Brighton Festival defends woodland installation amid criticism of disturbing wildlife

For the Birds (Photograph: John Nguyen)
For the Birds (Photograph: John Nguyen)

A petition signed by almost 1,500 people is urging Brighton Festival to postpone its 'For the Birds' event in woodland close to the city, to take place instead outside of nesting season.

The campaign started four days ago, and raised concerns about the event taking place during breeding season for birds in the area.

For the Birds (Photograph: John Nguyen)

For the Birds (Photograph: John Nguyen)

The petition said: "We are not against art or creativity but the timing of this creative performance and its impact has been dangerously overlooked with potentially fatal consequences for our wildlife. Not only this year, but impacting the future population and generations of species in the area."

But Brighton Festival, which is running the 'immersive nighttime experience' from Saturday, May 6 to Sunday, May 28, has moved to defend the event.

A spokesperson for the Brighton Festival said: "We would like to offer Brighton Festival ticket holders our reassurance that we have undertaken an extensive consultation process over the past few months with experts and all the relevant authorities to ensure that For the Birds can be produced both safely and sensitively in its environment.

"Neither Brighton Festival nor the artists take this lightly. Indeed the work itself is intended to celebrate the mystery and beauty of the avian world and highlight why it should be protected."

The Brighton Festival said specific measures it has taken include:

- Undertaking environmental assessments of the area and locating the installations accordingly to prevent disturbance of habitats

- Controlling the sound and light levels through bespoke, low-voltage LEDs and low-volume, localised sound installations

- Routing the audience journey on existing, well-used footpaths overseen by security and stewards to ensure no ticket holders stray from the paths

- Prohibiting vehicular access to the site by shuttling audiences from off-site parking via Big Lemon Buses (fuelled by repurposed cooking oil)

- Protecting the identity of the location by not publicising it in our marketing materials to prevent disruption from non-ticket holders

- Employing security to protect the site (which has many users including bike scramblers and dog walkers) throughout the month

The spokesperson added: "Following the recent concerns raised, we have commissioned an additional survey from a further independent expert and we will be taking forward any new recommendations if required in the coming days. The safety and welfare of the natural environment is our highest priority."

A statement from the RSPB released earlier this week said: "A number of our supporters have raised concerns about the potential impact on nesting birds during the Brighton Festival installation ‘For the birds’ which takes place in woodland in Brighton in evenings in May.

"The concerns centre around the possibility that the piece could impact on nesting birds, which are protected under law during the breeding season. The RSPB is keen to see Brighton Festival and / or Brighton & Hove City Council carry out suitable assessments to ensure that the activity does not cause harm to species. We have made the festival organisers and Brighton & Hove City Council aware of the public’s concerns, and they have informed us that they are now looking into these issues."

To view the petition, visit: www.change.org/p/emergency-save-the-birds-boycott-postpone-dangerous-for-the-birds-event

For more information on the event, visit: brightonfestival.org/event/10959/for_the_birds/