October 5th marks one year since the publication of The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris. Since publication last year the book has become ‘a cultural phenomenon’ (The Guardian) and started ‘a revolution’ (Chris Packham) across the country.
The Lost Words
By Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris
5 October 2018 | Hamish Hamilton | hardback £20
The bestselling poetry book of the last year
Crowdfunder campaigns to place copies in every school in (so far) over a dozen English counties and all of Scotland and Wales
Inspiring grassroots change in education – thousands of schools across the country are now using the book both indoors and outdoors to encourage children to interact with nature
Crowdfunders to get copies into every care home and hospice in Britain
Art work to be adapted to decorate hospitals and hospices
Art exhibition touring the country with record-breaking visitor numbers
Outdoor children’s theatre adaption
Day long music festival and album to tour in 2019
New audio adaptation
The inspiration for writing competitions, nature trails and much more
Winner of the Children’s Book of the Year at the British Book Awards, and nominated for eight national awards
The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris is a work full of wildness, beauty and power. This bestselling and award-winning book has become, as the Guardian puts it, ‘a cultural phenomenon’, finding its way into the lives and dreams of hundreds of thousands of people around the world - inspiring hope, wonder and change.
The Lost Words has moved people across the UK to work with charities, book-shops and local communities to raise money to get the book into schools, hospices and care homes. People feel passionately that The Lost Words offers an invaluable opportunity children and young people to connect with the natural world, especially those who might otherwise least have access to nature. The book also provides families and older generations who aren’t engaged with the natural world a new route into this previously unexplored terrain. As it has taken root in Britain’s schools and beyond, so it has re-ignited a passion in children, teachers and parents to explore the natural world, with classes and entire schools venturing out into woods, parks and gardens to discover more about their surroundings, and to re-discover the lost words from the book, and their meaning. Within three months of publication The Lost Words was voted one of Britain’s ten favourite nature books. It is a book that has inspired the nation:
‘What is being given with each copy of the book is, really, hope and change. Jackie and I could never have foreseen it during the years we spent writing it, but The Lost Words has been an acorn from which a wildwood has grown. We feel very lucky to be part of a much broader movement underway in Britain, bringing everyday nature back into our everyday lives, especially those of our children.’ - Robert Macfarlane
Crowdfunding for schools
20 communities have successfully set up crowdfunding campaigns to get copies of the book into schools with many more organised and planned.
Areas include: all of Scotland (where Jane Beaton raised £25,000 to get a copy of the book to all 2,681 schools in Scotland); all of Wales (#acornistowood), and English counties including Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Cornwall, with campaigns soon to launch for Devon, Cheshire and Kent.
Copies of the book are being delivered to schools by bicycle (one man cycling 400 miles back and forth across Dorset), by sea kayak to outlying island schools, or in the company of barn and tawny owls (brought into schools by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust)
London is the latest to launch, coordinated by charity Trees for Cities in collaboration with the Mayor of London to raise money to get 2,000 copies into London primary schools
Thousands of schools in the country are now using the book in their classrooms and playgrounds, sparking classes to do more outdoor learning, to improve the environments of their schools, and to undertake creative projects around nearby nature and its names. Examples of some of the extraordinary work are available here
Crowdfunding for care homes and hospices
Carers are using The Lost Words to combat loneliness and isolation in diverse vulnerable groups – carers share the book with older people, people with Dementia and people at the end of life.
Earth Science Partnership in Wales successfully raised money to put a copy of The Lost Words into each of the 101 publicly managed care homes in Wales #rockistomountain
A crowdfunder is about to launch to get copies into every hospice in the UK for carers to use with patients at the end of life.
Inspiring theatre, music, art, nature trails, writing…
Interactive outdoor children’s theatre show Seek Find Speak, based on The Lost Words, premiered at Timber Festival and is touring the country, part-funded by Arts Council England
Musical project Spell Songs commissioned by Folk by the Oak brings together eight musicians including Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis, Karine Polwart and Kerry Andrew to create a new body of work inspired by The Lost Words. The performance will tour in 2019 in venues including Snape Maltings and The Royal Festival Hall, and an album will be released.
The National Trust property Bodnant Garden in Wales created a ‘Lost Words trail’ which attracted over 7000 visitors, (c. 3500 of them children)
The Lost Words Exhibition launched at Compton Verney Art Gallery and is touring galleries around the country (including Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh where visitor numbers exceeded 32,000 – 3 times as many as any previous exhibition there; and the Foundling Museum London, where it had nearly 13,000 visitors). The exhibition will move to Nymans, West Sussex in January.
National Poetry Day (October 4th) are about to launch a competition through schools for children to write their own poetry inspired by the book. Numerous other writing competitions have taken place across the country, including the University of East Anglia’s Festival of Literature for Young People
Around the World
The Lost Words has been published in North America and Canada, and will be published in European countries including Sweden, Germany and Holland.
New audio edition to be released on October 18th 2018
The audiobook is narrated by Benjamin Zephaniah, Edith Bowman, Guy Garvey and Cerys Matthews, with a new introduction written and read by Robert Macfarlane. All are iconic voices of modern Britain and bring the magic of both nature and language to listeners.
Alongside these voices, Penguin Audio has commissioned a soundscape created by renowned natural-history field recordist Chris Watson, which evokes Jackie Morris’ stunning artwork and draws listeners deep into the living world. Wren’s songs, raven’s calls, rain falling onto ferns and willow trees blowing in the wind: together, the soundscape and the spoken spells conjure the wonder and variety of nature and place.
Winner of Children’s Book of the Year at the British Book Awards, alongside The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Walker Books)
Winner of the Beautiful Book Award at the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards
Winner of the Hay Festival Book of the Year 2017
The first children’s book to be shortlisted for the Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize for nature writing.
Shortlisted for the BBC Countryfile Magazine Awards 2018: Country Book of the Year
Shortlisted for Waterstones Book of the Year 2017
Shortlisted for the UK’s Favourite Nature Book
The research on why The Lost Words movement is crucial
The RSPB’s 2013 Connecting with Nature report, based on a three-year research project, found only one in five British children to be “positively connected to nature”.
A 2017 report found that British children spend less time outside each day than British prisoners (under an hour).
In a National Trust survey, only a third of children aged 8-11 could identify a magpie, though 9 out of 10 could name a Dalek.
The 2016 State of Nature report found Britain to be “among the most nature-depleted countries in the world”, with 53% of British species in decline.
An extract from a short film that Robert and Jackie made for BBC’s Newsnight, introducing the issues around nature-deficit and nature disconnection, and the book’s work in this area, can be viewed here.
It was Newsnight’s most popular film on social media from November to January, viewed more than 2.5 million times.
The inspiration behind the book
When the most recent edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary – widely used in primary schools across Britain – was published, a sharp-eyed reader noticed that a number of common ‘nature words’ had been dropped from the new edition. The deletions formed a crooked almost A-to-Z, and they included acorn, adder, bluebell, buttercup, dandelion, fern, heron, kingfisher – kingfisher! – lark, newt, otter, wren and willow. The words taking their places in the new edition included attachment, block-graph, blog, broadband, bullet-point, celebrity, chatroom, committee, cut-and-paste, MP3 player and voice-mail.
These nature words had been dropped from the dictionary because they were no longer being used enough by children; were no longer judged to be alive enough in their voices, stories and in the books they read to merit inclusion in the dictionary. This was not the dictionary’s fault – it was the country’s. For many people, it seemed a powerful signal of the gap that has opened between childhood and the natural world in Britain and beyond; indeed, between everyday life and everyday nature up and down the ages.
In 2015 the writer Robert Macfarlane and the artist Jackie Morris began work on a book that might summon back these ‘lost words’, and the creatures and plants they named, into the mouths and the minds of children in Britain. “Protest can be beautiful”, Jackie Morris has written, and the hope of The Lost Words was to make a ‘spell book’ of power and beauty that could protest the gap between nature and childhood, and perhaps even work to close it.
Taking the form of twenty ‘lost’ words, collected alphabetically from ‘Acorn’ to ‘Wren’ each word becomes a spell - written by Macfarlane - which is intended to be read aloud. The images Morris painted capture first the absence of the plant or creature within its habitat and then its return. The spell summons the image and the word back into being, making this a book of enchantment in more than one sense.
For more information about this book, please don't hesitate to get in touch.