Please help us to raise money to complete this important documentary on one of the UK’s most iconic birds, which is on the brink of local extinction.
With your help we can inspire people to care about nightingales, other birds and our environment, before the nightingale sings its last song.
With the reduction of grants and commissions for documentaries like these we are searching for new ways to get this important message out into the world and we need your help.
As the eminent biologist and inventor of the term “biodiversity”, Thomas Lovejoy, simply put it, “If you take care of birds, you take care of most of the environmental problems in the world.”
WHY SHOULD WE TELL THIS STORY?
Luke, Katie and Will have won multiple awards for their work, including: winners of the Ron Tuckman Youth Award at the Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival 2018, winner of the Wildscreen Photo Story Panda Award: Emerging Talent category 2018, shortlisted for the Arts & Humanities Research Councils Film Festival for the Inspiration Award 2018, and winner of the Atkins CIWEM Young Environmental Photographer of the Year in 2016 to name a few. They have also worked for such prestigious institutions such as the BBC’s Natural History Department, National Geographic and the Royal geographic Society to name a few.
Most importantly for this documentary we are passionate birders and naturalists, who genuinely believe this film can make a difference in changing people’s perspectives of birds, and their importance to humans.
Birds are an indicator species and their rate of decline is telling us that all is far from right in the world. We need to take notice and make changes now, and we truly believe that 'The Last Song of the Nightingale' will inspire people to do this. (Learn more about the three of us at the bottom of this page).
The nightingale is one of Britain's best loved birds, and its song has established itself firmly in British heritage.
But it is now one of the UK's most endangered songbirds: it has felt the full extent of habitat destruction, pesticides, climate change, persecution and, since 1970, its numbers have declined 90%.
Using a unique storytelling blend of animation, natural history and documentary style filmmaking, 'The Last Song of the Nightingale' will explore the nightingale’s story, from its historical and cultural significance to the plight it faces today.
WHAT WILL BE INCLUDED IN THE DOCUMENTARY…
So many nightingales; and far and near,
In wood and thicket, over the wide grove,
They answer and provoke each other’s songs,
With skirmish and capricious passagings,
And murmurs musical and swift jug jug,
And one low piping sound more sweet than all—
Stirring the air with such an harmony
That should you close your eyes, you might almost
Forget it was not day!
The Nightingale by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The nightingale is the most versified and celebrated bird in English Literature, from Homer’s Odyssey to the Romantics of Coleridge and Keats. Due to its powerful and beautiful song, the nightingale’s reputation as our foremost songster is thousands of years old.
In ancient Greece the author and naturalist, Pliny the Elder, wrote that a nightingale could sell for as much as the price of a slave. And in more recent times Victorian newspapers used to give the whereabouts of territorial nightingales and transport companies would lay on special trips to go and listen to them.
Then, on the 18th May 1924, the first ever outside BBC live radio broadcast occurred - a duet between cellist Beatrice Harrison and a nightingale in her Surrey garden.
The Nightingale live-broadcast tradition was maintained as an annual event by the BBC until May 19th, 1942, the 18th annual broadcast, when the scheduled broadcast was cut dramatically as it was going to air.
It was World War Two. The microphones in Foyle Riding had picked up the sounds of 197 aircraft massing over Southern England en route to bomb the German city of Mannheim.
Unwilling to warn the Germans of an impending raid, the BBC pulled the plug. The nightingale broadcast was abruptly halted, but as the phone lines were still open and equipment still in place, both nightingales and bombers were recorded on acetate disc.
The documentary will explore how nightingales are trying to adapt to the ever changing environment, with nightingales in Germany so loud that their songs break European sound pollution regulations as they compete with their urban surrounds.
But today the fate of the nightingale is not looking good - from habitat destruction such as the imminent loss of the nightingale’s stronghold at Lodge Hill, to pesticides which are killing off the nightingale's main source of food. From persecution along their migratory routes (such as in Spain where every year around four million migrating birds are killed in glue traps set by bird hunters), to how climate change is affecting the date when nightingales arrive in the UK.
Yet there is hope, such as the story of Knepp Castle which prior to its rewilding project in 1999 a national nightingale survey by the BTO recorded only 9 nightingale territories and then in 2012 (post-rewilding) the BTO’s survey identified 34 nightingale territories! And in line with national records that number continues to grow.
And the story of Mercury Award winning musician Sam Lee, who sings with nightingales to help re-connect people to these magical birds.
(Sam Lee singing while Laura Moody plays the cello accompanied by a singing nightingale)
The documentary will also look at other ways in which people can help birds, for example by purchasing wildlife friendly products, such as food from farmers who offer wildlife a home. To leaving a small corner of your garden untamed, or planting a strip of native hedgerow instead of a fence. All these small actions combined can make a world of difference.
The nightingale’s story is not a standalone case, and ‘The Last Song of the Nightingale’ will use the nightingale as the poster bird to explain how all our birds are facing the very same issues.
We will also be following the scientists who are studying these birds, and learn from them and their findings, for example exploring how ringing and GPS tracking has furthered our understanding of these birds and their behaviour.
And we shall delve into the science behind the nightingales enchanting song, and tell the story of the urban German nightingales whose song breaks European sound pollution regulations.
The documentary will also feature beautiful natural history footage of the nightingale - as it sings its song night and day, trying to serenade migrating females down as they fly over, to a nightingale family at the nest as they court, incubate and raise their young.
The film will be entered into Wildscreen Festival, International Wildlife Film Festival, Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, Wilderland Film Festival, NaturVision Film Festival, Matsalu Nature Film Festival, The International Wildlife Film Festival, GREEN SCREEN International Wildlife Film, International Festival of Ornithological Film, EcoTales Film Festival, The Bird and Nature Festival, The Flamingo Awards.
Filming for this project has already begun and one of our stories, ‘Singing With Nightingales,’ was recently shortlisted for the Inspiration Award at the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Research in Film Awards 2018.
In conjunction with the BTO, RSPB and their associates, we plan to arrange open air screenings of the film across the UK.
With the successes of such documentaries as 'The Ivory Games', 'Virunga' and now 'The Messenger' appearing on Netflix, we know that there is a demand for documentaries such as this and so our aim is ultimately to secure broadcast for the film and, we hope, subsequently to create a series telling different bird's stories.
With wider coverage of the nightingale's plight we hope that people will once again embrace it, care for it and give it and our other wild birds a positive future.
MEET THE TEAM...
Self-shooting producer Luke Massey and producer Katie Stacey, of Sunbittern Media, have filmed together for numerous different projects, including for Netflix, BBC and Channel 5.
Most recently you can see their work in the Netflix series '72 Cutest', the BBC’s 'Natural World: Super Fast Falcon' and Channel 5’s 'Wild Britain'.
The first story they shot for this documentary, 'Singing With Nightingales', was shortlisted for the 2018 Arts & Humanities Research Councils Film Festival for the Inspiration Award.
In 2018 Luke and Katie were awarded the Ron Tuckman Youth Award for their episode of the BBC3 series 'Undercover Tourist : Tiger Selfies Exposed | Inside The Captive Tiger Industry', at the Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival.
They are both keen conservationists and have filmed as part of the team that produced Chris Packham’s online film 'Cyprus: Massacre on Migration’.
Katie’s written articles have been published in the Royal Geographical Society’s Geographical magazine, Europe’s most popular wildlife magazine BBC Wildlife, National Geographic, BBC Earth, MAPTIA and World of Animals, amongst many others.
As a cameraman Luke has filmed regularly for the BBC on shows such as Springwatch, The Great British Year & The Burrowers. Luke was part of Chris Packham’s Green Ribbon Award winning team, for the Best Environmental Campaign by the media, for the 'Malta – Massacre on Migration' campaign.
As a wildlife photographer Luke was recently announced the winner of the Wildscreen Photo Story Panda Award: Emerging Talent category; he has been awarded in the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition for the past two years, as well as winning the wildlife category of Travel Photographer of the Year and the title of Young Environmental Photographer of the Year in 2016.
The pair are partnering with animator Will Rose, who has worked for over 15 years in the animation industry, working on popular shows such as Peppa Pig and Hey Duggee. Will also makes his own short films and more recently has created a number of works based on his interest in wildlife. Working with the BBC Natural History Unit, he designed and animated the CBeebies David Attenborough Storytime app. He has also recently created a number of bird animations including his own bird watching guide featured by National Geographic, and his personal projects about wildlife have been featured by BBC Springwatch, the BTO and the RSPB.