The Naturalist’s Bookshelf – The ‘wild’ word in nature writing: shifting meanings, clashing responses Lisa Fingleton, Anja Murray, Gwen Wilkinson and Paddy Woodworth in conversation with Luke Clancy
In Partnership with RTÉ lyric fm's Culture File
The idea of ‘the wild’ has great power both to attract us, and to repel us – sometimes both at once. Before the Romantic movement, the term was mainly repellent in European literature, referring to ‘uncivilised’ lands and peoples, savage, dangerous and frightening places. The Romantics inverted this stereotype, seeing untamed and uncrowded nature as a lost Eden, a blessed refuge for souls fleeing the constraints and oppression of industrialised cities, even as a synonym for the sublime. Today, it’s a powerful and frequently used word in book titles, whether offering a more authentic version of something familiar, or responding to the degradation that has generated the climate and biodiversity crises. But for all its popularity, it remains a problematic word, not least in discussions of ‘rewilding’ or when used to evoke a counterfactual world in which human intervention never happened. Four nature writers, Lisa Fingleton, Anja Murray, Gwen Wilkinson, and Paddy Woodworth, discuss how we can better resolve the complicated promises and threats of “wild”. Chaired by Luke Clancy of RTÉ lyric fm’s Culture File.
The event will be recorded for broadcast.
Lisa Fingleton is an artist, author and grower who has spent over twenty years cultivating deep-rooted connections between art, food and farming. Grounded on a nineteen acre organic farm and native woodland on the west coast of Ireland, she and her partner run acreative arts project called The Barna Way. Lisa was the embedded artist with A Creative Imagining, one of the pilot projects funded by the first Creative Climate Action Fund. She worked in partnership with the Dingle Hub, Green Arts Initiative of Ireland and Marei Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine Research and Innovation. Together they supported farmers on the Dingle Penninsula to creatively look at ways in which they can respond to climate change. Lisa is currently the lead artist for Brilliant Ballybunion which is an arts based climate, food and biodiversity project also funded under the Creative Climate Action Fund up to the end of 2025. Lisa is the author of The Last Hug For A While and The Local Food Project.
Anja Murray is an ecologist, environmental policy analyst and broadcaster, familiar to many as a television and radio documentary maker and presenter about Irelands natural environment (Eco Eye, Nature File, Root & Branch) Anja writes a weekly column ‘natural solutions’ for The Examiner newspaper and her bestselling book ‘Wild Embrace’, published in March 2023, has been sparking enthusiasm from critics and readers alike.
Gwen Wilkinson is a third generation artist and maker. Her work spans several disciplines from sculpture to photography and printmaking. Gwen’s first book ‘The Waters and the Wild‘ recounts her journey in a self-built wooden canoe along Ireland’s inland waterways.
Paddy Woodworth (Bray, 1951) is an author, journalist, lecturer and tour guide. He contributes regularly to The Irish Times and other media. He has published two acclaimed books on the Basque Country. In 2013, he published a study of ecological restoration projects worldwide, and in Ireland, Our Once and Future Planet: Restoring the World in the Climate Change Century (U of Chicago Press). A BioScience reviewer wrote: “Highly readable. This book will bring the concept and application of ecological restoration to a broader audience and will help inspire a new generation of restoration practitioners and researchers”. He is a Research Associate at Missouri Botanical Garden, and an Adjunct Senior Lecturer at University College Dublin. He partners Muhammad Achour on Sanctuary in Nature and Heritage, a project that introduces asylum seekers, refugees and migrants to Irish natural and cultural heritage sites, and offer them opportunities to discuss their own heritages with Irish people.
Luke Clancy runs the independent audio production company, Soundsdoable. Work includes: Soundstories, Words on A Wire, Worksongs, The Five Stages, By The Book, The Wine Geese, Hidden Trees, Designing Ireland, Belfast Songlines, Paradise Blues, Skelligs Calling (with Kevin Brew and Chris Watson) and Lighthouse Stories (with Kevin Brew and Chris Watson). Luke presents the daily RTÉ lyric fm programme, Culture File and its sister program, The Culture File Weekly. His dramas, In Praise of Darkness and The Vision Service were produced by RTÉ Radio 1.