A movement in the mud

Perhaps we invest too much in our leaders; perhaps the answers were away from the stage, in the mud, in ourselves, writes Guy Singh-Watson.

Most of us spend too much of our lives being serious and sensible, scheduling joy for a later date.

Nothing kindles my love for humanity more than witnessing, or better still participating in, the temporary suspension of reason; the collective unshackling of egos, the awakening of excessive sensibility, and the joyous, unplanned sharing of the unexpected.

Timothy Leary flew into it on LSD, the ravers of the ‘80s got loved up to the beat with the help of ecstasy, some loosen up in the pub – but that rare and precious state is so much better when it sneaks up on you with the senses unimpaired. To my surprise, I waded knee-deep into it last weekend when I found myself wallowing on a mud bank of the River Tiddy at the Port Eliot Festival, Cornwall, along with dozens of other carefree revellers – all covered head-to-toe and enjoying the sensual ooze, squelch and friction-less slide of the sulphurous black mud, particular to that part of the tidal river.

Port Eliot
The last Port Eliot Festival took place last week. Image Lindsay Melbourne/Port Eliot Festival.

It did not compute; there was no Google algorithm to predict it. The crabs were not happy, and gave the occasional nip to the invading bodies, but nothing could have stopped the movement as all ages and shapes stripped off to writhe, face-plant, drip and roll: unrecognisable under a darker second skin, warmed by the sun, and together, together, together.

Most of us had surprised ourselves by seizing the moment and defying rational cleanliness. Judgement was suspended, and divisions abandoned. The smiles were beautiful, with banter and new bonds between strangers coming so easily – until the rising tide covered the bank, framing a memory and forcing us to swim back to the festival.

On stage, the word was spoken: poets, philosophers, theologians, comedians, an organic farmer (yes, me), and a wonderfully eloquent, poetic, quick-witted and intensely human Russell Brand delivered their thoughts on failed governance, broken economic systems and destructive consumerism – with precious few answers other than joining and supporting Extinction Rebellion.

Perhaps we invest too much in our leaders; perhaps the answers were away from the stage, in the mud, in ourselves. For those with the time to watch a three-minute video, I love this insight into leadership, the importance of early followers and gathering movements. It reminds me of the mud, and gives me faith in us all.


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  1. I thought this was going to be about planting something in the mud, samphire or capers or something else. Instead heigh ho back to polymorphous perversity.Tres vieux chapeau. The retreat tp infantilism i tedious in the extreme. Tolerated tho. wonder why..

    1. ?polymorphous perversity – what do you mean by this? Wallowing in mud would not be my thing but hey ho chacun a son gout even if it is vieux chapeau. In these times of misery and imminent extinction if people want a bit of light relief and togetherness what’s wrong with that??!


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