Radio 4 drama highlights importance of wetlands to fighting the climate crisis

A new Radio 4 drama that uses the story of a fictional nature reserve to highlight the vital role wetlands can play in fighting the climate crisis starts next week.

The Song of the Reed stars Mark Rylance and Sophie Okonedo and will play out in four different episodes – one for each season of the year. The first, on Monday 21 June, introduces us to Fleggwick reserve and the characters that the four-part series revolves around.

According to the BBC website, Fleggwick, like the ecosystem it protects, is under threat. The site was not financially sustainable when its founder passed away so his daughter Liv needs to find a way for it to survive. Recorded on location at RSPB’s Strumpshaw Fen, the story is “informed by the real work and science of conservation taking place in the face of rapid environmental change in the wetlands of Norfolk, and everywhere”.

In a Guardian article about the production, Sir Mark Rylance said he was calling on the arts to help solve the climate crisis by telling stories that persuade people to “fall in love with nature again” and prompt government to back green policies.

Mark said he became interested in wetlands during lockdown, having discovered from WWT that “over the last 500 years we’ve lost or built on 90% of them” and they are a “good carbon sink” as well as a potential biodiversity network to link up wildlife migrating north due to rising temperatures. This message sits right at the heart of WWT’s Blue Recovery plan – and Mark told the Guardian that he hoped the series would draw attention to our campaign. He also said that he personally tried to do as much voluntary eco-work as possible and that he would be donating his fee from the BBC to WWT.

WWT’s Head of Policy and Advocacy Tom Fewins said he was looking forward to the series. “It’s great that Radio 4 is using drama in this way to draw people’s attention to the importance of nature in fighting the climate crisis and that in this case they are using wetlands as a back drop to do so.

“Wetlands are amazing – from great sweeping salt marshes to humble urban rain gardens they provide a wide range of ‘nature-based solutions’ to not just the climate and nature crisis, but the wellbeing crisis too. This is why WWT is putting the restoration and creation of more than 100,000 hectares of wetlands at the heart of its Blue Recovery plan to build back better after Covid-19.

“I am looking forward to listening to Song of the Reed next week and to following the drama when the other episodes are released later in the year”.

The first episode of Song of the Reed will be broadcast on Monday 21 June at 2pm and will be available to download shortly after. The remaining three episodes will air later in the year.