European Natura 2000 Award
Speaking at the Award ceremony, Silvija Kalnins, manager of this project, was very happy to receive this distinction: “We are very surprised! This project has a lot of recognition already in Latvia, for both its music and its science/education approach – therefore we are very pleased to receive this award at a European level.”
Nature Concerthall is an innovative collaboration between artists and scientists. It shows that it is possible, through a specially targeted, interactive and multi-disciplinary approach, to attract many thousands of people from different backgrounds, improve their knowledge of nature protection and promote pro-environmental behaviour.
“The biggest challenge of all is to get a balance between how to discover and enjoy nature while not harming it by being there. It is important to us to be able to perform our concerts and conferences while not affecting our surroundings. This is challenging because the events are getting more and more popular and the transport to the location as well as the people on site need ot be managed. We have up to 5 000 people per concert!“
It has been tested and practised for more than 10 years in over 17 municipalities in Latvia. The idea stemmed from musicians wanting to break out of the traditional concert venues and scientists seeking ways to bring knowledge on particular species and habitats to the public. It was clear that standard, project-driven and campaign-driven approaches with traditional seminars, info campaigns and brochures were not enough to really change people's behaviour towards their natural environment in the long term. The musicians, scientists and educators who gather for these events felt that mobilising people's empathy for nature would strengthen their capacities to absorb knowledge and motivate them to act.
Each event consists of three components: i) an interactive exhibit combining graphic panels, object displays and hands-on components open to the public to gain knowledge linked to the selected theme; ii) a discussion between a poet and a scientist on stage to capture the main themes; iii) a 1-hour concert with songs and light/video shows.
Each year, a particular species or habitat is selected as the mascot or hero for the event. This choice defines the location selected, so that audiences can gain first-hand experience of the selected topic. The music is also created each year in line with the species’ habitat, behaviour and evolution. The interactive workshops organised by the scientists and researchers are also dedicated to the particular species or habitat.
The events so far have taken place on or near eight different Natura 2000 sites and focused on different protected habitats for example Lowland hay meadows, Coniferous forests and Reefs, and species such as the fire-bellied toad, Bombina bombina. Around 10 000 people have attended the multidisciplinary events each year and a survey has indicated encouraging results: 80 % of respondents reported that the event had increased their knowledge about nature and 43 % of them indicated that the event had motivated them to take up concrete actions for the environment. Furthermore, 53 % of the respondents pointed out that they would not attend such an event if it was not combined with the music and video show, thus indicating that this combined approach attracts people who would not traditionally attend nature conservation events.
Ms Kalnin stressed the importance of making the events accessible to all: “We want to keep these concerts free, as it has a social value – we want the audience to come and learn about nature and its protection. We thank a range of Latvian organisations for their support in helping to achieve that every year,” Ms Kalnins states.
“This project can be easily replicated across the EU, as it is about music and science, and to raise awareness about some aspects of the environment and the need of protection – forests, water quality, species and biodiversity. We focus on common challenges in the Baltic area but these can be transferred to Europe as a whole as well”.