Dundee: Where People and Nature Meet

Last week the RSPB Scotland Dundee Project team led two co-created events in the city. These events explored our connections to each other and the natural world through shared stories, experiences and new friendships. Project Manager, Hope Busák, tells us more about these wonderful events.

Refugee Festival Scotland is an annual event that celebrates the cultural richness and diversity of our communities and the incredible contributions that refugees make to our lives in Scotland. This year’s theme was hope, and specifically, hopes for a better future. It therefore only seemed natural for us, through our involvement in the Dundee Refugee Integration Network, to plan two unique experiences for the city’s new Scots!

RSPB Scotland's David Hunt is conversing with an event attendee on a beach, with the sea in the background.

Image credit: Scottish Refugee Council

A walk and talk

Our first event, on a gorgeously sunny evening, invited a small group of Ukrainian refugees, both adults and children, to walk along Dundee’s iconic waterfront before heading into the V&A Dundee for a VIP view of the Tay. With many of the attendees having lived in the city for less than a year, this was an opportunity to bring people together and hear about the famous wildlife of Scotland’s longest river. My colleague, David, and I explored stories of hope in Scotland’s natural world and listened to stories and experiences of birds and nature in Ukraine. This led to conversations about folklore, songs and symbolism found in nature that celebrate the differences and similarities between our cultures. David improved his Ukrainian along the way, much to the delight of our new friends!

One participant said “It was nice to talk and try to remember something from childhood stories about birds. Also, it was a great pleasure to learn new things about wildlife in Scotland and meet people who are passionate about it.”

Whilst enjoying the stunning view from the V&A Dundee’s viewing platform, our youngest participant (aged 3) noticed a very tired bee. Using my trusty bee saving kit, we helped the бджола/bdzola (bee). Shortly after, the same young nature hero discovered a tiny сонечко/sonechko (ladybird) on the trouser leg of one of her new friends and so brought the entire group together to enjoy both insects with her. These small moments of discovery and connection with nature are exactly what we hope to explore as we work with communities in Dundee.

Two adults and two children are looking at an information panel is Dundee's V&A museum.

Beach day!

The second event saw us run a family fun day on one of nature’s greatest playgrounds, the beach! This event took people out of the city and into the neighbouring seaside village of Broughty Ferry.

Our participants this time ranged from Syrian refugees who have lived in Dundee for seven years to Ukrainian refugees who had arrived in the city just three weeks before. We provided locally sourced food and a wonderful play session organised by local charity ScrapAntics. David and I were on hand to talk to the 46 (!) participants about the wildlife of the beach, but our aim here was to connect people and to share enjoyment of being in nature. Our project is seeking to showcase how nature has the potential to meet so many of the challenges in Dundee and this day was the perfect visualisation of that. Special thanks must go to the Osprey helpfully fishing just off the beach!

A family who attended both events contacted us to say: “I would like to thank you very much for the incredible holidays with you! Saturday on the beach was wonderful! And the walk through the Dundee was unforgettable! The rescue of the bee made an incredible impression on us!"

A young boy is looking through binoculars, while families are having picnics on the beach behind.

Image credit: Scottish Refugee Council


It was wonderful to discover people's individual connections to nature and explore our joint experiences with the natural world. Whether it is families new to the city, or people who have lived and worked here their whole lives, we will continue to build on these events to place nature front and centre in conversations in Dundee.

As we in RSPB Scotland aim to reach out to more people from different backgrounds and become an organisation that truly reflects the diversity of our country, it was incredibly powerful and humbling to be part of these events..

David said: “These events were truly inspirational. Dundee's natural world has hope in abundance - eagles, dolphins, and the Tay acting as an international meeting place for wildlife. The absolute highlight was sharing stories of the cultural value of birds in both Ukraine and Scotland. We chatted about Ukraine’s national bird, лелека/Leleka (Stork), зозуля/Zozulya (Cuckoo) and even Сорока (Magpie)!”

It’s often said that nothing is done in isolation in Dundee and these events wouldn’t have been possible without funding from the Scottish Refugee Council. Special thanks also to the Dundee Refugee Integration Network, V&A Dundee, ScrapAntics and Marwick’s Vegan Kitchen for the incredible food.


Header image shows a child laughing alongside RSPB Scotland's Hope Busák on a beach. Credit: Scottish Refugee Council.