The Hen Harrier Eve event in Buxton on Saturday evening was a sell-out and a good time was had by all.
My thanks go to Susan Cross, the co-organiser with myself; and the two of us would like to thank a large number of friends, colleagues and partners who helped put the event together. And also, 290 people for coming to fill up all those seats.
About half of the programme was filled with the same familiar faces (me, Chris Packham, the RSPB (Amanda Miller and the Skydancer video) and Findlay Wilde (not an old face but a familiar one)). A little about them later, but what about the less familiar names?
Susan, with Gordon MacLellan (Creeping Toad), did some readings about the Peak District to put the local home of the Hen Harrier in context. Did Sir Gawain twitch Hen Harrier while searching for the Green Knight in the Peak District?
Mark Cocker, Buxton-born author, is a familiar name to many because of his excellent books but his was a fresh face to many in this audience. As well as speaking about the place of birds of prey in human cultures across the world (see his excellent book Birds and People) Mark was in conversation with Jeremy Deller.
Jeremy Deller won the Turner Prize in 2004, but that might not have been on the radar of most raptor workers in the audience. When he won, he dedicated the prize to ‘Everyone who cycles, everyone who cycles in London, everyone who looks after wildlife and the Quaker movement’. His work ‘A good day for cyclists’ brought several of these interests together as an enormous ringtail Hen Harrier, a massive mural, clutches a blood-red Range Rover in its talons.
Jeremy was a star! His discussion with Mark was a massive hit with the audience and in the interval and after he produced A4 versions of his mural, signed them, flogged them for a fiver each, and raised nearly 650 quid for Birders Against Wildlife Crime!!
But there were the usual suspects too. Findlay Wilde (age 13) is now a must-have speaker at any event on Hen Harriers. The speakers were all speaking from a grouse butt (which reappeared in the Goyt Valley on Sunday – of which more tomorrow) which was built by Findlay (I think his Dad, Nigel, helped), and Fin played (what I believe young people call) a video ‘mash-up’ of its construction (to a soundtrack composed by his younger brother Harley). As well as a grouse butt, there was a massive poison bottle and a massive gin trap in the room. And, by the way, a few thousand shotgun cartridges.
Findlay, star that he is, had an announcement up his sleeve too – he told us all that Ecotricity had been persuaded, by Findlay, to support the satellite-tagging of Hen Harriers next year. I’m glad I am one of their customers – not just for this but because they are part of the roll out of sustainable energy production on the UK.
Henry the Hen Harrier was also present, and we had another video ‘mash-up’ of Henry’s travels around the UK composed by (older than 13 years, Phil Walton). At first, I think some people thought that I was Henry – not true! I don’t fit! Many people have been Henry – some as young as 13, others as old as, ahem, 60 – some male and some female. Henry is a composite – but it’s been great fun travelling with Henry on his journeys (some of them, not all) and giving him pearls of wisdom on our travels (!).
After Amanda Miller had introduced the Skydancer video, and we had watched it, Mike Clarke, RSPB CEO, said a few words which touched on YFTB’s campaign, the RSPB’s determination to fight Hen Harrier persecution and went down very well with the audience. It was good to see Mike at this event – much appreciated.
Also in the audience was the CEO of the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. Jo Smith – who spoke in the Goyt Valley on the following day.
But also, we had the pleasure of the G(W)CT’s spin doctor (although the TGC((W) has a lot of real Drs, PhDs), Andrew Gilruth, in the room. He arrived late, so I’d like him to know that he did get a special mention in my introduction. After all, without some of G(W)CT’s members, supporters, fellow-travellers like-thinkers and grouse moor managers and their gamekeepers, and grouse shooters, there would be no need to have public meetings in support of the Hen Harrier.
And then there was Chris Packham. He was, as always great. More on Chris tomorrow.
Every gathering of people is unique – so was this one. It was special for the people who attended. It really was a great evening – I enjoyed it enormously. But it was just a little bit special for taking forward the mission shared by many, and best exemplified perhaps in New Networks for Nature, of the bringing together art and science, head and heart, to forge a common cause for a better future.
Whilst we were enjoying ourselves, the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting passed 11,000 signatures.