The Festival of Nature - The Bristol Natural History Consortium (United Kingdom)

Bringing nature to life in the heart of the city.

The Goal

To engage people with the natural world through collaborative action.

Nature is astonishing, complex and vital to our survival, but we seem to be steadily losing our connection with the natural world to the detriment of our health, wellbeing, and long term sustainability on a finite planet. We consume and disrupt more than natural processes can keep up with, contentedly disconnected from the impacts of our everyday actions.

Bristol is an international centre for the appreciation and conservation of the natural world with a number of high profile organisations based in the city. In 2003, six of those organisations wanted to work together, using their collective experience and influence to engage and reconnect people with nature. The partnership, The Bristol Natural History Consortium, is now a registered charity and focuses on three key objectives:

  • To deliver entertaining, informative events, and activities that inspire greater public interest, volunteering, and action for nature.

  • To facilitate, develop, and disseminate novel communication techniques that engage the widest possible audience.

  • To build, support, and pilot effective partnerships that bring together diverse organisations that face similar challenges and issues, and to help organisations learn from each other.

The Solution

The Festival of Nature: The UK’s largest celebration of the natural world.

From these beginnings, the Festival of Nature was born and has continued to grow and develop as an established feature on the city calendar. Entering our 14th year, BNHC now has 14 members and welcomes Bath and NE Somerset Council and the University of Bath as we continue to expand to include our neighbouring cities. The unique partnership brings together the worlds of conservation, policy, research, and media as four pillars of environmental communications.

The Festival is a unique, flexible and adaptable event, designed to engage, educate, and inspire visitors with nature in the heart of the city over two and a half weeks. This includes flagship events in Bristol, Bath, and Keynsham, plus a host of fringe activities and school events, all designed to provide high quality educational activity that connects people with nature on a large scale.

By offering a variety of free activities in various accessible areas, the Festival gives opportunities for everyone to take part exploring, understanding, and celebrating the natural world.

Education and skills development are key features in Festival activities, aimed at both the public and our 150+ volunteers. We support the development of biological recording skills, communication skills, event management, and public engagement, whilst offering a showcase of opportunities for visitors to learn about the intricacies of the natural world and the role we play within it.

The Results

Over the last 14 years, tens of thousands of people have engaged with nature across the West of England, creating a huge diversity of celebratory events across Bristol and Bath. We’ve trained over 2,000 volunteers and built an annual audience of over 25,000 visitors. In 2016, we gave our visitors the challenge to Take Action for Nature and counted over 16,000 measurable actions taken as a result of the festival including:

CREATE Number of bird feeders/ trees/ plug plants/ nest boxes/ etc. given out or bug hotels made.

OBSERVE Number of wildlife records collected.

SUPPORT Number of members recruited.

SPEAK UP Number of petition/ask signatures collected.

VOLUNTEER Number of volunteers who supported the Festival exhibits + number of new volunteers signed up.

Insider Tip

  • A diverse and engaged partnership – all 14 have an active role in programming and developing the festival, bringing their own perspectives and resources to the table.

  • A wide stakeholder network – over 150 organisations get involved in the Festival each year to bring fresh audiences and exciting new content.

  • A small, experienced, and dynamic staff team – bringing many stakeholders to a single, unified narrative is a tough job and needs a dedicated, experienced team to deliver progress.