UWTSD's Dr Jane Davidson hosts this year's INSPIRE lecture competition winner at Hay Festival


The University of Wales Trinity Saint David was delighted to present this year’s INSPIRE lecture at the Hay Festival 2017. The lecture is organised in association with the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment, UK and Ireland (ASLE-UKI).

This year, the university was proud to welcome Rachel Dowse to the Green Energy stage to present her lecture entitled: Starling Song: Murmurations of Meaning. The lecture was being hosted by Dr Jane Davidson, UWTSD Pro Vice-Chancellor for Sustainability and Engagement, Director of INSPIRE and former Welsh Government Minister for Sustainability, and Professor Brycchan Carey, Chair of ASLE-UKI.

Rachel’s lecture focussed on the common starling, a bird she described as ‘often overlooked and unpopular.’ Despite their unpopularity, the starling has inspired writers, musicians, and scientists alike, from Pliny the Elder to Mozart to modern science fiction. Rachel’s fascinating talk lead the audience through this rich history and invited them all to take another look at these fascinating birds. The title of the lecture, ‘Murmurations of Meaning,’ is taken from the idiosyncratic way in which starlings flock together and move in beautiful twists and turns in what is known as a ‘murmuration.’ Rachel went on to explain how the beauty and mysterious nature of a murmuration that she witnessed in Brighton compelled her to examine these birds more closely.

Dr Brycchan Carey, Dr Jane Davidson, Rachel Dowse,

Rachel has a BA in English Literature from the University of Sussex and a MA in Wild Writing: Literature and the Environment from the University of Essex. She has spent 6 months as a Volunteer Trainee Warden on Flat Holm Island in the Bristol Channel, and a year as a Volunteer Officer at Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park. She currently works for ecoACTIVE, a small environmental education charity based in Hackney. She has been published in Earthlines and The Island Review. Rachel, who currently lives in East London, is interested in linking practical conservation with academic studies of literature and the environment. She has spoken at several conferences.

Note to Editor

INSPIRE (Institute of Sustainable Practice, Innovation and Resource Effectiveness) at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David is directed by Dr Jane Davidson. INSPIRE is a key component in the University’s mission to embed sustainability into its own practices and to provide its students with the knowledge, skills and attitudes that will equip them for their future contribution to the economy, community and environment. INSPIRE @ UWTSD won the 2013 Guardian award for the most effective sustainability initiative in higher education in the UK, the 2014 Soil Association Gold Award for its support for local producers and in 2015, UWTSD rose up from 113th in the People and Planet University League to 8th in the UK and 1st in Wales.

The Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, UK & Ireland (ASLE-UKI) was founded in 1998. Its aim is to represent and support scholars and writers, in the Atlantic archipelago and beyond,who are interested in the environment and its expression in the cultural imagination.

ASLE-UKI’s current chair is Brycchan Carey, a Professor of English Literature at Kingston University in London. His most recent monograph was From Peace to Freedom: Quaker Rhetoric and the Birth of American Antislavery, 1658–1761 (Yale University Press, 2012).

Further Information

For further information, please email: press@uwtsd.ac.uk