Dr Brian Briggs: The Return of the Marsh Warbler

May 2 2023


On a walk around the Llanelli WWT Bird Sanctuary and Nature Reserve, David talks to the Musician and Bird Warden, Dr Brian Briggs


David Oakes

David Oakes

Host

Dr Brian Briggs

Guest


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About this episode:

Dr Brian Briggs is a man of two halves; by day he is the Nature Reserve Manager at the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust’s Llanelli reserve, but by night he is the lead singer and songwriter for the Glastonbury-playing, Later-with-Jools-Holland-appearing, Silver-record-selling, “Rural existentialist orni-folk-band”, Stornoway. Reforming after a 10 year hiatus for a new tour and a new album, on a walk around the Llanelli reserve, Brian details how being immersed in nature during the pandemic is what has brought the band (like the Lapwing) back from the brink.

In this interview of two halves, Brian discusses the dynamism of Wetlands; the return of Grebes, Lapwings and Water Voles; the battles of invasive Mink vs. Kingfisher, and of industrious winter-causeway-crossing hungry Hedgehog vs. beautiful rare lapwing egg. But also, Brian opens up about an awakening, through birdsong, to an appreciation of our Sonic world; about a creative excitement of using Nature both as metaphor and instrument; and, why Stornoway’s music ultimately works best outdoors. He also explains, that somehow, despite being a writer of a song about Ash dieback, he isn’t even the biggest geek in the band…!


David's thoughts:

As I write this, I’m on my way back from a week spent exploring the work of a conservation NGO. My conversations with my host, the COO of the charity, were wide-reaching and frequent – it seems there was little left that we did not discuss. Carbon offsetting, green taxation, varying incentives for communities to protect habit, new experimental technology vs. nature-based solutions, etc… (Much more on that to come in future episodes.)

Upon our final journey together, our conversation moved from talking about how the charity sector could best preserve our environment, on to how my industry could, the entertainment industry. Despite the abundance of people who care (just look at the number of celebs both in front of and behind the camera that happily voice up for environmental causes) sadly, there are few organisations in the TV/film industry that seek to aid the people like me to aggressively support our world at a production or industry level – but, a couple that initially sprung to mind at the time were Albert and Cut It – and then the music industry has the fantastic Music Declares Emergency. There are others.

But… each are fighting for a place in industries that historically favour resources that are cheaper or bombastically wasteful, rather than the considered and environmentally cautious. They also operate in industries that don’t operate from one central point, rather a whole host of smaller – often temporarily extant – entities, that collectively call themselves the Music/TV/Film/etc… industry.

Personally, I wish that in my “day job” as an actor could be more proactive in telling green stories – both in content and through the manner of production. Indeed, it was exactly this frustration which led to the genesis for this podcast.

As Brian and Stornoway get set to release their new album (one which, needless to say, is full of fantastic music) it heartens me greatly to hear their lyrics that seem to hide an environmental message – “Black tar, holding you tight Got you so tight that you think that freedom is Jet black, black as the night” – to watch their music videos that are alive with fungi, flora, feather and fur, to see that their LPs and cassettes are being pressed using “Eco Mix recycled vinyl” (a 100% recycled compound which uses left over vinyl from pressing other things which otherwise would not be used by the factory), to watch them actively seeking out exterior acoustic gigging opportunities with lower carbon footprints and natural locations…

…environmentalism appears at the very heart of both Brian and of Stornoway.

I have been a fan of Stornoway’s music for many years now; and I had genuinely never joined the ornithological-dots between the songs I greatly admired and the band’s frontman. Now, not even needing to dig that deep – certainly not to dig as deep as a mountain – it is a delight to see green credentials promoted so prominently. I find it hard to believe that others will not strive to follow suit in creating for our wild world.

To see what I’m talking about, just watch this:

 

LINKS:

Stornoway:
WWW – https://stornoway.lnk.to/digthemountain/stornoway
Twitter – https://twitter.com/StornowayBand

Llanelli WWT – https://www.wwt.org.uk/wetland-centres/llanelli/

The Wytham Woods Tit Project – http://wythamtits.com/

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