Reflections on the 2017 Bird Fair (2)

I’ll come back to using the Bird Fair for political leverage this evening – this blog is a mixture of thoughts about how it could be a little bit better for attendees. These thoughts have been derived from in-depth surveys of people in my car heading to or from the Bird Fair and a few chats with others.

How the Bird Fair could be better:

  • add another day
  • make the wifi that exhibitors pay for actually work
  • improve wifi and/or phone signal for all – even more tweets and Facebook posts through the Bird Fair can only be a good thing for all those exhibitors and for the event.
  • video the main talks and put them out after the Bird Fair
  • more women speakers? – but who? and instead of whom?
  • what does the Bird Fair do for young people – what should it do? (now substitute ‘old’ for ‘young’ and what’s the answer to those questions?)
  • where does all that money go and what does it do? Should we get more feedback?

But what would be your suggestions?



Walk with knowledge in the Highlands

The Walk Highlands website has this excellent article by David Lintern,  The numbers game – a grouse moor primer for hillwalkers.


Reflections on the 2017 Bird Fair (1)

What a great Bird Fair that was!  I have a feeling that it was the biggest ever – because I don’t recall a year when it wasn’t (!) but I am sure that it was one of the very best.

I spent a lot less time rushing from place to place and a lot more time chatting to people and going to other people’s talks this year. I really, really enjoyed it.

Chris Packham is an absolute star and we must cherish him and support him and look after him.

Thank you to all the people who came up to me and said nice and supportive things about what a whole lot of people are doing for Hen Harriers and on the issue of driven grouse shooting. Your support is much appreciated and makes a big difference.

I wish we could bottle that Bird Fair feeling and pour it out over politicians to make them realise what so many people want them to do.

The Bird Fair has moved a lot in recent years in terms of its political relevance (see previous posts in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 and again in 2016 on this subject).  Difficult issues are now discussed in front of big crowds and in packed marquees. But we are still talking to ourselves too much.  Let’s just say that we have proved the concept of proper debate at the Bird Fair and now we need to use its power to influence the world.

Let me take the CLA Game Fair (now defunct) as an example. This was a much bigger event in terms of public attendance (five times as big?) but then it was heavily subsidised by the CLA (until they pulled the plug) and many of the people attending were simply out for a day’s entertainment. The Bird Fair will never be that big (certainly not on the current site) and I wouldn’t suggest that it should be. But take the Game Fair debates (on whose panels I have sat on very many occasions) – a big crowd at them would be c200 people. The Bird Fair now achieves multiples of that figure on political subjects. But the Game Fair would almost always be attended by politicians of several political parties who would take part in a debate or two, who would be wined and dined by landowners bending their ears in private and who would be taken around the stalls and introduced to exhibitors and some normal people too. Much of this happened without most of the people attending the event participating in it, or even noticing that it was happening, but the Game Fair was a big political opportunity for its community.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t want the Bird Fair to turn into a political event but we should be using it to get into the heads of politicians as well as buying birding holidays, optics and having great chats with our mates.  I hope that standing ovation of getting on for 1000 people after talks about bird killing in the Mediterranean and on the grouse moors of the UK wasn’t a one-off, but if it was then we missed the chance that politicians would see it and be moved by it.

It may be, I don’t know (so I’m guessing), that the RSPB and Wildlife Trusts would feel a bit sheepish about inviting Michael Gove to next year’s Bird Fair because little of the passion generated at recent Bird Fairs has been generated by the RSPB or the Wildlife Trusts – it has been generated by grass roots campaigns.  Or is that too cynical a thought?

Our two major wildlife conservation organisations have left a gaping hole in the Bird Fair – mobilising the attendees – and others have filled that vacuum.

More on this later today.


Tales from the Bird Fair (2)

The very wonderful SWLA had an interesting ‘raffle’ in the art tent; you buy a ticket for £30 and you are guaranteed an original piece of artwork from those displayed on the wall (but the raffle element determines which one). It’s a good idea.

Our £30 bought this Rockhopper by Darren Rees (and a signed copy of his book Ice Bound too).


Tales from the Bird Fair (1)

Several people have sent me this menu from the Barnsdale Lodge Hotel from the Bird Fair weekend.

It’s up to every hotel to decide whether it wants to support the industry that attacks the RSPB, attacks Chris Packham and attacks our wildlife as well as increasing flood risk, water treatment costs and greenhouse gas emissions. And, of course, this grouse will almost certainly have a high lead level – lead is a poison.

I see that one regular reader of this blog has contacted the hotel already but I am wondering who else of the conservationists and Bird Fair exhibitors who passed that way over the weekend asked any questions about the provenance of the grouse or mentioned any disquiet about it being on the menu?  I’d be very surprised if this hotel will know which grouse moor supplies its grouse and therefore cannot possibly even defend the shooting estate in question.

Did anyone ask any questions I wonder? Might a vegetarian main course be a better option?  Which of these meals could merit an ‘L’  lead-free label?

I would, I can assure you, politely have asked some questions but I wasn’t there. And I won’t be there the next time you see grouse on a menu either? So, it’s up to you to do the asking please. There’s a handy guide on the Ban Driven Grouse Shooting facebook page (19 August).