Andrew McKeon is the president of Wildlife Friendly Otley, which organizes the event. “Our mission is to encourage people to take an interest in nature and wildlife and to become more wildlife-friendly,” he says. “One way to do that is to introduce them to people who write, speak, film, paint, design and make music about the natural world, to appeal to a wider audience than just existing nature lovers. .One of our goals is to celebrate the natural world.When people love nature, they learn to love it and once they learn to love it, they want to protect nature, because the natural world has been devastated over the past 40 years or so due to habitat loss, pollution, pesticides and over development.We want to encourage people to be kinder to wildlife with what they do in everyday life.
Founded in 2018, Wildlife Friendly Otley is a small charity with a big vision: to make Otley the first ‘wildlife-friendly town’ in the UK. Working with local nature and environmental groups, it aims to set an example of how cities can be rich in nature and wildlife and to educate people about conservation and protection.
The opening of his Otley Wildlife Arts Festival this year will be Simon Barnes, one of Britain’s best-selling nature writers. Barnes, who has written about wildlife and conservation for more than 30 years, will appear at Otley Courthouse for a lecture on his life and wildlife, marking the start of the two-day festival on Friday October 15. Festival organizers will also welcome back top cameraman and filmmaker Ian McCarthy for Saturday’s festival highlight event at the courthouse. McCarthy, who has worked on Blue Planet, Autumn Watch, Life in the Frieza and Planet Earth, will host a new show, Howling With Wolves, sharing footage and stories of his exploits.
On Saturday there will be a free exhibition featuring ten new artists who will join last year’s painters, sculptors, photographers and writers, including a world champion woodcarver. Creative and wildlife groups will have booths at the courthouse and there will be talks on topics including bees, birds, barn owls, rewilding and climate change. And new this year will be live musical and poetic performances on the theme of wildlife and a presentation on well-being in nature. Neil Griffin, one of the main organizers, says: “By supporting this event, people can enjoy celebrating our wonderful wildlife, while at the same time helping the important work of Wildlife Friendly Otley.
Tickets cost £10 for each evening event on Friday and Festival Saturday are available from Otley Courthouse. Further details of the festival, which is supported by Sinclairs of Otley, Leeds City Council, the Wharfedale Naturalist Society and Otley City Council, can be found at www.otleycourthouse.org.uk