A Visionary Theatre Experience Uniting Climate Themes and Immersive Artistry

Experience an immersive fusion of art, nature, and climate awareness as the highly anticipated world premiere of NEST takes centre stage from September 5th to 9th, 2023. In a groundbreaking site-specific theatre piece, over 100 young talents will converge at the St Aidan’s RSPB Nature Park in East Leeds, redefining the boundaries of theatre with their immersive and thought-provoking performances.

The tranquil paths and serene ponds of St Aidan’s RSPB Nature Park will serve as an unconventional yet fitting backdrop for NEST, an immersive theatre experience that delves into the profound themes of identity, existence, and climate migration. The show, boasting live music, visionary design, captivating visual projections, dynamic movement, and spellbinding performances, navigates the audience through the vivid perspectives of young individuals. A masterful co-production and co-commission by LEEDS 2023 in collaboration with the National Youth Theatre [NYT], NEST offers a promenade-style narrative that blurs the lines between reality and art, connecting spectators to the surroundings in unprecedented ways.

Aerial photograph of St Aidan’s Country Park & RSPB Nature Reserve Yorkshire England UK

Set against the backdrop of 2050, a pivotal year marking the deadline outlined in The Paris Agreement for reaching net zero emissions, NEST unfolds the story of Skyler, a 20-year-old attending a bird-watching festival in honour of their late grandmother, a passionate nature lover.

The magnitude of NEST is matched only by its cast, boasting more than 100 performers and backed by the creative prowess of 20 young minds in backstage roles, aged between 17 and 30. A collaborative effort with Leeds Playhouse has seen the recruitment of these talents from across Yorkshire through an open call, combined with existing members of NYT. The performance evolves as an intimate journey, with the audience traversing the nature park alongside Skyler and the ensemble, each step revealing new layers of the story’s intricate tapestry.

NEST – Leeds23 National Youth Theatre – credit Tom Arber on site at St Aidan
NEST – Leeds23 National Youth Theatre – credit Tom Arber on site at St Aidan

NEST takes innovation a step further, incorporating participants from NYT’s Associate Company, Compass Collective. These young individuals contribute their unique experiences, supporting unaccompanied minor refugees and young asylum seekers in their integration into the UK through the mediums of theatre, music, and film.

Emerging from the collective aspirations of young artists, NEST resonates with the urgency of the climate crisis, a topic that has engaged their hearts and minds. Crafted by the talented Emma Nuttall (known for her contributions to ‘Emmerdale’ and ‘The Kraken Wakes’) and under the visionary direction of Paul Roseby, Chief Executive and Artistic Director of National Youth Theatre, NEST promises a fusion of artistry and environmental consciousness.

As NEST makes its historic debut, it transforms St Aidan’s Nature Park, once an opencast coal mine, into a stage for the ages. The 355-hectare expanse, featuring meadows, reed beds, wetlands, and woodland, stands as a testament to nature’s resilience. Amid this landscape, the colossal ‘Oddball,’ the largest walking dragline excavator in western Europe, serves as a poignant reminder of the land’s history. With meticulous timing to avoid disrupting wildlife and migration patterns, NEST transforms this natural haven into a sanctuary of imagination, bridging the realms of art, environment, and consciousness.

NEST is not merely a theatre performance; it’s a call to action, a journey of reflection, and a celebration of art’s ability to spark vital conversations. As it intertwines the themes of nature, identity, and the urgent timeline of The Paris Agreement, NEST invites you to be part of an unprecedented theatrical experience that will reverberate long after the final bow.

NEST – Leeds23 National Youth Theatre – credit Tom Arber on site at St Aidan
Paul Roseby – CEO and Artistic Director of the National Youth Theatre
Kully Thiarai – Creative Director and CEO of LEEDS 2023

Nest is the latest big show offering of NYTs art and activism programme unlocking facts and stories of our climate crisis by animating locations and unusual buildings in a dramatic way. Staged at St Aidan’s stunning nature park, both local, national and international performers take action with a world premiere production to lift our hearts, minds and give hope to a fragile earth we call home.

Amplifying the voices and stories of young people has been one of the core ambitions of our Year of Culture. As we enter our third and final season for LEEDS 2023 Part 3: Dreaming it seems only right that one of our major pieces in this season is a brilliant collaboration with NYT and a diverse group of young people exploring some of the big issues of our time. Nest dramatically brings into sharp relief our relationship with nature and takes us into the future through beautiful imagery and storytelling as young people share their hopes and concerns over what, environmentally, lies ahead.

Nest is the culmination of NYT’s three-year art and activism programme, MELT, exploring themes and stories of the climate crisis.

The Paris Climate Agreement

The Paris Climate Agreement stands as a pivotal international treaty that mandates the majority of the world’s governments to take substantial actions in addressing the looming threat of climate change. Forged through extensive negotiations spanning decades, the Paris Agreement stands as a groundbreaking milestone in the global struggle against climate-related challenges. Amid its imperfections, this accord signifies a significant advancement in humanity’s collective endeavour to confront the climate crisis. When the term “Paris Agreement” arises in discussions pertaining to climate change, it primarily alludes to this comprehensive treaty.

Central to the Paris Agreement is the aspiration to curtail the increase in the planet’s average temperature, with a resolute aim to prevent it from exceeding two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and ideally limiting it to a mere 1.5 degrees Celsius. Achieving this objective could potentially avert the direst repercussions of climate change, though it is crucial to acknowledge that even attaining this target would not completely eliminate the consequences, particularly for marginalised communities who have had minimal involvement in causing this crisis. Regrettably, the global trajectory does not currently align with the necessary actions to meet this temperature goal.

Remarkably, nearly every nation on Earth has committed to the Paris Agreement, reflecting the broad consensus that the climate crisis demands immediate attention and collective action. The only exceptions include countries such as Iran, Turkey, Eritrea, Iraq, South Sudan, Libya, and Yemen. Notably, the United States, once a signatory, withdrew from the agreement during the tenure of Donald Trump’s presidency. However, a significant reversal occurred when President Joe Biden took office in early 2021, leading the U.S. to rejoin the accord. The Paris Agreement, as a symbol of international cooperation in the face of an existential challenge, remains a testament to the global community’s commitment to preserving the planet for future generations.

Nest takes place at  RSPB St Aidan’s Nature Park, 5-9 September 2023 – for tickets and more information visit leeds2023.co.uk.