As an artist in residence with Back from the Brink, I’ve had the joy of coming up with five projects exploring and celebrating the incredible conservation work being done – including a new anthology of speculative poetry and fiction, lanterns which spoke to endangered moths, a collaborative artwork celebrating the Black-tailed Godwit, and a fanzine for the beings of Rockingham Forest – including the Chequered Skipper, successfully reintroduced in a secret location nearby.
As part of these projects, I wrote poems that became part of events and installations alongside work from participants of all ages. I wanted to bring together all the things I’d written in one place – this little pamphlet:
Download your FREE copy, here: Hold Fast
The very first project that I did took me to my home county of North Yorkshire, where I lived from the ages of seven to nineteen. I stayed with my parents in their village between the Moors and the Wolds, helping in the garden, eating food they had grown, and getting reacquainted with the birds who are regulars at their feeders.
I was working with Colour in the Margins, a project saving plants that grow in the edge-lands of arable fields and the other species that depend on them. I trailed the places where some of the most threatened wildflowers have been seen – and then sown, encouraged, and taken care of. With help from the project officers, I found out that Corn Buttercup and Red Hemp-nettle had come back to some of the places I knew from my childhood.
I drove through Scarborough, the Vale of Pickering, and the Wolds, and visited fields, old quarries, nature reserves, and forests. At the same time, I read about the wildflowers: I found out more about the reasons for their decline, and the possibilities for coexistence; I read about the traditions surrounding them, such as putting speedwell seeds in the seams of clothes for journeys; I learned about the ecosystems they support, and the efforts of farmers and conservationists to create spaces in our arable landscapes for them to flourish.
During the project, I thought a lot about what it means to be from this landscape, and what it means to be connected to it. As an LGBTQ+ person, I left in part to find more community (as many of us do). But there's no escaping the sense of responsibility and affection I feel for these places (and I'm not sure I'd want to).
I wrote a series of poems about the experience, and ran a drop-in day at one of my old haunts – Scarborough Library, where I’d spent countless Saturdays finding books and becoming a writer.
Later that year, I was part of the Godwit Festival at Welney Wetlands Centre – utterly delighted that this beanstalk of a bird got its own festival, and revelling in spending a day in the hide watching Avocet chicks wade around. I worked with visitors to the festival to make poetry mobiles for the birds, and brought it all together in a collective poem, To Fly Adventurous. I turned this into an artwork, which now lives at Welney.
The other poem in the pamphlet was part of the work I did with Shifting Sands project, in the incredible, unique landscapes of the Brecks. Working with local Scouts, Cubs, and Woodcraft Folk, we made lanterns which shone out messages to the endangered species of the area, especially moths. I was fascinated by the Basil Thyme Case Bearer Moth, who needs one particular plant to survive. This poem was inked onto a lantern in the shape of the moth itself, which took its place among the young peoples’ offerings.
Working with human communities and their non-human neighbours has been a joy and an education. There is so much possibility for connection between species, and the more we see them for who they are – one by one, as Back from the Brink does – the better we can live reciprocally and responsibly with them.
Your outdoor adventures and nature explorations may be limited at the moment, but we have a fantastic opportunity for you to get creative from your own garden, balcony or even your living room windowsill, with this lovely little ‘We Write The Wild’ pamphlet that you can download here
Let your imagination run wild!
Linden Katherine McMahon.
Back from the Brink poet and artist in residence.
Would you like to help these incredible species? There are numerous ways in which you can:
- Why not volunteer for Back from the Brink? Check out our events page for opportunities near you.
- Help us to spread the word of this species, and the others we will be helping over the next 3 years, by sharing our message across our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pages. Follow us: @naturebftb.
- Finally - help support the work we do across England by donating. Our impact will be greater with your help.