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“It’s about getting people to change their ideas about the world in which we live.” an audience of 200,000 people, and was crammed with insect-inspired talks, debates, architecture, comedy, music, walks, workshops, art and experiments. All of which helped the public see how unavoidably connected we are to insects. Pestival is now established as a biennial event, with the next one scheduled for May 2012. Like the metamorphosing insects it promotes, it aims to change location and structure every time while always providing an “intergenerational learning context that’s funny, imaginative, original and doesn’t take itself too seriously – a bit like The Muppets,” Nicholls jokes. With a string of offshoot events organised between now and May 2012 (including a residence at London Zoo to develop a sustainable arts programme), Nicholls also plans to take things international. In the long run “it’s about getting people to change their ideas about the world in which we live.” Beyond Pestival, Nicholls has worked with the likes of Radio 4 and The Ecologist magazine, and has created interspecies events with the Serpentine Gallery and Artangel, with whom she staged a ‘sonic bat and moth opera’. Moreover, Nicholls has recently been awarded the first Zoo Arts Fellowship from the Zoological Society of London,

and has been voted one of the ‘Top 50 Women To Watch In Culture’ by the Cultural Leadership Programme. It’s difficult to pigeonhole Nicholl’s work though, and specifically Pestival. Instead of separating the likes of art, science, music and comedy into their separate entities, she combines them in holistic cultural events – something she believes will become more normal in the next five to 10 years. It’s the ultimate test of her skills as a communicator; as Nicholls herself says, “there isn’t ever a pathway with things like this.” It’s sheer enthusiasm for the natural world that has brought her to where she is today. When she was younger Nicholls was inspired by Spike Milligan, T.E. Lawrence and American novelist Martha Gellhorn “because they crossed boundaries and did things their own way.” Likewise, there’s no one out there doing exactly what she’s doing, but it’s something Nicholls doesn’t want to do on her own either. “It’s about establishing and supporting a community that wants to do something different,” she explains. There are plenty of people thinking along similar lines. What’s great is that Nicholls has created an event through which they can all come together Ruth Carruthers




The Dream Factory  
The Dream Factory  

The Dream Factory