Why Run Events?
Why bother? They can take ages to prepare, be expensive to put on, use up valuable resources and if, when the day arrives it pours down with rain, can be a complete washout. But despite all this, Kent Wildlife Trust sees events as having a major role in helping it to achieve its key objectives. We deliver over 150 public events a year directly and at least another 100 supporting our Local Groups. This is before we even think about our direct education with groups of children visiting us for a school day!
One of the main objectives of the Trust is “to promote, organise, carry on and encourage study and research for the advancement of knowledge in the natural sciences1” and it has a comprehensive range of events scheduled throughout the year specifically
designed to meet this objective. Of particular importance is the programme of Wildlife Study Days and, in 2012, the Trust ran 48 courses which were attended by 481 adult learners on a wide range of topics covering plants, mammals, birds, animals, reptiles and geology. This adds to the total of more than 6,600 participants during the 17-year life of the programme.
We have a dedicated programme of learning opportunities at our visitor centres and also at schools with our outreach programme including Forest School which reaches over 11,000 children helping them to make a connection with nature. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of a lifelong love of wildlife and wild spaces.
A key part of the Trust’s strategy is “influencing developments for wins for wildlife1” and this involves being able to influence key decision-makers to ensure that our views and the needs of wildlife are effectively represented. Events like the Tour de Fish coastal bike ride - which the Trust organised to highlight the importance of protecting marine wildlife - helped demonstrate the popular support for creating Marine Conservation Zones. The event was very well attended, generated a lot of local publicity and events such as the bike ride helps to provide a focal point and voice for common interests.
Similarly, our series of Shoresearch and Seasearch events, approximately one per month at various sites around Kent’s coastline, survey a wide mix of habitat types. Whilst great for families and specialists alike, the data gathered is also crucial in monitoring the health of our seas.
Another important function of events is in raising the profile of Kent Wildlife Trust within the local community. The success of the Trust depends upon many things. It is reliant upon its army of volunteers for much of its day-to-day operations and conservation work. It needs to be regarded as a trusted advisor and wildlife expert by local planners and politicians, and it has to be seen to be both effective and active in order to maintain the support of its individual and corporate members - upon whose financial contributions it depends. Having a high and well-respected profile is therefore crucial and this is helped by high-calibre events such as the annual Festival of Wildlife - the only one of its kind in the South East - which last year attracted 1,600 visitors.
Our visual presence at the Kent County Show also helps achieve this profile-raising. However, this presents a number of challenges, as we have to tailor our messages to suit a very wide range of audiences - from landowners to families, from specialists to novices, from new members to lifelong members. Our aim is for each visitor to go away feeling that they have learnt something new but with such limited space for the presentation, this represents quite a challenge - or should we call it an opportunity?
Although events are not intended to generate income, none-the-less, the activities of Kent Wildlife Trust would not be possible without sufficient funding. Many of the events, particularly the smaller, ones such as training days, do little more than cover costs, but some, such as the Festival of Wildlife, which raised £6,000, do make a useful contribution to the charity’s funds.
To offset costs, sponsorship for events is sought at each and every opportunity. For example, the annual Cross-country Horse Ride is generously supported by a local firm of solicitors who are also corporate members.
All these events would simply not be possible to run without the staunch support of our volunteers who are also instrumental in developing events in other ways. A recent example of this was the creation of an illustrated leaflet to support a new series of walks from our Tyland Barn Visitor Centre.
Lastly, but not least, one of the most important reasons for running events is to entertain as well as inform as we strive to encourage everyone, young and old, to venture outdoors for days of fun.
The more people who see the countryside and its wildlife as a source of pleasure and enjoyment, the more they will want to protect it and care for it.
Note 1 From Charities Commission website
Mary Blackwell, Community Education Team Leader with help from Kevin Choy