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Two-day feast of Norfolk nature for all to enjoy

PUBLISHED: 07:56 07 April 2018

Mark Cocker will be appearing at the Norfolk Festival of Nature.

Mark Cocker will be appearing at the Norfolk Festival of Nature.

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If you love nature, you’ll love the Norfolk Festival of Nature later this month. Kathy Gill reports.

This year’s Norfolk Festival of Nature (NFN) weekend on April 21-22 is going to bring nature talks and activities to the heart of the city, at The Forum in Norwich, in the first standalone festival that the group has undertaken.

Set up in 2014, the NFN partnership is an interesting group, combining writers and poets, scientists and naturalists, artists and enthusiasts, brought together by their passion and care for nature. You can almost find all of these descriptions fitting several people individually in the group, such is the breadth of the people involved.

I am not, sadly, one of the creative people on the group, so enjoy hearing the discussions about latest collections of poetry or books published. And these people don’t just bring themselves to the partnership, many are coming as part of their organisations: Norfolk Wildlife Trust, the RSPB, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), the Norfolk Museums Service, the Broads Authority, the National Trust, Wild Days Conservation, and UEA – an inspiring grouping without doubt. Having all of these organisations sitting around the table talking about how to engage and inspire people with and through nature gives Norfolk a real strength.

After several years of bringing our developing voice to other festivals such as the Norfolk and Norwich Festival and the Norwich Science Festival, the partnership has put together its first solo festival over one evening and one day. With little money to put into this there has been an enormous amount of work done through goodwill and belief in the cause - plus I have to mention the support of The Forum Trust which has provided some money to bring things together and all of the space in their wonderful city centre location.

We wanted to do something in the heart of the city that brings nature into focus in an urban setting. So what’s on offer?

On Saturday April 21 we have an evening with some of the UK’s best nature writers discussing The Fight for Nature: the role of conservation and nature writing in Britain today. Mark Cocker, an award-winning Norfolk nature writer of long-standing, will be launching his new book, Our Place, and reflecting on the central role of Norfolk in the development of the British conservation movement during an interview with Jean McNeil, a talented author herself.

The British Archive for Contemporary Writing at the UEA will also present Mark’s working archive, giving an insight into the field work and approaches that Mark takes in his writing. The evening will be completed with an open debate, including Jean McNeil and other invited nature writers, Laurence Rose, Karen Lloyd and James Lowen, along with the audience, discussing the role of nature writing today – what is the relationship between nature writing and conservation practice, what does it offer over television documentaries like Blue Planet and social media campaigning, and how important is it to the way we view nature into the future? People will enjoy a wine reception and have their say as we open up this timely and important debate.

On Sunday there will be free activities in The Forum, including a wonderful tree trail around

the centre of Norwich which

will be led by John Fleetwood from the Woodland Trust, with free trail maps to give out, created by artists Alexandra Last and David Luckhurst with design from Anne Reekie.

There will also be a series of talks in the main auditorium, four personal accounts from individuals who are experts in their fields, who together cover some fascinating aspects of the past, present and future of the wildlife and countryside of Norfolk. At 11am James Parry from the Breckland Society will talk about the pioneering Edwardian naturalist and photographer Emma Turner; 12.30pm Dr David Waterhouse from Norfolk Museums Service will talk about the prehistory of Norfolk, when mammoths and hippos roamed the county; 2pm Steve Rowland from the RSPB will give his gentle and humorous take on moving to, and discovering, the county with his family; and at 3.30pm David North, Head of People and Wildlife at NWT, will round off the day with a talk and discussion on how much wildlife means to us today.

This is our first year, but we hope for a lot more in celebration of nature in Norfolk. The ambition to become the ‘Hay on Wye for nature’ has been mooted, and why not? Norfolk has all of the ingredients and a great fledgling partnership that can really deliver.

Come and support this ambition and enjoy a great weekend at

The Forum.

Find out more about the weekend at www.norfolkfestivalofnature.org.uk. Kathy Gill is Director of Wild Days Conservation and Biosphere Expeditions.

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