The new seasonal conservation-themed audio drama is for Radio 4 and BBC Sounds

This four-part story is set within a fictional reserve but informed by the real work and conservation science of the RSPB’s Strumpshaw Fen, Norfolk. Song of The Reed sees Sophie Okonedo and Mark Rylance take lead roles.

Writer Steve Waters and the production team are spending at RSPB’s Strumpshaw through 2021, so the drama reflects the processes of and challenges faced by reserves such as these. The rich soundscape of birdsong throughout the drama is also captured on location. Each episode – broadcast every three months following the cycle of the seasons – will paint a changing audio picture for the listener as the year progresses.

The fictional Fleggwick Fen is in the Norfolk Broads, containing reedbeds, woodland and unique habitat for countless species of flora and fauna. Olivia or ‘Liv’ (Sophie Okonedo) becomes the acting head following the death of her father and is unprepared for the challenges that await her. Fleggwick is not in great shape – the long-serving warden of the reserve, Ian (Mark Rylance), has set his face against what he sees as ‘trendy’ versions of conservation; as a ‘deep ecologist’ he felt Fleggwick existed entirely for the benefit of its natural inhabitants and it’s a good day if no one much visits. But now with debts mounting, Liv has to go to a conservation charity. This magical space of her childhood is under threat.

Playwright and Professor Of Scriptwriting at the University of East Anglia, Steve Waters says: “Song of the Reed came from a desire to write about conservation in an age of extinction, honouring everyday ecology. For years I’ve watched the work of organisations such as the RSPB, and living in East Anglia have come to love reedbeds, ’embedding’ myself in nature reserves like Strumpshaw Fen in Norfolk. This play is the fruit of that experience, creating, with producer Boz Temple-Morris and our amazing cast, a ‘slow drama’, showing one place moving with the seasons.”

Alison Hindell, Radio 4’s Commissioning Editor of Drama and Fiction, adds: “Song Of The Reed contains a superb mix of acting brilliance and writing expertise that shines a light on a pressing subject.

“From where I live, in Wales, the changes to our natural environment are becoming visible and I hope this story and the immersive nature of its soundscape transport listeners to the great outdoors, giving an appreciation of our landscape wherever we are, as we welcome in each season across the coming year.”

We recently announced that Okonedo will be joining season 2 of Amazon Original series Modern Love.


The first episode of Song Of The Reed will be available on BBC Radio 4, 2pm Monday 21st June 2021.