Sadie Gorvett, Dolphinwatch Community Engagement Officer, reflects on the success of Aberdeen’s first-ever Dolphin Festival.

Reflecting on DolphinFest 2019

Aberdeen is one of the best places in Europe to see bottlenose dolphins and one of the few places you can see them so close to a city centre. Last year, the Dolphinwatch team saw dolphins, whales or porpoises every day they were at Torry Battery which is where we run Dolphinwatch viewing from each summer. It’s no surprise then that the granite city is gaining a reputation for watching wildlife.

This year, thanks to funding from ScottishPower Foundation and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, we were able to add a school’s programme and a festival to the popular seasonal Dolphinwatch viewing.

The school’s programme offers a variety of free classroom and on-site sessions throughout the year giving pupils from Aberdeen the opportunity to learn first-hand about Scotland’s incredible marine life, the threats they face and how they can help protect them.

DolphinFest 2019

Aberdeen’s first-ever Dolphin Fest took place in four locations over four days at the end of April.

#DolphinFest aimed to celebrate the amazing marine wildlife around Aberdeen and the North-East coast especially the bottlenose dolphins which are seen regularly from Torry Battery and to encourage people to help protect it.

Thanks

I want to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who helped make the first-ever DolphinFest in Aberdeen such a success!

Thanks to our funders ScottishPower Foundation and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Thanks to our partners Aberdeen City Council and Whale and Dolphin Conservation. And thanks to all the organisations and individuals across Scotland who came together to support the festival.

I am incredibly grateful to everyone who gave up their time and put so much effort in to making each day the best it could be including our phenomenal volunteers. Although the weather was challenging, the feedback we’ve had from visitors is amazing.

A great launch

The Beach Ballroom was a wonderful setting for the launch event. The evening began with a Civic Reception for invited guests to thank them for their support over the years and included speeches by the Lord Provost of Aberdeen, Barney Crockett, and Anne McCall, Director of RSPB Scotland. The Lord Provost spoke of how wonderful it is to be a city with dolphins on your doorstep, while Anne reflected on the global importance of Scotland for marine wildlife and how we should celebrate it and have a duty to protect it.


RSPB Scotland Director Anne McCall speaks at the launch

This was followed by a special talk by award-winning wildlife cameraman and photographer Doug Allan. Doug Allan shared awe-inspiring videos, funny tales of close encounters with whales and tough words of warning about the threat of climate change and plastic, something that seemed to resonate particularly strongly with the younger members of the audience.

Thought-provoking science

On Friday, the Science Day, the speakers were brilliant. I learned so much and it seems that everyone went away having discovered something new. The Zoology Museum was great to explore too. I want to say I enjoyed the screening of award-winning documentary, Chasing Coral, but it seems like the wrong word to use to describe something with such a disturbing warning about the climate emergency we face.

Family Fun and inspiring tales

Despite the weather trying to make us miserable, the family fun day on the Saturday was excellent.

The dolphin inflatables were a fantastic addition to the winter garden entrance and excited a lot of children. And many folk braved the wet weather to take part in the activities put on by various organisations.

The speakers, Thomas and the Ullapool Sea Savers, are incredibly brave and inspiring young people and I hope we can work with them again in the future. Thomas is somewhat of a local celebrity, having formed The Rubbish Club when he was just seven years old. While the Ullapool Sea Savers have individually and collectively done so much already to help the marine environment it is truly humbling.


Ullapool sea savers inspire attendees to help save our seas

We were also lucky to have the Torry Big Noise Dolphin Orchestra perform. They were amazing. The story that they told through their music was so touching that I am not sure I can do it justice with words.

Getting up close to nature

Despite the haar trying to ruin the view on Sunday, we saw many dolphins throughout the day. We also had amazing views of an otter eating a fish for 30 minutes and luckily folk on the guided walk managed to spot it too.


Refusing to let a bit of fog stop us!

People spent hours enjoying rockpooling on the shore and we managed to do our bit to help marine wildlife with a beach clean thanks to help from Surfers Against Sewage.

Throughout the weekend, FreshPaint worked on a mural of marine wildlife. I know I have said amazing a lot already in this blog, but I really do think it is amazing.

 
The mural by FreshPaint

Another huge thank you

All that is left is to say a big thanks to our visitors without whom DolphinFest would not have been possible.  I hope you all had fun being part of DolphinFest and once again thank you so much for making it possible.

Wait, what about next year?

Ah! Sorry, I nearly forgot to tell you the very exciting news. Thanks to support from the Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 Events Fund we are delighted to announce that there will be a DolphinFest 2020.

We are excited to work with the VisitScotland team to develop plans for next year’s festival. Keep an eye on rspb.org.uk/dolphinwatch for updates.

You will also find information there about Dolphinwatch viewing which takes place every Thursday to Sunday until 18 August and about our Dolphinwatch Schools work.

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