“As a UK Squirrel Accord signatory, you are invited to a meeting on Tuesday 27 January at the Linnaen Society, Piccadilly, London W1J OBF to discuss proposals for the implementation of the Accord. The meeting is expected to run from 10:30am to 1:30pm, including a sandwich lunch.
Forestry Commission England would also like to use this opportunity to discuss the revised squirrel policy and implementation of the action plan. For those of you who have an interest in England policy delivery and have received notice from Rebecca Isted, this meeting is expected to run from 1:30pm to 4pm on 27 January at the same location. Other stakeholders will join this meeting.”
I was extremely lucky to get an invite to this event. A meeting that has been waiting to happen for years – perfect timing for my project! On a personal level, it was amazing to see so many people in one room fighting for a cause that my Dad has been fighting for as long as I can remember. I was rather taken aback (in a good way!) I was a bit hesitant to use my camera to start, not wanting to make a noise whilst people were speaking, but I soon gained in confidence and started walking round the room as the signatories spoke. It was really interesting to listen to everyones politics – something I wasn’t aware of existed in terms of squirrels! I guess there is politics in literally everything. Whilst I was taking photos throughout, I feel the day was more beneficial to me as an information resource rather than for the images I got out of it. I didn’t get any ground breaking shots but I did get an insight into international conservation charities and the fight for red Squirrels (patroned by HRH Prince of Wales) in the UK. I also made valuable contacts and I was introduced to everyone there who now know my name and since meeting me are more than happy to help me out, be it visiting their own charities, publishing my work or passing on my contact details to other organisations. The Accord want to use my images for their own publicity/internal use, but I still need to work out how I want to use them in my book. Whether I have serious messages connoted by the photos or just use the more “jolly” images.
I haven’t got THE picture, of a shouting match in a board room, or tears, or an escalation of happiness… they are all quite subtle and subdued so they won’t stand alone. I wish I’d seen Joel Sternfeld’s When it Changed before I went to the meeting. The room was very small and I was just too close to my subjects, what I needed was my longer lens and some distance from the people. That would have given me the opportunity to capture true emotion on their unsuspecting faces like Sternfeld. It’s very powerful seeing such intense portraits of people of importance in a significant meeting – I would have liked to get similar shots of all the heads of these international conservation charities and caption them with their authorial role in the charity world. Instead I only really got direct portraits when the subject was looking at me which rather defeats the point of capturing their initial emotion to topics raised at the meeting.
I ended up being more interested in the ‘post it notes’ used to vote with for what everyone deemed to be the most important topics to work on first. The signatories and attendees of the meeting voted that “Public Awareness and Education” was the most important thing to focus on, followed by “Landowner and Local Group Engagement”, “Co-ordination and Communication” and “Research and Development”. So its dealing with people that is a current theme running in the top topics to focus on and spend time and money on. I want my book to be an accessible means of publishing the red squirrel struggle to a general audience of a wider community than just people who seek out the information. I envisage a plain grey portrait book with just the word RED written on the front in red. Hopefully that might make people wonder what its about then pick it up… I still need to work on it! Overall I am very grateful that I got to attend this day and it has been invaluable in my own personal understanding of the battle against grey squirrels and the public belief that they are “cute and grey and fluffy and shouldn’t be harmed”.