Caught by the River

Subject/Object 01: The Birds

13th May 2021

From the 24th-28th May, the London Review Bookshop presents a series of 8 events on the subject of birds, marking the first in its new biannual series of short festivals, Subject/Object. The festivals will loosely trace a theme through the archive of the London Review of Books with a week-long schedule of books and arts events; this first iteration taking place entirely online. Two of the festival’s events are presented in partnership with the excellent Willowherb Review.

Opening with a dawn chorus of Messiaen’s attempts to recreate birdsong, performed by internationally renowned organist James McVinnie and livestreamed from Exeter Cathedral, the festival will combine music, literature, film and ecology in unusual and distinctive ways, inspired by the LRB’s irreverent and kaleidoscopic angles of approach. 

A conversation about the role of birds in writing about place with Steve Ely, Jessica J. Lee, Anita Sethi and Amanda Thomson will be followed by a late-night livestream of the folk musician Sam Lee duetting with a nightingale on the South Downs. A discussion of avian consciousness with Peter Godfrey-Smith and Jonathan Meiburg will close with an exclusive premiere of songs from Meiburg’s band Shearwater’s new album, their first for five years, before an LRB Screen at Home special on Hitchcock’s The Birds, with Gaby Wood.

Literary subjects – including a celebration of the work of pioneering nature writer R.F. Langley, ‘the least prolific poet of the last thirty years’ – will flow into memoir and environmental reflection, as they often do in the paper. A conversation about the company of birds during the pandemic will continue the site-specificity of the music events, with Jon Day joining from his pigeon loft in Leyton and Paul Theroux calling in from Hawaii (alongside Tim Dee and Zakiya McKenzie). Additionally, the LRB’s go-to apocalypse correspondent Francis Gooding will be joined by Benedict Macdonald and other guests from the worlds of literature and conservation for a discussion about rewilding – and rebirding. 

Tickets for individual events are £5 each, or you can book a festival ticket, which includes an e-publication containing all the pieces from the pages of the LRB that feed into the events, for £30. More information and tickets available here.