I have just returned from two stimulating days at the Norfolk Festival of Nature.
We arrived at The Auden Theatre at Gresham's on Friday evening in time for an excellent talk on the rare (IUCN Red Listed) Fen Raft Spider, which is the subject of my ZSL poem.
|Fen Raft Spider Trail sign at Redgrave and Lopham Fen|
|SWT information board at Redgrave and Lopham Fen|
We were given stimulating writing assignments and I much look forward to honing my scribbles. What a privilege to read an early woodland poem by Auden in the grounds of his old school! The workshop reading list included Harriet Tarlo's challenging anthology of radical landscape poetry, The Ground Aslant, which accompanied me on our trip.
|Capturing detail: a scrap of bark, subject of my draft poem|
We attended the Festival Launch with Mark Cocker, whose work I have long admired. Mark's Crow Country has to be one of my top books on the natural world on account of his precise and compelling descriptions of corvids gathering in the Yare Valley, prior to their evening roost. I am currently reading Claxton: Field Notes from a Small Planet, which is an equally stimulating read, packed with exquisite observations about a part of the world (home of my teenage years) that is close to my heart.
There were rumours that Margaret Atwood and her partner, Graeme Gibson, were going to appear on the podium to address the audience, and these proved to be true. Margaret and the panel discussed the emotive subject of losing nature words from the Oxford Junior Dictionary. The thought that the word 'acorn' could be dropped from an English dictionary caused a particularly noticeable ripple. If you are on Twitter take a look at #naturewords.
The Norfolk Festival of Nature is rapidly gaining ground. There are vast hopes, dreams and plans afoot for residencies and the like in a bid to bring the wonders - and fragility - of the natural world before the county. Dr Al Cormack is Director of the Festival of Nature and Head of English at Gresham’s. He is the author of Yeats and Joyce and several articles on contemporary literature. Before coming to Gresham’s he taught the literary modules on the MA Creative Writing at UEA.
There was a brief discussion about ways of engaging the public, perhaps particularly with the future of the Festival and the younger generation in mind. I shall watch this space with great interest. Meanwhile, I would like to express sincere thanks to all who have helped to make this year's Festival activities so thought-provoking, enjoyable and worthwhile.
- The Festival Programme
- Festival Coverage by the Eastern Daily Press - including a small picture of me perching on the tree stump, during the woodland writing workshop
- 'Rewilding our Language of Landscape', Robert MacFarlane in The Guardian, 27 February 2015
- Not mentioned at the Festival, but you might also like to see 'A Lament for Lost Words' by Malcolm Guite
- The Fen Raft Spider Website
- Sheila Tilmouth: Fen Raft Spider Residency
- My ZSL winning poem, 'Raft Race'
- SWT Redgrave and Lopham Fen
- The Fen Raft Spider on BBC Countryfile