Leeds arts and activism in the great outdoors


Immersive theatre in an abandoned coal mining site transformed into a nature park by Rachel Mills

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National YouthTheatre

First launched in 1956, the National Youth Theatre is a huge supporter of young creatives – both performers and backstage technicians. The group is known for putting on productions in local communities and in unusual spaces, and Nest in RSPB St Aidan’s NaturePark is no different. With a massive cast of more than 100 young people, plus at least 20 more backstage, this original, site-specific play by Emma Nuttallis part of the NYT’s three-year MELT series.

A creative response to the climate crisis

Nest is an immersive theatre performance co-curated by NYT and Leeds 2023, headed up by Kully Thiarai, Creative Director and CEO. Set in 2050 – the year of Net Zero according to the International Paris Agreement – Nest explores “identity, existence and climate migration through the eyes of young people”, specifically Skylar, who is attending a bird-watching festival following the loss of her grandmother. It’s an urgent and hopeful piece that uses live music, movement, projection and location to inspire.

RSPB St Aidan’s

St Aidan’s is a testament to the power of positive change. In the 1980s the whole area was transformed from industrial to tranquil – it’s now a conservation space and bird sanctuary, home to Bittern, Skylark and MarshHarriers. This immersive outdoor theatre performance doesn’t have just one stage: you walk between locations in the park as the story unfolds, and hopefully you’ll discover a new-to-you natural space, just twenty-minutes from Leeds city centre.

In harmony with nature

The NYT and Leeds 2023 wanted the production to have the least possible impact on nature. The dates of the September shows are outside of nesting season; installations and performances are positioned to protect the birds’ wellbeing; and shuttle buses, public transport and a bike route (The Lines Way) are all encouraged to minimise noise and disruption.

Oddball, the 1000-tonne excavator from the mine, looms large over the space and is a compelling and sharp reminder of what this natural site has recovered from. It’s hard not to feel hopeful for the future.

How to get there


See Plan Your Visit on the Leeds 2023 website for details of the shuttle bus from Temple Green Park and Ride and Leeds Bus Station, plus public transport, bike and driving directions

Where to eat


There are food and drink vendors on-site for the performance, or you can bring yourown supplies (glass and alcohol not permitted)



RSPB St Aidan’s is step free. Some performances are BSL signed, or live captioned. Assistant dogs are welcome. See Leeds 2023 Accessibility for more details.

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