Nick Hayes

A farewell, with trees

New beginnings often mean endings as well. As 2019 gets underway, it’s time for me to finally stop pretending I’m keeping up this blog. In October, I started a PhD and I need to focus on that and stop having ‘update blog’ looking at me accusingly from to-do list after to-do list.

shelfie

A small portion of the PhD ‘to-read’ list!

So this post will be my last here. But before I go, a quick look back at the past year. I wasn’t expecting much from 2018, to be honest. I didn’t know if I’d get PhD funding (I did! Hurrah!), and we were in the throes of moving house, with all the frustrations that implies.

But then the trees stepped in.

The year turned into one of wonder and enchantment, magical happenings that I could never have predicted, and almost all of them centred around trees.

(Note: Several of the photos below were taken by my new tree-loving buddies, Sarah Deakin and Susan Unwin. Sorry that I don’t know which and haven’t been able to give proper credit where it’s due.)

First, with my dear friend Vernon Oak and a wonderful team of Sheffield tree protectors, we raised more than £3,500 to put a copy of The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris in every Sheffield primary school. Many people supported our crowdfunder because they’d heard about the plans to fell thousands of healthy street trees in our city and wanted to do something to help.

Screenshot 2019-01-01 13.18.57

The day before the campaign went live, Julian and I moved house and I got a Room of My Own. It’s also a Room with a View, one filled with hundreds of beautiful Sheffield trees.

room with a view

And during the campaign, I nearly fell off my chair when I got an email from one of my absolute writing heroes, Robert Macfarlane, saying he wanted to compose a new spell-song with Sheffield trees in mind. The result was ‘Heartwood’, a beautiful ‘charm against harm’ for all trees everywhere threatened with unjust felling.

Nick Heartwood.jpg

Not only that, but Jackie Morris and Nick Hayes each produced breathtaking artwork to accompany Robert’s words. And all three of them were so generous with their work, granting the Sheffield tree campaign permission to use it in any way they wanted, provided all profits were ploughed back into the fight.

Within weeks, Nick’s broadside poster had, mysteriously, appeared on bus shelters around the city.

bus shelter

And Jackie’s beautiful spiral has been stamped onto plywood to make charms and medallions, some of which now hang on threatened street trees. There’s even a trail you can follow to spot them.

heartwood trail

Heartwood was launched at the Sheffield Street Tree Festival in September, a glorious, unforgettable day, with a stellar line-up of writers, artists and tree experts, including Robert Macfarlane and Nick Hayes themselves.

festival line up

festival view

View of the festival, held at the gem-like Merlin Theatre in Nether Edge

Robert Macfarlane and Magid Magid

Robert Macfarlane with Sheffield’s excellent (and very tree-friendly) mayor, Magid Magid

At the festival, we also handed over the first crowdfunded copies of The Lost Words to representatives of Sheffield primary schools.

Lost Words presentation

And finally on the tree front, we discovered that dear Vernon Oak had been taken off Sheffield council’s felling list. Which was great news, but many thousands of trees are still at risk, often simply because of a crazy requirement for all our kerbs to be straight. More details here.

And with that, over and out. Wishing you all a very happy 2019. It’s more urgent than ever that we stand up to protect our beautiful, more-than-human world. What 2018 taught me was that simple acts of resistance can be a catalyst for creativity, birthing new and unimagined connections that enrich, challenge and give rise to hope.

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