How can we all be more like Emily Williamson?
For International Women’s Week, we're celebrating three supporters who embody her spirit. Hannah, Maggie and Brid (pictured) are all magnificent examples of what RSPB founder Emily showed: that one voice really can make a difference.
Hannah Bourne-Taylor: the 'naked campaigner'
Hannah made headlines by delivering her ‘Feather Speech’ on 5 November 2022, painted head to toe in feathers. Having bravely grabbed public attention, she’s since campaigned tirelessly to gather the necessary signatures to make swift bricks compulsory in new housing. The Feather Speech petition now has the support of some 63,000 people. But swifts and other cavity nesting birds (starlings, house martins & house sparrows) need 37,000 more signatures by 30th April. Please sign!
‘I created this campaign to remind people that we all have a voice and we can all make a difference,' says Hannah, 'because I have felt so helpless and overwhelmed by the environmental crisis. By signing and sharing the petition, you are making a difference immediately.’
Maggie Wilcox: saviour of sand martins
A senseless act of council vandalism against nature (netting the sandstone cliffs at Bacton, North Norfolk) triggered a useful spark of anger for Maggie in April 2019. It was time to take action. Her snippet of film on Twitter, showing sand martins trying desperately to gain access to their cavity nests, went viral with 1.9 million views. Using the hashtags #NetsDownForNature and #NestsNotNets, bird-lovers the length of Britain were mobilised to join in Maggie’s campaign against senseless netting of trees, hedges and banks.
Maggie won the battle at Bacton. The nets were removed and sand martins reunited with their homes. She doesn’t win them all – but remains delighted that this small campaign snowballed to raise national awareness of the pernicious use of netting. Once a hedge or tree has been netted, birds can't nest in it, and therefore it's easier for developers to remove.
‘Perhaps you feel powerless?' says Maggie. 'Maybe you feel what you say or do won’t make a difference? You’re wrong. One voice becomes many, too loud to be ignored. If you think wild lives matter, please use your voice. Remember Emily Williamson. The world is listening.’
Brid Ruddy: uniting communities
Brid has one piece of advice: ‘Start local, and other doors will open.’ In 2015, she decided to focus on the derelict, unsafe alley behind her house in Belfast – 'a good, reclaimed urban space in the midst of a very densely-populated area. What could we do with it?' She came up with the idea of a community garden in the alley. 'We shifted tonnes and tonnes of rubbish. And we just brought out plants from our own houses. We painted our back doors a nice bright colour. And suddenly the alley began to develop.'
Wildflower Alley has united neighbours, won awards, and sparked the wider regeneration of other alleyways and derelict urban spaces in Belfast. 'The air smells cleaner, we have more birds, more bees, more wildlife.' Alley by alley, the project is creating joined-up pockets of biodiversity in Belfast and beyond. It's also, importantly, uniting communities. 'Everybody loves flowers, don't they?' @bridrua
Start your own community green space: Social Farms & Gardens is a UK wide charity supporting communities to farm, garden and grow together.
Join the Tea Party - April 21
We're excited to invite you to our first, virtual 'Emily Tea Party' on Friday April 21, 6.30pm. Each month, we'll be asking a special guest to share their expertise, insights and motivation. Urban Birder David Lindo joins our sculptor Eve Shepherd and campaign historian Tessa Boase for a roving discussion of birds, nature, public art and representation, and how we can all #BeMoreEmily. All are welcome: you just need a cup of tea.
More details with link to follow.
Thanks for reading – and for supporting the Emily Williamson Statue Campaign.