In my last post, I hinted at a brand-new creative project arising out of the tree felling scandal in Sheffield.
Now, with a fanfare and a drum roll, here it is.
Vernon Oak, the 150-year-old oak in Vernon Road, Sheffield is launching a crowdfunder!
Vernon wants to raise enough money to buy a copy of The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris for every primary school in Sheffield. (And I’ve been appointed Vernon’s agent!)
This spellbinding book is about words that are disappearing from children’s vocabularies. Words that are the names for beautiful, wild things like otters, kingfishers, bluebells and newts.
In The Lost Words, Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris take twenty of these words and infuse them with new life through brilliant writing and glorious illustrations. It’s a magical way of summoning the words back into children’s lives.
But why does Vernon want to give a copy to every primary school in Sheffield?
Well let’s hand over to Vernon for the answer.
JD: Vernon, thank you for agreeing to do another interview for this blog. Can I start by asking what made you decide to launch this crowdfunder?
Vernon Oak: Until recently, I’ve lived a very quiet life just doing normal tree-things each year, like producing thousands of acorns and giving food and shelter to hundreds of creatures. But since 2015, when Sheffield City Council decided that I was to be felled, I’ve become an active campaigner, speaking out for the thousands of healthy Sheffield trees that are also threatened with felling.
Wherever possible, my campaign has been creative: I’ve helped people to observe, appreciate and celebrate the natural world all around them, even on a city street. The Lost Words is exactly the right book to make people relish and value those things but also to reflect on what we are in danger of losing.
I wanted to do something positive for Sheffield and I know that those who receive the book will find it inspiring.
JD: And what’s so special about this book?
VO: The Lost Words is for everyone. It is ‘wonderful’, ‘breathtaking’ and ‘exquisite’, just as the reviews have said, but it has special meaning for an oak tree which is in real danger of being ‘lost’ too. Once I’ve been felled, is it likely that people will still find acorns on the street or hear the tawny owl hooting at night? I don’t think so. It’s no wonder that the words for such things are disappearing from children’s speech.
Oh, and of course The Lost Words starts with the acorn spell, which is right up my street.
JD: It’s a fantastic idea, Vernon. You’re going to bring a lot of joy to Sheffield. Is there anything else you’d like to say?
VO: I’d like to thank Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris for creating such a beautiful book. Also, I know Sheffield’s independent bookshop Rhyme and Reason at Hunter’s Bar is helping you with the logistics so I’d like to thank them too.
Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust are supporting the campaign too, especially through their Teach Wild Network, which is a brilliant initiative to get children learning outside their classroom.
Thanks as well to The Woodland Trust for backing us, and for giving so much support to me and my fellow street trees in Sheffield and elsewhere in the country.
And thanks to all my friends and neighbours who are fighting to keep me in Vernon Road, and especially the ones who are working on this with you.
JD: So all that remains for me to say is:
GOOD LUCK VERNON!
Please support Vernon Oak’s crowdfunder. The target is £3,200, enough for 150 books, and Vernon has just five weeks to do it!
Full details HERE, where you can also pledge your donations!
And for proof of the magical effect this book has on children, go on Twitter and search for #TheLostWords. You’ll see a veritable explosion of creativity inspired through teachers using the book in their classroom.
For more information about the felling of healthy street trees in Sheffield, see the Sheffield Tree Action Groups website here.