Nadeem Perera was a football coach in Hackney, East London when a parent told him he should look up Ollie Olanipekun. “He was like, ‘Nadeem, you’ve got so much potential!’ So, I thought, okay let me follow this guy.” Ollie’s Instagram was immediately appealing – fashion, culture, the kinds of things you’d expect from a Creative Director who works with some of the world’s biggest brands. But then two days later, something unexpected happened. “There are birds on his Instagram stories,” recalls Nadeem incredulously. “So, I responded to each one, naming all the birds because – and I've never actually said this – I'd not seen another Black man interested in birds. That's why I was quick to slide into his DMs. And he just hit me back straight away. ‘Bro, how do you know all this?’ And I was like, ‘this is what I do. I'm an avid birdwatcher.’”
Two weeks later, the pair met for the first time, having already spent a fortnight online, furiously planning their very first Flock Together event, a birdwatching walk, just for people of colour. They talked – properly talked – sharing their stories and ambitions, yes, but also their values. The beliefs that drive them. The change they wanted to see in the world. “And there were so many parallels to what we both, like, relied on nature for,” says Ollie. And hearing these stories, it feels like it could only have been matter of time before their lives intersected. Both came to a love of nature through experiences of feeling out of place. Ollie’s parents, with love and the very best of intentions, enrolled him in Cub Scouts at the age of ten. “And I hated it,” he remembers. “I just couldn't get down with the uniform, the procedures, the language, any of it. I couldn't connect.” Eventually, he was asked to leave, but not before it had given him the ability to picture himself in green spaces. In hindsight, he sees that this experience gave him the confidence to explore the natural world as an adult – something that many people simply cannot see themselves doing.