Artists, scientists and conservationists are collaborating on two connected initiatives aimed at protecting Scotland’s threatened migratory birds.

This week (14 October) sees the opening of Much Ado About Nightjars, an exhibition by fine art photographers Ted Leeming and Morag Paterson who spent midgie-infested nights photographing and recording the rare nocturnal birds at Lochar Moss, Dumfries and Galloway.

Then, on October 20 they will take part in the Artful Migration Conference (followed by an official exhibition launch event), in Dumfries, which will examine how the power of the arts can be harnessed to protect the future for some of Scotland’s most vulnerable visiting species.

Keynote speakers will include “the human swan” Sacha Dench, campaigner, UN Ambassador for Migratory Species and co-founder of Conservation without Borders.

The conference seeks to build on the success of three Artful Migration projects that saw artists take up residencies in reserves and wetlands near the Solway Firth. The artists worked with conservationists and scientists to look at the habitats of, and threats to, ospreys, whooper swans and nightjars.

Sacha said: “What scientists are great at is spotting problems, but what they are often not so good at is communicating those problems in a way that moves people.

“What I’m absolutely convinced of is that the arts and artists are essential when it comes to influencing people and persuading them of the need to take action to protect our wildlife and our environment.

“So, I absolutely welcome what Artful Migration has achieved.”

Sacha went on an expedition following the migration route of ospreys to Africa – the same route taken by nightjars.

She looked at the threats they faced, including helicopter spraying for mosquito control in Europe in nature reserves, that kill the insects at the base of the food chain and therefore also the base of the nature tourism industry they are trying to protect.

Then there’s the widespread destruction of wetlands, increasing plastics and light pollution and more and more extreme weather.

Sacha added: “There are, however, many people and projects that gave me reason to be hopeful.”

Lochar Moss offers one such sliver of hope as the ancient peat bog, one of their few Scottish strongholds, is being restored by Forest and Land Scotland.

This will hopefully strengthen the position of the shy nocturnal birds which fly thousands of miles to get there each year.

Morag said: “The story of the nightjars in Lochar Moss is a positive one with numbers increasing. But they remain rare and face many serious threats along their migration route between Africa and the UK.

“We believe that residencies like this can make a real difference – because artists can work with conservationists and communities in distinctive, imaginative and unusual ways that allow people to see the issues affecting our wildlife and environment from entirely new perspectives.” 

Artful Migration is a collaboration between Upland CIC, Dumfries and Galloway arts development organisation, and Virginia Wollaston and Nicholas Paton Philip of Moving Souls Dance.

Virginia said: “Our residencies underline how the arts have real power in helping people engage with the natural world.

“The arts affect us emotionally, they encourage us to act and it’s action that’s needed if we are to protect these precious migratory birds that face more and more man-made threats to their existence every year.

“It will be an immense task to turn this round, but this exhibition and conference will help spread the word that it can be done and will hopefully help generate new collaborations between artists and conservationists.”

Amy Marletta, Creative Director of Upland, added: “Artful Migration reminds us of how we are all deeply interconnected and responsible for our survival and the future of our planet.

“We are proud to be involved in its delivery and in helping ensure that the arts are at the forefront of debate about threats to wildlife and the environment.”

Another Artful Migration residencies involved the ospreys at the NTS Threave Nature Reserve and the third looked at the perilous annual migration of whooper swans from the Iceland to the WWT reserve at Caerlaverock.

The conference will bring together artists, conservationists, bird lovers, academics and policymakers to:

  • Reveal the achievements and challenges of the artist residencies.
  • Discover how the artists responded to the challenges facing the birds, including shifting weather patterns and changing habitat management.
  • Hear keynote speakers from conservation and the ecological arts.
  • Consider the implications of Artful Migration for global agendas on the conservation of migratory species.
  • Celebrate the partnerships and collaborations stimulated by Artful Migration, and discuss where these might lead in future.

Speakers will also include Chris Fremantle, Research Fellow and Lecturer at Gray’s School of Art, producer of public art and design projects.  

Immediately after the conference there will be the official opening of the Much Ado About Nightjars exhibition which will take place from 5.30pm to 7pm at Gracefield Arts Centre, Edinburgh Road, Dumfries.


  • Friday 20, October 2023
  • 9:30am – 5pm
  • Easterbrook Hall, Duncan Room, The Crichton, Dumfries, DG1 4ZE
  • Tickets from EventBrite 


  • 14 October to 11 November
  • Gracefield Arts Centre, Edinburgh Road Dumfries
  • Entry is free

See the Upland website at    


Notes for editors 

About Upland

Upland CIC (Community Interest Company) supports artists and makers based in, and with connections to, the region. It will delivers, events, training, networking, support and opportunities as part of a year-round programme to benefit the region, its artists, communities and economy. Upland CIC runs the annual Spring Fling contemporary visual art and craft open studios weekend in Dumfries and Galloway. It will work closely with other arts bodies in the region to further-strengthen the sector. Upland is based at Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries and exists to:

  • produce and deliver festivals, events, and experimental projects of the highest quality
  • nurture an environment where artistic excellence thrives and grows
  • inspire and educate a wide range of audiences, customers and clients to understand, celebrate, be actively engaged in and supportive of visual art and craft practice
  • raise the profile of visual artists and makers locally, nationally and internationally fulfilling a crucial role in the culture and tourism of Dumfries and Galloway
  • build strategic partnerships at regional, national and international level
  • maintain a financially sound and adaptively resilient organisation
  • use, and encourage the use of, innovative and emerging digital technology
  • work to the benefit the local economy and the sustainability of local communities.

Its funders are Creative Scotland, D&G Council, The Holywood Trust, ASWT, Barfill. 

About Moving Souls Dance

  • Moving Souls Dance was set up in 2017 to combine the skills and experiences of its directors, Virginia Wollaston and Nicholas Paton Philip.
  • Virginia has worked with professional dance companies as a practitioner (Second Stride, Extemporary Dance Theatre, Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company) and within the funding system as Dance Officer (Arts Council West Midlands) and Cultural Officer (Birmingham City Council). She is now an independent producer offering professional services to artists, arts organisations and outdoor arts events involving Carnival costume and dance. 
  • Nicholas has worked in the social care sector for 30 years, from adult mental health and mediation to residential setting with young people and as a social worker for children in care. His experiences are grounded in therapeutic management and creative group work. Nicholas is an ICF approved life coach offering one to one sessions.
  • The company partners with arts organisations to co-create participatory projects with young people and communities, providing leadership development for artists and producers. We encourage personal development within each project to empower artists and participants to engage in meaningful dialogue through art that might touch on issues of social and ecological importance.
  • See

About Creative Scotland

  • Creative Scotland is the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland on behalf of everyone who lives, works or visits here.  We enable people and organisations to work in and experience the arts, screen and creative industries in Scotland by helping others to develop great ideas and bring them to life.  We distribute funding provided by the Scottish Government and the National Lottery. For further information about Creative Scotland please visit Follow us @creativescots and

For media information contact Matthew Shelley on 07786 704299 or at [email protected] or call Upland on 01387 213 218.