Bird Yarns. Deirdre Nelson

Artist Diary - Arctic terns descend on Glasgow Botanics!


Photo by Deirdre Nelson

Launch of Jo Mango’s CD ‘Murmuration’ at the Glad Cafe

Birdyarns is gathering supporters and followers with each and every landing, each time making connections in new, exciting and unexpected ways . Recently singer Jo Mango ( got in touch having spotted Creative Scotland’s post about the birds landing in Glasgow. Much of her songwriting involves birds in one way or another so she was interested in creating an installation of birds for the launch of her album Murmuration. Of course we were delighted at the prospect of the birds entering the music scene in Glasgow, and pleased to be making new connections both with Jo and The Glad Cafe. THe birds are gathering new friends as they land in each venue and it seems that their gentle activism is engaging new audiencies both for Birdyarns and Cape Farewell in a cultural (and knitted ) response to climate change .

The Glad Cafe is a cafe/venue in the southside of Glasgow which is ‘home for creative music of many kinds – indie, electronic, traditional, world… providing a showcase space for up and coming musicians as well as for more established acts. Our cafe and venue space will also be used for a variety of different arts based events – exhibitions, film, poetry readings.’ The Glad Cafe is a social enterprise with the legal structure of a Community Interest Company.

It was wonderful to be involved in installing the birds and many thanks go to Julie Robertson (one of the Birdyarns knitters) for helping with the install and her wonderful photography also. Many thanks also go to Glad Cafe Staff, and Louis Abbot and Adem who were also performing. It was magical to hear such great music and song surrounding the wonderful birds on their brief stopover at The Glad Cafe. Birdyarns were made to feel most welcome by an enthusiastic audience and also had an opportunity to spread the word of their journey and the effects of climate change on seabirds. Staff at the cafe were sad to see them fly off the next day and wished for a permanent flock of terns at the cafe!

Murmuration has been released this week on Olive Grove Records; a new innovative independent Scottish DIY label. Olive Grove was formed by Halina Rifai and Lloyd Meredith.

This wonderfully wistful album draws upon Jo’s adventures whilst travelling the world as a member of Vashti Bunyan’s band and her experiences over the last few years completing a Doctorate in Musicology plus her collaborations with David Byrne (Carnegie Hall, NY 2007), Devendra Banhart, Coco Rosie, Teenage Fanclub (Baby Lee, 2011), and Admiral Fallow (Beetle in the Box, 2012) amongst others.
The album was recorded and produced by Adem Ilhan (Adem, Sliver Columns) who became a good friend of Mango’s during their time on the road together, performing in collaboration with Vetiver, Juana Molina and Vashti Bunyan in the Zero Degrees of Separation tour and with David Byrne, who curated Welcome to Dreamland, the sell-out show at Carnegie Hall in 2007. What began as a demo EP recording, soon became the beginnings of an album, as the talents of both multi-instrumentalists combined to produce something too special for only four songs. Three years later the album was finally completed, featuring Jo’s trademark combination of guitar, kalimba, omnichord and squeezebox as well as musical saw, harmonium, bowed glockenspiel, and piano.” (Olive Grove Records)

The album can be purchased physically and digitally from BANDCAMP: and the beautiful video of Black Sun is on YouTube:

Birdyarns will be accompanying Jo Mango to meet promoters and broadcasters Arctic Circle in London and will be appearing at Union Chapel ( in Islington on 24th November. ‘Ever since their debut event at The Hayward Gallery in March 2006, the Arctic Circle have been driven by a mad passion to create concerts that are perfectly formed and memorable. They will move land and sea to bring talented musicians, composers and visual artists to London’s best venues, ensuring that each concert is a once in a lifetime event.’

5 November 2012 – Lighthouse Landing

After a brief landing in Edinburgh, Birdyarns made their way to The Lighthouse ( in Glasgow as part of Luminate Festival. The new festival spotlights arts activities with, by and for older people, as well as a programme for audiences and participants across the generations. 96 birds landed on a ledge on the fifth floor with a great view of visitors arriving at the Lighthouse and Doocot cafe and were most popular with visitors of all ages.

A beautiful new listening post was created in collaboration with Maklab ( at the Lighthouse. The MAKLab team work to encourage access to digital fabrication technology at affordable rates for everyone. They work with designers, makers, crafters, hackers and those dabbling for the first time and also provide a Repair lab on the first Saturday of every month where members of the public can bring along objects and clothing needing repair . Their motto is “Toss it? No Way! Repair it at Glasgow’s first Repair Cafe!”  Their ethos ties in very well with our approach to re-using and recycling with Birdyarns.

On 20th October we had a Birdyarns knit event and over thirty people attended for an afternoon of Birdyarns, knit, films and afternoon tea. The afternoon began with an introduction to the project and the attendees listened to stories of Mull, arctic terns, sandeels and phytoplankton while they worked on their knitting. We also watched a beautiful short film, Everyday, by Mario Pires Cordeiro (edited by Matthew Supersad). Mario filmed many of the activities which took place in Tobermory during our final week of events with Birdyarns in Mull, and has created a beautiful short film capturing the essence and colour of the event. Ardalanish wool also supplied samples of wool for the knitters to experiment with which continued the aim of highlighting local resources on the Isle of Mull.

Tricia and Terry the tern

Birdyarns were also visited by Alison Johnson from the British Trust for Ornithology. She was delighted to see her group’s terns on display and is interested in keeping up to date with progress on the terns’ journey.

14 October 2012 – Birdyarns fly into doocot

Photograph by Helen Voce


It has been a busy time for Birdyarns again in the last few weeks. Birdyarns have been on the move heading south east from Banchory to Edinburgh for a brief two day stopover at the Dovecot Studios. The birds managed to land on stairs, lift, railings , and in the meeting room there . Our flock of birds land differently in each venue and with each landing, gather a new mob of supporters with great interest in the project and the effects of climate change on sea birds. Our facebook and twitter followers are growing and many links are being made not only with makers but interested bird watchers and scientists. Many of the knitters came in to see their own making amongst the mob of terns and there were some wonderful comments on the Facebook page as a result ..

Photograph by Caroline Dear

“I was just there and was chuffed to see mine along with all the others….amazed at all the variations – fat ones, thin ones, ones with big feet, ones with wee feet! Absolutely brilliant!” Julia

“I went to see the exhibition at Dovecot Studios yesterday and loved it. I’m so proud to have contributed a tern to the flock and was quite overwhelmed at the sheer variety of birds on show. Really fantastic!” Anna

Terns on Ice

Maurice and Bird Yarns tern © Clive Tesar / WWF-Canon

A Bird Yarns wooly tern joins WWF in the Arctic:


9 August 2012 – Strange sighting

A crowd of arctic terns have landed off course in a wild garden in Aberdeenshire and are now nesting amongst the trees at Woodend Barn.

Woodend Barn has many connections with An Tobar through touring music.   On hearing that Aidan O Rourke quintet were playing the wonderful Tat 1 there later in August, I wondered if they would welcome a mob of wooly terns.

I had a wonderful day installing the birds with Nicola Henderson, Director of Woodend Barn, and Josie, a student on work placement. We placed the birds all over the wild garden, nesting in trees and lurking around Buchanan’s Restaurant. There are also a few strays around Banchory town, taking shelter in the library and nesting amongst books in a local book shop window. Locals have been challenged to a bird count between town and garden so let’s hope this brings lots of visitors to Bird Yarns’ new leafy location.

Read the press release for more information on Birdyarns at Woodend Barn wildlife garden, where it will be on until 3rd September.


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  1. Joyce Gilbert says:

    I am putting together a climate change storymat for 3-5 year olds and would love to knit an arctic tern as the key character.. Is there a pattern.???

    • deirdre nelson says:

      can you email me at and I can send you information .

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