“I was on the phone to Margaret Atwood while having a Covid test!”


WHAT do Margaret Atwood, Dame Emma Thompson and Lily Cole all have in common?

They are all set to take part in a global literary event organised by a University of Sunderland academic.

Dr Alex Lockwood has helped organise the get-together as part of Lost Species Day, to bring global attention to the number of animal species currently threatened by extinction.

The On the Brink event, on Monday, November 30, will feature some of the world’s most famous writers, including Booker Prize winner Margaret Atwood and Harry Potter star Dame Emma Thompson.

UoS lecturer, creative writer and campaigner Alex Lockwood.


Dr Lockwood is a novelist and creative writer, and part of the team behind the University’s new Creative and Professional Writing programme which launches in 2021. He is also part of the Writers Rebel group organising the global meet-up.

Other performers include eco-activist and model Lily Cole, globally famous writers such as Ben Okri (The Famished Road) and Amitav Ghosh (Gun Island), and American author of The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert, who are all contributing in the battle to rescue wildlife from the brink of extinction.

Dr Lockwood said: “The role of the creative writer can be crucial in making people aware of the plight of our fellow beings on this planet during this climate and ecological emergency. Stories matter in how we relate to and protect the planet.

“On Lost Species Day, I felt it necessary to bring together some of the world’s most well-known writers to lend their platforms to this urgent issue.

“It’s been quite a ride getting some of the most famous names in literature together across five continents in the middle of a pandemic.

“Perhaps the most nervy moment was speaking on the phone with Margaret Atwood to confirm her appearance while having a Covid-19 swab test up my nose at the Newcastle park and ride centre! (It was negative, thankfully.)”

Dame Emma Thompson DBE, who is reading a piece about the threatened puffin, said: “A good way of coping with the grief of losing so many species from our planet is to celebrate the ones we have left and make sure they survive.

“This is for all wildlife activists, and especially those who have lost their lives in the battle to safeguard our precious diversity of life.”

Dr Erica McAlister, the Natural History Museum’s entomology expert – who is co-hosting the event alongside BBC Springwatch’s Gillian Burke, David Lindo, the Urban Birder, and teen birding sensation Mya-Rose Craig, aka Bird Girl UK – said: “What’s really sad is that a lot of these species will be extinct by the time we describe them.

“We’ve given names to all these creatures, but we don’t know the biology. In some ways, we need to get this stuff done and go out there and start really understanding them.”

Anyone wanting to join Monday’s event can register here

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