Press Story

Ceitidh Mac selected winner of the unique prize that grows connection to nature through contemporary popular music.

The Oak Project is delighted to announce the winner of the second edition of the Tune Into Nature Music Prize, originated by Professor Miles Richardson from the Nature Connectedness Research Group at the University of Derby. The prize, which is supported by Tileyard London, Timber Festival and Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP), searches for a new piece of original music that tunes into nature, and helps to highlight the need for a new relationship with the natural environment, while providing vital support for young creative practitioners.

The 2021 winner Ceitidh Mac says: “I am grateful to have been selected for the Tune Into Nature Music Prize. There’s definitely a growing urgency to look after the planet and ourselves. Finding a way to feel connected to nature in whatever form is only going to help! It’s lush to see that music in a subtle way and this Prize can help.”

Ceitidh Mac, originally from rural Wales and now based in Newcastle, has been selected as the winner of this year’s Prize for her entry Birds. Written during the national lockdown across the UK, the song was inspired by the time the artist had to focus on and tune into the sounds of birds in the city. As the traffic slowed, Ceitidh, like many of us throughout the recent pandemic, had the space and time to notice all the forms of nature that surround us, and that may have gone unnoticed or listened to previously.

Ceitidh explains: “The cyclical comfort of the seasons was disrupted, and it left a strange feeling of slowing down in spring, which is normally the time everything is waking up! It’s also about appreciating that there is nature in urban surroundings that we can soak up. Nature really matters to me as it connects us, sustains us and teaches us”.

The artist will receive a financial grant to support new work, the opportunity to perform at Timber Festival in the National Forest in 2022, and a remix with Tileyard London produced by Principal Martyn Ware (Human League and Heaven 17), who says: “Music is a great way to celebrate nature. As an artist and an activist myself I have loved being in the judging panel over the last two years. I’ve seen some exceptional entries for this special competition, like no other that aims to increase references to nature in contemporary music. I’m very much looking forward to working with Ceitidh to create an exciting remix, and I hope the work of all our shortlist encourages more young creatives to create their own original songs that explore the important and timely issues surrounding nature”.

Sarah Bird and Rowan Cannon, Directors of Timber Festival, said: ‘Ceitidh is a worthy winner of this year’s Tune Into Nature Music Prize! We love that she was inspired to write her beautiful song Birds during the national lockdown last year. That period of time caused us all to pause and take stock of what’s really important, which of course includes the natural world around us. We can’t wait to see her performance at Timber next year.’

The Prize began in 2020 and was developed and conceived by Miles Richardson, Professor of Human Factors and Nature Connectedness at the University of Derby. The Nature Connectedness Research Group at the University discovered that connections between young people and nature decreases during teenage years before taking more than a decade to recover. Findings have also revealed that references to nature in contemporary music have decreased consistently since the 1950s. Miles and his team highlight the importance of having a close connection with nature, which helps both the wellbeing of people and our planet. Their research shows that those who are tuned into nature are more likely to care for it and take more action towards the climate and environment emergencies.

Miles says: “Birds by Ceitidh captures the spirit of the Tune Into Nature Music Prize really well. It came to be through tuning in into the birds of the city and asks, ‘Where does your mind go, when you slow down’? Yet, the music is alive and has a celebratory tone that speaks of the joy and essential wellbeing everyday moments with nature can bring.”

In addition to Ceitidh’s overall winning song, this year three further selected entrants have been awarded the Tune Into Nature Highly Commended Prize, and will each receive a small grant to support their work. These winners include Flo Perlin, a contemporary Folk singer-songwriter from London with Iraqi and Belarusian heritage; Newcastle-based composer, vocalist, and musical omnivore Catch The Sparrow, and Rohith Sakthy, a singer who was introduced to Indian Carnatic music from the age of four in Kerala, India.

All of the winners were selected by a judging panel comprising of musicians Martyn Ware, Sam Lee, Supriya Nagarajan, poet Zena Edwards; Prof. Miles Richardson of the Nature Connectedness Research Group and Dr Simon Lesley, Course Director of BA (Hons) Popular Music at Birmingham City University; Helen Pheby, Head of Curatorial Programme at YSP and Damon Jackson-Waldock, Oak Project Creative Producer.

The judges were impressed by the many entries inspired by simple connections with the nature that surrounds us. The judges express their gratitude to everyone who took part, and give special thanks to the final shortlisted artists, including Altea Narici, Becca James, Lucy Wylde, Wanderland, Willow Changelings and Yeti’s Breakfast.