Songbirds Over The Southbank | Songlines
Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Songbirds Over The Southbank

Folk singer, song collector and hardcore avian enthusiast Sam Lee takes flight in a new documentary about his beloved, but beleaguered, nightingale

The Nightingale S Song Adam Loften 1

© Adam Loften

Over the last few years, musician, environmentalist and activist Sam Lee has become an evangelist-on-the-wing, highlighting the plight of the endangered nightingale, a species which has coexisted with humans for a million years, becoming an integral part of British heritage and inspiring more than 500 folk songs along the way.

Lee’s Singing With Nightingale sessions, where he invites small audiences to experience intimate avian concerts in the woods, are regular components in an ongoing campaign of conservation which also includes the publication of his critically-acclaimed book, The Nightingale: Notes on a Songbird, and the building of his own woodland studio during lockdown where he initiates human-nightingale collaboration via live feed, with artists including Pet Shop Boys, Nick Mulvey, Bernard Butler and Robert Mcfarlane.

Now, in association with Emergence Magazine, he’s set to feature in The Nightingale’s Song, Adam Loften and Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee’s cinematic ode to the songbird. It follows Sam’s work as he champions his feathered friends, exploring the bird’s ancient lineage, casting back through oral storytelling and accompanying the nightingale in mutual song, while providing poignant insight into the species’ cultural significance, as well as the imminent threat it faces.

The film features as part of SHIFTING LANDSCAPES, a uniquely-immersive free-entry exhibition being held at Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf on London’s South Bank between December 1-10, contemplating environmental cataclysm and transformation during moments of eco-related loss and possibility. Alongside The Nightingale’s Song, visitors can also experience The Last Nightingales, an ambisonic sound installation providing a stunning forest simulacra alive with rapturous avian song, as well as a lost world born from foundations of dredged sand and the shifting sounds of a bellyaching Earth. Sam Lee will also make a personal appearance at the event, when he joins filmmakers Loften and Vaughan-Lee in conversation on December 3 and 9.

To coincide with the exhibition, Sam Lee has dropped a musical video for ‘Bushes and Briars’ (see below), an early chance for fans to hear material from his forthcoming album, Songdreaming, which is scheduled for release on March 15.

For more information on SHIFTING LANDSCAPES (December 1-10) visit  




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