Last weekend was the first Wild Film Festival Scotland, which took place in beautiful Dumfries and Galloway. Myself and a few other Wildlife Media students were lucky enough to volunteer during the event, which involved some amazing talks and a rather fetching cobalt blue volunteer hoodie.
I headed up to Dumfries on the train and arrived mid afternoon. As I stepped onto the platform I realised what the niggling feeling I’d had was about: no pyjamas. To prevent severe embarrassment at the studio flat I was sharing with Zahrah later on, I made a quick dash up the high street then wandered down to the Theatre Royal to catch a talk from photographer Gordon Rae about his work. He told us about a trip to Churchill in the Canadian Arctic, where there were more polar bears than people, something I found incredible.
Later on was one of the festival headliners: Simon King. Excitedly, Zahrah and I joined the other volunteers and spent the next two hours hearing some extraordinary bird noises. Simon King is a real impressionist; I’d heard some of the animals he impersonated in the wild, and his versions were truly uncanny.
The next morning I headed down to the theatre for my induction, donning my hoodie and making my way to the Robert Burns Centre for my first shift. I welcomed visitors and clocked them in with the clicker, something I found more entertaining than perhaps I should. In between shifts I managed to catch a lot of films and talks, learning some amazing things about the natural world. Being at an event like Wild Film Fest with some professional naturalists made me realise just how much I still have to learn. It’s a blessing and a curse; of course I’d love to be a wildlife connoisseur overnight, but at the same time it’s exciting know how much there is still to find out.
The weather this weekend was stunning. During my lunch breaks I sat by the river and watched the goosanders dive and the mallards struggle against the current. I bumped into Cain, who told me there were otters on the river, but not while I was looking for them. The only wild otters I’ve seen were on the Isle of Carna – by the time I graduate I want to at least see them in Carlisle, where apparently the world and his mother have seen them.
Sunday night was Iolo Williams. The theatre was packed – after checking tickets and doing the headcount, I nipped up to the balcony and watched the talk with a bird’s eye view. Iolo is a great naturalist and a real entertainer. I asked him what he thought about the re-introduction of wolves in the UK, and he replied that the best place to release a pack would be the Houses of Parliament. Like all good naturalists, it was clear he had passion.
In seemingly no time the weekend and the festival were over. After a very nice bolognese at Hugo’s restaurant, we headed to the train station and made our way back to Carlisle, leaving behind a beautiful crimson sunset. It was a brief but really great weekend. Volunteering at the first ever Wild Film Fest Scotland is something I’m proud of, and hopefully next year’s will be an even bigger success.