Folk music has long gone hand in hand with political protest. From Pete Seeger’s 1959 rendition of the African American gospel We Shall Overcome, which became an anthem for the civil rights movement, to Dick Gaughan’s Ballad of ‘84, a clarion call for the Scottish miners’ strike, the combination of one singer and their guitar has had a potent effect on galvanising activists.
Now, folk is turning its attention to the bees.
Bees are responsible for pollinating around 80% of plantlife in the UK and over a third of crops globally, yet from 1985 to 2005 the number of honeybee colonies in the UK fell by 53% and wild honeybees are now thought to be almost extinct across Britain. This is due to a variety of reasons including climate change, infectious diseases, the use of harmful pesticides, and the reduction of natural habitats. These worrying developments have led some to claim that if the bees become extinct, humanity would only have four years left to survive.
The stakes are high and 25-year-old fiddle player Rowan Piggott believes that folk is the answer. “The environmental crisis is one of the biggest issues of my generation,” he says. “All of our political and economic problems pale in comparison, since they tend to go in cycles, whereas we have done irreversible damage with climate change.”
A waifish presence in a tweed jacket, Piggott is surprisingly optimistic about the future. “People’s knowledge of the crisis is very general,” he says, “and they often don’t know what they can do to effect a meaningful change, so that’s why I started the Songhive project, to give people chances to get involved with the bees.”
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