The largest birding festival in the world, Rutland Water Birdfair, was held every July in the U.K. from 1989 to 2019 until it was forced to cancel in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Then in November 2021, the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust (LRWT), which ran the event, said it would no longer host the festival.
This week, Tim Appleton, Birdfair’s original founder, announced that he is relaunching (and rebranding) the event and that it will be held in July 2022 in the county of Rutland in the center of England.
The festival will now be known as Global Birdfair, and Appleton said it will be operated as a “not-for-profit festival along the lines of the old Birdfair, which raised over £5m or US$6.8m for bird conservation projects worldwide over the years. In common with the original event, Global Birdfair will continue to support conservation projects with funding raised by this event.”
In a press release, Appleton said sponsors and exhibitors that had supported the former event will transfer to the new one and that more than 120 signed up in the first 24 hours after the announcement.
“I am delighted to announce that the new Global Birdfair will be taking place in the UK,” Appleton said. “If there has been one benefit that has come out of the Covid pandemic, it has been a huge increase in many people’s appreciation and awareness of their local environments. Now that global travel is opening up once more, I hope many newcomers will come to enjoy the Fair, which will showcase everything the birding and wildlife industry around the world has to offer.”
One of the reasons the LRWT cited for discontinuing Birdfair was the climate crisis and the carbon footprint of tourists and exhibitors “traveling from 80 different countries to attend.”
“The carbon footprint generated both by the event itself and the activities it promotes does not now fit well with our own strategy towards tackling the climate crisis,” said the LRWT. “The event would need considerable redesign to resolve this.”
Global Birdfair recognized these concerns and says on its website: “We are working closely with a carbon offsetting organisation to provide a platform for Global Birdfair to make significant contributions to their scheme. We aim to make Global Birdfair as carbon neutral as possible. Their system contributes to projects in the UK and overseas.”
Appleton says he hopes to have 12,000-15,000 people at the fair during its three-day run, including exhibitors and paying visitors.
We asked why birders from outside the UK (and from North America specifically) should attend.
“It is a unique gathering of dedicated professionals and enthusiasts from all areas of the nature conservation and birding world,” Appleton said. “There is no other location or event globally where such a meeting of like-minded, yet diverse people can exchange and share experiences, knowledge and ideas for the benefit of nature. It gives the commercial world involved in the birding industry a chance to showcase their businesses and products to a wide audience.”
The event will not offer an online or virtual option, and it will provide field trips to the Rutland Water Nature Reserve and cruises to view Osprey. And like the old Birdfair, this year’s event will contribute to bird conservation.
“We will be supporting a conservation cause and are currently in negotiations with a European environmental initiative,” Appleton said.
Global Birdfair will be held from Friday, July 15, through Sunday, July 17 July at the Rutland Showground, in Oakham, Rutland. Tickets will go on sale via its website on February 14.