Is it a Gaggle, a Kettle, or a Parliament? No, this collective is Flock Together for people of colour and it’s quickly gaining flight. Meet the Bird Gang.
Recently established at the end of May 2020, Birdwatching collective, Flock Together has already spread its wings far and wide and has its sights set high. Without so much as a ruffle of feathers, interest has rolled in, with long-term partnerships in the pipeline with RSPB, Arcteryx and Leica, and DMs coming in thick and fast from the likes of the BBC, NBC and Vogue.
Flock Together is a support club combatting the underrepresentation of black, brown and people of colour (POC) in nature. So far London based, and meeting weekly, the collective ventures out to different avian locations across the capital. A diverse and mixed group, most members are in their early twenties to mid thirties, with many from the creative industries. However, inclusivity is the main message. Some may wear anoraks, but they’re not what you’d typically expect of birdwatchers. There are three main purposes to the collective’s existence; firstly to tackle the representation of POC in nature, secondly providing a creative platform for those people, and lastly, mental health support.
You don’t need to have any knowledge to join Flock Together, just curiosity and an open mind. As Nadeem Perera, co-founder, told us “I’ve always been into wildlife, which was a cavalier move as my family are very study-focussed with little interest in the natural world. I spent the best part of a decade birdwatching on my own. There aren’t many POC birdwatchers. We’re here to change that.”
Co-founders Ollie Olanipekun and Nadeem Perera, were not previously acquainted. They met through Instagram and their shared interest in birds. Nadeem, a sports coach and long-term birder, stumbled across a series of Instagram posts of birds made by Ollie, and commented on then, identifying the species. They got chatting and they sparked. A founder of his own creative agency Superimpose Global, Ollie had had an idea for a birding collective developing in his head for a while, but meeting Nadeem, the concept soon developed and they realised that together they could bring it to fruition.
From the first walk, made up of about ten friends, the flock grew organically to an IG following of almost two thousand and is growing fast. With such a successful and impactful start, the co-founders were spurred into working hard behind the scenes to develop Flock Together’s long-term goals and identity. No sooner had they picked up their collective binoculars, they found themselves being contacted by international organisations and brands keen to get involved and further their cause. From brand partnerships and product sponsorship, to individuals wanting to donate kit, Flock Together has garnered interested from outdoor stalwarts Berghaus, and the American baseball hat brand New Era. Invitations for holidays and visits to sites of bird activity have been offered, but plans for these are on hold until group travel becomes a little easier.
International plans are already in place for Flock Together chapters in Cairo, Oslo, Minnesota and Toronto. The long-term objective is for POC to always find a safe place in any part of the world, whether in your own locality, or travelling abroad. It is a fact that as a black person, there is a need to check whether a location is racist or not before travelling to it. Flock Together provides this safe space, and a welcome family.
Each Flock Together meeting starts with a briefing from Nadeem and Ollie. They run through codes of conduct within the group to ensure safety, respect for the environment, and the least disturbance of wildlife. As it’s also a creative platform, there might be a performance from a spoken word artist, or another group member sharing their work or asking for input on a current project. As a group, Flock Together also have collective ideas and targets, which are discussed as a whole, rather than led by Ollie and Nadeem. It is an open space, conceived to unite people and ideas.
“Sighting wise, the most extraordinary moment I have been lucky to witness was a Peregrin Falcon hunting on the White Cliffs of Dover. It felt like I had won the lottery.” - Nadeem Perera
Flock Together are welcoming new attendees and partnership proposals and can be contacted by DM on instagram. To join a future bird gang session you can come as you are, but as Nadeem suggests, for the ideal bird back pack, you need binoculars, a pen and pad, water and some snacks, along with a pair of good hiking boots or trainers. If all that isn’t available to you, then they can help you out with kit. You can also swot up with the Collins’ Bird Guide, or just turn up, learn from sightings and get a bit of help from the rest of the flock. Nature is for everyone.