The team behind the ‘Land Lines: British Nature Writing’ AHRC-funded project, along with some new additions, are excited to announce the successful AHRC funding and launch of its first follow-on project, called Nature Writing Beyond the Page: Tracks, Traces and Trails.
Tracks, Traces and Trails is a creative engagement initiative, one that seeks to connect local communities to their local nature reserves, in order to gain a new understanding of environmental issues and the natural world through different forms of art and creative work. The project will be running until October 2020, and will be continuing on from some of the brilliant public engagement activities undertaken by the Land Lines project, taking the idea of nature writing itself in a new direction. Tracks, Traces and Trails seeks to continue the vision of the original Land Lines project – to see the natural world in a new light – whilst breaking new ground through thinking about how we can encounter less visible wildlife and environments, beyond nature writing alone.
Tracks, Traces and Trails has a strong regional focus, concentrating on Yorkshire and bringing together the Leeds-based members of the Land Lines team, Prof Graham Huggan and Dr David Higgins, with Yorkshire-based creative producer Suzie Cross. With this collaborative team, the new project will move beyond nature writing in its textual form, and instead concentrate on exploring the multi-sensory dimensions of experiences of the natural world, paying particular attention to elements of our environment that are difficult to access, such as migratory and nocturnal wildlife. The “tracks, traces and trails” of these usually invisible facets of the natural world – for example the nightjar and the shelduck, which will both be key species of interest in this project – will come into focus through a series of public-oriented workshops, events and creative exhibitions over the course of 2020. Working to make the invisible visible in this new project, we hope to encourage different audiences to participate in our events and workshops. We particularly hope to work with those who may not usually have many opportunities to engage with environmental matters – such as schoolchildren and older generations. This inter-generational aspect of the project has led to connections with two primary schools, and an organisation that supports older adults in Leeds. We hope that participants, through interacting with some of the usually hidden aspects of our environments and sharing memories and experiences of wildlife and the natural world, will be able to identify and create new narratives that emerge beyond the page. These aims contribute to the project’s ultimate driving force: the need to forge increasingly lost connections with the natural world.
One of Tracks, Traces and Trails’ key collaborators on this project is Natural England, represented at two of its Yorkshire-based National Nature Reserves at the Lower Derwent Valley and Humberhead Peatlands. On the 6th December 2019, following some turbulent weather that saw most of the Lower Derwent Valley flooded, a successful launch event for the project took place, marked by an installation composed of lanterns made through workshops with professional practitioners Handmade Parade.
During the event, participant groups visited the Lower Derwent Vally Reserve, learnt about birds that frequent the area, and enjoyed a visit from Ozzy the Owl (pictured below!). Visitors also received a copy of a picture book – Winston’s Journey – created by Natural England, which tells the story of Winston, a whimbrel, as he migrates with his family from Iceland to Africa. Craig Ralston, of Natural England, also demonstrated how bird ringing is performed in order to track movements of individual birds and species, and educated the attendees about the types of data that are collected, why they are important, and how we can use the knowledge acquired from these practices.
Over the course of 2020, Tracks, Traces and Trails will develop a new children’s storybook focused on the nightjar, in collaboration with artist Steve Smallman, as well as poems and audio material. Working with another key collaborator, the popular event Light Night Leeds (run by Leeds City Council), the project will commission a “Son et Lumière” light-based artwork in the spring, which will be revealed at Light Night Leeds in October of 2020 along with a lantern parade, as the project’s finale.