Press Story

A competition for musicians and singer/songwriters aged 16-29 whose work fosters a stronger relationship with nature through contemporary popular music.

To mark World Earth Day, The Oak Project announces the second edition of the Tune Into Nature Music Prize, following a successful launch in 2020 which saw 180 entries and resulted in the inaugural winner, LYDIAH. The Oak Project, with a judging panel including musicians Martyn Ware, Sam Lee, Supriya Nagarajan and poet Zena Edwards, are in search for a piece of original music that tunes into nature – helping to highlight the need for a new relationship with nature and provide vital support for young creative practitioners.

The Tune Into Nature Music Prize is a strand of artistic programming by The Oak Project, a newly established partnership between Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP), the University of Derby and the Bronze Oak Project Ltd, a not-for-profit that promotes contact with the arts to create nature connection. The Oak Project is an initiative that aims to inspire and motivate public action for nature and climate through arts, culture and creativity.

The winning entry will receive a £500 grant to support their work and also benefit from a free professional remix produced by award-winning songwriter and producer Martyn Ware, Principal of Tileyard Education. They will also be invited to perform at Timber, the International Forest Festival, in 2022. In addition, two further selected entrants will each benefit from a £250 grant.

The Nature Connectedness Group at the University of Derby has found that the connection between young people and nature dips during teenage years and takes more than a decade to recover. Research also shows that references to nature in contemporary music have decreased consistently since the 1950s. This matters as a close connection with nature helps both the wellbeing of people and our planet, as people who are tuned into nature are more likely to care for it.

As highlighted in the recent pandemic, the human relationship with the rest of nature is essential for our wellbeing, yet the climate and environment emergencies show that the human relationship with the rest of nature is broken. Miles Richardson, Professor of Human Factors and Nature Connectedness at the University of Derby, said: “Nature means less and less in our lives and is disappearing as a reference in our music. We need, now more than ever, a new and more connected relationship with nature and music is a great way to celebrate nature and its essential role in our lives.”

The competition is open to anyone aged 16-29 and resident in the UK. The track should not be longer than six minutes, contain lyrics and, this year, spoken word entries are welcome to be submitted to the prize. Applications close on 30 July 2021.

Inspiration: research shows that a closer, healthier and more sustainable relationship with nature comes through tuning into nature, noticing it, finding beauty, joy, calm, meaning and compassion. Further details and how to enter can be found at Tune Into Nature Music Prize.


Prof. Miles Richardson - Professor of Human Factors and Nature Connectedness, University of Derby

Zena Edwards - Writer, poet/spoken word artist and climate justice activist

Supriya Nagarajan - Classically-trained Carnatic vocal musician, founder of Manasamitra artist-led cross-cultural arts organisation

Martyn Ware - Musician, Composer, Arranger, Record Producer and Music Programmer, Founder member of The Human League and Heaven 17

Sam Lee - Mercury Prize nominated musician and nature conservationist

Dr Simon Lesley - Course Director BA (Hons) Popular Music, South & City College, Birmingham

Damon Jackson-Waldock - YSP Deputy Curator and The Oak Project Creative Producer

Helen Pheby - YSP Head of Curatorial Programme

To help inspire you, here are some of the judges’ favourite tunes connected to nature:

Miles Concept Of Thought Misty Blue ft. Daisy Drage

Zena Rachelle Ferrell Gaia

Supriya Sidsel Endresen & Bugge Wesseltoft River

Martyn Spirit Nature’s Way

Simon Paul Simon Everything About it is a Love Song

Sam Steve Reich and Chris Hughes Slow MotionBlackbird

Damon Björk Crystalline

Helen Ewan MacColl The Joy of Living