The birds, the bees and the bands: OPAL hits Glastonbury

What do OPAL, Coldplay and a toad have in common?  They were all found at Glastonbury Festival this year!

This summer, the Nottingham OPAL team linked up with the British Ecological Society (BES), University of Lancaster and the James Hutton Institute to bring ecology to the biggest festival of them all - Glastonbury. 


BES has been taking ecology to music festivals for four years now with their stall staffed by ecologist volunteers known as the BES Roadies.  But this is the first time they’ve teamed up with OPAL and other organisations, allowing us to make it bigger and better than ever.  A team of five us donned our wellies to talk pollinators, soils and all things ecological with the crowds. We focused on using fun activities to grab people’s attention and start discussions about nature and ecology.


We used busking games like “Whose Poos?”, where you have to match the poo to the animal that left it behind, to encourage people to visit the stall. Once there, they found loads of exciting things to do and see.  Our team leader, Emma Sayer from Lancaster University, came up with the idea for a fairground theme  This involved games like a high striker looking at soil compaction, a water gun shooting range looking at runoff from different surfaces, and Pick-a-Pollinator, which was like hook-a-duck, but demonstrated how effective different pollinators are.  Besides the games we had an Earthworm Peep Show, where you could see how effective worms are at mixing soil, a bumblebee colony with a clear top so you could see the bees at work, and a variety of UK dung beetles. 

We had nearly a thousand visitors during the festival weekend, with around 450 sticking around to play games, ask questions and discuss ecology in more depth.  By catching people in an unexpected place with unique activities, you can really bring out their curiosity.  At Glastonbury you also get an incredible mix of people, from those who are already passionate about the environment to those that don’t usually give it a passing thought, and that can lead to some really incredible conversations. 


A few highlights for me included seeing some wildlife sneaking around the edges of the festival (including birds, bugs and some lovely amphibians) and hearing people go from underwhelmed to really excited about earthworms.  I even gave OPAL Earthworm ID guides to those who were most fervent in their admiration of our wriggly friends.  Oh yes, and I saw a few bands! 


Of course nothing can be without its challenges.  For Glastonbury 2016, it was the mud, which organisers reported was the worst in the festival’s history. Apparently many people think the musicians are the stars of Glastonbury, but after seeing the state of the land, it seems that earthworms may be the real heroes!

If you want to know more, check out our festival blog.