Technology brings bumblebee exhibition to life in Derbyshire’s empty high street shops

A new exhibition celebrating bumblebees will be bringing a buzz back to empty shops in Derbyshire’s high streets this summer.

Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the innovative technology will help people discover more about these pollinating superstars in a Covid-safe way.

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust say the free ‘Hello Bumblebee!’ exhibition will bring the story of bumblebees to life in a fun way.

Original plans for the exhibition included hands-on activities for children and families, but the Trust has redesigned the exhibition in a creative way to keep it Covid-friendly.

Using the latest technology, an animated film will be projection-mapped onto a 3D display, with visitors able to listen to recordings of local people reading out a specially written poem.

“This is the first exhibition we’ve run using new technology, empty venues and no staff. We think it’s an imaginative response to Covid restrictions, and hope lots of people will stop off to enjoy an uplifting bumblebee celebration,” said Sally Cuckney, the Trust’s Pollinating the Peak Project Manager.

“Bumblebees keep us healthy by pollinating our fruit and vegetables, but they are having a hard time. We’re excited about taking their story into the high street, and hope lots of people will enjoy finding out more and will help spread the word about how wonderful bumblebees are.”

Visitors will also be able to discover more about the Peak District’s own Bilberry bumblebee – a rare species that lives on upland moors and feeds on heather and bilberry.

The Bilberry Bumblebee. (Anne Riley/Bumblebee Conservation Trust)

The first bumblebee stop will be an empty shop in Chesterfield’s Pavement Centre from 3-15 June. The exhibition will then move on to empty shops in Derby and Sheffield.

Later in the year, if Covid restrictions permit, the Trust plans for the exhibition to visit community and faith centres, libraries and schools.

The initiative is part of the Trust’s Pollinating the Peak project, which is taking action for bumblebees in the Peak District and Derbyshire with support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The exhibition has been designed and developed by innovative arts practice Glassball Studio. 

Anne Jenkins, Director England, Midlands and East, National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “We are lucky to have a range of interesting and important native species on our doorsteps. National Lottery players have recognised this, highlighting the protection and preservation of these species as important, and it is thanks to them that we are able to support Pollinating the Peak in connecting people to the natural world around them.”

The UK’s bumblebees are struggling because of loss of flower-rich habitat, with an estimated 97% of wildflower meadows lost in the past 80 years. This is largely due to intensification of agriculture, increased use of pesticides, climate change, and pests and disease affecting wild pollinators.

Flowers are bumblebees’ only food, so planting nectar-rich flowers in gardens, parks, green spaces and farmland is a brilliant way to help.

The Pollinating the Peak project has been supported by Chatsworth, Chesterfield Borough Council, Derbyshire County Council, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, Little Green Space, Moors for the Future Partnership, National Trust, and Peak District National Park. 

You can learn more about The Bumblebee Conservation Trust on their website.

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