Call for proposals

March 23 UPDATE

For many of us the world has become a very different place just in the last week, and certainly since we first envisioned this event. 

Contrary to our previous announcement we are no longer planning to bring together 250+ people into a shared physical space in November. Beyond that, we honestly can’t say what we will now be able to do, nor exactly when when we’ll be able to do it. 

For all that, our theme feels more relevant, not less. The radical uncertainty and vulnerability which our communities currently face only deepens our resolve to see Borrowed Time somehow come to pass. At the same time we’re well aware that the language of this Call for Proposals feels oddly disconnected from the speed and the scale of the changes we currently find ourselves living through. So it’s not merely the where and the how of our gathering that are now up in the air: the way such a conversation is framed will surely need to be reimagined in light of current events. 

Such a re-imagining is not something we mean to do alone. 

Please continue to send us your proposals. The Borrowed Time programming team will meet (virtually, of course) on April 24 as originally planned. And, like all events of this kind, the event itself will be shaped at all levels by what you send us, by looking outward at what is happening in the world, by practicalities, and through an open and flexible conversation inspired by your proposals and thoughts. 

And please, stay safe; take care of yourself and those around you.

What constitutes ‘a good death’? How do we know death, personally? What room do we make for the dead – within our relationships, our ways of speaking, our shared geographies? And how might the insights of end-of-life care and death practices help us to navigate the fundamental unsustainability of the dominant culture, and to better imagine what comes after it? 

Over three days on the Dartington Hall estate in England’s southwestern corner, we’ll open a space to explore these and other questions pertaining to death, dying and change, and to ask what dying has to teach us about living well, and living sustainably.  

While many experience death as sudden or violent, dying more often comes to us gradually. That there is a deep resource of hope, wisdom and resilience to be found in confronting and preparing for death’s arrival is something long understood, across all cultures. What, then, might such preparation entail in the context of anthropogenic mass-extinction.  

One way or another, this greater dying now presses upon us – whether we are experiencing ecological loss and displacement first-hand or negotiating the uneasy, grief-laden sense of borrowed time that has become an insistent background noise for many. How might those whose lives are as yet relatively sheltered by structural or geographic privilege learn to listen better to the obscure, too-big-to-hear keening of biological annihilation? Might art and shared testimony prove better equipped to hold and integrate such unimaginable loss than the spreadsheet, the relentless graph?  

In the face of these dilemmas we’ll gather to re-align our time here together by turning to meet death – through story and song, personal witness and critical discussion, feasting and silence. Whilst we welcome academic papers and expect focussed panels to form a valued element of this gathering, we’re also specifically inviting people to bring other and perhaps less tried-and-tested ways of speaking to death, dying and change. These might include experiments with embodied knowing, deep listening, or movement. Proposals of performative and other artwork are invited, as are ideas for ritual and ceremony. Workshops whose durations may run an hour, half a day, or even all night are most welcome, as well as equivalent opportunities for smaller group work that allow for a more intimate sharing of experience.

This three-day summit’s structure as well as its content will speak to the inherent vulnerability invoked by its theme, with a programme that builds in opportunities for sustained collaboration and support. Participants will travel in company, gathering once each day as a smaller peer group for three thematically-linked sessions that invite them to question their frames and understandings, learn from one another’s knowledge and experiences, and together risk the uncertainties, heart-breaks, and resurrections that death proffers us. 

We welcome proposals from practitioners, thinkers and makers, from celebrants, scientists, and carers – inviting these and others to an assembly that will incline us all towards the unpredictable encounter, and towards apprehending death in ways that renew our understanding of what it means – and what it asks of us – to be alive. Art.Earth has a well-deserved reputation for the breadth and depth of its gatherings: at the darkening of the year in 2020 we’ll turn to the many ways in which the unsought visitations of dying and change bear upon and underpin our lives. 


An invitation to participate

We invite you to a creative summit where an end-of-life carer may find themselves sharing a conversation with a poet, a dancer and a climate scientist, and where the nature of our theme may steer such conversations towards the urgency, honesty and radical hospitality called for by a time of accelerating change. Participants usually join us from all over the world (but please read our statement on environmental costs).


Keynote Speakers 

Keynote performance: Paul Michael Henry
Keynote speaker: Caroline Hickman (University of Bath)
Keynote speaker: Dr Rachel Clarke (Your Life in My Hands, Dear Life)


Framing and themes

There are nine broad themes. These should be interpreted broadly and not seen as proscriptive :

  • End-of-life care, funeral practices, death culture.
  • Species and habitat loss; death of traditional cultures, skills, languages.
  • Mass-extinction, Ecocide Law, civil disobedience; rage, ritual and grieving.
  • Living with dying: assisted dying and Living Wills.
  • Encountering the dead and near-death experiences.
  • Anticipatory grief; Deep Adaptation and Climate Psychology.
  • Extinction Rebellion, Earth Protectors, Culture Declares Emergency.
  • Art, grief and spiritual practice; ecological and cultural healing.
  • Paradigm shift and the death of ideas: decolonising cultures, hearts and minds.


General format

The symposium should be thought of as a summit for the exchange of ideas. The event is modelled as an academic conference: we do not pay contributors (other than keynote speakers) and expect everyone to register (a broad range of pricing options is available to ensure that no one is excluded on the basis of cost; contributors also receive a substantial discount on registration).  In parallel there will be a trade show with stalls available for anyone wishing to display products, services, or memberships. 


Types of submission 

Submit any ideas that inspire you and which you think may have a place during this event. There will be limited slots available, so please excite us. We would particularly welcome proposals from professionals whose work is concerned with death and dying, care workers and hospice staff, psychiatrists and gerontologists as well as proposals for panels or interviews or other discursive formats.

Please help us challenge conventions of the academic conference: in what senses may we approach in our behaviours, our speech, our work, our ideas and ethos, the ways in which we deal with death, dying and change? 

Please bear in mind that the event takes place in a particular environment: Dartington is a 485 hectare mixed estate that includes modern and ancient woodland, riverside with swimming access, open pasture, formal gardens, and other outdoor sites where people can meet and work in groups.  We particularly encourage proposals that take advantage of this context – despite the potentially adverse weather conditions in November. 

We are looking for submissions that utilise the following formats: 

  • academic paper presentations lasting no more than 20 minutes (plus 10 minutes for Q&A)
  • presentation about artwork (artist talk)
  • film or informal performance
  • panel discussions, live interviews, roundtables and other discursive formats, lasting 55 minutes. There is potential to broadcast these live. See below for further details
  • walking and other outdoor activities, particularly ones that engage with theoretical or philosophical thought in addition to their creative content
  • workshops – most will last 90 or 120 minutes but please proposals workshops that break this mould, eg all-night vigils or dawn events.


If you are geographically distant and choosing not to travel you can indicate your willingness to present via video or Skype. If your proposal is accepted you will be asked to register as a Presenter. We will only accept a very limited number of remote presentations. We are conscious of the environmental cost of travelling to these events. Please read our thoughts on this.

Although there is generally time dedicated to Q&A please consider how interaction with the audience might be part of your offer. We will likely favour presentations where the interactive or the performative has been highlighted. 

Beyond these formats, there is the potential for ‘extended’ special topics. You might, for example proposal a day-long workshop or round-table focussing on a very particular topic. If you’d like to make such a proposal, choose ‘Other’ when filling in the form and tell us in as much detail as you can about your idea. In pitching these ideas, you’ll be accepting a leadership role in making them happen within the context of the larger event.


Discursive formats 

Conference Panels and Roundtables typically follow a model where contributors each speak for 5-10 minutes with time allowed for questions at the end. In reality speakers often exceed their time allotments and little time is left for audience participation. We really don’t want that, so we’d be very happy for you to propose different models which break the ‘expert table’ model and are genuinely about conversation and discourse rather than being yet another set of presentations.

Using the online form you can send information to the website that will encourage others to become involved in your panel. You can retain curation of the final makeup, but this is a way for you find interesting people who are planning to attend the event.

However, please don’t expect us to organise your panels for you. If you are proposing a panel you’re accepting the responsibility to collect contributors and ensure they plan to attend the event 

A pre-organized roundtable should include at least four participants. Roundtable proposals should include: 

  • a succinct, 50-word explanation of and rationale for the roundtable topic
  • a timeline of the programme, including time for audience interaction and Q & A, and
  • clear evidence of each participant’s expertise in the topic area. 

One other discursive format we’d very much like to encourage to replace a paper session is a ‘live interview’ or simply a conversation between yourself and one or two others. We’ll need to understand what you’re hoping to achieve through the conversation. If an interview, we’ll need to be sure that both parties involved are planning to attend the symposium.


Academic Partners

Falmouth University



There will be a visual art exhibition specific to the exhibition


Organising committee

  • Mat Osmond (Falmouth University) – Convenor
  • Anna Ledgard (LWDW trainer)
  • Minou Tsambika Polleros
  • Misty Hannah
  • Christos Galanis, artist
  • Lucy Kerr
  • Charlotte Du Cann, Dark Mountain
  • Toni Spencer


Key Dates

Deadline for proposals: 29 March 2020 (23.00 GMT) [SUBMIT YOUR PROPOSAL]
Registration opens: Early Bird tickets are not yet available
Programme announced: 21 April 2020
Early Bird Registration closes: 5 July 2019


Borrowed Time takes place November 2-4 2020 on the beautiful medieval estate at Dartington Hall (Totnes, Devon TQ9 6EL, UK) in southwest England.

About the venue



Registration prices:

  • ((Full registration £245 (Early £215)
  • Affiliated presenter £220
  • Freelance presenter £160
  • Concessionary registration £95
  • Stewarding Bursaries £20  (please contact us if you are interested in a Stewarding Bursary)