Down at Doncopolitan’s sister project, Bentley Urban Farm, its all systems go as we prepare for this weekend’s launch of Dave Hughes’ Mother Fhungus project; an initiative which is hooking up a diverse range of businesses, artists, therapists, musicians and doers who share a goal of building a better, brighter, braver world for all. The launch event will run from Friday 24th until Sunday 26th of June, and will offer a range of workshops, activities, music, art and food. But what personally excites me about this event, is that it takes me back to my DIY roots.
The DIY ethos has long been close to my heart. In my youth I used to help organise free parties (well, I was 18 during the ‘second summer of love’). This, in turn, led to an involvement with the Social Centre scene of the 90s. Much like Bentley Urban Farm, we always managed to make something magical out of the things which other people no longer valued. It is where I first learned that there is no such thing as ‘waste’, only wasted opportunities.
With virtually no resources (but endless imagination) we put on squat cafes, raves and other social events, and we built safe, welcoming spaces where we could build beautiful alternatives to the soulless everyday lives which capitalist society expected us to live. Sometimes those spaces were Temporary Autonomous Zones, like when we put on Reclaim The Streets (RTS) parties or sold vegan burritos from an abandoned art school which we had converted into a solidarity cafe. Other spaces were more permanent and are still being used, such as the Sumac Centre in Nottingham. What they shared was a sense of possibility.
From Free Festivals, to punk, to raves, the DIY ethos is about empowerment. Anyone who can afford it, can pay ridiculous sums of money to be entertained, fed and housed under canvas in a field for a few rainy days at the large commercial festivals (while having to go through the indignity of festival toilets). But those of us who would rather live than consume, know that only truly DIY events can provide a feeling of real accomplishment… as opposed to a feeling of being fleeced. Nowhere else do you get to look at each other at the end of the day and say: “We did this!”
Rachel Horne and I are keen advocates of DIY culture. Back in 2011 we created a series of art, music, food and storytelling events called The Telling. With a mural painted by Phlegm as the backdrop and a giant fire-pit for warmth and light, we created a post-apocalyptic festival in the courtyard of Church View, Doncaster’s former art college.
There was an eclectic range of musicians, artists, makers and storytellers, and a good supply of food and drink. We even attracted award-winning artists like Bellowhead’s Jon Bowden, who played a packed-out Glasgow Arena the night before he played The Telling.
Having long dreamed of a UK equivalent to the largest DIY festival on the planet, the whole event was built around the ten principles of Burning Man:
- Radical Inclusion: Anyone and everyone can be a part of Burning Man.
- Gifting: Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange, the value of a gift is unconditional.
- Decommodification: Seeking to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising.
- Radical Self-reliance: Encouraging the individual to discover, exercise and rely on their inner resources. DIY in action!
- Radical Self-expression: Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual.
- Communal Effort: Valuing creative cooperation and collaboration.
- Civic Responsibility: Look after each other.
- Leaving No Trace: Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures (and memories).
- Participation: Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play.
- Immediacy: Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. No idea can substitute for this experience.
Although Burning Man itself now struggles with many of its core principles, they remain a significant inspiration behind everything we do; from The Telling, to Doncopolitan, to Bentley Urban Farm… which is probably the most developed embodiment of the Burning Man principles in Doncaster.
This is why I am so excited by the Mother Fhungus launch event. Dave is creating a truly DIY event which will ultimately be built by those who get up off their arses and participate. I know from The Telling that such events are not well understood by a lot of people in our consumer-based society. The first event can sometimes be hit and miss. But I also know that people will regret not being there once they see the images, video and joy created by the launch of something new and unique. My advice?..
Get in on the ground floor. Be a part of something special. Help shape this and future events. Find your power. Find your tribe. Have something to tell your grand-kids about.
We support the creative industries in Doncaster, we help artists develop and publish their work online and in print. We run a monthly newsletter, print magazine and festival co-ordinated (a lot of this has been on hold because of the pandemic) but we are re-launching soon.
We have been active in building the arts and culture sector in Doncaster since 2010. We have seen first hand how the arts can change lives and help build and re-shape the local economy, public spaces and the lives of local people. We believe the art in action, that art can raise awareness to important social justice issues and lead to social change.
You can support our work by joining our Patreon from as little as £3 per month. https://www.patreon.com/doncopolitan