The Wild Network, the organisation set up by a range of bodies to promote stronger connections between children and nature, has adopted the #naturewords campaign, and are calling for nature words to be put back in the Oxford Junior Dictionary via an on-line petition. They have also produced this video to draw attention to the lost words:
Meanwhile, Penguin, the publishers of Robert Macfarlane's Landmarks, are inviting twitter users to suggest their favourite nature words in celebration of the language of landscape.
The Kingfisher's position is deemed by many just too hard to pin down. Flashing blue when it suits, it has been known to turn, revealing a distinctly reddish tinge at times. The unknown factor is whether the kingfisher's recent expulsion from the Oxford Junior Dictionary will win a sympathy vote.
Not helping the robin's cause is the recent emergence of the aptly-named blue tit. Described as the Boris Johnson of the bird world, the cheeky chappie opportunist is hoping to gather the crumbs should the garden bird tendency turn away from their long-time favourite.
The mute swan's supporters are said to be panicking beneath the surface as floating voters are presented with too many options. Meanwhile, the barn owl may have been knocked back by comments that "there is something of the night" about it. Jibes such as "you kip in the day" may prove counter-productive in former tawny heartlands, however.
It may all come down to head-to-head debates, when powers of oratory can swing the undecided. Here the mellifluous blackbird can be expected to pick up a few votes, the wren being thought of by many as a bit of a windbag. In any case, expect much huffin' and puffin' over the coming weeks.
The abirdabode exhibition opens at Gallery Oldham on Saturday 14th March at 1pm and runs until 2 May. The exhibition is linked with an Art Bird Flock of over three hundred Art Birds created by visitors to Festival Oldham, Oldham Flower Festival, Well Good Arts Week and RSPB Dove Stone’s Discovery Sunday last month.
The Art Bird Box Artists include kids from Dove Stone Youth Rangers, Barrier Breakers, Grassroots Community Project and Trinity House many of whom will be at the opening. They have been blogging about the project in the run-up to its launch and the project website shows youngsters making bird boxes inspired by punk, cubism, hobbits and Disney.
Project curators Jacqui Symonds and Richard Dawson have been running a series of workshops and creative activities for abirdabode; exploring urban and rural habitats, working closely with Oldham Arts Development and the RSPB.
Impromptu debate marks end of inaugural Festival week
Margaret Atwood piled more pressure on the Oxford University Press in a surprise appearance at the Norfolk Festival of Nature on Saturday. She gave an impromptu response to nature writer Mark Cocker’s address to festival goers, illustrated by a looped series of slides depicting nature words cut from the OJD. She proposed that to ensure that words like acorn, bluebell, poppy and otter were not dismissed as irrelevant in children’s lives, a new book be produced that celebrated those words instead.
Mark Cocker had been speaking on the final day of the inaugural week of the Festival. It is to be a year-round celebration of nature in the cultural life of the county, and of the country. Starting with a week of literary, musical, visual and scientific exploration hosted by Gresham’s School, Holt, Festival events will tour the county hosted by organisations as diverse as the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, National Trust, RSPB, Writers’ Centre Norwich and Waveney and Blyth Arts. The list of collaborators is expected to grow.
As Cocker spoke, his words were accompanied by a poignant exhibition of his own photographs, alphabetically cataloguing more than fifty lost nature words: acorn, adder, bluebell, catkin....kingfisher, lark, magpie, newt, otter, poppy....
He then invited renowned Canadian novelist and Atwood’s partner, Graeme Gibson to respond. His focus was on the need to ensure children grow up with a love and understanding of the countryside, before they become a generation of uncomprehending adults. Margaret Atwood then reminded us of the interconnectedness of nature and human wellbeing; our dependence on the health of the oceans; and the fact that birds, in travelling the globe, give us “an overview of the entire web of life.” Atwood, Gibson and Cocker are among 28 literary figures to have written to Oxford University Press in support of the #naturewords campaign.
They, along with Festival Director Dr. Al Cormack formed a panel to take questions. The first, from Jessica Lawrence, asked simply “which one word would you put back in the Junior Dictionary if you could?”
Atwood and Cocker both saw acorn as having the strongest symbolism – the seed of mighty oak trees, with their great cultural significance; Cormack felt it was unimaginable to omit Britain’s most popular flower, the bluebell. Graeme Gibson, however, declared himself unwilling even to consider the question; for him, it wasn’t about trading odd words, but (he explained to me afterwards) about safeguarding nature literacy.
Guardian and Sunday Times coverage
Meanwhile, Saturday’s Guardian Review devoted two and a half pages to Robert Macfarlane’s magpie-like gathering of those dialect words that enable a forensic specificity in describing nature. His article bemoans the impoverishment of nature vocabulary symptomised by the OJD word-cull. In today’s Sunday Times, Bryan Appleyard interviews Macfarlane ahead of his forthcoming book Landmarks. Appleyard cites the “disastrously edited” Junior Dictionary as an example of “virtuality replacing real contact with real things.” Macfarlane tells him that some children are making and remaking our sense of place: “I want to send people out into the landscape and down into the dictionary.”
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