Literature and Art Connecting for Nature

A dazzling array of literary and artistic talent will lead the call to Connect with Nature, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s (RBGE) first festival of nature writing, later this month. Mark Cocker, Esther Woolfson and Jim Crumley are three of the authors bringing their experiences to life in a weekend of inspirational talks, lively discussions, workshops and tours on Saturday, May 19 and Sunday, May 20.

In an era when people confess to feeling increasingly disconnected from nature the festival sets out to demonstrate how writers can assist the reconnection process through sharing their intimate experiences and inspiring audiences of all ages to explore the environment around them.

Esther Woolfson’s Field Notes from a Hidden City reflects on the wildlife of Aberdeen’s granite cityscape and encourages us appreciate the diversity of life at our doorstep. In his “seasonal series” Jim Crumley presents an evocative appreciation of the natural cycles that unfold through the year. The sub-title of Mark Cocker’s recently published Our Place asks Can we save Britain’s wildlife before it is too late? He considers conservation through detailed exploration of six special environments including the flatlands of Norfolk and the Flow Country of northern Scotland.

Esther Woolfson explained: “Writing Field Notes From a Hidden City taught me to see that the natural world isn't something distant, separate from ourselves. It's as live and vibrant in cities as anywhere else. It's never been more important for us to see that bird, beast, insect or human, we're just one inter-dependent part of an amazing, intricate, increasingly fragile system of living beings.”

Jim Crumley commented: “To anyone with an interest in nature, the seasons are the simplest of reference points, the cycle of the wild year organised into bite-sized chunks. To a nature writer, they drive nature’s moods and define the movement of nature’s tribes across the face of the land and sea. A quartet of books on all four seasons, which is the undertaking I have embarked upon, demands that I look deeper into and think harder about what is happening in nature’s world, and some of the consequences of that scrutiny have astounded me.”

The event is the creation of Dr Ian Edwards, RBGE’s Head of Public Engagement, who spoke about the significance of support being shown by the weekend’s participants: “The nature writing festival is linked to the first showing in Scotland of The Lost Words, an inspirational exhibition of paintings and poems by Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane celebrating the common and once-familiar plants and animals whose names are in danger of being forgotten as they are dropped from dictionaries in favour of new technology-related language. Morris and Macfarlane are setting out to redress the balance for future generations and have the backing of an outstanding gathering of fiction and non-fiction writers, poets, illustrators and musicians.”

Jackie Morris and fellow artist Leo du Feu will be chatting about children, art and their connection with nature before leading a gallery tour of The Lost Words. Acclaimed field artist Darren Woodhead, meanwhile, will demonstrate and discuss the tests and prizes of painting directly from life.

Linda Cracknel and Malachy Tallack will provide insight into how and why they switch between writing fiction and non-fiction, poet Samuel Tongue will lead a poetry and art workshop and multi-award winning song-writer/musicians Karine Polwart and Pippa Murphy who will talk about and play pieces from their sell-out theatre show A Pocket of Wind Resistance.

Other events during the packed two-day programme will include, Garden trails, a foragers foray, a meeting of the Open Book group, and free children’s workshops and creative sessions. Plus the first chance to visit The Lost Words exhibition in Inverleith House.

Further details of the full line-up – plus prices of paid-for events – can be found at www.rbge.org.uk/connectwithnature

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a charity (registration number SC007983)