GAIA Big Read 22 OCT 2021 to 26 NOV 2021
22 Oct 2021 to 26 Nov 2021
To celebrate GAIA coming to Keele Chapel from 06 – 28 November 2021, ArtsKeele and Appetite are hosting the ‘GAIA Big Read’, a shared reading experience that celebrates GAIA’s understanding of the interconnections of all life.
Join us throughout the exhibition as we read Dara McAnulty’s award-winning memoir Diary of a Young Naturalist.
Diary of a Young Naturalist chronicles the turning of 15-year-old Dara McAnulty’s world. From spring and through a year in his home patch in Northern Ireland, Dara spent the seasons writing. These vivid, evocative, and moving diary entries about his connection to wildlife and the way he sees the world are raw in their telling. Diary of a Young Naturalist portrays Dara’s intense connection to the natural world, and his perspective as a teenager juggling exams and friendships alongside a life of environmental campaigning.
Since publication, Diary of a Young Naturalist has won the 2020 Wainwright Prize for nature writing, the 2020 Books Are My Bag Reader Award for Non-Fiction, the 2020 British Book Awards Book of the Year for Narrative Non-Fiction and was chosen as the 2020 Hay Festival Book of the Year. Dara’s memoir has also been longlisted for the 2020 Ballie Gifford Prize and was shortlisted for the Waterstones Book of the Year 2020.
Throughout the GAIA exhibition, members of the exhibition team will be sharing their thoughts as they read Diary of a Young Naturalist, and we will be encouraging our fellow readers to tweet along with their photos and thoughts @ArtsKeele @appetitestoke @GreenKeele using #GaiaBigRead.
Our Big Read event will culminate with a book club underneath GAIA on Friday 26 November 2021, taking place in Keele Chapel from 12 – 1pm. Readers will have chance to share our thoughts on the book – and our reading experiences – whilst getting a unique perspective on GAIA (and enjoying some light refreshments!).
To get you excited to start reading, we are sharing an extract of Dara’s book:
Friday, 12 October
A young boy of about six is playing in the forest, enjoying the fallen russet leaves crunch beneath his feet. A breeze is blowing gently, and while he rummages he finds a conker.
The boy pushes it from its spiked casing, holds it up, and the conker shines. A tiny globe of red-tinted light. The boy’s mum notices, glances up from her phone, and now she’s charging in and snatching the conker. ‘Dirty,’ she proclaims and hurls it away.
The boy is crestfallen. A light goes out.
As I watch, anger surges inside. I think about all these tiny wrongdoings, everywhere in every season, the tiniest crimes. The things grown-ups do without thinking. The messages they send angrily into the world. The consequences ricochet through time, morph, grow, shapeshift. What’s so wrong with a conker?
I breathe and rise from the bench where I was watching the thrushes in the trees. I go into the pile of leaves myself to start searching, and it doesn’t take long to find one, round, swollen, so perfect. The mum is back on her phone, engrossed by the glow of a milk-white screen. When I hold up the conker to the light, the little boy comes over and his eyes dare to shine a little. I pass it to him.
‘Put it into your pocket,’ I say. ‘It’s called a conker. It’s the seed of that horse chestnut tree.’
In the nick of time, the boy puts the conker in his coat pocket as his mum calls over that it’s time to go. I hope it gets to stay with him, if not in his pocket then in his memory. I honestly cannot comprehend where this comes from, this fear, this disconnect. Such a beautiful world, of which we are a part, is so disregarded. I think back to the meetings I’ve had with local politicians, their empty words and praise. I don’t want praise anymore, I want action.
Saturday, 13 October
The sky darkens slightly and shimmers as black shadows speed towards treetop homes, a cackling of jackdaws and rooks, a coven swirling and rising and resting. […] Such abundance. Such life. But is this what abundance looks like? When everything was in better balance than it is today? Imagine seeing curlew or corncrake everyday, bitterns booming from the callows. […] Will I ever get to experience abundance? Are we wrong to assume that our ancestors had a stronger connection to nature? […] But if we were so connected in the past, what went wrong? Why did our ancestors let this happen? Was it the supermarkets? The massive corporations? The vested interests and hidden agendas? […] Should we all be content with changing a little corner of our world? Showing one kid a conker isn’t going to change economics or the fossil-fuel industry or the other abuses of the planet’s resources. This churning in me, it’s got to go somewhere.
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