This year’s Connect With Nature Festival at RBGE is all about how people’s lives have become better after they used art to help them connect with the natural world. The Festival brings together a diverse group of people – artists, walkers, poets, health professionals, gardeners and others – who have discovered for themselves, or through their community, the health benefits of spending time in nature and absorbing and reflecting on the intricate and intimate world around them.
The Festival begins this year with a conference for practitioners and community partners from the art, health or environment sectors; with leading ideas from speakers and workshop leaders drawn from a wide range of professional backgrounds. The aim is to achieve a lively dialogue between different disciplines and to provide participants with an opportunity to try something that they have never experienced before. The idea we will be exploring is that the ability for art and nature ‘therapies’ to support people recovering from ill health or building resilience to change, is substantially enhanced when people embrace both creativity and wild places into their lives.
The conference will lead into our second festival of nature writing where we have invited authors to continue this theme by sharing their experiences. The days of the impassive naturalist are past and today’s nature writers are more likely to relate their writing to their own personal experience. We can be inspired and learn from them how connecting with nature has helped them deal with everyday issues. From Ian Stephen’s Hebridean voyages to Annemarie Allan’s celebration of the sea and Kathryn Norbury’s search for Neil Gunn’s Well at the World’s End, we will explore narratives that counter-balance the drama of nature with the drama of people’s lives.
Other authors who will be joining us for the Festival include GP and award-winning author of a string of best-selling popular science books, Gavin Francis; successful children’s author Debi Gliori on Alfie and inspiration; and Sarah Jane Douglas talking about her first book Just Another Mountain on how her passion mountains and nature helped her through personal trauma. We are also looking forward to contributions on the garden as sanctuary from the poet Margaret Lotfi Gill and our own Greg Kenicer on Plant Lore.
A year after our most popular exhibition ever, The Lost Words, and the successful campaign to get a copy of Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris’s masterpiece into every school in Scotland, Rob Bushby will look at the continuing legacy of the book that has helped us appreciate nature on our doorstep.
Appropriately the Festival ends with a community celebration of nature and health in which our partners from the communities around the Garden will be sharing food, music, art, gardening and stories centred around the Botanic Cottage and the Edible Gardening Project beds which should be looking at their sumptuous best in mid-June.
Thanks to generous support from the City of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Tattoo, Scottish Book Trust and players of the People’s Postcode Lottery we have been able to keep costs for all events to a minimum and some are free. All the details and booking information can be found on www.rbge.org.uk/whats-on/connect-with-nature-festival/