Express & Star

Twycross Zoo festival brings gardens to life

A series of outdoor creations will form Chester Zoo’s first ever large-scale gardens and science festival this summer.


From a botanist’s lab to oversized talking chairs and a dormouse garden, a wide range of specially commissioned artistic collaborations will inspire a connection between people and wildlife, gardens and science.

Running from tomorrow until September 30, nine interactive installations, on public display for the first time, will be complemented by a major programme of events to form the zoo’s new Wild Worlds festival.

Chester Zoo is England’s most popular visitor attraction outside London. It is also a conservation and education charity fighting to prevent extinction of threatened animal and plant species.

World class science and education programmes are at the heart of the fight to prevent extinction. It is hoped that the unique new Wild Worlds festival will inspire more than 800,000 visitors over the summer – through exhibits that are fun, interactive and unique.

The zoo’s 125 acres of zoological gardens will be transformed by a journey of discovery through previously unseen new worlds, extraordinary spaces, specially commissioned creations and new artistic collaborations.

The Wild Worlds festival has been inspired by the beautiful world of plants and animals at the zoo as well as its people – experts in wildlife, science and conservation.

Simon Dowell, science director at Chester Zoo, said: “This is a festival that’s uniquely Chester Zoo. We’re collaborating with artists, performers, landscape designers, gardeners and scientists. They have immersed themselves in the conservation knowledge, culture and passion of Chester Zoo and conjured up innovative and inspiring ways to interpret that for our visitors and connect people with nature.”

The installations will transform areas of the zoo into spaces that are fun and playful, curious and quirky or enriching and contemplative. Visitors will find something new at every turn – art, music, science, entertainment or just quiet contemplation.

Phil Esseen, the zoo’s curator of botany and horticulture, said: “We want to use the incredible spaces and gardens at the zoo to create a special experience; one that highlights just how important they are to the zoo’s conservation work.

“For the animals, planting creates a natural structure to habitats for different animals to use; whether that’s for climbing, nesting, feeding, or for shelter and opportunities for social interaction. But planting is also a means of engaging people in the landscape that surrounds them and can evoke a lot of emotions; it can make people feel calm, excited or joyful.

“My hope is that Wild Worlds will help prevent plant blindness – a concept where people just walk past plants but don’t see them. We’ve got some very rare and interesting plant species, but despite there being these fantastic 300-year-old oaks and stunning plants in flower; somehow they’re just not noticed; but without them, the zoo would be a completely different place! Hopefully, the festival will help people to understand more about the secret side to plants and just how incredible they are.

“Whether people are looking for an entertaining day out or an enriching place for discovery or contemplation, Wild Worlds will deliver stand-out experiences that everyone will want to tell their friends about!”

The Wild Worlds festival is free with normal zoo admissions. Zoo tickets can be purchased in advance via