Originally from London but a resident of Lancashire for 17 years with a love of the surrounding countryside and wildlife, Helen Ficorilli is the Programme Director of the Cloudspotting Music and Arts Festival, which has taken up residence in the Forest of Bowland over the last seven years. Here she tells us why a female hen harrier has this year been taken up as the emblem for this annual event. Cloudspotting Music and Arts Festival returns to Gisburn Forest within Forest of Bowland AONB for it’s 7 th outing for the last weekend of July. More pocket sized than boutique, this unique festival has captured the imagination and support of regional and national plaudits which include The Guardian, The Big Issue, Radio 6Music DJs and the high number of returning family audiences. In a location managed by the Forestry Commission England, Cloudspotting has the support from the FCE and the Arts Council to bring high level quality arts engagement into the forest, an area of traditional low arts representation. Home to some of the most stunning scenery and delicate wildlife habitats in Britain we have always encouraged our audience to explore the surrounding forest and engage with the local wildlife. This has led to us incorporating environmental issues into our activities programme to deliver important ecological messages of responsibility to an ever-increasing family audience. In 2016 Bowland AONB brought their Bowland Hay Time project to the festival and ran workshops, activities and discussions about the importance of wild meadows to support the animals and insects who inhabit our festival location. These animals include wild birds and from that our Birds of Bowland Project began to take wings... So why a Hen Harrier? We wanted to make birds that are native to Bowland a focus for our festival this year and we needed to recruit someone to help promote this. After research and discussions with the RSPB, Bowland AONB and Forestry Commission we realised that the Hen Harrier, although not alone on the endangered list, had the highest profile and its recent loss from the local area has gained the most notoriety. Just the fact that there was a national project dedicated to the survival of this extremely rare and beautiful bird of prey made their profile even more attractive. Threatened with extinction this bird has a national network of supporters who scour the skies and nesting locations hoping for a rare sighting of this bird. The Hen Harrier whose Latin name means “circus” has a magical awe surrounding it, an almost mythical existence; and a festival, a temporary world of escapism seemed like the perfect place for a Hen Harrier to be spotted. We immediately commissioned local illustrator and sculptor Kerith Ogden to bring the Hen Harrier to Cloudspotting. Our brief was to create an image which we could use throughout our promotional activities of the festival. An image we could use with our logo but with a tribal imagery all of its own. When we saw the initial drawings we were blown away by the grace and beauty of our bird and we needed to give her a name. But it had to be the right name. A few options were bounded about which included Hetty, Jen and even Rhythm (….is a sky dancer!) but the overall obvious choice was Bo. Bo after our location, the beautiful Forest of Bowland and Boudicca another formidable female warrior. Have you met Bo yet? Since then, Bo has become another member of the Cloudspotting team. Visually appealing, she has featured on all our promotional materials including flyers, posters, website, social media, banners etc. Bo will also feature at the festival where we will reveal the second commission of Kerith, Bo the parade puppet lantern. A huge 3D version of Bo with lights and a whopping flapping wingspan of 3.5m. Bo will tour the festival site leading our rhythmical bird themed parade, dance the night away to our local reggae band Jeramiah Ferrari and finally take her nesting position in the Village Green for the remainder of the festival. Learning through play Working in partnership with the RSPB and other activities/arts associates, our Birds of Bowland project has developed immensely to weave throughout our weekend activities programme. Inclusive, engaging, educational and creative our arts package includes Bo and her other feathered friends involved in a variety of activities. These include the opportunity to join the Cloudspotting Choir. Rehearse throughout the weekend to perform Three Little Birds from the main stage on Sunday afternoon. Join other crafters for regular knit’n’chirp sessions to knit your own Bo. Leave the festival for a trek through the forest on our sculpture trail where you will discover 8ft bird; or be a part in the creation of a huge piece of community art adding colour to our huge canvas Bo. These are just a few of the linked activities and workshops available; for more information please visit our activities page on our website . But our work with Bo doesn’t stop there. We are so taken with Bo she will feature on artwork for future Cloudspotting events. We have already been asked to tour Bo and the community developed artwork from the festival to regional galleries and libraries where we will produce narrative to support the images and continue to deliver the messages of the RSPB to support our local wildlife so that we can all live together, harmoniously in our modern world For more information about Cloudspotting Music and Arts Festival 2017, please have a look at our website or visit our facebook page.