Do I need to prepare in any way in advance?
In our experience the night can be a late one so we recommend that you get a good night's sleep the night before. We have a recommended finish time but we can never guarantee we will end as expected, as the night can go in so many different ways. No two nights have ever been the same and we like to let the magic of what happens take its own course sometimes, rather than be bound by timetables.
Can I park my car?
All 4 sites have parking in close proximity, although the distance between car park and site varies at each location.
How do I get home afterwards?
With the late finish it can prove tricky for those who have not come by car to get home again after these events. We were able to arrange shared taxis for guests needing transport home last year, and will be happy to do so again in 2017. If you are interested in this option, please let us know when you purchase your tickets.
How accessible are the events for those limited mobility?
The events all take place in natural, outdoor locations and involve some walking, which may not be suitable for people with limited mobility or special access needs. Please do get in touch with us if you have accessibility requirements and we will do our best to advise and assist. Guide dogs are welcome.
What if I am late?
This is not such a problem. Let us know as soon as you can, and we will hold some food back for you. Please try not to arrive too late, as every part of the evening is a part of the process of dropping into the state of calm, magic and wonder.
If you are late the most important thing is to not stress about it and arrive flustered - we will welcome you whenever you make it and do our best to fill you in on what has happened. It is the inevitability of life’s demands that we can't always be on time and the Nightingales’ fault also in choosing hard to find, remote location!
What should I wear?
We will provide you with a suggested kit list when you purchase tickets, with the obvious need to stay warm, stay dry, and well shod (it can get muddy). Perhaps controversially, we also ask that you pay close attention to your clothes regarding the noise they make when you move. We practise lots of deep listening and immense stillness in the journey, and there is nothing that masks the sound of the far off landscape more than the swish of a crisp pair of trousers. Please think carefully about the stealth of your outfit and the nimbleness of your shoes.
We know from experience in the wild that the best all weather gear is actually tightly woven wool. Coats made from it are impervious to water, almost noiseless, and very warm. The grass will be dewy so waterproof footwear and thick socks are also a must. Wellies are good but make for clumsy walking. It can get very cold with lots of standing in the dark so if you want to bring a hot water bottle we can provide the hot water!
What happens if the nightingales don’t sing?
As naturally vocal as they are, the nightingales have not signed a contract with us. The birds were willing on most nights at our 2015 events, and we have carefully chosen sites that have well established nightingale populations. While we are not able to guarantee that the birds will sing, we have ensured that you will have a gifted artist present to entertain you, even if their feathered collaborator proves bashful.
What happens if it rains?
All the venues are outdoors with limited shelter. We will press ahead with the evening unless the weather is particularly inclement. In these cases you will be contacted by us if we feel it is not possible to go ahead. Please remember to bring appropriate wet weather gear just in case, even if the outlook is ok. The birds will often sing despite bad weather so we do see this as an all weather experience.
What will we be eating and drinking?
Our campfire feasts will consist of two courses of gourmet delights, cooked using the finest, often locally-sourced, ingredients; often flavoured with foodstuffs carefully foraged from the surrounding countryside, served in filling and warming portions. You will also be provided with a selection of wine, beer, hot and cold soft drinks, which are all included in the ticket price.
The menu is wholly vegetarian. Please let us know when you make your booking if you have any special dietary requirements (e.g. vegan option, allergies). With forewarning, we can cater for most diets!
Can I bring a musical instrument?
We welcome guests bringing offerings for the fireside in the way of songs and stories. However we do recommend that instruments are thought about carefully as it gets dark and damp - a treacherous time for fragile instruments. Time for songs and tunes from guests is all dependent on how each evening pans out, and we make no guarantee that we will be able to fit you in. So please don’t feel disappointed if the moment doesn’t happen. We also keep the time with the nightingales as only for our invited artists.
Is this suitable for children and young adults?
That is very much up to you and your children. Under 18s need to be accompanied by an adult, and it is a late night journey so if they don’t mind staying up then they are very welcome.
We believe firmly that this is an experience that should be accessible to all ages but we accept that in this day and age kids are not as accustomed to the demands of patient listening and the experience can be demanding in its expectation of your commitment to the periods of quiet reflective listening. Each group depends on its members for that commitment to enter into a realm of guided silence and deep listening as any nature watcher would. If you feel your children may struggle with this then, maybe this is something discuss with them first about what it involves.
I have nightingales in my garden, can you come and do this project at my home?
This is a growing project and we are looking to expand into other sites across the UK, especially the South West. If you know of somewhere that definitely has nightingales and could accommodate us in 2018 please get in touch. We would love to know more.
How do you price these events?
Some people have been asking how we determine our pricing for these events. By offering insight into the financial and administrative background required for running this project we feel guests will have a better understanding of precisely what their money is supporting.
We do receive some public funding via small grants from Arts Council England's 'Grants For The Arts' scheme and from the PRS ‘Foundation for Music’. These two grants support Nest Collective's entire programme of over 100 folk and world music shows in London and nationally. A portion of these funds has helped us set up the SWN events. However, this only covers a small fraction of the total cost behind organising these events.
The SWN nights are more than guided nature walks. Each event (4 a night in 4 sites across SE England) has an onsite staff team of at least 4 people providing the expertise, music, safety measures and support needed (not forgetting catering and on-site care).
Leading up to the event is 9 months of backstage pre-production via our team of producers- Sam Lee, Becky Burchell, Thom Ashworth as well as our resident ornithologist Tom Stuart. Their work for the project includes finding the sites, set up, building the website and arranging partnerships. The producers also design, organise and fully supply each event with the necessary kit and staff teams. In addition, our marketing and PR team devote a great deal of energy to selling tickets and event promotion. This is a full time operation and we believe in paying all our staff a respectable fee for their hard work.
The balance of determining a ticket price for an intimate event (from only 15 guests at Sussex up to 30 at Grafham) that covers all production fees is a challenge. We aim to price this event as low as possible without compromising on experience or security for the audience, the site or the Nightingales.
Although a trip to the theatre or cinema may come at a lower cost to you, we feel that our event offers a unique and powerful experience. For many, the SWN events live on as a truly transformative night out! We have worked extremely hard to ensure each event is as brilliant as it can be, picking some of the country’s best people to guide, entertain and inspire. Testimonials from former participants claim this to be an event that had profound effects and one not to be equated with specific ‘pricing’.
Some experiences in life are too precious not to try; we like to think this is one of them! Thank you for reading.