Since 2009, New Networks for Nature have organised a series of events designed to explore new perspectives in our cultural and creative responses to birds, nature and wildlife, and to challenge certain narrowly defined but prevailing views on the environment. The meetings draw together a wide cross-section of individuals and institutions, whose professional work and private lives draw inspiration from the natural world.

Our next annual event, Nature Matters 2016: In Touch with the Wild, will take place in Cambridge on 22–24 September 2016. We will then return to Stamford in November 2017.

Nature Matters 2016: In Touch with the Wild

Our eighth New Networks for Nature meeting, for which we are collaborating with the Cambridge Conservation Initiative, explores how we connect with the natural world. Our emphasis is on personal connection, loss and hope, through which we examine how the changing nature of the natural world challenges us to find new ways for engagement. The event kicks off on the Thursday evening with a chaired conversation, involving author Rebecca Stott, Astronomer Royal Martin Rees and others TBC. Through this we will explore the ways in which we engage with the world around us. The idea of legacy and of dealing with timescales beyond our own lives is a key component of this discussion.

Our connections with the natural world typically begin, and often end, as direct personal interactions and our first session on the Friday explores the dynamics and resonance of personal experience. This session includes writers Edward Parnell and William Fiennes, poet Alison Brackenbury and academic Laurie Palma. The loss of biodiversity and our changing ways of living deliver significant challenges to our connections with the natural world. Session Two looks at how we should express our response to such loss. This session brings together conservation practitioner Stuart Butchart (BirdLife International), photojournalist Toby Smith and musician and vocalist Hanna Tuulikki.

This year’s debate addresses the question of rewilding, something that has become a theme for conservationists, both here within the UK and more widely across the globe. Rewilding is not without its critics. This debate explores the role of rewilding within nature conservation and seeks to understand its potential contribution. Panel members include: George Monbiot (Journalist), Sir Charles Burrell (Rewilding practitioner) and others TBA. The final Friday session turns the focus towards reconnection and asks how we can take personal connection with the natural world to a broader audience, delivering experiences that change the nature of the connection that society has with nature and landscape. Involved in this session are Ivan Scales (Academic), Sharon Blackie (Writer) and @ATMStreetart (Artist).

Saturday’s first session is kicked off by a prologue by Mike Toms, looking at the different ways in which an individual can engage with a single bird. This is then followed by an exploration of the role that technology might play in nature conservation. This session brings together Stuart Newson (British Trust for Ornithology), who is speaking about innovation and monitoring bats, Kate Jones (Academic) on the passive monitoring of wildlife and the environment, and  Stephanie O’Donnell (WildLABS, community manager) on delivering tools for change.

The remainder of the morning involves breakout sessions and a series of workshops, some focussed on the practical (print making, nature writing, poetry) and others on more philosophical or political issues. The final session on the Saturday is all about hope. Can we be optimistic about the future and use ‘hope’ as a catalyst to deliver a fundamentally different relationship with the natural world? We will have some young new poets from Cambridge University, a conversation with contributors from different ages and backgrounds, including Andrew Balmford and others TBA, and Sir David Attenborough will then say a few words about his hopes for the future and about the ways in which we need to connect with the natural world if we are to realise our ambitions.

Presenters | Programme | Workshops


Online ticket sales are now closed but tickets for the Thursday, Friday and Saturday sessions may be purchased on the door. The conference dinner is sold out.

Thursday evening only 10 AVAILABLE ON THE DOOR

Day ticket Friday 45* AVAILABLE ON THE DOOR

Day ticket Saturday 45* AVAILABLE ON THE DOOR

Two-day ticket (Friday and Saturday) 80* AVAILABLE ON THE DOOR

Three-day ticket (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) 90* AVAILABLE ON THE DOOR

Friday evening dinner 35 SOLD OUT
2 course dinner including a glass of wine, Fairtrade coffee and chocolates. Old Hall, Queens’ College, 7.30pm – 10.30pm.

* includes refreshments (tea/coffee/lunch)

Places are limited and tickets will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.


We have secured a number of rooms at Queens’ College for the nights of 22nd and 23rd September, should you wish to book accommodation there. These are £73.25 per night, £147.50 for 2 nights.

Room bookings need to be made via the college, using the promotional code KX11902: Book Now
(Please note that this page will open in a new browser tab or window.)

Nature Matters 2016: In Touch with the Wild

Feedback from 2015:

“It was great – thanks to all those who set it up. See you next year!”
   — George Monbiot,
      Author and Environmental Activist

“[This] amazing experience has altered my perspective, put me in touch with like-minded people, initiated collaborations, friendships and raised my awareness on many things. In gratitude for all the organizers.”
   — Ros Brady,
      Songwriter, Performer and Poet

“A fabulous triumph from beginning to end.”
   — Mark Cocker,
      Author and Environmental Activist


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