Poems that draw on the power of nature

AN RGS past pupil has published her third illustrated poetry collection, which explores how we can find solace in natural surroundings.

Award-winning wildlife photographer, artist, writer and filmmaker Alicia Haydn examines our relationship with nature and what it is to be human in Multi-coloured Ghost Towns, produced in partnership with a young people’s charity.

The Cameron Bespolka Trust, set up in memory of a 16-year-old nature lover who tragically died in an avalanche in the Austrian Alps ten years ago, helps young people pursue an interest in wildlife.

Alicia, who left RGS in 2018 to study biological sciences at the University of Oxford, worked with the charity on the book, with the aim of using it to highlight the beauty and value of nature to young people.

The 24-year-old, originally from North Yorkshire, works as a researcher and illustrator at the BBC’s Natural History Unit in children's TV.

She says: “Coming from North Yorkshire, I’ve always been inspired by the natural world. I grew up surrounded by woods and moors, and a twittering cacophony of birds in our back garden, and cloudfuls of insects in the meadows near my home.

“Yet even during my lifetime I have seen a change in these natural spaces; places once brimming with colour and noise becoming increasingly empty, shells of their former selves, becoming multi-coloured ghost towns.

“I wanted to create a poetry book which was both personal to me, and hopefully inspiring and relatable to others.”

She says: “This collection explores what it is to be human. It tells the story of our relationship with nature, interweaving threads of love, grief, loss, and trauma.”

“It hopefully showcases how a connection with nature can help us through the highs and lows of life - especially young adulthood.

She points out how studies and polls over recent years have shown that only 25% of UK children can identify a robin, one of the country’s favourite birds.

“As children grow up in an increasingly urbanised world, many are isolated from nature, while fearing for the future of our world.

“I want to try and show the joy and possibility that comes from the natural world. Nature has such a wonderful ability to provide solace, peace and comfort.”

She has been writing poetry since she was a child: “I grew up writing stories and poems about anything I found interesting, but they almost always involved the natural world in some way.”

In addition to her poetry, as a Daler-Rowney partner artist, she has just finished a design in collaboration with the London Graphics Centre, which looks at the diversity of our natural world.

Pursuing a wider career in wildlife conservation and communications to help inspire others to protect the natural world, she continues to work as a freelance wildlife artist, filmmaker, writer, animator, and photographer, something she has always done alongside her studies.

Having been encouraged by her parents, who are also wildlife enthusiasts, and her teachers at RGS, she says: “All of my work is inspired by the natural world in some way, as I think there is so much intricacy and incredible behaviour to observe in nature.”

*Multi-coloured Ghost Towns, aimed at young people and their families, is available for free. See more and order here: Multi-coloured Ghost Towns Published (cameronbespolka.com)