Available from:

Keep in touch with Doggerland – an inspiring initiative by & for radical artists and writers.


Houdinis of Bewilderland by Kevan Manwaring, Part 3


Wilfrid and Geraldine Gibson, outside their cottage in Dymock, Gloucestershire, 1914

It is wise to look back as well as look forward. A hundred years ago a group of fellow writers moved to rural Gloucestershire with their wives and children, to live in close proximity to one another, to share ideas, produce a magazine, go on long walks, hold cider-parties, and live closer to the land. They became known as the Dymock Poets because of the village they were closest to, although this was a title given to them afterwards. Lascelles Abercrombie, a literary intellectual was the first, followed by Wilfrid Gibson, a successful writer in his day; John Drinkwater, a playwright who was involved with the Birmingham Rep; then Robert Frost (before he became the four-time Pulitzer Prize-winning poet); critic, nature-writer and soon to be poet, Edward Thomas; and occasionally, ‘the handsomest man in England’, Rupert Brooke. They produced a modest magazine, New Numbers, in which Brooke’s ‘The Soldier’ (‘If I should die think only this of me…’) was published for the first time. It was literally a cottage-industry, with even the poets’ wives (creative in their own right) helping out with the folding, stapling, and posting of orders. The Dymocks were less successful at the self-sufficiency lark – some were better at growing vegetables than others, while for some the idea was more appealing than the grubby actuality. But something special happened in that small Gloucestershire village in the months before the First World War. Out of that burst of collective creativity came some of the most-loved poetry in the English language (‘Adelstrop’; ‘The Road Not Taken’; ‘The Soldier’, etc.). A serious poet was born (Edward Thomas, encouraged by his friend Robert Frost, on their long ‘walk-talkings’ around the area). Alas, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo that August and all Hell broke loose across Europe. As the lights went out, the Great War scattered and shattered the Dymocks – two of them were tragically killed in the conflict; Frost returned to America; Gibson, Abercrombie and Drinkwater struggled in their respective careers, but the star had passed on. Yet we can take from the Dymocks a model for creative survival in extremis. Nowadays we might call what they did ‘down-sizing’. Not all of us are cut out for running a small-holding – indeed, most of the Dymocks weren’t – but we can learn how creative community is essential in hard times and out of it. Dymocking, if I may repurpose the proper noun in an improper way, is to live simply, live lightly, create the scene you want to be part of, make it happen here and now, not wait for when and where. Pool resources, good will, skills, experience, but also learn what you need as you go along. It chimes with Transition Culture (Hopkins, 2008[i]) – skilling up for power down, living sustainably on the land, within our communities, within our ecosystem. It is about making a stand somewhere, and making it happen.

[i] Hopkins, Rob, The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience, Green Books, 2008

Copyright © Kevan Manwaring 2016

Previous: Rhizomes with a View

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This article was commissioned by Doggerland. An alternative version is available in print form in their latest issue, along with other thought-provoking contributions.  Check it out. Available from:

Keep in touch with Doggerland – an inspiring initiative by & for radical artists and writers.