Hard Rain Newsletter

Dear Friends

The summer exhibitions have been rolled up and returned, and we’re now looking forward to spring. But first, a lovely story from the exhibition shown outside the European Parliament in Brussels.

A homeless person unclipped the Commentaries banner, rolled himself up in it and fell fast asleep. Security felt they couldn’t get cross with someone wrapped up in Bob Dylan’s words and pictures of people at the sharp end of the environmental debate. I understand he was helped to a hostel – making Hard Rain the only advocacy project offering practical support for those in need.

The awkwardness of the moment reminds me of something that happened to me in a Surui reservation in a remote part of the Amazon jungle. I was taking pictures of the community when I felt a hand slip into my jeans pocket. Fingers wrapped around film rolls I’d taken. I looked up from my camera to see a guy wearing just a few feathers on his head. He couldn’t pull his clenched fist out of my pocket – we were locked together. Socially it was tricky – I felt I couldn’t complain so I smiled and nodded and continued to take photographs. We bumped along together until he let go of the film and withdrew.

Then something extraordinary happened. I strolled into the jungle and saw a bulldozer knocking down trees as it carved out a logging road. I started to take photographs, got too close and a tree landed on top of me. I was jammed between two forked branches. It was a very close shave – the lens hoods on both the cameras on my shoulders had been knocked off and were lying undamaged on the ground. I dragged myself out of the tree to see two Surui kids watching the bulldozer and took the picture that illustrates Dylan’s line “I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest“.

I was thinking about that silent movie where two men (Laurel and Hardy?) are arguing about the best way to build a house when it falls on top of them. They are standing opposite a large window and don’t notice their home in pieces all around them. A vivid metaphor for the way we humans are dealing with the problems in Hard Rain.

I’m very pleased to let you know that the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew will present Hard Rain and launch the new exhibition, What’ll You Do Now?, on the first bank holiday weekend in May 2011. Kew is a wonderful venue – it combines rigorous science together with the beauty of nature, a perfect backdrop for Hard Rain.

The new display will present proven solutions developed in the UK – technologies, development projects, and lifestyle approaches that need to be scaled up and widely adopted if we are to create a sustainable civilization. It leaves visitors with a difficult question; do we have the values needed to create a fairer world now and a sustainable future?

Audiences are frequently critical of political leaders for failing to deal adequately with the challenges highlighted in Hard Rain. When I’ve asked what they have done to show support for legislation that responds to the challenges we face, there’s an awkward silence.

Governments can’t get ahead of their electorate – we need to put them under irresistible pressure to deal with these difficult problems.

In this spirit I have written to David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and Caroline Lucas asking if they would each outline the most effective support individuals can give political leaders to bolster their resolve to take bold, long-term decisions that sustains all of humanity, while sustaining the planet. It will be fascinating to read their replies and more importantly see if visitors will respond accordingly.

There is a new Hard Rain display which, uniquely, is not open to the general public – it’s at Wormwood Scrubs. We used to recycle the old exhibition banners when they got worn, until I received an invitation to do the talk at the prison. It was quite a challenging presentation… but at the end the guys asked some of the most interesting questions I’ve had. They created a magazine around the project and some of the inmates sent me poems to forward to Bob Dylan. It gave me the idea to send the worn banners to prisons where educational budgets are limited. Recycling good, reuse better!

The Eden Project has been working with Wormwood Scrubs on their garden this year. Eden launched the first Hard Rain exhibition in 2006 – it’s good to reconnect in this unexpected way.

If you’ve got this far, let me make a plug to give copies of Hard Rain to your friends this Christmas. The DVD has the pictures synched to a beautiful, live version of the song by a young Bob Dylan at Carnegie Hall in 1963. It’s a superb version of the song and one that has had very limited release. The DVD includes an illustrated commentary and a brilliant essay by Lloyd Timberlake, The Urgency of Now. Visit www.hardrainproject.com to order copies. All the money from books and DVDs helps pay our overheads. We operate on a financial tightrope…

Have a wonderful Christmas. More news next year.

Warm wishes


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