He’s just a singer trying to help another.
At least that’s what David Gray says he’s bringing with him a campaign close to his heart as he kicks off his long-awaited, Covid-delayed world tour in Ireland.
The ‘singer’ is the curlew, the iconic country bird whose evocative song he learned as a child and is now critically endangered in Ireland and Britain.
As a patron of the Curlew Action charity, the white ladder Singer-songwriter (53) plans to use his profile and passion to bring the curlew’s voice and the plight of his kind to as wide an audience as possible.
Concert-goers at his three gigs in Dublin this week and Cork next month will play a short film, ask for donations and, just as importantly, lobby for urgent protection of the rapidly dwindling population.
“To put it in perspective,” Gray says of the film, “when Packie Bonner saved that penalty in Italia 90, there were more than 5,000 breeding pairs in Ireland. Today it is less than 130.”
As he prepared for the first of his three nights at the 3Arena tonight, Gray, who was born in Manchester but grew up mainly in Wales, recalled childhood days roaming the countryside where he enjoyed the outdoors, but especially was enchanted by the song of the curlew.
“For me, hearing a curlew sing is more than birdsong, you hear the voice of the wild itself,” he said.
“Our own voices will become impoverished without these other voices because they certainly taught us the intricacies of speech and music in the first place.
“Where else did we learn that? The sound of water or wind around a rock, or the sound of birds and other creatures are the sounds of life itself.”
Curlews in Ireland and the UK have been decimated by habitat loss from intensive agriculture and forestry, from land drainage and peat extraction, and from foxes and crows, which have long lost any natural predator.
It’s all obviously happening, with plenty of warning and piecemeal conservation projects by conservationists, and it frustrates Gray that the message hasn’t gotten through yet.
“Climate change grabs so many headlines, but the other side of the same issue is this broken connection with nature,” he said.
“Biodiversity loss is terrifying and the impact will be just as profound as the rise in temperature.
“We are all in despair, those who care and those who know. In fact, I think there’s a general unease. I think everyone understands that the planet is out of balance.
“There are species that are disappearing left, right and centre, and the idea that something as charismatic and inspirational as the curlew and its music could be wiped out of our country is terrifying.
“If things like this are allowed to go away when they’re not valuable enough, it casts a really dark shadow over the future of the planet and its creatures and wildlife.”
He’s had plenty of time to think about it. Tickets for his opening show in Belfast this week went on sale almost three years ago, but plans for a 20th anniversary tour for his groundbreaking album, white ladderShe fell victim to Covid.
While working on an itinerary that will now take him across the UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, Gray has also been keeping a close eye on developments at home, where he is cracking down on Boris Johnson’s “police state” measures Climate and environmental protesters.
He also spends as much time as possible at his second home on a nature reserve on the Norfolk coast – his “tuning home”.
“I look outside at every opportunity. That connection deepens at this point in my life because I’m in my fifties and you’re thinking how many more springs and autumns can I enjoy? I want to go out and soak it all up.”
But if that sounds melancholic, the tune is misleading as Gray is at his best, excited to be playing live again and enjoying the anticipation of great gigs to come. And while he jokes that supporting conservation projects “is like supporting a lower-league football team,” the Manchester United fan also says he firmly believes change is possible.
“If I didn’t believe something was possible, I wouldn’t be doing this,” says the man who recorded white ladder in a semi-budget home studio after being dropped from his record label, and slowly built a following that brought him worldwide success.
“If my own career proves anything, it’s that a few people with determination and passion and a good idea can make a difference that suddenly catches on. You just never know.”
Curlew Action is based in the UK with Irish Ambassadors and its founder Mary Colwell has worked on projects here with experts from the National Parks and Wildlife Service. All monies raised at the Irish concerts go to conservation projects in Ireland.
https://www.independent.ie/news/environment/why-on-his-new-tour-david-gray-is-sharing-the-limelight-with-the-imperilled-curlew-41664669.html Why is David Gray sharing the spotlight with the endangered curlew on his new tour?