Nick Drake's The Farewell Glacier adapted for Drama on 3

Nick Drake's The Farewell Glacier adapted for Drama on 3

Nick Drake's 2012 book-length sequence of poems The Farewell Glacier grew out of his journey to the High Arctic in 2010. He has adapted the book twice - first for performance at the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in 2021, and subsequently for broadcast on BBC Radio 3.  Nick Drake's most recent collection Out of Range (2018) also confronts the emergencies of the climate crisis.

Nick Drake is also a screenwriter, and co-wrote the feature film One Life, starring Anthony Hopkins and Helena Bonham Carter, which opened in UK cinemas on 1 January 2024. Trailer here.


Drama on 3: The Farewell Glacier, BBC Radio 3, Sunday 4 February 2024, 7.30pm

Poet and playwright Nick Drake has adapted his 2012 poetry collection The Farewell Glacier for BBC Radio 3’s Drama on 3.  His adaptation is based on the version he created for performance at COP26 in November 2021, and again uses actor Peter Mullan, who is joined by Adjoa Andoh as the announcer, plus actors Kevin Harvey, Jude Coward Nicoll, Paisley James, Urmila Patel and Chloe Ragrag.

This extended adaptation for radio features a larger cast of actors reading the poems, which are intercut by interviews with Sheila Watt Cloutier, a human and indigenous rights activist, cultural preservation advocate, politician, writer and educator. With music written and performed by Scottish composers Emma Donald and Isbel Pendlebury, and Inuit throat singing from Sylvia Cloutier and Akinisie Sivuarapik.

‘In 2012, writer Nick Drake visited the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard on a 19th-century ship. It was a voyage of discovery that revealed the beauty of the Arctic but also the damage wrought by climate change in this most beautiful - and essential - wonder of the Earth. On his return home, he wrote a collection of poems (The Farewell Glacier published by Bloodaxe) in the voices of the many Westerners who came to the Arctic over the centuries - explorers, whalers, mapmakers, scientists, financiers, the famous and the forgotten - as well as animal spirits, chemical shapeshifters, the powerful elements of ice, light and dark. and the future itself. It is a wake-up call to how the damage being done to the Artic by POPs is a pressing global issue. Originally performed at COP 26 in Glasgow, the poems have been transformed into an audio drama for BBC Radio 3, intercut by interviews with Sheila Watt Cloutier, a human and indigenous rights activist, cultural preservation advocate, politician, writer and educator. Siila, as she is also known, has received international recognition and acclaim in the areas of rights activism environmental and climate change awareness and social justice, for her work, including a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.’

‘A poetic journey through time and the Arctic, looking at climate change, written by Nick Drake and featuring Peter Mullan and Adjoa Andoh.’

Available on BBC Sounds until 9pm on 5 March 2024:

The original COP26 performance included music written and performed on fiddle and clarsach by Scottish Composers Emma Donald and Isbel Pendlebury, with Nick Drake’s poems read by actor Peter Mullan.  The performance was streamed live from the COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow on 2 November 2021, and is now available on YouTube.

Nick Drake was interviewed about this performance for Metro ahead of COP26. Illustrated with Nick Drake's photographs, taken when he was in the High Arctic in 2010.  Read here.



Artists & Climate Change, online 22 February 2021

Nick Drake was interviewed for this article on the international platform Artists & Climate Change about The Farewell Glacier, his 2012 book length sequence of poems about his expedition to the High Arctic. In 2010 he joined Cape Farewell’s Art and Science expedition sailing around Svalbard, 550 miles North of Norway. The article was accompanied by two poems from The Farewell Glacier.

The Farewell Glacier is a chronological account of the Western, and especially European, experience in the Arctic told through the voices of the humans who encountered it, the chemical elements that have polluted it… and other non-human actors, such as a sea-shanty, the sun, pteropods, and an ice-core sample. He [Nick Drake] calls it “a story about wonder and consumption,” of “exploration and exploitation.”’ - Susan Hoffman Fishman, Artists & Climate Change

Nick Drake’s fourth collection Out of Range also looks at the climate emergency.

Read the article here.


Sunday Feature - Freeze: Thaw, BBC Radio 3, Sunday 20 December 2015, 7pm

Nick Drake contributed to this Sunday feature Freeze: Thaw. He read and spoke about two poems from The Farewell Glacier, a book he wrote in response to his trip to the high Arctic in September 2010 with Cape Farewell, an organisation devoted to cultural responses to climate change.

The first poem, ‘When I was twelve’, is in the voice of British Polar explorer Wally Herbert (from 24.43) and the second, ‘This is the library of ice’, is the story of an ice core sample (from 30.25). Those poems, together with others inspired by the Arctic and its voices, are gathered in his 2012 Bloodaxe collection The Farewell Glacier.

Click here to listen to the programme

Front Row, BBC Radio 4, Monday 11 July 2011, 7.15pm

Nick Drake's 2011 interview on Front Row is still available to listen to.  He was interviewed about an exhibition he collaborated on, which opened on 14 July 2011 in the new Sammy Ofer wing of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.  Clips of two poems recorded for the installation, ‘Mercury’ and ‘Requiem for the Ice’, both from The Farewell Glacier, were played on Front Row.  The whole item was recorded on location at the museum.

Archived on Front Row’s webpages.  Select Chapter 3, High Arctic:  Click here to listen


 Nick Drake reads 'The Farewell Glacier' from the Arctic

This video by Matt Wainwright was shot during the Cape Farewell 2010 Arctic Expedition, and shows Nick Drake aboard ship reading one of the poems he wrote during the voyage. Five marine scientists and ten artists from around the world – writers, musicians, visual artists, directors and architects – sailed from Longyearbyen around the north-east coast of Spitsbergen in the Norwegian Arctic to encounter the magnificence of this extreme and threatened environment and engage with the scientific research being conducted on board. Nick Drake's poems written in response to the voyage were later published in his 2012 book-length sequence The Farewell Glacier.



[29 January 2024]

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