‘Funeral for Nature’ floods the streets of Bath

A crowd of people dressed in red robes with faces painted white taking part in 'A Funeral for Nature' theatrical event

A dramatic street theatre performance took place throughout the streets of Bath on Saturday 20 April to mark the devastating decline of the natural world in the lead up to Earth Day on 22 April, an annual event which engages up to a billion people around the world each year.

The Funeral for Nature procession included 400 Red Rebels dressed in their distinctive red outfits and hundreds of mourners in black. They were accompanied by drummers playing a single funeral beat as they made their way through the city’s historic streets, culminating in a dramatic finale in front of the Abbey. This was the largest global assembly of Red Rebels ever seen, 400 in total. This is 5 times more than ever before, with people travelling from all over the UK and joined by groups from the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark.

Funerals for Nature took place simultaneously in Boston, Sydney, Gothenburg and Lisbon. The Gothenburg event will be a ‘Nordic Funeral for Nature’ with groups joining from Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland.

The procession was designed to raise awareness of the UK’s position as one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, with 43% of UK bird species in decline, and 97% of wildflower meadows disappearing since the second world war. The organisers say statistics like these have motivated the group to take action, flooding the city in red and declaring ‘Code Red for Nature’. 

Thousands of ‘Orders of Service’ were given out to onlookers, containing information about the crisis and what they can do about it.

The Bath procession was joined by nature campaigner Chris Packham who delivered a ‘eulogy’ to the crowd at the finale of the event when it arrived in front of the Abbey. This followed a flashmob performance by the West of England Youth Orchestra.

The centre-piece of the procession was a beautiful funeral bier, constructed from willow, with a ‘Mother Earth’ figure created by renowned artist Anna Gillespie. It lay on a naturalistic bed of planting staged by Chelsea award-winning landscape designers Dan Pearson Studio, followed by mourners in black hats and veils.

The event was planned to coincide with Earth Day, happening just two days later on 22 April, to highlight that we are at ‘CODE RED’ for nature and that around the world, biodiversity is being annihilated at a terrifying rate. We are entering the ‘sixth mass extinction’ event and the consequences could be catastrophic if we do not act swiftly, and that in spite of promises from governments, biodiversity loss shows no sign of slowing. 

Chris Packham- TV Broadcaster and Wildlife Campaigner “By marching today we can share our grief, our sorrow, our despair, at what we have destroyed and continue to destroy in the natural world. We are perpetrating the planets first mass extermination event . Coming together in direct action is great , unifying , strengthening , but we must show an emergency response, we must summon a ‘death bed’ resistance to this destruction. And we can – because the survival of millions of species rests in one species’ bloodied hands- ours. It’s our fingers on the flickering pulse of life on earth and those clever , adaptable and intelligent fingers must not be folded in prayer in the hope that ‘everything will turn out okay’ , but formed into the cupped hands that can  nurture nature back to life . But we must do it now , urgently, forthrightly . We have tried asking , now it is time for demands . If we want a planet where our beautiful and complex living systems don’t just survive- they thrive we must stop talking and start acting to make a difference” 

Megan McCubbin, Zoologist, Conservationist and TV Presenter: “In loving memory of thriving biodiversity, we walk. In loving memory of a liveable planet, we walk. In loving memory of their – and our – futures, we walk. I am taking a stand at the Funeral For Nature because I fear what will happen if we don’t turn things around now. We hear of species declines so frequently, but when you actually look and notice the lack of bird song, the lack of healthy habitats, the lack of hedgehogs and dragonflies… It’s terrifying to say the least. But the most frightening thing of all, is that whilst we have the solutions, we are not yet implementing them. By coming together at this event, I hope we can highlight the need for immediate action. For the sake of all species, including our own.”

Rob Delius, Head of Sustainability & architect at Stride Treglown – one of the organisers and the person who put forward the Funeral for Nature idea :  “The intention is to send a powerful SOS message for nature by creating a visual spectacle, that will in equal measures shock and inspire onlookers. The UK has sleepwalked into this nature crisis and the fact that we are now one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world simply isn’t being talked about enough. We want the processions to create a talking point and for the public to be moved to demand that Government, Local Authorities, landowners and businesses urgently do more to restore biodiversity.” 

Doug Francisco, Creative Director and Founding Member of The Invisible Circus:

“There is no better time to act than right now. It is clear that we are in a crisis and there are no second chances – we have to do something immediately. We hope that this demonstration, in its beauty and urgency, will incite action in more cities across the world. We want to see Red Rebels on streets across the globe, spreading the message that if we don’t act now, we won’t be able to act at all!”

Anna Gillespie, artist – designing the centrepiece:

“Unlike conventional protests, the procession will be free of banners or placards. Instead we are relying on the strong imagery of the huge assembly of Red Rebels and the impact of the figure of Mother Nature on a funeral bier carried by mourners to get the message across. Everyone participating has a powerful desire to express their desperate feelings of loss and fear as the natural world struggles to survive in the face of our human onslaught.”