Natural Histories Live - The Big Story
Natural Histories: The Big Story
Lions, Sharks, Whales and Apes are four well known A-lister groups of animals that have got under our skin, enthralled us with their wildness and inspired literature, film, myth and legend. But so have Cockroaches and Fleas and the much lesser known Burbot and Mandrakes. Natural Histories has brought 25 groups of animals and plants together across 25 episodes to tell the stories of nature's influences on human culture from across the globe.
The Big Story, a special live event presented by satirical comedian Rory Bremner and Natural Histories presenter Brett Westwood tells a story of the earth from Dinosaurs to people. With comedy, music, readings and discussion all held in the spectacular Hinze Hall of the Natural History Museum. We tell a uniquely Big Story of 100 million years' worth of natural history.
Rory Bremner has been brightening up our screens for over 25 years with his unique brand of comedy and satire. He is widely rated as Britain’s sharpest impressionist and he impersonates over 100 people, from Tony Blair to Mohamed al Fayed; Rory once managed to get through to Margaret Beckett whilst impersonating Gordon Brown.
These days he’s equally in demand as a columnist for newspapers and magazines, as a documentary presenter and is one of the country’s leading after-dinner speakers.
Brett Westwood is an award-winning producer, presenter and naturalist. In addition to presenting Natural Histories, his other acclaimed Radio 4 series range from Saving Species, and Tweet of the Day (winner of Best Radio Series 2014); to The Diaries of Brett Westwood. He is also a presenter for Springwatch and Autumnwatch.
Professor Paul Barrett
His main areas of interest are in the biology of plant-eating dinosaurs, describing new dinosaurs, and in large-scale evolutionary processes, such as the coevolution of animals and plants through time.
During the course of this work, he has travelled extensively to work on museum collections around the world and conducted fieldwork in China, the UK and South Africa. He is currently President of the Palaeontographical Society, holds numerous editorial positions and sits on the councils and committees of several learned societies.
Richard Jones is a nationally acclaimed entomologist, a fellow of the Royal Entomological Society and of the Linnean Society of London, and past president of the British Entomological and Natural History Society.
He has been fascinated by wildlife since a childhood exploring the South Downs and Sussex Weald after plants and insects. He now writes about insects, wildlife and the environment for the likes of BBC Wildlife, Gardeners’ World and Countryfile and has regular radio appearances on programmes like Radio 4’s Home Planet and Woman’s Hour.
He is author of several books on insects and wildlife including: Create Ponds, Attract Wildlife and Control Pests (Impact Publishing and Henry Doubleday Research Association, 2004/2005), Nano Nature (Harper Collins, 2008), Beekeeper’s Bible (HarperCollins, 2010), Extreme Insects (HarperCollins, 2010, now in paperback).
Sophie Cox is a 14-year-old musician who composed Emma's Song in memory of her cousin Emma Speer who was suffering from terminal breast cancer. Sophie wanted to write a song to raise money for the charity Marie Curie, which uses a daffodil as its emblem, and found inspiration for the chorus from the poem ‘Daffodils’ by William Wordsworth. She recorded the song on August 31, two days before Emma died at the age of 33. Since then the song has had more than 13,000 views on YouTube and has been released as a single via iTunes and Amazon.
Dr Sandra Knapp
Sandy came to the Natural History Museum in 1992 and has described more than 75 new species of plants. She is the author of several popular books on the history of science and botanical exploration, including the award-winning Potted Histories (2004). She is also the author of more than 175 peer-reviewed scientific papers and actively involved in promoting the role of taxonomy worldwide.
In 2009 she was honoured by the Peter Raven Outreach Award by the American Society of Plant Taxonomists and the UK National Biodiversity Network’s John Burnett Medal.
Sir Tim Smit
In 1987 Sir Tim Smit moved to Cornwall. He and John Nelson together ‘discovered’ and then restored the Lost Gardens of Heligan. Tim remains a Director of the gardens to the present day.
Sir Tim Smit is Executive Vice-Chairman, and Co-founder of the award-winning Eden Project near St Austell in Cornwall. Eden began as a dream in 1995 and opened its doors to the public in 2000, since when more than 16 million people have come to see what was once a sterile pit turned into a cradle of life containing world-class horticulture and startling architecture symbolic of human endeavour. Eden has contributed over £1 billion into the Cornish economy. Eden is proud of its success in changing people’s perception of the potential for and the application of science, by communicating and interpreting scientific concepts through the use of art, drama and storytelling as well as living up to its mission to take a pivotal role in local regeneration. It demonstrates once and for all that sustainability is not about sandals and nut cutlets, it is about good business practice and the citizenship values of the future.
Richard Lewington is an illustrator specialising mainly in field guides on insects and other invertebrates and has painted bees and butterflies on Royal Mail stamps and illustrated a mini Easter egg field guide for Waitrose.
He has always been interested in the natural world, influenced by his father and grandfather who were both keen countrymen. For the artist, he believes there can be no area of greater diversity, with an infinite range of shapes, colours and textures, and with more species than a person could ever hope to illustrate in many lifetimes. His younger brother, Ian, is one of the best bird illustrators in the world.
Professor Tim Birkhead
Professor Tim Birkhead, of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, first visited Skomer Island in 1972. No one had tried to conduct a census of guillemots before and Professor Birkhead came up with an innovative way to count the birds and determine how many chicks were produced each year.
By marking birds individually with colour rings Professor Birkhead was able to measure their breeding success, see how old they are when they first start to breed and see how long the birds live.
When Professor Birkhead began his studies the guillemot population breeding on Skomer was just 2,000 individuals, yet pictures of the island thirty years earlier showed that there had been around 100,000 guillemots then. In 2011 the population showed signs of recovery as around 20,000 individuals were recorded.
Esther Woolfson was brought up in Glasgow and studied Chinese at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Edinburgh University.
Her critically acclaimed short stories have appeared in many anthologies including 'New Writing Scotland' and several volumes of 'Scottish Short Stories'and have been read on Radio 4.
She has won prizes for them and for nature writing. She was awarded a Scottish Arts Council Travel Grant which enabled her to travel in Poland and Lithuania.
Esther won the Waterstone's/Arvon short prize prize for her short story 'Passing On' and her short story 'Statues' was shortlisted for the Macallan Prize.
Her short story,'Chagall' is in the Scottish Arts Council on-line short story archive and her article, 'Trump in Scotland' was published in the American magazine n+1.
Her book on natural history, Corvus was published by Granta in August, 2008. It was Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4. Her novel Piano Angel was published by Two Ravens Press October 2008.
Esther took part in an Artists' Residency at Aberdeen University's Centre for Environmental Sustainability. She gave a paper on the relationship between the arts and science, in which she examined the breaking-down of the traditional separation between the disciplines.
Esther was Writer in Residence at Kielder as part of the Hexham Book Festival in 2012.
'Field Notes From a Hidden City' is about the relationship between the urban and the 'wild', between the people who live in cities and the most common species who share our living space - pigeons, spiders, rats, squirrels. It touches on themes of biology, climate change, phenology and the ethics of human-animal relations. It is published in February 2013.
Professor Erica Fudge
Her work has also appeared in History Today magazine. She is the director of the British Animal Studies Network.
Hannah Brown is an animal welfare lawyer and Legal and Project Manager at the Association of Lawyers for Animal Welfare (ALAW), an organisation of lawyers working with the animal welfare community.
She regularly works with and advises a number of the UK’s leading animal welfare organisations, providing strategic and bespoke legal advice. Whilst appreciating the invaluable work undertaken by front line organisations such as sanctuaries and rescue centres, Hannah would like to see fundamental changes in our attitude towards and treatment of non-human animals, and believes that the best way to achieve this is through changes in the law.
Michael Pitts specializes in filming underwater and is regarded as one of Britain's foremost underwater cameramen. However, he is equally happy shooting on the surface or from the air. Amongst his many awards he has received Emmys for cinematography on two BBC landmark series: David Attenborough's 'Private Life of Plants' and 'Blue Planet'.
In 2012 he was responsible for the underwater filming of the Sir David Attenborough 3D series on the Galapagos produced by Sky/Colossus. Formatted for cinema the series was released as a film in selected UK cinemas in 2014. He has recently returned from the Falklands and Ascension Island after filming on the new BBC NHU series 'Atlantic'.
Currently he is working on his own production, which follows the changing seasons and the work of a landscape artist.
He is special advisor to the NHM’s UK Strandings Project, carries out endangered species identification work for UK and international law enforcement, and develops internationally recognised protocols and techniques for the extraction of genetic material from the Museum's research specimens.
Professor David Macdonald
Prof David Macdonald is Director of the Wildlife Conservation Unit (WildCRU), one of the most high-profile science based conservation groups in the world, which he founded in 1986. Prof Macdonald has won numerous awards. He was recognised by BBC Wildlife Magazine as among the 'top ten most influential living conservationists' in 2007.
Prof Macdonald was admitted to the Fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2008.
Prof Macdonald was made a CBE for services to natural sciences in the Queen's Birthday Honours list 2010.
Tamsin Greig has had a long-running part as Debbie Aldridge in the BBC Radio 4 soap opera The Archers since 1991.
Tamsin was born in Kent in 1966 and describes herself as having been the temperamental and noisy middle child of an expressive mother and a much older father. She took part in numerous school plays so it seemed logical to continue her interest in drama by studying the subject at the University of Birmingham - which was just across the road from the BBC studios where The Archers was recorded.
Tamsin has undertaken theatre roles, voice-over, television and film work. Television includes BBC productions Happiness (with Paul Whitehouse), People Like Us and The World Of Pub; Channel 4's comedy series Black Books; HTV's Wycliffe and LWT's Blind Men. She has filmed Miranda and Pure and has narrated for the National Geographic, History and BBC Natural History channels.
Other TV work includes: Green Wing (Channel 4); The Lenny Henry Show; Love Soup; When I'm 64 (a television film for the BBC); and Episodes, with Matt le Blanc (Joey from Friends).
Films include "Shaun Of The Dead"; and "Cheese Makes You Dream".
Sarah Angliss is a composer, performer and roboticist. On stage, she’s often accompanied by musical automata – machines she’s devised and built to create a performance with an arresting and uncanny physical presence. She composed music for Eugene O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape (Old Vic, London) directed by Richard Jones; Lucy Prebble’s The Effect (National Theatre), directed by Rupert Goold; and the BFI’s Gothic and Sci-fi seasons - including a live reimagining of The Midwich Cuckoos with Bela and Stephen, directed by David Battcock. A theremin player, she was invited to perform in The Moog Lab when it visited Supersonic. Other festival performances include Harmonic Series (Southbank, London), Bring to Light, Flatpack, Supernormal and Prima Vista (Estonia). Sarah’s also an historian of sound, with work published by the Science Museum, Smithsonian and The Wire Magazine. On BBC Radio 4, she’s demonstrated the art of phonograph recording and explored the eighteenth century practice of teaching human tunes to songbirds (The Bird Fancyer’s Delight, produced by Neil McCarthy). She’s a Visiting Research Fellow at SPR Goldsmiths, London.
Examples of Sarah's work can be heard on Soundcloud
Stephen Hiscock is composer, drummer and percussionist and founder of member of one of the world’s most innovative percussion chamber groups - ensemblebash. During the life of the group he has performed world premieres of works by Steve Reich, Stewart Copeland, Nitin Sawhney, Django Bates, Eric Whitacre, Imogen Heap, Keith Tippett and Tan Dun. Other collaborators include Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Evelyn Glennie, Chick Corea, Kathryn Tickell, The Hilliard Ensemble, Britten Sinfonia and the BBC Singers. We’ve also played at several BBC Proms and undertaken major tours in Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa.
Stephen spent several study periods in Ghana learning traditional styles of music with master musicians from the National Dance Company of Ghana and The Pan African Orchestra: specialised in dondo and brekete drumming from the Dagomba people in the north of Ghana and was taught by the great Ibrahim Abukari. My other teachers were Afadina Tsikpa and Emmanuel Osei Awuku with whom he learnt Agbekor (war drumming), Fontomfrom (royal music of the Ashanti), Kete (funeral music) and Kpanlogo.
As a drum kit player, Stephen played with Aimee Mann, Squeeze, Nanci Griffith, Arthur Darvill, Richard Durrant (drum kit, bicycles and bells!) amongst others and is currently drummer for Mark Eitzel (American Music Club) and dark electronica band Black Channels. Stephen also works most years at Shakespeare’s Globe as percussionist and musical director. An important collaboration is with Sarah Angliss in the band ‘Spacedog’ featuring theremins, robots, baroque recorder, handbells and vibes. Our most recent gigs have included the Edinburgh Science Festival, Green Man Festival, Prima Vista in Estonia and a BFI-commissioned live film soundtrack performed at the NFT as part of their recent major ‘Gothic’ series in 2013.
Stephen’s composing work has covered short films, advertisements, theatre and the concert hall. Artists Stephen has written for include Stephen Gutman, Richard Benjafield, New Noise, Joby Burgess, ensemblebash, The Mavron Quartet and Thames Valley Male Voice Choir - the winners of European Choir of the Year (2010). Amongst other places his works have been performed at the Melbourne Festival, Aardklop Festival (South Africa), Purcell Room, Festival Hall and a national tour of Ghana. Most recently I’ve been writing for the theatre. ‘X&Y’ - a two-hander with Marcus Du Sautoy and Victoria Gould - produced by the Science Museum and performed at Glastonbury and most of the major UK science festivals. Stephen has also composed the music (and was the solo onstage musician/performer) in ‘Lionboy’ produced by Complicite which toured in the first half of 2015 to the UK, Hong Kong, South Korea, South Africa and played for two weeks on Broadway in New York.
Some other notable works include ‘Underneath’ - a twenty minute commission for five hundred young people to open the Bath International Music Festival (2010) at Bath Abbey. Stephen has also set the poetry of prisoners in song form for the BBC radio series “Ballads of Reading Jail”. This won a Sony Gold Award in 2011. I’ve written children’s songs for Facepack Theatre’s educational show which has toured hundreds of UK schools over the past seven years and also composed the score for the film ’The Driver’ - a major documentary for Qatari TV, shown as the centrepiece of Qatar National Day celebrations in 2012. Stephen is currently working on ‘Light in the Himalayas’ - a major feature film from Dos Rios films based in Seattle and LA. This is expected to be released in late 2015.
Bela Emerson is an innovative cellist / tenor guitarist who composes live using electronic processing. She has performed residencies at Sydney Opera House and Royal Festival Hall, as well as being commissioned by BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction, and has four solo releases. Her compositions for live acrobats Mimbre and filmmaker Tereza Buskova were supported by PRS and Arts Council England. Bela works with Sarah Angliss and Stephen Hiscock on live soundtracking projects for the BBC and BFI.