Nightingale at Pulborough Brooks by Chris & Juliet Moore (not from this year - they've not arrived yet despite the unseasonal temperatures and sunshine!)

Our annual Nightingale Festival takes place over the May Bank Holiday weekend (Saturday 4 - Monday 6 May) and this year, as well as our night-time safaris, not quite dawn chorus and hot-spot guides, we'll be welcoming some exciting guests...

Over the weekend we'll be celebrating our most renowned songster and it's cultural history with Dr Bethan Roberts and we'll also be celebrating the incredible women who founded the RSPB with Tessa Boase and Nichola Schofield.  They will be hosting workshops and talks during the weekend so as well as coming along to listen to the springtime sensation of wonderful birdsong, you can try your hand at creative writing or learn a little more on our history.

Nicola Schofield will be running a creative writing workshop 'An introduction to playwriting' on the Saturday of the Festival. Nicola is an award-winning writer who has won a Bruntwood Prize and written for TV and Theatre. She is co-founder of Highlight Collective whose productions include FLIGHT inspired by RSPB founder Emily Williamson.

This two hour workshop will be an accessible introduction to playwriting and will take inspiration from the RSPB founders and any other wildlife heroines or heroes that participants wish to write about. The workshop will look at finding the inspiration to write - often just starting is the hardest part - creating characters and writing monologues. Participants do not have to share work, unless they want to, the emphasis is on having fun, having a go at writing and by the end you will all have written your first piece of drama. We'll also include afternoon tea.

On Saturday morning, we'll be joined by author Tessa Boase to explore and celebrate the role that women have played in conservation.

'The Women Who Saved the Birds' - twelve years before the suffragette movement began dominating headlines, a very different women's campaign caught the public imagination. Its aim was simple: to stamp out the cruel fashion for feathered hats. This is the extraordinary story of the RSPB's birth - the subject of Tessa Boase's new book, Mrs Pankhurst's Purple Feather. Tessa has unearthed rare images, a cast of invisible characters...and a surprising political secret.  Tessa's talk will be followed by an opportunity to have your copy of the book signed.

On the Monday of the Festival we'll be looking at the cultural and literary history of the nightingale with Dr Bethan Roberts. As it is 200 years since Keats's famous 'Ode to a Nightingale' it's the perfect time not only to celebrate the poetic life of the nightingale, but to join the great tradition of nightingale poets!

Dr Bethan Roberts is the William Noble Research Fellow in the English department, University of Liverpool. Her research is on the relationship between the nightingale of poetry, science and the environment in the Romantic period. Her first book, on the Sussex poet Charlotte Smith, is forthcoming with Liverpool University Press and she is currently writing Nightingale - a cultural history of the bird - for the Reaktion Press 'Animal' series. She has spoken on Radio 4 about her research on nightingales and will appear in the forthcoming conservation documentary Last Song of the Nightingale.

You can join Bethan for a creative writing workshop: 'A Nightingale Sang in...' This gentle and informal workshop invites you to join the great tradition of nightingale writing, as we try to capture something of its elusive, mercurial, magical song in prose or rhyme. We will look at existing examples of work in poetry and prose, and hear the bird for ourselves, putting pen to paper with discussion and support. No previous experience required and tea, coffee and home-baked scone, jam & cream will be provided.

In the afternoon, Bethan will be giving a talk.. 'Immortal Bird': The nightingale in and out of poetry

The nightingale is without doubt the most versified and celebrated bird in history. It is also the most mythologised of birds: the 'real' nightingale is obscured and superseded by myriad associations, symbols, metaphors and myths. This talk will trace the cultural life of the bird - from the classical world to the present day, through Old English riddles, Romantic lyrics, and popular music - in relation to its natural history to tell a story about our relationship with the natural world over the last two-thousand years and to celebrate the power of this little brown bird.

You can find out more about these events and all of our spring event programme on our ‘Activities & events’ page:

If you would like to book a place, please contact the Visitor Centre on 01798 875851 between 10 and 4 pm.