IsamBards at the Bristol Festival of Nature

Last week we were on grass surrounded by big trees in Bath. This Saturday we were surrounded mostly by stone and glass in Anchor Square close to the waterfront on Bristol’s harbourside.

The Isambards performed for a crowd of thousands. True, they had little choice in the matter and had probably come to enjoy some of the other attractions too. The Festival of Nature is, after all, the UK’s ‘biggest free celebration of the natural world.’ And thanks to Mike Cardwell and Sarah Billing for getting in touch and organising things on behalf of Bristol Natural History Consortium. Our stage was by the bar, though, and people with pint glasses did indeed listen, even if they didn’t rush the stage as they had done the week before. Pameli Benham, Deborah Harvey and I were joined by David Johnson this time.

And if we weren’t Extinction Rebellion exactly, David invited us to contemplate ‘a world where the bees don’t buzz,’ Pameli had her father-in-law falling through the greenhouse (unhurt), and Deborah invoked the surviving good dogs of Chernobyl reverting to the wild. For my part I invited people sitting at tables with pints in the sunshine to imagine what would happen if a similar ecological disaster meant the population of Horfield abandoning the area – and our allotment field.

You can see some of these poems, and  many others, in and around Bristol, and nationwide on the Places of Poetry website too.

When we leave this field

By June the waist-high grass will come to no one’s waist
but will be blonde and over-reached by finches in the thistles.

Not far behind, the brambles will be quick and wicked
keys and wings will drop and root, go tall as sycamore and ash.

Three-inch oaks will shelter in the beetle-green of holly
and jays will scream overhead among the ghosts of bean poles.

And whether the road at the top is heavy with retreat
whether or not there’s smoke on the hills behind the motorway,

there will be seasons if no festivals, the moon will enter
empty roofs, the tumbled streets will fill with birds at dawn.

What’s already setting seed will grow and fall and grow again.
No paradox of knowledge will mar these mangled Edens then.


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