Call for proposals

Borrowed Time


on death, dying and change




If you discovered Borrowed Time prior to its postponement, you’ll recall that we promised to return for another round. Well, here we are: our planned 2020 gathering having been kicked into the long grass by the pandemic, Borrowed Time will now unfold as a year-long series of events concluding with a focussed cluster of events throughout November 2021 ––  to begin on the Day of the Dead and culminate in concert with Onca’s Remembrance Day for Lost Species. We’re particularly pleased to be walking in step with our friends at the Dark Mountain Project, who have a parallel call out for a dedicated ‘Requiem’ April 2021 issue: check that out, pass it on, send them your work. Dark Mountain has long been ahead of the curve in this territory, bringing together a diversity of voices who have enlarged our thinking and stirred our imagination of what it means to live in a time of ecological and cultural unravelling. We’re delighted to be teaming up with them on this, our second call for submissions.



[image (top): Sarah Gillespie: Fallen Bee  detail]



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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?

From now until the end of November 2021 is opening 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. This space will include and culminate in a series of happenings and events throughout November 2021 with a special closing event in collaboration with our friends at Onca as they mark the 10th anniversary of their renowned Remembrance Day for Lost Species. [See the call for artists for this year’s Remembrance Day.] 

We proposed our theme before the world was gripped by a global pandemic. Whilst still overshadowed by civilisation’s ongoing extermination of the natural world, Borrowed Time’s parallel, human thread – our relationship with and understanding of personal dying – has most certainly been sharpened by the more than a million lives lost so far to Covid 19.  

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 mass extinction? 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 interlocked dilemmas we’ll come together 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.  

The programme of activity will, amongst virtual and real gatherings, speak to the inherent vulnerability invoked by its theme, providing opportunities to travel in company, gathering regularly over a period of time as smaller peer groups for thematically-linked sessions which invite participants to question their frames and understandings, learn more from one another’s knowledge and experience, and together risk the uncertainties, heartbreaks, and resurrections that death offers us. Because we all face uncertainty in 2021 we are opening up the proposal process to your own invention and imagination, so that you can help us shape, share, and disseminate this coming-together of minds and souls. 

We welcome proposals from practitioners, thinkers and makers, from celebrants, scientists, and carers – inviting all to places 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. has a well-deserved reputation for the breadth and depth of its gatherings: as 2021 peaks and decays we’ll turn to the many ways in which the unsought visitations of dying and change bear upon and underpin our lives whilst attempting to remain open to the structural and societal changes that the coming year (with or without Covid-19) will surely bring.

We invite you to a coming together and a sharing of tales, practices and ideas 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.



Invited Themes   

Please note that these themes are NOT exclusive. Please depart from them if you feel your ideas are relevant to our overall theme.


1.     End-of-life care, funeral practices, death culture.  

2.     Species and habitat loss; death of traditional cultures, skills, languages.  

3.     Mass-extinction, Ecocide Law, civil disobedience; rage, ritual and grieving.  

4.     Living with dying: assisted dying and Living Wills.  

5.     Encountering the dead and near-death experiences.  

6.      Ecological grief and climate psychology.  

7.      Suicide, termination, the right to choose.

8.     Art, grief and spiritual practice; ecological and cultural healing.  

9.      Paradigm shift and the death of ideas: decolonising cultures, hearts and minds.


An open invitation to participate  

We invite you to take an active part in this investigation and celebration, where (for example) a poet, a dancer, a climate scientist and a grief counsellor may be leading a particular session, 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). 


Ready to submit? The deadline for proposals is December 13 at 23.00hrs GMT

If you submitted in Round 1 (early 2020) please read this


General format and special considerations

Borrowed Time should be thought of as a space for the exchange of ideas. The project is modelled as an extended academic conference: we do not pay contributors (other than keynote speakers) and expect everyone to become broadly engaged as participants.

The emergent programme will be shaped as we go along in a Covid-inspired change to our usual practices. Expect a number of online gatherings, online and really exhibitions and screenings, and small physical gatherings as well as global conversations. The programme as it emerges will be published here and once the submission date has passed we will see where your submission might plug into this evolving plan.


Types of submission 

Submit any ideas that inspire you and which you think may have a place in Borrowed Time. 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: with 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? 

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. Please think about how a physical walk might be shared or expanded online
  • workshops – most will last 90 or 120 minutes but please proposals workshops that break this mould, eg all-night vigils or dawn events, and think about how a workshop might be offered to a global group of participants using online technologies (for which we can offer technical support).

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.

Covid-19 has challenged us all in one way or another – some more powerfully than others. We are open to all kinds of experimentation.


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.



Falmouth University

The Dark Mountain Project




We will be organising a number of virtual exhibitions and screenings and may be able to organise a physical exhibition later in the programme.


Organising committee 


Key Dates

Deadline for proposals: 13 December 2020 (23.00 GMT) [SUBMIT YOUR PROPOSAL]

Programme announced: 18 January 2021 




[image (top): Sarah Gillespie: Fallen Bee  detail]