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REPORT: The Dark Outside
Luke Turner , September 12th, 2013 09:08

Hundreds turn up to this year's broadcast

A couple of weeks back, Stuart McLean (@frenchbloke on Twitter) climbed a Scottish mountain, sat by a monument and played a huge collection of music (by anyone from Carter Tutti to East India Youth, Oh The Gilt and Imogen Heap) to the heather and goats. By all accounts, this year was a resounding success, with loads of people turning up to tune and er drop off in tents. We asked Stuart and friends more, plus there's a gallery of photos showing how ace the whole thing looks. Cheers to Ben Hayes, Stuart McLean, Guy Veale, Ben Ponton, Chris Osborne, Shaun Bythell, Steven Legget, Ste Coeci and Xtina Lamb for those.

How did it go, Stuart?

Stuart McLean: it far exceeded my expectations. 

Ben Hayes: It's a weekend I'm unlikely to forget in a hurry, and I suspect that might be the case with a lot of other people...

Did people turn up?

SM : the estimate was over 200 people turned up throughout the day with a constant stream of people coming up the hill to see what we were doing. There was about 30 tents in total, a caravan and a few camper vans.  It's strange to see people walk up a hill, catch their breath carrying radios.  Lesley Rankine (Ruby / Pigface / Silverfish) was there, as was Ben Ponton of :zoviet*france: and Imogen Heap who brought the biscuits. Several other contributors came and said hello, including Hand of Stabs, Divine Bear and Steven Legget. I'm probably missing out people here, so apologies if I can't remember.  

BH : Yes.  More than we could believe.

Tell us what was different this time around?

SM: We had shelter! We didn't have that last time. Also, chairs including two inflatable couches that proved very popular amongst the children who appeared.  We also had a better radio, or rather, several radios from handheld to boom boxes, to the big JVC Bazooka thing that had excellent bass. Also there was the added bonus of a generator. We had lights and opti-kinetics oil wheel projectors (for lighting up the monument, which nobody has apparently tried before)   Robbie Coleman: Also, we had The Dark Star Lounge in the valley below the monument.  A large tent where The DarkOutside FM was piped in and Scotland's Astronomer Royal did a talk on the Universe and then it was used for general carousing for the rest of the night.

What wildlife did you see?

SM: Just goats but there were owls hooting at three or four in the morning. People did howl like wolves, but that was because we asked them to.

BH: There were some sodding great big black beetles on the path. I was asleep in my luxury five star accommodation (an early 1980s caravan) by the time the owls did their thing, evidently.  

Was the response to this year's Dark Outside unexpected?

SM: It certainly was. I was expecting five people in total to turn up and was unprepared for the constant stream of bodies. We had up to 50 people up the hill at night. BH: Considering that last year it was just me and Stuart for 99% of the time, sitting up on the monument, freezing our bits off with just a small radio and a camping stove for company with Robbie occasionally popping up with instant noodles, the difference was unbelievable. You can't see the road from the top of the hill, so my first journey down the hill in the early evening to be greeted by lots of people/vehicles/tents/radios was something of a shock. Then there was a constant flow of people making their way up and down the hill in the dark. Around 10pm there must have been 35-40 people up there, and as some left then others would arrive until way past midnight.  Our tagline "No One Is Listening" seemed very misplaced, all of a sudden!

And it's not just the fact that people showed up and had a good time, either.  There's also the small matter of the recordings that we were sent for broadcast... I can't begin to convey how good they were. I'd love to be able to go back and listen to the whole damn thing again.  A massive, massive 'thank you' to everyone who was involved.

How was the weather?

SM: Not too good. typical Scottish weather - Sun, rain, wind and sadly too cloudy for appreciating the sky.

BH: Not great. It's so annoying, as last year when nobody was there, it was as still and clear as you could have hoped for, with a stunning view of the night sky and all the twinkly things in it. But you can't control that, and nobody seemed to be particularly bothered about it. The original gazebo thing we had up there was threatening to end up in Carlisle due to the wind, though...

  What might you do next year?

SM: we really don't want The Dark Outside to go down the corporate-sponsored festival route and we don't want to leave the valley around Murrays in the forest (except perhaps to venture to different parts of the world). So we're looking at heading into the fields below which you can drive in, are rather flat and turned out to be great for listening with a VLF receiver - (see here) BH: I think more of the same, with a few things in place so we're better equipped to deal with the visitors. The problem is, how large and complicated do you let something like this get? It wouldn't take a lot to spoil it, and if it became something which needed security teams and people in yellow jackets directing cars around then that would pretty much ruin it. I think those that came and listened felt part of the whole thing anyway, so maybe we just need a few more inflatable chairs...