Hanna Tuulikki with Historic Environment Scotland at Glasgow Cathedral

Project Info


  • Hanna Tuulikki


  • Historic Environment Scotland
  • Glasgow Cathedral
  • Arts&Heritage

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) and Arts&Heritage (A&H) present the global premiere of a new work by Glasgow based, British-Finnish artist and composer Hanna Tuulikki, which is to be performed at Glasgow Cathedral in autumn 2023.

Commissioned by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) in partnership with Arts&Heritage, Tuulikki’s extraordinary new vocal musical composition the bird that never flew explores the ancient Cathedral’s roots in ornithological entanglements, bringing together sacred lament and ecological political protest in order to raise the alarm for critically endangered birds and the impacts of climate change. The work also sits within A&H’s new Common Lands programme, the working title for our new 18-month focus for 2023-25 on environmental heritage that speaks to histories of people, place, land ownership and collective action in the climate crisis.

Taking place live on Friday 8 September and Saturday 9 September, the innovative piece will be performed by Tuulikki, alongside award winning Scottish vocalist Mischa Macpherson and Glasgow-based voice and sound artist Lucy Duncombe.

Drawing on sacred music traditions, myth, and ecology, Tuulikki’s new composition for three voices, field recordings and electronics weaves together what the robin knows of past, present, and future. With its distinctive red breast and warbling song, the European robin plays a prominent role in the life of Glasgow’s patron saint, St Mungo, who is said to have brought a dead bird back to life by holding it in his hands, smoothing its feathers, and praying until the lifeless creature revived. 

In a time where the numbers of wild birds in Britain have declined drastically, Mungo’s story of empathy with nature prompts us to consider how they might support other species faced with the dangers of climate change.

Commenting on the work, artist and composer Hanna Tuulikki said:

“As a starting point for the composition, I ask: What if we were able to translate the alarm calls of birds into human language and discovered these signals were alerting all beings to the destruction of the earth? What if these alarm calls were a collective call to rise and protest?

“The invitation to respond to the historic and sacred setting of Glasgow Cathedral has been such a privilege and I felt so inspired by St. Mungo’s robin – the bird that never flew. The story prompted me to consider how we might show compassion to bird species who are severely impacted by human-made climate chaos. With this new work, I hope to create a space that both mourns biodiversity loss and sounds the alarm.”  

This urgent new work follows on from Tuulikki’s silent ‘bat rave’, Echo in the Dark, 2022 at Arbroath’s Hospitalfield, and Seals’kin, 2022 commissioned for the Biennial of Sydney and shown at British Art Show 9. Memorialising biodiversity loss, the bird that never flew is an animal fable for tomorrow that brings the alarm call of nature into a space of human sanctuary, sounding a red alert through a cacophony of human and avian harmony.

As well as the two performances in September, Tuulikki is also inviting audiences on a “Dawn Chorus Walk” on Sunday 10 September at 6am in Glasgow’s Necropolis for a deep listening exploration of the urban bird habitat that inspired the work, where those involved can walk, listen and reflect on what they can do to raise the alarm for the precious bird species they share their city with. 

Book tickets on the HES website here.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) is the lead public body established to investigate, care for, and promote Scotland’s historic environment. HES lead and enable Scotland’s first historic environment strategy Our Place in Time, which sets out how the historic environment will be managed. 

HES are responsible for the management of over 300 “properties in care”, under a formal Scheme of Delegation from Scottish Ministers, ranging from Edinburgh Castle, to hidden gems of historical significance up and down the country, as well as over 5 million archive items and collections. 

The Artist

Hanna Tuulikki (1982) is a British-Finnish artist, composer and performer based in Scotland. Her multi-disciplinary projects investigate the ways in which the body communicates beyond and before words, to tell stories through imitation, vocalisation and gesture. With a largely place-responsive process, she considers how bodily relationships and folk histories are encoded within specific environments, ecologies and places.

Selected for British Art Show 9 (2021-2022,) she was Magnetic North Theatre’s first Artist Attachment supported by Jerwood Arts (2017-19) and shortlisted for the Max Mara Art Prize for Women (2020). She was a finalist in the Arts Foundation Music for Change Award (2022), won a Scottish Award for New Music in Sonic Arts (2017), and was twice shortlisted for a British Composer Award (2015, 2017).

Recent projects include Echo in the Dark (2022), a multi-artform project weaving together music and live participatory performance to explore interconnections of raving and bat echolocation as a model for ecological coexistence; Seals’kin (2022), a short film, visual score and participatory vocal performance drawing on myths of human-seal hybridity and folkloric musical practices to offer alternative forms of mourning through sensuous identification with more-than-human kin; Under Forest Cover / Metsänpeiton Alla (2021), an audiovisual installation and site-specific performance exploring Finnish folklore and the emotional trauma that comes with ecological awareness.